Fistful of reefer, p.7
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Fistful of Reefer, p.7

           David Mark Brown

  Don’t Come Knocking

  The moment Muddy spotted Nena riding out to meet him he recognized she dressed for war. With her hair braided and coiled around her neck, she wore a leather breastplate formed to fit snugly around her waist and chest. Strapped to her back, the tips of her crossbow stuck out beyond her elbows.

  The sight both rattled and thrilled him. This was how he’d first seen her, first designed to have her, several years ago. But the realization that such times had come upon them again grieved him.

  She rode slowly past the haggard herd of goats, careful not to agitate them, before sidling up next to Muddy without a word. Her horse, Bella, had learned a compensated long walk to keep pace with Tripalo. Nina looked over her man, searching for injury. He did the same to her, taking special notice of the old scar running diagonal across her back and how her crossbow settled into the dimple where her lower back met her butt. She had devised the weapon herself, insisting it compensated for her lack of upper-body strength.

  As they rode side by side, Bella’s saddle rubbing against his leg, he recalled all their times spent like this before, quietly soaking in the presence of the other. Thanking God that both parties were still alive. Knowing that soon a time would come when it would not be so. He thought he saw hunger in his woman’s eyes, unsure whether it was hunger for him or hunger for war.

  Finally she spoke, “You had trouble at the springs?”

  “A little,” he nodded. She scowled. Muddy huffed before continuing, “No one died. I had to open fire on the sheriff and the ranger.” She waited for him to continue. “And some ranchers. They were killing our goats. I encouraged them not to.” He smiled sideways at her.

  Despite herself she smiled back. “Monday Sampson, you are a trouble maker.” She shoved him before pulling him toward her, nearly causing him to fall from his saddle and into her lap. Standing in her stirrups and holding him by a fistful of shirt, she kissed him furiously. Finally she shoved him back upright in his saddle. “We will see what else you have to say for yourself later tonight. But first, supper.”

  With the mention of supper Muddy’s stomach growled. He had not eaten all day, and the day was nearly over. After riding into camp, Nena tended to the animals while Muddy washed himself and began to cook. Outside of war, cooking was Muddy’s only means of expressing himself. Tonight would be nothing as spectacular as the night before, but the motions soothed him.

  He kept the fire small and the smoke a minimum while unpacking hard tack, pinto beans and coffee. He insisted on coffee. Next to the scent of Nena’s skin, damp from exertion, only roasted coffee beans from Coatepec could compare. The oil from the beans smelled lightly of almond, and Muddy swore Nena dabbed her skin with it when he wasn’t looking.

  For dessert they would finish their fresh fruit, combined with homemade goat cheese. All in all, still a good meal.

  Just before sunset Chancho returned from the field covered in grease and smelling of manure. “Hola. I see you’re still alive. I think Nena was worried. Nonsense, I told her.” He knelt, enthusiastically rubbing his hands in the dirt and clapping them together. “Besides, who would tangle with the witch doctor of El Chupacabra?” He smiled and looked back and forth between the couple as he rubbed the grease from between his fingers with the gritty dirt. “¿Qué paso?”

  Muddy squatted next to the fire and stirred the beans. “So, the harvester is coming along well?”

  “¡Si! It's almost finished. Tomorrow we'll complete it, and then we harvest! Wait until you see it in action.” He began to pace and throw his arms about as he spoke. “It’s no locomotive, but it may be my best creation yet. It is truly marvelous, but I’m most pleased with the carburetor. I have to say, I didn’t know if it would work at first. Oh, but mis amigos, it does not only work, it is a miracle. Not just a machine. And the fuel! It's so simple, you’d never guess.”

  “Manure?” Nena smiled at Chancho’s enthusiasm.

  “Yes, manure. But how did you—” Nena wrinkled her nose. “Oh, yes.” Chancho smelled himself. “I see what you mean. Well, mis amigos,” Chancho made an elaborate bow and flourish. “Please excuse me while I make myself more acceptable to the lady.” He started to jog towards his wagon when he stopped. “Oh, Muddy. Did you run into much trouble at the springs?”

  “No, not much.”

  “Ah, bueno. See Nena. I told you there was nothing to worry about. And you had to go all warrior princess.” Chancho again started toward his wagon, this time mimicking a Sevillanas dancer holding castanets over his head. As he danced he sang a tune of his own devising, “Tres Amigos, they ride for adventure. Tres Amigos, they ride for thrill. With goats and marihuana they ride!”

  Muddy and Nena laughed at him, as they were supposed to, while he bumped up the steps into his wagon. It felt good to laugh. It was Chancho’s gift to them. His ability to poke fun at himself was the only thing that made his bouts of manic self-absorption bearable, and sometimes even admirable.

  “He is crazy, you know that.” Nena relaxed, leaning against a log.

  “Yes. I knew that the moment I realized he was a friend.”

  “Why? Because someone has to be crazy to like you?”

  Muddy stirred the beans with his back to Nena. “You said it.” She thumped him with a dirt clod. “Hey, you’ll get dirt in the beans.”

  “Like there isn’t dirt in the beans already.”

  Muddy mocked offense, “There’s never dirt in my beans. Mealy worms, maybe.”

  The fire burned low, so Muddy transferred the cast iron pot of beans to a rock and put the pot of coffee over the embers while they were hot enough to bring it to a boil. He threw a clump of hard tack in with the beans and put the lid back on the pot, once again enjoying the simple rhythms of daily life.

  Nena interrupted him, “I like you, and I’m not crazy.”

  “Hmmm. I don’t—”

  “Monday.” Nena cut him off. “Don’t boil more water than you need for the coffee.”

  “You’re right. No joking.” As the coffee started to heat Muddy held his nose over it for a whiff—mild and delicate, nothing like himself. He dropped a square of chocolate into the pot and sat in the dirt next to Nena, taking a deep breath. “You did not fear me when we met because you had banished fear from your life, which by some, would be considered crazy. Chancho, on the other hand, did not fear me because he could not see anything to fear. He saw nothing but the stories my grandmother had filled him with, the same ones she gave me when I’d visit.”

  He ran his nose along the glistening skin of her arm, growing dizzy on the sweat and almond oil before continuing. “Chancho does not see the world the way others do. You and I, we kill fear with courage. Chancho kills it with trust. That makes him crazy, but it’s a good crazy.”

  Both of them sat there in silence. The last of Chancho’s humor having run its course, they found themselves serious again.

  Muddy sat up to add a tablespoon of cinnamon to the coffee before it came to a boil. Retaking his spot, he broke the silence, “It might be a long time before we can come back.”

  Nena wrapped herself around his mighty arm and rested her head on his shoulder. “Maybe we won’t want to.”

  After a few moments Chancho reappeared from his wagon and washed for supper. With considerably less manure on his person the three friends enjoyed their meal and settled in for coffee as they discussed how to keep the goats out of the cáñamo patch.

  “I’ll sleep in the field tonight,” Chancho offered, “in case any of our amigos pequinos get the munchies.”

  Nena scoffed, “I think it’s so you can whisper sweet nothings to your machine.”

  “Nothing of the sort.” Chancho waved her off. “If you cannot accept my selfless gesture,” he looped his hand around in the air as if to finish his sentence visually. “Besides, I whisper substantialities, never nothings.”

  “I’m sure—”

  Chancho cut her off, “No, no. I’ve made up my mind. Tonight the stars
will gaze down upon my substantialities, and be blessed.” Nena and Muddy both snorted, but Chancho continued, “Within 24 hours, mis amigos, we will be adventuring north with a wealth of both goats and marihuana. Tres amigos, we ride. You will see.”

  Finally, when only a few streaks of color remained in the sky, Chancho grabbed his things and marched down the slope toward the field for the night. An orchestra of crickets began their nightly performance.

  Nena had started to shake with her desires even before she finished her coffee. Now that nothing stood in her way she released a fury of kisses on Muddy’s face and neck, the air chilled just enough to emphasize the heat emanating from their bodies. Before she could go further he rose with her in his arms and carried her to their wagon.

  She felt all the familiar intimacy they had built together, but today’s events unleashed a storm in her that had remained dormant. Lulled to sleep by months and even years of relative safety, the thought of her lover’s life at risk brought urgency to her lovemaking. She had to feel him as close to her as possible, to wrap him up inside her and keep him safe.

  For the rest of that evening they nourished each other. It did not dispel the fear of loss, but it expressed her gratitude for the possessing. Tomorrow would come bearing secrets, but tonight she would know and be known fully. Whatever happened tomorrow, tonight she had a good life.

  They pressed into each other and quaked. The wagon fell still as the lovers rested in the midst of their thanksgiving, bathed in the delicate scent of almond oil and the musk of mohair. Nena lay her head over Muddy’s heart, listening to its beat gradually slow. She tasted his sweat on her lips, and after several minutes she spoke. “I remember the first time I saw you. So menacing, and so proud. I knew instantly it would never do to have you as an enemy.”

  He ran his fingers down her shoulder and arm where her sweat started to chill. “And you, standing one foot in front, even of your father. I had to stare past you to stare at him, yet he was not offended in your presumption. He was proud that you stood there. That fact made me stare at you.”

  “You were angry.”

  “I knew we would lose if we fought.”

  “Oh?” Nena lifted her head from his chest to look him in the eyes.

  “I already wanted to make love to you more than kill you.” He smiled. “It would have been a conflict of interest in war.”

  She slapped him on the chest and repeated his last word as she lie back down, “War. War had already changed by then. My father taught me to fight using the words and the laws of the Mexicans, and then the Anglos. He accused the Mexican government of handing our lands over to you and your people. Our fight was with them.”

  “Yes, but we fought alongside them. Los mascogos. They favored us, at least while we remained useful to them.”

  “Your people did what they had to, same as mine.” She wove her fingers through the curly hair on his chest. “Now you are my people. You and Chancho, that crazy Mexican.” She always attached the epithet. It was her pet name for him. “And we are again at war.”

  “War?” Now Muddy repeated the word.

  “We are outsiders here, with only each other for family. Chancho has been spit out by his beloved revolution. Our peoples do not accept our love, and the Anglo lusts only for the land, making us rivals.”

  “And?” Muddy raised his brows. She could tell he was waiting for her to lead up to something.

  “Chancho, that crazy Mexican, he is a dreamer. You said it yourself. He can see impossible things and make them possible, and I love him for that. But, for all his vision he could not see lightning if it struck him. He will get us into trouble if we do not shepherd him.”

  Muddy smiled. “So what is your plan?”

  She always unveiled her deepest thoughts and most intricate schemes immediately after rapturous sex. Of course her husband was most attentive and compliant then. It was not really manipulation, but cunning. It was her way. "What if the hunting party is not just hunting El Chupacabra?”

  Muddy nodded. “You mean what if they are after us.”

  “They may accuse us of stealing goats. They may be angry or jealous of the land. They will not need good reason, especially if empowered by the law. My father taught me well that the law is a false god to many. And the ranger —”

  “He is trouble.”

  Nena continued, “If he is anything like los rinches in Chancho’s stories, yes, he is trouble.”

  “We need to be ready to fight.”

  “There may come a time when we cannot run, not with the whole camp on our backs. The wagons will be too cumbersome and slow. If they come after us we’ll have to leave everything but the horses. Chancho won’t like it, and so he won’t prepare for it. We will have to.”

  “Of course, you’re right.” Muddy shifted onto his elbow. “Tomorrow—”

  “I will finish the rest of the preparations while you and Chancho play with your toy. I don’t need you spoiling the surprise.”

  “Oh really? Should that comfort me?”

  “Whatever you like, but right now you should be comforting me so I can sleep. I’m chilled.” Nena grabbed Muddy’s arm and draped it over her exposed skin as she rolled over and nestled herself in his stomach. He wrestled free of her in order to pull a large mohair blanket over the two of them.

Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up

Other author's books: