The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Life Fiction
La Venganza - The Revenge
If they had asked me I would have been able to relate the whole story from start to finish. I would have even been able to tell them the history behind the story, but no one asked me, nor did I volunteer. Some would say that I was nosy, your typical small town neighbour, but in actuality I kept to myself and I did not meddle in anyone's business. In fact, most anyone in the neighbourhood would have been able to tell the story, and like me most would have vehemently denied that they had witnessed anything. This is the way of life in the barrio. This is the way of life in Honduras.
You see, we are a poor uneducated people. When it comes to justice there is none, and so long after the Spanish left us a voiceless majority we learned to take matters into our own hands. We learned vengence-la venganza.
I don't mind telling you what happened as long as you keep my name and my face out of your story. Here in Honduras everybody sees everything and nobody forgets. You see that house right across from mine? Well you can't really see it clearly from here because since that man died all those young shoots of sugar cane grew, practically overnight, to almost completely block the view of the house.
That in itself is a strange thing as nothing ever grew on that barren plot of land except a few deformed beans that sprung up quickly with a sudden downpour and just as quickly shriveled up and died. For years I saw as Victor poked around in the ground trying to bring life to that patch, but whatever he planted, from corn to cane nothing ever did seem to catch. In fact, you could say he had no talent except breeding children. By the time of the incident he had already had five children with Wilma, his wife, and four older ones with two other women. Rumour had it too, that he had gotten a young girl pregnant, and if you ask me, I'd have to say rumour in these parts is nothing less than testimony to the truth.
Anyway, to get on with the story, let me tell you a little bit about how things were. In those days Victor was still a young man. I would say he was about 33 - 34. He used to work planting milpa. Planting milpa, yucca and banana is no easy job and the men usually work from before sun up to the last light of day. My husband Carlos worked along with Victor and the rest of the men from the aldea. I would see Victor when I went to take food for my husband around midday. His wife Wilma and I would trudge through the fields under the hot sun to bring the daily meal of tortillas, beans and rice. We would throw a small hand towel over our heads to prevent the sun's rays from boring through our skulls. Carlos loved horchata and so I would also bring horchata for him and Moncho. You know horchata right? The rice drink? It really is a rice milk with spices. Both my husband and Moncho loved horchata
Moncho was also my neighbor, and because he did not have a wife in the aldea all of us women helped to take care of him. In those days he stayed with Wilma and Victor in an adjoining room to their small tin-roof adobe hut. He couldn't afford to rent so I suppose he gave them a little extra for food and so on. I would say Moncho was about 48, he was already getting down in age but he was still quite strong and worked like a dog alongside the younger men. Moncho had grown sons who would come to visit him from time to time along with their mother Maria. He and Maria also had another set of younger children, but these children never came to the village and so to this day I wouldn't be able to point them out to you.
Sometimes Moncho would leave the village and would tell us that he was going to his aldea to visit his children. We never thought anything about it, as it was obvious then that he needed the warmth of a woman. My husband Carlos, Victor or even another friend named Sangre would cover Moncho's hours when he was gone. He was never gone long though, and sometimes he'd come back on the same day which was strange to us since his village was so far away it would mean that he didn't spend anytime at all with his wife.
For the most part the men got along and nearly every Saturday midday when work was done for the week they'd get together either in the canteen down the street or even in a friend's patio. The women were never a part of these raucous gatherings, except we were near at hand to bring more ice, a towel, a glass or whatever they requested.
I would lie if I told you my Carlos was any different. Our men are machista and we have learned that our job is to serve them. I would also lie if I told you that Carlos has never hit me, but in the years we've been together he has never brutally beat me to the point that I had to leave the house, and the only beatings I received were those provoked by alcohol and stress. It has been years now since he has touched me, but I guess he knows too that our sons would take matters into their own hands.
The canteen was owned by Elsa and her five daughters, each one beautiful; each one distinctly different. Two of the five girls were rather tall and blanquita while the other three were india quemada, short dark skinned girls. Everyone in the village knew that the girls were from different men, but no one said anything when Elsa talked about the girls' father, a man who had supposedly gone mojado to the U.S years ago. As far as anyone remembered he had never lived in the village, and apart from what Elsa had told us, no one seemed to know anything about him.
Elsa had taught her daughters well and between the six of them and their various boyfriends, they made a living. On Saturdays and Sundays the canteen was always packed and loud ranchera and the popular vallenato music from Colombia pounded from the large speakers that doubled as stands for the glass display cases. Elsa really knew how to squeeze money out of the men with her lycra pants and tight blouse which would show her erect nipples. The men usually returned home broke. I knew what happened there because I would make tortillas to sell, and on Saturdays the orders were quadrupled.
In the canteen they used to have wooden tables that were all roughly painted with the blue and red Pepsi logo, and these tables were surrounded by red plastic chairs that had Imperial written all over them. Imperial is the local cheap beer which the tourist people say is the best tasting of all. At the back of the canteen, one of Elsa's daughters, the fat one, would go back and forth from the frying pan refilling the glass display case with pastelitos, baleadas and tamalitos. The canteen is no longer there mind you, she later turned it into a pulperia-a convenience store you would call it, but back then the canteen would be full, so much so, that the men would then drag extra plastic chairs out in front of the canteen right onto the unpaved dusty road which would prevent the few trucks from passing through. It wouldn't matter because most of these drivers would then find a spot to park their truck and then join the other men for a few drinks.I remember all of this oh so clearly.
On the Saturday before the incident, I was delivering the tortillas that me and my oldest daughter had just finished making. My husband Carlos was sitting at a table with Papi, a man who had gotten this nickname because he boasted to having over 24 children. Everyone called him Papi except his real children who wanted nothing to do with him, since he had barely ever given them anything. At the table next to them Victor was sitting with Moncho and Sangre and all three were already quite drunk. When I dropped off the tortillas and was about to leave, Carlos waved me over. He never liked me to come to the canteen, and I always knew it was because he had an eye for Elsa's youngest daughter. Xiomara was about 17 at the time but was already quite fat after her second child.
When I got over to the table, mindfully avoiding touching any other man even though it was almost impossible, Carlos roughly pulled me towards him by my wrist and whispered, "go home woman and don't bring that child back here again." I didn't say a word as there was nothing to say, but at the same time I was able to hear when Sangre said to Moncho that " a little bird has told me that you've been screwing my wife, and if I find out I'm going to kill you."
To be honest, this news had been floating around for awhile. On several occasions Moncho and Sangre had had words, they were not best friends, but as I've told you before both Sangre and Victor would cover for Moncho when he went back to his aldea-village. The three worked closely together and there was no animosity between them. However, when they got drunk words would fly. Their anger was usually short lived, because if not every Saturday evening, then every other Saturday the the three would walk through the village, arm over shoulder, each one more inebriated than the other.
No one had really suspected Moncho of having an affair with Sangre's wife. The few times that she had come to our aldea, Moncho had not even been there, furthermore Osiris was not much to look at. Osiris had five children with Sangre and an older child from her first marido-husband, who had been killed by a cousin over a parcel of land. Osiris, was very thin with a body that could have been used for a washing board-all bony and lumpy. Her eyes were spaced too close together giving her a look of a hungry pigeon. We all felt sorry for her because we had heard that Sangre would beat her brutally, and at one point had dislocated her nose which now changed her pigeon face into that of an agitated hawk. That poor woman had already had her lot in life long before Sangre, who as rumour had it, had already killed four men though he had never been caught. It was no wonder that he had long ago been given the nickname Sangre-blood, as he would leave anyone who crossed him wounded and bleeding.
I'm getting to the Saturday of the incident, so just hear me out. That day you could tell something was going to happen. It was one of those really hot days that we have here where everyone pulls out a plastic chair and sits under a mango tree or even an avocado tree. My children had already gone down to the river and so I was left in the house alone. Carlos had come back earlier than usual and was already resting in the hammock with my oldest grandson who we were raising as our own. I had gone out in front to take the dry clothes off our barbed wire fence, when I heard Victor and Moncho laughing. Wilma was then trying to signal me to come over, but I pointed towards Carlos with my chin, which would tell her that I couldn't go anywhere with him there.
I would be lying if I tell you I didn't hear as Sangre came bellowing up into Victor's yard. It was obvious that he was drunk, and that he was extremely angry. Victor and Moncho also appeared drunk but had been in such good spirits you could never tell. I could hear what Sangre said, word for word.
"Moncho a little birdie told me you are fucking my wife and the child she is carrying is yours."
As soon as I heard the ruckus I ran to wake up Carlos to tell him. He pushed me roughly in my arm and said, "go inside and stay inside." Carlos then got up from the hammock with the little boy, pulled a chair next to the chicken coop from which he had a good view of Victor's yard , and started whittling a piece of wood into a toy.
From inside my dark house they couldn't see me but I could see everything. Remember now that those sugar cane weren't there then. Anyway, it seemed that Sangre wasn't as drunk as usual. He started talking about dates and times that Moncho had supposedly gone to his village but had been seen in Sangre's village near his house. Moncho, who was usually a quiet man, asked him if he had proof. He then said that if his wife was fucking around it is because he Sangre wasn't given it to her good.
Well as you can imagine this made Sangre go crazy. Victor who up until then had not said a thing, told Sangre to get out of his yard and stop causing confusion. Victor told him that he had had enough of Sangre's accusation of his friend. Victor then went over to the little gate that they had and opened it for Sangre to step out, but Sangre was just getting started. Before anyone knew what was happening, Sangre pulled out his machete that he always carried and lunged at Moncho. Well, that is when the people in the surrounding houses came out and stood around with their arms folded across their chests. Moncho jumped back. I tell you for an old man he was quite agile then, and in a quick move he grabbed for his own machete that was behind a large rock.
Well, the fight began and blood started to fly. Wilma herded up her children and ran inside. Victor was yelling at the two men to stop but it was obvious that Sangre wasn't going to stop, though from what I could tell, he seemed to be getting the most blows. And then all of a sudden I heard the rest of my neighbours collectively scream as Sangre lost his right arm below the elbow. It fell right by the fence post and stood upright on it's cut side. I can tell you that was the first time I saw my Carlos scared, he ran inside and asked me to call the police, but I didn't have the cellphone because one of the boys had taken it when he went down to the river.
Right before he lost his arm though, Sangre had grabbed at Victor's gun. You see, Wilma had gone inside to hide the children but had returned carrying the gun. Sangre had then snatched it out of her hand, and was pointing it at Moncho who had already fallen to the ground now bleeding profusely. Victor quickly picked up Sangre's discarded machete and was going to knock the gun out of his hand, when Sangre told him, "you wouldn't do that if you knew that he has also been fucking Wilma too." In a quick movement of what could only be self defense, Victor chopped off Sangre's arm, and picked up his now fallen gun. Now in all honesty this is where the story gets tricky, and all the neighbours turned a blind eye. We don't know how the gun that was in Victor's hand went off and blasted a hole right through Moncho's brain, because all we know is that Moncho and Victor were best friends. We don't even know how Sangre pulled that trigger, he was right handed and if we remember clearly he had already lost his right hand. But coming to think about it, we don't really remember when Moncho cut off that arm, and sadly now he can never tell us. If we think clearly we had never seen the gun, and certainly we didn't know that Sangre owned a gun. If you ask me, the cuts that Victor got were from defending his friend, but wait? As far as we know they were three very good friends, no animosity between them.
© Susan Arthur - November 2013
The same scene was being played out in at least four other homes, he thought. Perhaps it was the same in all of the other 28 homes but he didn't know those people nor their families