Tell Them Not to Kill Me!
“Tell them not to kill me, Justino! Go on and tell them that. For God’s sake! Tell them. Tell them please for God’s sake.”
“I can’t. There’s a sergeant there who doesn’t want to hear anything about you.”
“Make him listen to you. Use your wits and tell him that scaring me has been enough. Tell him please for God’s sake.”
“But it’s not just to scare you. It seems they really mean to kill you. And I don’t want to go back there.”
“Go on once more. Just once, to see what you can do.”
“No. I don’t feel like going. Because if I do they’ll know I’m your son. If I keep bothering them they’ll end up knowing who I am and will decide to shoot me too. Better leave things the way they are now.”
“Go on, Justino. Tell them to take a little pity on me. Just tell them that.”
Justino clenched his teeth and shook his head saying no.
And he kept on shaking his head for some time.
“Tell the sergeant to let you see the colonel. And tell him how old I am-- How little I’m worth. What will he get out of killing me? Nothing. After all he must have a soul. Tell him to do it for the blessed salvation of his soul.”
Justino got up from the pile of stones which he was sitting on and walked to the gate of the corral. Then he turned around to say, “All right, I’ll go. But if they decide to shoot me too, who’ll take care of my wife and kids?”
“Providence1 will take care of them, Justino. You go there now and see what you can do for me. That’s what matters.”
They’d brought him in at dawn. The morning was well along now and he was still there, tied to a post, waiting. He couldn’t keep still. He’d tried to sleep for a while to calm down, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t hungry either. All he wanted was to live. Now that he knew they were really going to kill him, all he could feel was his great desire to stay alive, like a recently resuscitated man.
Who would’ve thought that old business that happened so long ago and that was buried the way he thought it was would turn up? That business when he had to kill Don Lupe. Not for nothing either, as the Alimas tried to make out, but because he had his reasons. He remembered: Don Lupe Terreros, the owner of the Puerta de Piedra-- and besides that, his compadre-- was the one he, Juvencio Nava, had to kill, because he’d refused to let him pasture his animals, when he was the owner of the Puerta de Piedra and his compadre too.
At first he didn’t do anything because he felt compromised. But later, when the drought came, when he saw how his animals were dying off one by one, plagued by hunger, and how his compadre Lupe continued to refuse to let him use his pastures, then was when he began breaking through the fence and driving his herd of skinny animals to the pasture where they could get their fill of grass. And Don Lupe didn’t like it and ordered the fence mended, so that he, Juvencio Nava, had to cut open the hole again.
So, during the day the hole was stopped up and at night it was opened again, while the stock stayed there right next to the fence, always waiting-- his stock that before had lived just smelling the grass without being able to taste it.
And he and Don Lupe argued again and again without coming to any agreement.
Until one day Don Lupe said to him, “Look here, Juvencio, if you let another animal in my pasture, I’ll kill it.”
And he answered him, “Look here, Don Lupe, it’s not my fault that the animals look out for themselves. They’re innocent. You’ll have to pay for it, if you kill them.”
And he killed one of my yearlings .
This happened thirty-five years ago in March, because in April I was already up in the mountains, running away from the summons. The ten cows I gave the judge didn’t do me any good, or the lien on my house either, to pay for getting me out of jail. Still later they used up what was left to pay so they wouldn’t keep after me, but they kept after me just the same. That’s why I came to live with my son on this other piece of land of mine which is called Palo de Venado. And my son grew up and got married to my daughter-in-law Ignacia and has had eight children now. So it happened a long time ago and ought to be forgotten by now. But I guess it’s not.
Translated from Spanish by George D. Schade
What's taking you so long in the privy, son?"
“If you stay in there much longer, a snake will come and bite you"
I was thinking of you, Susana of the green hills. Of when we used to fly kites in the windy season. We could hear the sounds of life from the town below; we were high above on the hill, playing out string to the wind.
"Help me, Susana."
And soft hands would tighten on mine.
"Let out more string.”
The wind made us laugh; our eyes followed the string running through our fingers after the wind until with a faint pop! it broke, as if it had been snapped by the wings of a bird. And high overhead, the paper bird would tumble and somersault, trailing its rag tail, until it disappeared into the green earth. Your lips were moist, as if kissed by the dew.
"I told you, son, come out of the privy now."
"Yes, mama. I'm coming."
I was thinking of you. Of the times you were there looking at me with your aquamarine eyes. He looked up and saw his mother in the doorway.
"What's taking you so long? What are you doing in there?"
"Can't you do it somewhere else? It's not good for you to stay in the privy so long. Besides, you should be doing something. Why don't you go help your grandmother shell corn?"
"I'm going, mama. I'm going.”
There you'll find the place I love most in the world. The place where I grew thin from dreaming. My village, rising from the plain. Shaded with trees and leaves like a piggy bank filled with memories. You'll see why a person would want to live there forever. Dawn, morning, mid-day, night: all the same, except for the changes in the air. The air changes the color of things there. And life whirs by as quiet as a murmur...the pure murmuring of life.”
No one knows better than I do how far heaven is, but I also know all the shortcuts. The secret is to die, when you want to, and not when He proposes. Or else to force Him to take you before your time.
There was no air; only the dead, still night fired by the dog days of August. Not a breath. I had to suck in the same air I exhaled, cupping it in my hands before it escaped. I felt it, in and out, less each time…until it was so thin it slipped through my fingers forever. I mean, forever.
The sky was filled with fat stars, swollen from the long night. The moon had risen briefly and then slipped out of sight. It was one of those sad moons that no one looks at or pays attention to. It had hung there a while, misshapen, not shedding any light, and then gone to hide behind the hills
This town is filled with echoes. It's like they were trapped behind the walls, or beneath the cobblestones. When you walk you feel like someone's behind you, stepping in your footsteps.