THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK TEN: THE BOOK of SKULLS
Despising Alvarado as much for leaving him his bankrupt estates as for his confiscations, the Patrón had, nonetheless, learned to enjoy the mathematically ordered conflicts of baseball between teams of campesinos; he'd even scoured the Merida and Mexico papers (in their intervals of publication) to follow the Homeric downfall of Chicago's Black Sox or the exploits of Norteamericano titans such as Ty Cobb, Grover Cleveland Alexander, or the promising young pitcher for the Boston team, Babe Ruth.
So don Antonio allowed the little ball court he had built for Idznacab to be kept up, even after the departure of Alvarado, and one day... during an interval between the epochs of civil war, but after the henequen collapse... a team from the estanción hosted players from an agricultural collective composed of bits and pieces of estates whose owners had displeased the government and were now managed by a gang of sharp-eyed former mayordomos. Their American bat, a configuration of ash and nails, many times broken, taped and hammered, finally gave out entirely in the bottom of the ninth inning. Shattered in three places, it was beyond repair, with the culprit on first base and the locals trailing by a single run.
"I suppose the game shall have to end in forfeit," smirked the manager of the visiting team, one of those mayordomos who avoided don Antonio's eyes as he spoke, for money had been wagered.
"Let me see about this matter," the patron replied, raising from his chair with some difficulty. The players waited under Lord Kin's breath while don Antonio foraged through the country house and, finally, tugged a cloth sack across the threshold and set it upon the porch. "With your permission, here, I have many fine lengths of well-seasoned timber which may serve as cudgels every bit the equal of a Norteamericano bat. Will these be satisfactory?"
And the visiting mayordomo, not wishing to give offense to don Antonio, agreed.
"Choose what you wish," said the patron to the batsman of Idznacab, a young man with the neck and shoulders of a bull. This was Miguel, the eldest son of Esteban Chan. The youth lifted several lengths of the timber, observing most to have been sculpted into arms and legs; the fingers and toes intricately detailed by the crabbed carvings of men during their confinement in Bravo's prison.
"Don't worry," don Antonio advised, further, "they've all been properly deconsecrated!"
Miguel Chan warily selected a full figured Juan de la Cruz, lacking only its arms... which had been hacked away by Alvarado's soldiers. It was more than a meter in length and, although the tapering of Jesucristo's head and neck might work to disadvantage were the pitch outside, the chest and shoulders were sturdy, the mahogany denser, more substantial, even than the American ash. He beckoned to the rival pitcher, a youth with no fear of God, nor any man of Idznacab, and this worthy let fly a pitch with all his might, straight across the plate. Miguel, gripping Juan de la Cruz by his ankles, swung vigorously, catching the ball squarely between the icon's shoulders, driving it far over the heads of the outfielders. The ball bounced into a distant field from which the unprofitable henequen had been removed in favor of rows of scraggly corn and Miguel circled the bases.
The rival mayordomo sighed, and then approached don Antonio Macias to honor his debt, but the patron was dead in his chair, a wistful smile on his face. So Juan de la Cruz brought victory to Idznacab and, yet, allowed the skulking visitors to keep their money and, with the Yucatecan courts no longer under the gavel of Judge Iniguez, the fortunes of the estanción were confounded for some years, during which Armando Feliz managed its affairs. Adjusting his opinions to conform to sentiments prevailing in Merida, don Armando had professed himself a socialist of Alvarado's sort, then a follower of Carrillo-Puerto, a delahuertista, finally a backer of Obregon, then Calles.
"And this fine timber, being, of course, of no religious value but... all the same... property of the people of Yucatan and Mexico," he said to Miguel Chan some weeks after don Antonio's funeral, dangling the cloth sack and its contents, "I would be an enemy of the people were I to grant it to you for private use for less than two pesos."
"One peso," was Miguel's reply, "for I shall have to labor to make of this wood bats which do not provoke the Cristeros, and labor is sacred." And Armando saw the truth in this... as Calles presently defined truth... so he gave over the bodies of Jesucristo, San Pablo, San Jorge and even several Virgins to Miguel, who chopped the heads and protruding limbs, sanded their knees and ribs to cylindrical consistency and polished the grains to a buttery finish. Over the years to come, Miguel and his bats would become the terror of the Yucatecan amateurs and one winter, when work was hard to come by, he even toured with a semi-professional squad, assembled by a brewer. They traveled as far as Veracruz and even Havana, challenging teams including some composed of talented Americans denied the chance to play in their own nation for the darkness of their skins. And, before a throng including... in the finest seats... an elderly Roberto Urzaiz and Teodora Fermin-Urzaiz and their children and entourage of gamblers, gangsters, literatists and other hard-drinking bearders of El Diablo, Miguel Chan raised Juan de la Cruz to the sky and smote another tiny baseball, sending the whirling orb beyond the cheapest, most distant streets and bouncing down the Malecón.
And then Miguel Chan returned to his pueblo, married and had sons, and don del Muerte eventually harvested his skull for its place on his wall of epochs, and the sons of Miguel's sons remain near Idznacab today, or have moved on to Merida to lay bricks and repair automobiles and bottle Coca Cola; some few have even moved on to Mexico City or Los Angeles. All retained an appreciation of and talent for beisbol and one even performed for some time for an American squad… though as a pitcher, not a batsman.
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