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The Underdogs

Part I

 

“I’m telling you, it’s not an animal. Listen to how Palomo barks. It must be a person…”

The woman fixed her eyes on the darkness of the range.

“And are those federales there?” suggested a man who, in a squat, was eating in a corner, a cooking pot in one hand and three taco-shaped tortillas in the other.

The woman didn’t answer him; her senses were focused outside of their little home.

A noise of hoofs was heard on the rocky ground nearby, and Palomo barked with even more fury.

“It would be good if you hide anyway, Demetrio.”

The man, without getting flustered, finished eating; he lifted a jug by both hands and drank the water gushing out. He then put it at his feet.

“Your rifle is underneath the backpack,” she said in a low voice.

The little room was illuminated by a tallow candle. A yoke, a plow, a cane and other farming tools rested in a corner. From the roof hung cords holding an old mold of adobe that served as a bed, and atop blankets and faded rags slept a little boy.

Demetrio held onto the holster at his belt and lifted the firearm. Tall, robust, with a bright red face, without a beard, he was dressed in a shirt and pants made of muslin, a wide-brimmed hat and wooden sandals.

He left step by step, disappearing into the impenetrable darkness of the night.

Palomo, infuriated, had jumped the fence of the farmyard. Suddenly a shot was heard, the dog gave a muffled whimper and didn’t bark anymore.

Some men on horses arrived yelling and cursing. Two of them hopped off and the other stayed to take care of the beasts.

“Women, something for dinner! Eggs, milk, beans, whatever you have, we came dying of hunger.”

“Damned range! Only the devil would get lost!”

“I’d be lost, sergeant, if I came as drunk as you…”

One was wearing chevrons on his shoulders, the other red ribbons on his sleeves.

“Where are we, old hag? You’re all alone! Is this house all there is?”

“And then, this light? And this child? Hag, we want to eat and we want to eat soon! Are you going to do it or do we have to make you?”

“Evil men, you have killed my dog! What could Palomo have done to deserve this, even if he tried to eat you?”

The woman entered dragging the dog, very white and fat, with pale eyes and a loose body.

“Just look at her rosy cheeks, sergeant! My love, don’t get angry, I swear I’ll turn this house into a dovecote; but, by God!

Don’t look at me angrily…

No more strife…

Look at me caringly,

Light of my life,”

he finished singing with a husky voice.

“Ma’am, what is this name of this little ranch?” asked the sergeant.

“Limón,” answered the woman sullenly, already blowing the hot coals of the fireplace and bringing the firewood closer.

“So then this is Limón? The land of the famous Demetrio Macías! Did you hear that, lieutenant? We’re in Limón.”

“In Limón? Good, easy! You already know, sergeant, if I go to hell, no better time than now, and I’m going on the good horse. Just look at her rosy cheeks! Apples to bite into!”

“You have met this bandit, ma’am…I was together with…”