The Bones of Cuauhtémoc
-He dreams and dreams
Kiko and the lavender moon-
An hour out of Laredo we stopped for gas at an all-night convenience store. We were heading towards Brownsville Texas on US Route 83. The van smelled like stale sweat, salted nuts, and sour farts. That was the way rock n roll really smelled… and sometimes how it felt. We had played a show in Laredo to a near empty room and were now pushing east for a gig at the Brownsville Artists and Musicians cooperative. We gassed up, pissed, scratched our asses, and moved on.
It was 3 am and there was no traffic as we eased along the witchy stretch of border. We had the music, Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s debut album, on low volume. I was riding shotgun while Wild Wiles-our drummer-kept a steady rhythm behind the wheel. The other members of our group had fallen asleep as the white van slit through the arid darkness. Wild Wiles and I kept a low energy conversation afloat as I regaled him with stories about my last trip to Mexico:
“I went down to Laredo with a friend to do some anthropological investigating. She was taking a class and her project was the Lechuza legend, you know, the witch owl from Mexican folklore. She wanted to get a perspective from the other side of the border so we hauled ass down to Nueva Laredo one Saturday morning to see if we could get a handle on something.”
“Oh yeah? Did y’all have any luck?”
“Not at first. We kicked around and went into a few bars but couldn’t get anyone to talk to us. Got pretty drunk though. We went to this one cantina where there were TVs around the room all broadcasting hardcore pornography. Along the wall were young chunky women sitting in chairs. Every now and again some older man would go grab one and they would start dancing.”
“That’s a peculiar scene. Did you dance with any of the girls?”
“Nah…I had too much respect for them. Although I did end up speaking to one guy who was there. I tried to ask about Lechuza but he kept buying us beer and firing off a conversation in Spanish. I didn’t understand him so I just kept smiling and nodding. By the time we were on the fourth round I asked the waiter if he could translate. The man and waiter exchanged a few words then the waiter shot a snide smile at me and said, ‘You’ve agreed to marry his daughter.’ I coughed my beer through my nose and shook my head. The only Spanish I could conjure that was appropriate for the situation was, ‘Que no, Senor…Cuidado, estoy muy boracho.’ We left a 20 on the table and skedaddled out of the joint.”
“Wow. Crazy… I guess you had too much respect for that man’s daughter too? Did you find someone who would talk to you?”
“Yep. At the pharmacia. Ever since we crossed the border the drug pushers had been clinging to me. ‘Mota, cocaine, prescription?’ I kept shaking my head, smiling and saying, ‘No, gracias.’ But after several hours of bar jockeying and going bust I decided I needed a boost. So we found a guy who took us to a pharmacia. The girl working there was very young, and very attractive. If only she’d been in the porno bar. We bought some speed to get straight for the drive home. She told us not to open the script before we crossed the border and we’d be fine. I was drunk enough that it sounded reasonable. She let me have some uppers out of her own stash so that I could close the gap between the border and the border checkpoint thirty miles north.”
“So she just gave you some of her personal pills?”
“Yeah-she was very sweet. And once the pills kicked in I really thought about fucking her right there in the little pharmacy office. Maybe she’d put her toe in my ass for good measure.”
“You have a very demented, very one track mind.”
“Yeah…I’m spiritually deformed. If I were a woman I’d go into porn.”
“Why don’t you do it anyway?”
“They only porn worth my while is gay porn. And I’m too fat for that.”
He laughed and we continued rolling through the inky scrub country. In the distance there was something casting a strange reflection.
“Do you see that?” I asked.
“Yeah, I think so. I wonder what it is. Looks like a flag…maybe?”
“Whatever it is, I think it’s bouncing.”
We slowed down from 70 mph to about 45. As we lurched forward we both were able to make out what it was. There, in the middle of the road-in the middle of nowhere-was a small man…person…someone…dressed in a jester outfit. He was doing flips. And each time he landed he would give a thumbs up and lick his overlarge lips. Then he would kneel and bow.
“What the purple fuck is that?” Wild Wiles stammered.
“I think it’s a duende…you know, a Mexican goblin. Speed up-if he looks us in the eye we’re both doomed.”
Wild Wiles put the hammer down and careened with a sloppy swerve past the little creature. Graham Nash was singing about his experience on the Marrakesh Express as a cloud of dust kicked up behind our reckless tires. The pipsqueak stole a glance off me as we burned past. He had a confounded expression, like a beast picking a fight with its own reflection. I rubbed my eyes then looked back. I could see him shooting us the finger in the red glare of the taillights. No one else in the van was disturbed by the commotion and Wiles and I were quiet for a few minutes. Then I said,
“Look, I don’t think we should tell the others about that. I’m not too sure about these things but I think it was a bad omen. We probably should go back and offer it some beer or food.”
“I can’t go back. It’s too terrifying.”
“But, I made eye contact with the little prick. Besides, it looks like he’s got a harder gig than us…Oh well, I guess we’re going to have to take our lumps.”
I threw some peanuts and a quarter out of the window just to, if nothing else, make a gesture of respect.
After a couple of minutes Wild Wiles asked, “So did the girl at the pharmacia tell you anything about the Lechuza?”
“Well, she said that people wouldn’t talk about it. Especially to gringos. But she did tell us that there was a large colony of them in her hometown of Bustamante. They would scratch on the windows at night.”
“Did she tell you what these things are supposed to be?”
“According to her they’re the souls of Mexica priests, cursed by the Catholic Church because they were servants of the devil. I asked her if she could tell us more but she just smiled and said, ‘there are some things the white man wasn’t meant to understand.’”
“True enough.” Wild Wiles chuckled.
“Yeah-whitey traded in mysticism and soul for integers and actuarial charts a long time ago. He can blow the supernatural out his fruity ass as far as the old gods are concerned.”
I was troubled by the encounter with whatever we had passed on the road. The discussion about witch owls didn’t help. At the surface, I am a skeptic. Even so, I don’t go rubbing my balls on statues of the Virgin Mary. I had enough psychic gristle on my plate and didn’t need to go looking for trouble like that. Whatever the truth was about witch owls, magic runts, porcelain virgins bleeding from the eyes-the fact remained that we were outlanders on this cultural turf. Skepticism would be tolerated but politeness was a must.
We pulled into Brownsville around dawn. We made our way to the Super Inn motel where the venue had reserved us two rooms. When we got to the desk to check in the clerk said, “I’m sorry, but there were no rooms reserved for you guys.” ‘Shit!” So we called and left a voicemail with the venue owner. Given the early hour it looked like we may have to wait a while before the matter was cleared up. I suggested we go down to the Rio Grande to snoop around and take in the scenery.
The river wound like a brainless snake-indifferent to its surroundings. There was a large black iron fence that framed the bank of the American side. Across the river you could see the town of Matamoros. Founded in 1686, the city’s name means, Death to the Moor- a reminder that the reputation of the Muslim world has stunk in the west for a long time.
In the late 1980s a young University of Texas student had disappeared while partying there. It was discovered that he had been abducted and ritually sacrificed by a drug gang hoping to invoke some black magical chutzpah. The grisly tale of butchery and cannibalsim gnawed on the collective wasp consciousness for many years afterwards. It intrigued me. In dark moments I felt okay about eating it in a ritual sacrifice. Most people died boring deaths.
As we walked along the fence in the sticky morning we came upon a couple of plastic bags. Inside them were two chickens with no heads. I said, “Looks like a bruja left us a welcoming gift.” The flies gathered around the decapitated birds and people started bustling past, unconcerned with the bags of death and sorcery. We were on the border alright.
As the morning pushed on we walked around the city of Brownsville. It was a marvelous place. A binary place: both American and Mexican, Spanish and English, modern and ancient. We passed a computer store that was next to a sorceria. At an intersection this car whizzed past a couple of women, almost striking both of them. One of the ladies pointed her finger and let fly, “Pudrete en el infierno…and FUCK YOU too!” It was the most beautiful cursing I had ever heard-like mixing Vivaldi and Beethoven.
Around 9:30 the owner of the venue called and apologized for the confusion. He directed us to a different location. The Hotel Corazon was right in downtown Brownsville. We made it over to the hotel and checked in. The process was a bit janky since the proprietors spoke no English. Fortunately Wild Wiles spoke decent enough Spanish to get us taken care of. Everyone was ready for a long sleep.
I decided to explore the joint a little bit. It had been operating since the 1920s. I imagined Hemmingway running amok down the halls, a fever of boozy machismo. I liked the whole scene immensely. It was indifferent to suffering, but didn’t judge human frailty. If I ever decided to drink myself to death, I would do it in this raw environment; a distant sanctuary from the pseudo-intellect of the modern world. You could feel in this place without fear.
As I casually bopped around I noticed a few scraggly women going in and out of the rooms. They were dark, malnourished, and haggard. I tried not to stare too closely but was captivated by the depth in their perturbed faces. I caught myself looking at one of the women too hard and immediately averted my gaze. But not before noticing the rather large Adam’s apple jutting out from her scrawny neck.
The venue had provided us two rooms but we took a third so that our keyboardist, the sole female in our entourage, could have more privacy. Her name was Crystal and she had only been with us for a short time. She was a brilliant musician. She was drama. There had been frequently missed rehearsals and bouts of paranoia; fear of rejection, mystery illnesses, and dark energy crises among the more repetitive examples. Crystal was a fly up the nose. There were some doubts about how long our relationship would last.
In my meandering, I walked past her room. She flagged me down, “Hey can you come in here, I can’t figure out how to turn the shower on.” I went in and got the water going. She said, “I don’t like this hotel. I’ve prayed and done a quick room cleanse but something isn’t clicking. It has a bad energy.” I thought the place had a better energy than she did. “Nonsense” I told her, “It just has character.” She gave me a dark look then said, “I don’t feel comfortable in here by myself. Will you wait while I take a shower?”
Donkey balls….alright. I waited so that Crystal could wash the hard boiled neurosis off her. She was manic. She couldn’t help that. I turned on the television and tried to make sense of the Spanish language soap opera being broadcast. Crystal took a long time in the shower. Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat. The door to the bathroom swung open and in a cloud of steam Crystal slid out into the room, completely naked.
She had buoyant tits and a shaved pussy. She looked at me with a dumb smile. Christ, I thought. I looked in her eyes and saw a feral gleam. She walked over to me and rubbed my hair. “I feel much better” she purred. Then she kissed me. And I kissed back-all crotch no brain. Then I grabbed her and said, “I’m gonna’ chew the shame off that bald snatch.”
We fucked for about an hour. She was like a cat getting its tail pulled. It was good sex but a bad idea. The best casual fucks happen with the worst, least casual, people-even the Virgin Mary knows that. I got off about four times. She didn’t at all and that was fine with me. I’m a passionate, if somewhat single minded lover. She asked me to stay but I told her that I didn’t think it would be wise. I left quickly to avoid doctoring any hurt feelings. Out in the hall one of the scraggly girls with her Adam’s apple gave me a crooked tooth smile.
I went to my room and took a long nap. I dreamt that I was in a large house with a courtyard. I opened the door to this courtyard and an owl swooped down and landed in front of me. I walked over to the owl and he raised his wing towards me. I stroked his feathers gently. I went to get the other people in the house to show them this unusually tame bird. By the time we got back to the courtyard the creature was gone.
I woke up with a jolt. The dream wasn’t particularly sinister but something about it sat on my psyche. I gathered myself and got ready for the show. Shower, masturbate, brush teeth, belch…I put on my stage outfit which was still damp from profuse sweating the night before. It smelled like fried onion and mildew. I was sitting in my room when there was a knock on the door. It was Crystal.
“I can’t perform tonight. I’m sick.”
“I really feel bad, like there are ants crawling on me. I think I have Chagas.”
“Hmmmm. Can I get you anything?”
“No, I’m just going to pray on it…”
“Let me know if you need a headless chicken.”
I told the others that we would be down a member for the gig. They groaned. I lit a cigarette outside the hotel while Wild Wiles went to get our vehicle. I should never have screwed Crystal. That fruitcake. My mind knew it and had known it-my dick was alone in its treachery. Maybe my penis needed a psychologist? If I were a eunuch I wouldn’t have these problems. Eunuchs didn’t know what trouble was. Somedays I thought I should exchange my balls and every piece of ass that ever ruined me for a little peace of mind.
While waiting for the van to pull around I struck up a conversation with one of the scraggly women. She said her name was Denise and that she was about to go to work. I told her I was too. She asked, “Your girl’s not coming with you?”
“Nah, she doesn’t feel well. She may have the evil eye.”
“She needs a curandero.”
“I need a curandero more than she does.”
“Well, it depends…can they cure idiocy?”
“I doubt it.”
“What about minor surgery-I need a little taken off the bottom.”
She looked perplexed.
“Well, how much would they charge just to kick someone in the ass?”
The Brownsville Artists and Musicians cooperative was a very cool, one room venue that hosted a slew of alternative arts events. They showcased everything: live music, burlesque, drag shows, art exhibits, magic acts-you name it. As long as it was interesting they’d provide a forum for it. It had a vibrant, inclusive energy. We had played there once before and enjoyed a wonderful experience.
The show went pretty well. We played a solid set, even though we were short a member, and got a fine response. It was glitter, sweat, and flying flutes. Attendance was disappointing. The venue owner explained that a huge festival in Harlingen had sucked the numbers down. After our set a DJ took over and spun some good records, including a couple of my all-time favorites, “Kiko and the Lavender Moon” and “Colossal Head” by Los Lobos.
I was standing outside smoking a cigarette, trying to air the perspiration and funk off me. A young, pretty girl, named Dahlia was smoking with me. I had met her on our last trip to the area. She was a savvy conversationalist with a sienna complexion, sharp cheekbones, and athletic build. I imagined her as a Coahuiltecan princess. She kindled a pudgy lust in me. Her skirt showed off a well sculpted leg that curved perfectly into her high plump ass. There was some truth in that ass. I wanted to impress her and I wanted to screw her. I didn’t care in what order either happened. One of her friends, a skinny guy named Tex, came up to us.
“Hey man, have a drink of this” He handed me a clear glass jar filled with a white liquid.
‘What is it?”
“Octli…the Azteca used to drink it-but only the nobles were allowed to.”
I took a sip.
“Wow that has quite a taste.”
He laughed, “Yeah…you know the Aztecs used to take it in enema form.”
“I can see why.”
“Do you want to try that?”
I raised a brow…”Sure…when in Aztlan, right.”
I looked at Dahlia-she seemed to get a kick out of my adventurous attitude. She also enjoyed my use of the word Aztlan. She was sharp. I was hustling. I was horny.
“Alright, but just to let you know-you can get pretty fucked up doing this.”
We went to the restroom. Dahlia came with us. I asked her, “Will you think less of me after watching my ass get filled up with this poison?” She replied, “Will you think less of me if I get turned on by watching you get your ass filled up with poison?” I was in love. Any woman who gets hot while watching you degrade the integrity of your rectum is worth degrading the integrity of your rectum for…my rectum has no integrity.
Tex handed me a funnel and told me to get on my back. I spit and rubbed the funnel tip, pulled my pants down, laid on the floor then inserted the funnel. Dahlia giggled and winked a seductive eye at me while Tex poured the concoction. It splashed into my colon and felt awkwardly cool on first contact.
“Hold it in for five minutes.”
After a few seconds the liquid in my ass began to get warm. After another minute it became hot. Then it became an intolerable burn. I started hopping from one foot to another.
Tex smiled, “She cooks, eh?”
“It feels like I’m about to shit a volcano.”
He and Dahlia both laughed. Then Tex said, “Tough it out, son-30 more seconds.”
I grimaced and started to sweat. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore and I squatted over the toilet, filling it with absolution. Dahlia and Tex applauded. My insides felt crisp. But only for a moment-they began to cool off surprisingly quick. We left the restroom and very soon I felt warm all over-like I had swallowed the sunrise.
The song, “Saint Behind the Glass” came on. “I love this song” I shouted and grabbed Dahlia and began to whirl her around the room. We shuffled back and forth on the floor, all smiles and sloppy footwork. “How do you feel” she asked. “Great” I shot back. I saw her grinning, a mouthful of teeth looking very white. I spun her, around and around. I saw the whole room smiling at us. Big white teeth everywhere. I let Dahlia go and began twirling. Yelps of approval rose from the onlookers. Yelps and smiles and teeth… I remember shouting as the fog closed in and everything went black.
I woke up on a cot in a dirty room. There were shelves with all kinds of curious bric-a-brac. I got up and rubbed my head. It felt like the Hindenburg. On the floor there was a wooden chest covered in ornate carvings. The images depicted strange men with large faces and bodies covered in feathers. There were pictures of serpents, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other beasts that I didn’t recognize. It looked very old. I touched the chest and saw it was locked.
An old woman walked in and gave me a disgusted look. She was very dark skinned and alarmingly short. She rattled off something to me in Spanish that I didn’t understand. Then she left the room. For a second I was worried that, during my stupor, I had wandered across the border and into the wrong place. I could see the international headlines:
DRUNK AMERICAN MUSICIAN BOILED ALIVE – Another soft assed Americano ate shit while poking around where he shouldn’t have been. Devil worshippers had no trouble subduing the incredibly intoxicated and smart-mouthed victim who reportedly put up a prissy resistance and broke down in tears before his captors. Friends and family say they had been worried something like this was a long time coming for the troubled singer. When asked for comment his bandmates said, “He made a lot of stupid decisions and frequently took the piss out of forces he couldn’t possibly understand.”
A couple of minutes later Dahlia entered.
“Well you certainly had a good time last night.”
“I go where the laughs are.”
“Do you remember anything?”
“I remember dancing and twirling.”
“How out of hand did I get?”
She laughed a sympathetic laugh, “Before or after you took off all your clothes and announced you were Quetzalcoatl returned and looking for a piece of native ass?”
It was then that I noticed I wasn’t in my own clothes. I looked down at the two towels that were wrapped around my crotch like a diaper.
“You’re clothes are under the cot.”
I coughed a chest rattling hack then asked, “So what else did I do?”
“You kept demanding the DJ play the song, “Mas y Mas” over and over again. You said it was the anthem of “your people.” Then you started muttering about a duende who had given you the stink eye and how you wanted to go back and convert the little punk to Presbyterianism. You also went on and on about Lechuza and how no one would tell you anything about her. You insisted you were ‘cool’ for a bolillo. Then you started flapping your arms and hooting.”
“Well, at least I didn’t totally embarrass myself.”
“People started throwing beer cans at you. Tex and I had to hustle you out of there before it got ugly.”
“Thanks for that….so, did you and I…you know…do it?”
“She laughed….we tried. You passed out.”
“It’s not my fault. I think I’ve been cursed by a duende”
I laughed and coughed and the fact that I didn’t vomit should have won me the academy award for best actor in the universe.
Dahlia gave me a grave look, “You shouldn’t have spoken like that about either Lechuza or the duende. A white guy talking to strangers about them is rude enough. Yelling about them while drunk is horribly offensive. I know you don’t believe in that stuff, but you still shouldn’t mock it.”
“But I mock everything.”
“You don’t mock my ass.”
I smiled “Fair enough…”
“Look. I know I’m just another ugly, fat head tourist. But I did see a duende. It looked me in the eye. Then I had a dream about an owl. It came to me and I touched it. I’ve felt uneasy ever since. I feel hung up inside. Like I’ve swallowed a bone.”
Dahlia scowled and then left the room. She came back with the old woman. “This is my abuela….my grandmother. We’re in the storeroom of her herbaria. She doesn’t like you.” They spoke to each other in Spanish. Then Dahlia asked me when my birthday was. I told her. They spoke in Spanish some more.
“My grandmother says that your spirit animal is the owl. And that your native birth sign is the owl. Your spirit animal was trying to tell you something in the dream.”
The old woman spoke more Spanish.
Dahlia said, “Only you can determine that. But something bad may be coming…perhaps death.”
“Death? That’s pretty heavy…is there anything I can do?”
“About the dream? You can ponder it. About death? Probably not.”
“What about the weird dwarf who looked at me? Does that mean something?”
Dahlia asked her grandmother and the old woman laughed then made a quick comment.
“She says it means watch out for little drunk men in the road.”
I looked over at the chest. “That’s a neat piece. What’s in it?”
Her grandmother gave me a stern look and said something in an abrupt manner.
Dahlia told me in a low voice, “She says it’s nothing that concerns you. There are some things the white man wasn’t meant to understand.”
I put my clothes on and walked out of the room and through the little herbaria. Dahlia walked with me. We got outside and I thanked her for looking after me.
“I guess I better get back to the band-they’re probably wondering where the hell I am.”
“Yeah…you take care of yourself.”
“I will….” I walked off, stopped, and then turned back. “I forgot something in the room.”
We went back and I pushed her down on the cot. I reached under her skirt and pulled her panties off. Then I ate her out. She fretted about her grandmother walking in. I poured it on until she was moist and earthy. I was getting to the heart of her anguish, my anguish, sucking the muddy flesh out of the Rio Grande. Then she came-a fierce squirting orgasm. It covered me like a primal stream bursting its banks during a spring flood. It was chaos and order intertwined, for an instant, then rolling off the belly of the gods and giving wild birth to a virgin river-source and mouth, earth and water, joined as one and then traumatically ripped apart. We lived our own creation myth in that moment.
She said, “That was… something.”
“Yeah-I think it cured my hangover.”
Then I held her close and stroked her hair. My eyes settled on the ancient wooden chest. It intrigued me. Curiosity splotched my brain like an ink stain on a cotton shirt. I lusted to know. It polluted me.
“Hey, I’m sorry to be pushy. I really need to know about that chest. The thing has to be a couple of hundred years old. It’s fascinating.”
She looked down. Then she said, “It’s older than that….but it’s nothing important…. just a piece of local folklore.”
I gave her a gentle kiss. She kissed me back with vigor.
“I’m curious. Sincerely.” Our eyes were deeply locked.
“Alright, I’ll tell you. But you have to promise to keep this story to yourself.”
I promised. Then she looked warily at the artefact, “The chest has bones in it. Human bones. The sorcerers say they’re the bones of Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma. The last Mexica emperor.”
“Wow-that’s cool. But what would they be doing in your grandma’s storeroom?”
“After he was killed by the Spanish, some fugitive priests brought them to this area, far from the Europeans. The legend says that they called this place the Land of the Spider Eaters. Back, before the white man brought irrigation, this was a delta. The ground was so soft here the people said that the earth never forgot anything. So the priests left the emperor’s bones with a local tribe in hopes that the memory of the Mexica would be preserved. They told the natives to keep the bones safe-that one day the Mexica Empire would rise again in the land that remembered them.”
I kissed her again and thanked her for telling me. But I felt uneasy. I regretted knowing.
I walked back to the hotel. My bandmates were irritated by my previous night’s behavior. It didn’t matter. They didn’t know what I knew. We loaded up and headed north. Crystal kept looking at me and I was getting annoyed. Her illness seemed to have cleared up in record time. We stopped at a gas station and she approached me.
“I think I love you.”
“That’s a hell of a thought.”
“I’m serious. I prayed about it last night. God wants us to be together.”
“God also wants me to stop shoving carrots up my ass, but it ain’t gonna’ happen.”
Her jaw tightened.
“Look, I don’t think we should have screwed. It could never work between us.”
She looked downcast.
“I made it with someone else last night. I don’t love you.”
Her eyes rolled back then she growled, “Fuck you…fuck you. You think I’m foolish? You think I’m crazy…”
“No…get the fuck away from me.”
She grabbed her bag from the van and stormed across the parking lot. She went up to this kicker type who was standing outside his truck and asked if she could get a ride with him. He nodded and she opened the door to his cab. Then she shouted, “Get thee behind me!” The truck peeled away.
We reached the border checkpoint. The guard asked if we were American. The road ahead of us looked like it was alive. I figured the octli was still talking to me. Or maybe I had followed Crystal to that final stop on the path of stark raving madness? It relieved me when Wild Wiles asked the guard, “What’s that up ahead?”
“Tarantulas. They’re migrating-it’s their mating season.”
Good for them, I thought…I wondered if the female tarantulas were insane.
We pulled through the checkpoint and sure enough, about 30 feet up the road there were hundreds-perhaps thousands-of hairy spiders on the move. It was creepy. We plowed over them. I opened the window and glanced back. I’m certain I saw an owl swoop down and grab a couple of the hapless creatures…the risks of chasing pussy.
All the way home I couldn’t shake the thought of my dream. The owl. Death… It had been quite a trip. That night I laid down and put on the song, “Kiko and the Lavender Moon.” I needed to hear it. I slept a heavy sleep, emerging in the most vivid dream I’ve ever experienced. I was walking along the banks of an ancient, unspoiled Rio Grande. With me was a tall, bronze man. He had long coal black hair, harsh eyes, and wore a blue cloak with a matching blue sash and gold sandals. He was the noblest looking person I have ever seen. There was also a small dark fellow in a jester costume.
The man spoke in a soft, commanding tone, “So, you know the story now?”
“Yes, I’m afraid I do.”
“You’re the only white man who knows.”
“Don’t think it makes you special. You only know this because you’re a drunken idiot who pried the information out of a naïve young girl who wanted to impress you.”
“I know…” I laughed nervously. “I wanted to impress her too.”
As I said this I clumsily lost my footing on the slick riverbank and fell hard on my ass, tumbling into the water. I sunk beneath the surface and opened my eyes. The river was muddy but not dirty and felt warm and peaceful…like a womb. I could have floated there for an eternity. There were no troubles in the wash.
A large strong hand broke the tranquility and pulled me up and out of the water. I lay in the mud for a second. Then I slowly stood up. I was covered in muck and plant debris and felt like a shlemiel. The little person laughed. The man just stared. He gazed at me with a grim sadness. Slowly his face broke into a delicate smile. He slightly raised his severe brow, then he let out a warm sigh.
The two of them left me on the soft bank of the Rio Grande. I watched them walk solemnly along the river in silence, their feet making deep impressions in the mud.