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Men of the Earth – Part II

Oriol Jolonch – “La Ilegada de la primavera”

 

It went this way for several weeks and would’ve, I’m certain, continued to the end of the summer if I hadn’t run into them by chance. Horacio was with another younger man in the food court eating burgers and fries and I asked if I could join them and Horacio nodded to indicate that it would be all right.

“I’m sorry, I can’t remember your name,” I said. “I’m Julian St. Vincent.”

“Call me Juan Carlos,” said Juan Carlos and we shook hands and it was a man’s handshake. He saw me eyeing his silver pendant and smiled.

“So what’s your story, Juan Carlos,” I said and Horacio made a sound like a laugh.

“Did I say something funny.”

“You should never ask Juan Carlos that kind of a question,” said Horacio. He was talking to me but only looking at Juan Carlos as he spoke. “He doesn’t know how to stop.”

“He’s right, you know,” said Juan Carlos, his eyes sparkling with mischief. “You’re sure you want to ask me the question? Sure you want to hear the story?”

“Is your name actually Juan Carlos?” I said.

“Course,” said Juan Carlos. “It’s the one on my visa.”

“Then yeah,” I said, causing them to laugh. “Tell me everything.”

It turned out Juan Carlos had had an adventurous life until then. He said he’d been driving taxis from when he was thirteen years old in a city by the ocean which was somewhere on the West Coast of Mexico. He’d really liked that job, but he liked it best when business was slow more than anything, because it allowed him to listen to the radio. The city was in a unique position by the ocean and Juan Carlos knew a spot to catch radio signals from the United States as they bounced over the waves and he would become immersed listening to American baseball, basketball and football commentaries. Juan Carlos said that he would like to visit America someday. He said the radio made it sound like paradise.

After a few years, however, Juan Carlos grew bored and found another job driving a parasailing boat. Juan Carlos said he liked that job better because he made a lot of good friends and it paid more and freed up his nightlife. But, he continued on, after a while of partying all night on the sand he found himself in considerable debt and in need of escape.

It was at that point that his friends gave him the pendent which now hung around his neck. It was impossible for Juan Carlos to stay, but the pendant was important to him because it showed that they would be friends no matter what the distance between them. Juan Carlos had nothing to give in return but he promised that he would hire a private investigator once he made his fortune and he would track down each of them once he made it in America. His friends said that was a good story and they threw garbage at him and told him to get lost before they went back to sunbathing and Juan Carlos couldn’t have thought of a better way to say goodbye.

Juan Carlos fled to the capital where he could lose himself and he found a job with a security company driving big money individuals. Things had been going well for a time and Juan Carlos was even starting to consider building a life in his new city, but then something terrible happened. By freak accident, Juan Carlos’ car was caught in a shootout with police and gang members and one of his patrons was shot and killed. She was so young, still in high school. He knew he could do nothing. He had said to her that things would be all right, that it would be okay, but he knew from the size and place of the injury that she was going to die. There was blood everywhere and she held onto him very tight as she tried to breathe but it didn’t sound right.

The company came through for him, the whole thing was so inexplicable. They offered him all the legal protection he needed and the wrongful death suit was overturned, but it stayed. It stayed with him for months. The only thing that made it go away, even for a little while, was drink and Juan Carlos soon fell in with it. There was nothing the company could do to protect him from himself and after he reported in one morning with bacanora on his breath they were left no choice but to fire him. Juan Carlos went on to say that he’d taken the first job he could get, and it happened to be this one. It was to take a rest off things, he said.

“Actually…” Juan Carlos said. “If it’s everything you want to know, I’m a bit under the influence right now.”

“How…” I said and Juan Carlos took a brown paper bag out of his knapsack that had in it a tall bottle of Bailey’s, half-full. Juan Carlos indicated his empty coffee cup and Horacio rolled his eyes. Juan Carlos had been smiling through all of this but it struck me that every time I’d seen Juan Carlos he’d had the same look.

“I see,” I said.

“You said you wanted my story,” said Juan Carlos, spreading his arms wide. “I am what I am. Should I apologize?”

“No, I wasn’t saying that at all. It wasn’t what I expected, is all.”

“I’m sure the same can be said of most lives. But it would be a lie to say it was the one I imagined for myself.”

“But don’t you think everyone has to do that? How can the world become better unless people imagine what it can look like.”

“You think too much,” said Horacio.

“It speaks,” said Juan Carlos.

“The world gives us enough hardship and goodness to satisfy all,” said Horacio. “The problem with today is children like you chasing imaginary fruits and missing the real ones.”

“So what’s your story,” I said.

“You ask it too late,” said Horacio. “It is time to go. It is time to sleep. There will be work tomorrow and we must be ready.”

And so it was. As we’d spoken the food court had emptied steadily, with only the janitor remaining, mopping some obscure stain. The room was entirely white, I noticed for the first time. We’d been there a while.

“But will I ever hear it?” I said.

“Someday, yes,” said Horacio. I had no reason other than the way he said it, but I trusted him.

-:-

I was worried, I thought things would return to the same depressing way, but when we were reunited a few days later I could tell Horacio was pleased. There was this glow about him.

“How are you my friend,” I said.

“There is fresh air to breathe, water for when we are thirsty and we have work; more than many people,” said Horacio.

“All true things,” I said. “And truth is always good.”

“Never always, no such thing,” said Horacio. “Don’t confuse yourself with such thoughts. You will know what is good when you feel it.”

Prior to this, although the Mexicans applied themselves diligently, they had always kept to the same slow, deliberate speed, no matter how much Hogarth or Mr. Gore or anyone prodded them to move faster. Eventually Mr. Gore or Hogarth would give up, considering them lost causes, but it seemed a logical process. The Mexicans often worked six and seven days and many had part-time jobs at other farms or orchards. Anyone could see they were trying to conserve energy. I wouldn’t want to spend myself for some boss who didn’t understand that, if it were me.

Little things changed, though. Juan Carlos still wore the same permanent grin, but after that day he always volunteered to use the machines. It was the sweet water he later said, shaking the steel bottle close to my face. He said it made him feel like a sorcerer with the machines. Like he could do anything. But it was much more than that. Some of the other Mexicans started opening up.

“I need a break man, from that dust,” said old Demetrius. Old Demetrius was Jamaican and didn’t know any Spanish, though Mr. Gore and Hogarth grouped him in with the Mexicans anyways.

“I completely understand,” I said to him.

“Ah, so you say you’ve accepted Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, the one true God into your life.”

“What other God is there.”

“A clever answer,” he said. “But clever answers will get you nowhere in the face of God.”

“I’m no Jonah, that wasn’t my intention.”

“Ah, but you did. I saw you. You were laughing behind your eyes.”

“Okay…”

“That is alright meybrotha,” said old Demetrius. “It is good to find laughter amongst this miserable work, and it is miserable, hard, dirty work. Yes, God did not create us, his servants, for this crude labour. You see, we are his servants and he is our servant; Christ Jesus walks with us every day of our lives and that is why we uphold His word above all others.

Because God’s empire is an empire of the soul, God’s empire is holy. That is why God created us, to fulfill his spiritual promise upon the eart. Some people have gone as far to say that we are descended from monkeys, but think nothing of this ridiculous notion. You see, God created us in his own image. We are hue-man, made from the many hues and colours of the eart. We are men of the eart. That is why we cannot help ourselves, why we are concerned with dirty things and why we are so easily distracted from God’s purpose. We must remember that perfect gift -”

“You two, get back to work,” growled Hogarth, coming at us. “Look at the others, it’s hot out and they’re working. You think you should get some special treatment.”

“Yeah, we needed a break from that dust,” old Demetrius said forcibly. Hogarth was taken aback, not expecting such a reply. Mr. Gore had taken the company truck into the city that day and left Hogarth in charge. It looked strange; old Demetrius being bossed around by Hogarth, a year younger than me. We were supposed to listen to Hogarth, but he’d overstepped some hidden boundary then and everyone knew it.

“Man, let them rest if they need it,” said Lee. “It’s better than having someone pass out with heatstroke and calling an ambulance.”

“Okay,” said Hogarth, as if it were still his word that mattered. But his earlier aggression was gone. “Don’t take all day.”

“That white boy’s got something fat in his arse,” old Demetrius whispered loudly.

I laughed and I knew Hogarth’d heard because he didn’t turn around and in the way the other men returned to work without him asking. I laughed because I’d wanted him to know I didn’t care.

-:-

The pine forest looked like it went on forever and I liked imagining it was the last untouched wilderness of the North, containing something hidden or willfully forgotten by our great civilization. In reality though, it didn’t extend to the highway. There was a university for rich kids that specialized in wetland ecology and wildlife back there, somewhere. I’d never seen it but that was what Hogarth told me.

“Hey cowboys,” Hogarth rolled down the window as he passed us. “Want me to stop by the Taco Bell on my way back.”

“We’re alright,” I said after Horacio and Juan Carlos said nothing.

“Whatever,” said Hogarth and he sped off in a cloud of dust which blinded us for a moment.

Hogarth never stayed with us on break, even when the Latins weren’t around, always zipping off for lunch with his girlfriend. I understood that, but there was something about his going off every day that made it seem like he was trying too hard. I don’t know what, exactly, but I got the sense he was trying to fill someone’s shoes. He’d grown increasingly distant since our conversation about the paintings and I knew Mr. Gore was leaning on him pretty hard, giving him new responsibilities every week and training him on the machines. I don’t know if souls exist, but if they do, his was surely damaged or bruised in some way. I wasn’t sorry for him, though – he’d made his choice.

Juan Carlos and Lee and Amadeus started talking how much they hated working at Shenandoah, and how much they hated work in general. The conversation eventually turned to forklifts and from there forklift racing and then on they would often all three disappear into the distance. Sometimes though, Juan Carlos would stay with Horacio and I and the others.

“Look at this,” said Hogarth upon the sudden appearance of Amadeus and Lee. They seemed surprised at not receiving a warmer welcome. “You should watch yourselves. Even the Mexicans work harder than you two.”

It was true: Juan Carlos had been on the forklift the entire day unloading the latest shipment of stones. Still, it was an awkward comment and Juan Carlos, though smiling like the drunk idiot he was raised an eyebrow as if deciding to be offended or pleased.

“It’s not a competition- ” said Mr. Gore.

“Everything’s a competition,” said Amadeus without a hint of sarcasm. In addition to many other things, Amadeus was a hockey player and didn’t like to lose. Lee looked scared, and with good reason because after that day, construction on the Road advanced and in a few weeks we were nearly finished.

That was only one instance, however, and whenever Mr. Gore or Hogarth were gone, those three were as well, but I didn’t mind. I liked them for who they were and if who they were took them away I would have to live with it. Besides, it gave me time to talk with Horacio.

“So,” I said.

“There is always something with you,” said Horacio.

“You did promise.”

“Making promises doesn’t sound like a thing I would do. I learned my lesson a long time ago.”

“You said you’d tell your story.”

“That’s fine. There’s never harm in putting your stories into the world, as long as you know the people can hear. I was testing you before, to see if you were truly interested.”

“Well I am, and we’re back where we began.”

Horacio was born in Colombia in a village by the sea. As a child Horacio imagined he would live in that place until his death, like his father and their grandfathers. There was talk of war somewhere deep in the jungle, but that didn’t interest Horacio. Horacio didn’t know about any war. Horacio knew about good things like fish and work and his family. Horacio’s family happened to be a good one and they raised him well. Their way of life was hard and he knew this, but he was not a man to complain and he survived and grew strong because of it.

Horacio set his eye on one very pretty girl named Lara, only a few years younger than him. Her family knew he was a good worker and would be a good husband and father and so they agreed to the match. Horacio and Lara were born two beautiful daughters Alexandra and Reyna and a son named Diego, who was the oldest and named after his grandfather who had been a great man and when the time came Horacio took Diego fishing with him and the other men so he could find his place as a man in the community.

One day when the men were out in the boats a group of paramilitary soldiers arrived at the village. The soldiers asked for food and water because they had been wandering the jungle for many days and were exhausted and the villagers were hospitable to them and gave them those things. After the soldiers had eaten they got to talking amongst themselves and when they finished they said to the villagers that they were supporting communists and that they must turn in the guerrillas they were hiding. This was a lie: none of the villagers had met a single communist and they told the soldiers this. The soldiers did not believe them and they said that if they did not immediately turn over the fighters then they would suffer the consequences. The villagers tried to make the soldiers see reason, that there were no communists, but the soldiers didn’t listen: they were convinced that the imaginary communists did exist and they grew angry. The villagers tried to make them hear the truth but the soldiers could listen no more and so the soldiers took the villagers to the centre square and executed them. The bodies were then mutilated with machetes and placed in rows in the center of the village. The soldiers then set fire to the houses and disappeared to where they had come from. The men saw the smoke rising and went back to find everything as it was.

The soldiers had killed all the women and children, young and old. Lara and the two girls were dead and Horacio was overcome with sadness. Diego was also grief stricken by the deaths, but this turned to anger and infuriation when he saw how his father was incapacitated. Diego wanted to do something, he wanted to change the corrupt order of things. He wanted revenge against the violators, and in that moment of fury, he wanted to prove he was better than his father. Against Horacio’s wishes Diego resolved to go with his uncle Batisa, who had also lost his wife and daughter in the massacre, to join the communists. The way they saw it, the government had allowed the paramilitary soldiers to go where they wanted and cause wanton destruction where they wished and so the government was to blame. The communists offered a real alternative and were therefore better.

Horacio wanted very badly to pursue his son and brother, but he was needed to care for his father who was afflicted with old age. What was more Horacio wouldn’t have known where to start looking. The land outside his home was jungle and unknown to him. But Horacio was not so much daunted by fear as by necessity. The constraints of time and the slow burn of the houses dried Horacio’s tears before they could fall as he tended the remains of his family. Horacio’s father looked in bewilderment as the reality of what had happened entered his understanding: that the soldiers would no-doubt return and they must leave the land his family had inhabited for so long. No words passed between them. His last sight of the village would stay with Horacio: the edges of the forest were just starting to catch the fire and the sand was stained with blood while there were no bodies and the turquoise sea was bright.

Horacio found a job in the city working at a hotel for wealthy American tourists. The job paid better than he’d ever received previously but living in the city was much more expensive than he could have imagined and with his father significantly weakened and unable to work, the largest house they could afford was a single room hut among a sea of corrugated tin shacks, built in the shadow of new urban high-rise condominiums.

His father mostly stayed with the house to watch over their belongings. He had stories of the neighbourhood, how naked children made small ships out of cardboard and sailed them on the rivers of raw sewage that ran in the street, but Horacio was often too tired to hear: falling asleep at the end of each day the moment his head fell against the pillow.

Horacio was not only exhausted with the effort of work, but from the city itself. Horacio didn’t like the city much; it was sweltering and smelled of rotting meat but he would never complain. He had a job to do.

Once established in the city and had time to think about how to go about doing it, Horacio saw he could not ask the government for assistance in finding his son. Any information he provided might increase the chance of his son being killed. So he resolved to study the newspapers. Every day on his lunch break Horacio would read the sections in the paper related to the war in the jungle, or if there was no war he always enjoyed the baseball coverage. Soon however, Horacio found that the papers did not adequately explain what was happening in the jungle. Needing to know more Horacio applied for a library card and was diligent in his reading, completing one book every week. It was at this time Horacio acquired his love of reading and literature. Horacio found a kind of solace in the world the words brought to life. He eventually caught himself, however, and he realized that he was not letting himself think about the past, filling his days with work and self-education. He only allowed himself to think about bringing his son back. He realized that if he were to think about the mistakes of the past he might blame himself and begin to hate himself too, and that could do no good.

After years of life in the city, it happened one day that Horacio’s brother returned to them. It took them several days to get the story straight, his brother was so exhausted. But eventually they found that Diego had died some months before in the jungles to the South. Diego had been shot in the leg in a skirmish with the cartels over some territorial dispute. The wound hadn’t looked bad to begin with, but after a few days of trudging through the jungle it became infected and Diego was unable to walk. Batisa and another officer dragged Diego through the jungle for a few days until they reached the camp. Somewhere along the way Diego had lost consciousness and they could not wake him up no matter how hard they tried. The doctors at the camp operated on him but Batisa had known even before they started cutting that it would be no good: the skin around the wound was rotted and he could see under the skin a long vein had turned black.

Batisa showed Horacio a picture of his son standing in front a tank holding a large gun with rows of bullets slung over each shoulder. He was wearing a balaclava so Horacio couldn’t tell but Batisa assured him it was his son. Batisa apologized to him then, saying he was sorry for what had happened. Horacio looked at him and he realized that he wasn’t sure what he was feeling. Perhaps if he had been there he would know.

What was important was that his brother was alive and so he set about finding him a job. This happened quickly and Batisa soon found work at a bar along the shoreline, but his brother did not adjust to life in the city like Horacio. Batisa was unwise and spent his salary on cocaine and often times he would not return home for nights on end; then he would come home and pass out for days, not eating anything. The days he came home became few and fewer until he stopped showing up altogether. Horacio went to the bar to see if he could find him but they hadn’t heard from him in days. Horacio’s father blamed him for Batisa’s disappearance, saying this would’ve never happened if Horacio had only forgiven him. Horacio though this was a ridiculous thing and Horacio and his father didn’t speak for the longest time.

In fact, it happened that they never spoke meaningfully again. One afternoon Horacio came back to find his home in ruins, with his belongings smashed, clothes ripped to shreds. The pages from a book were torn out and strewn about in the doorway and the muddy street. Horacio picked up the paper closest to him on the water. A Tale of Two Cities; the last book he’d been reading.

What happened here, Horacio wondered. He looked around, it was the time of day for the shadows to begin to lengthen.

One of the children from the neighbourhood, a little girl who introduced herself as Miranda, said she had seen all that had happened. Miranda told Horacio the police had come sometime early that morning and had interrogated his father, saying they had proof that one or more members of the household were consorting with known communists. The old man denied it fervently and the police grew frustrated and pushed past him into the house and began making a mess of things, perhaps looking for evidence. The old man shouted at them, saying it was all he had. The old man tried to stop them and grabbed one of the officers, but this only made the officer angry, causing them to push the old man too hard. A crowd gathered to see what was happening, but the officers held them back, saying it was just an old man who’d fallen, that an ambulance was on its way. That was what they said to the crowd, but Miranda knew better. She’d seen the whole thing through the door while she was playing with her boats. The ambulance arrived eventually, but by then Horacio’s father had already died. Horacio thanked Maranda then for all that she had told him, but he made her promise that she would never tell anyone that she had seen him there.

“I will let you know one of my great secrets now, but you must promise never to tell,” said Horacio.

“You have my word,” I said.

“My real name is not Horacio, as I have led everyone to believe,” said Horacio. “My real name, the name given to me at birth, is Wayne.”

“You’re joking.”

“My father used to love the old cowboy movies, John Wayne was his favourite, so he named me after him,” said Wayne.

“Why’d you change it.”

“After my house in the city was ravaged I knew I must leave Colombia,” said Wayne. “I knew the police would never forget about me, so I had to escape. The name ‘Wayne’ is such an uncommon one in Colombia and it was necessary for me to change it, so I could begin anew. I decided to rename myself Horacio, after one of my favourite authors who lived over a hundred years ago in Uruguay. I even went as far as to have myself baptized again under that name so that when I finally went to the government people and told them that my name was Horacio and that I was from the countryside and all my documentation had been lost because of fighting in the jungle, I was able to believe my own words.”

“Well that’s sure a secret… seriously, I would’ve never guessed that one,” I said. “You’re saying you’d rather be called Horacio.”

“Very much,” said Horacio. “But you must have better questions than that.”

“I do, trust me, I do. Just give me time to formulate them.”

“Don’t think about things too long. It’s better to say things as they come into your head, thoughts can turn sour too.”

The truth was I did have one burning question I wanted to ask. I told myself I would bring it up again when the time was right, but after hearing his story I couldn’t imagine when that would be. I wanted to ask if he had ever considered getting remarried, starting again, but I thought better of it. It was a foolish question, but other than the obvious trauma of his past life and a chronic case of bad luck, Horacio had a lot of things going for him.

He was smart, dedicated, soft-spoken and yet wise and also good looking for an older guy. The years of his life spent dragging fishing nets and suitcases had given him a strong build, which made his body press up against his clothes around his shoulders, chest and all the other right places. He had a tall forehead, wide set eyes and nose and this deep voice I guessed women went crazy for.

I remember one time this smoking hot blonde came over to our side, to the fields. She was older, maybe thirty-five, but she was just slim and beautiful and that red dress fit her real well. Regular customers weren’t supposed to be over there, but none of us were going to go out of our way to tell her that. She just walked in like she owned the place; she knew nothing would ever happen to her in this life. It was amazing: she took one look around and went straight for Horacio.

“So,” she said. “Where’s the merchandise.”

“I’m very sorry Miss,” said Horacio in and accent thicker than I’d heard him use before. “But I do not know about what it is you are talking.”

“Oh,” she said, taking off her sunglasses. “You’re from Mexico then,”

“Very close Miss,” said Horacio breaking into a beaming grin. “But my home is in Colombia.”

“Perhaps there’s something you can help me with, then. I’m looking for a tree… a very specific kind of tree to be exact.”

“Perhaps I can. Do you remember what this tree looks like.”

“It’s okay,” she said, going for her bag. “I have it here somewhere. The name, I mean. It’s here somewhere.”

“Perhaps miss,” said Old Demetrius. “Our Horacio would give you a tour of that orchard overthere. If it is for a plant you’re searching, he’s the man for that job.”

“Your name’s Horacio,” she said.

“If it pleases you, miss,” said Horacio.

“A lot of things please me.”

“What’s going on here – ” said Mr. Gore, stopping as he caught sight of her. It’d been one of those times when both Mr. Gore and Hogarth were away and so when the woman in red appeared, most of us were just sitting, slouching around. Horacio was the only one standing then and he looked slick after having wiped his face clear with water from his canteen. That must’ve been why she approached him first. He had this glow about him.

“Be chill, captains,” said old Demetrius. “You let old Demetrius do the explaining. This customer, she was curious about the trees and our Horacio was kind enough to offer a tour of the magnificent gardens.”

“That’s ridiculous: Horacio couldn’t give a tour, he’s not even an employee,” said Hogarth.

“How is that possible,” she said to Horacio. “How can he say that; I can see you, and you’re covered with the same dust as everyone else.”

“That isn’t his meaning,” said Horacio. “In a way he is right, I’m not here-”                                                                                 “Mr. Gore,” snapped Hogarth. “Why don’t you show her around.”

“Yeah,” said Mr. Gore, reddening. “What’s that. Sorry, I missed what you said.”

“I said why don’t you show her around,” said Hogarth, smiling. “That is what you want, am I right, ma’am?”

“That was what I came for,” she said. Mr. Gore’s a slow guy in general but he caught on pretty quick after that and they departed from us then. Mr. Gore was doing his best to look and sound like an expert.

“That Mr. Gore guy, what a winner,” said Hogarth laughing to himself when they were out of earshot.

“Mr. Gore’s lucky all right, but only because he showed when he did,” said Lee. “Horacio, now that guy’s talent.”

“What,” said Hogarth.

“It’s impossible to know, you have to see meybrotha in action,” said old Demetrius. “This woman, gorgeous girl; takes one look at our Horacio and suddenly, she’s acting like somekindofa lovesick teenager. She was like a ripe apple, waiting to be picked.”

“I don’t understand,” said Hogarth, but at that moment I was watching Juan Carlos and Horacio. They were speaking in Spanish in serious tones, something I hadn’t seen them do a lot at work. Suddenly Juan Carlos broke into laughter and Horacio looked away.

“What were you guys saying just then?” I asked.

“I was commenting that I had no idea he was such a master,” said Juan Carlos. “I asked him what was his secret.”

“And so why were you laughing?”

“His answer.”

“Which was.”

“Charcoal.”

“Charcoal?”

“Mmhm, the old man rubs it on his teeth every night. I made fun of him, before, for being like the old-style. But now, after seeing his results I’m almost willing to try.”

“Is that right,” I said to Horacio. “Charcoal?”

“All of it,” said Horacio. “You young guys think you can do anything you like, but as you grow old the fact is you learn somethings.”

“She looked back, you know.”

“I know.”

“How could you, you were looking the other way talking with me.”

“I knew she would.”

“Charcoal? That’s the secret. You had her eating out of the palm of your hand.”

“I don’t know what I can tell you, I’ve always had this way.”

“What’s this,” said Hogarth.

“Horacio was just telling me his formula for success with women,” I said. “Apparently all he needs to do is rub charcoal on his teeth and the girls fall all over him.”

“You eat charcoal?” Hogarth said, his face contorted with confusion.

“That wasn’t- ”

“That’s disgusting,” said Hogarth.

“Man, you’re not even listening- ”

“What the hell is this anyway,” Hogarth snapped. “You think this is some kind of festival? God damn wastrels, get back to work, everybody.”

And so we did, and the field waved as if to welcome us home.

-:-

© – Neil  McKenzie-Sutter 2013. To view more of Neil’s work or to contact him, click here.

Image from Oriol

-:-

It went this way for several weeks and would’ve, I’m certain, continued to the end of the summer if I hadn’t run into them by chance. Horacio was with another younger man in the food court eating burgers and fries and I asked if I could join them and Horacio nodded to indicate that it would be all right.

“I’m sorry, I can’t remember your name,” I said. “I’m Julian St. Vincent.”

“Call me Juan Carlos,” said Juan Carlos and we shook hands and it was a man’s handshake. He saw me eyeing his silver pendant and smiled.

“So what’s your story, Juan Carlos,” I said and Horacio made a sound like a laugh.

“Did I say something funny.”

“You should never ask Juan Carlos that kind of a question,” said Horacio. He was talking to me but only looking at Juan Carlos as he spoke. “He doesn’t know how to stop.”

“He’s right, you know,” said Juan Carlos, his eyes sparkling with mischief. “You’re sure you want to ask me the question? Sure you want to hear the story?”

“Is your name actually Juan Carlos?” I said.

“Course,” said Juan Carlos. “It’s the one on my visa.”

“Then yeah,” I said, causing them to laugh. “Tell me everything.”

It turned out Juan Carlos had had an adventurous life until then. He said he’d been driving taxis from when he was thirteen years old in a city by the ocean which was somewhere on the West Coast of Mexico. He’d really liked that job, but he liked it best when business was slow more than anything, because it allowed him to listen to the radio. The city was in a unique position by the ocean and Juan Carlos knew a spot to catch radio signals from the United States as they bounced over the waves and he would become immersed listening to American baseball, basketball and football commentaries. Juan Carlos said that he would like to visit America someday. He said the radio made it sound like paradise.

After a few years, however, Juan Carlos grew bored and found another job driving a parasailing boat. Juan Carlos said he liked that job better because he made a lot of good friends and it paid more and freed up his nightlife. But, he continued on, after a while of partying all night on the sand he found himself in considerable debt and in need of escape.

It was at that point that his friends gave him the pendent which now hung around his neck. It was impossible for Juan Carlos to stay, but the pendant was important to him because it showed that they would be friends no matter what the distance between them. Juan Carlos had nothing to give in return but he promised that he would hire a private investigator once he made his fortune and he would track down each of them once he made it in America. His friends said that was a good story and they threw garbage at him and told him to get lost before they went back to sunbathing and Juan Carlos couldn’t have thought of a better way to say goodbye.

Juan Carlos fled to the capital where he could lose himself and he found a job with a security company driving big money individuals. Things had been going well for a time and Juan Carlos was even starting to consider building a life in his new city, but then something terrible happened. By freak accident, Juan Carlos’ car was caught in a shootout with police and gang members and one of his patrons was shot and killed. She was so young, still in high school. He knew he could do nothing. He had said to her that things would be all right, that it would be okay, but he knew from the size and place of the injury that she was going to die. There was blood everywhere and she held onto him very tight as she tried to breathe but it didn’t sound right.

The company came through for him, the whole thing was so inexplicable. They offered him all the legal protection he needed and the wrongful death suit was overturned, but it stayed. It stayed with him for months. The only thing that made it go away, even for a little while, was drink and Juan Carlos soon fell in with it. There was nothing the company could do to protect him from himself and after he reported in one morning with bacanora on his breath they were left no choice but to fire him. Juan Carlos went on to say that he’d taken the first job he could get, and it happened to be this one. It was to take a rest off things, he said.

“Actually…” Juan Carlos said. “If it’s everything you want to know, I’m a bit under the influence right now.”

“How…” I said and Juan Carlos took a brown paper bag out of his knapsack that had in it a tall bottle of Bailey’s, half-full. Juan Carlos indicated his empty coffee cup and Horacio rolled his eyes. Juan Carlos had been smiling through all of this but it struck me that every time I’d seen Juan Carlos he’d had the same look.

“I see,” I said.

“You said you wanted my story,” said Juan Carlos, spreading his arms wide. “I am what I am. Should I apologize?”

“No, I wasn’t saying that at all. It wasn’t what I expected, is all.”

“I’m sure the same can be said of most lives. But it would be a lie to say it was the one I imagined for myself.”

“But don’t you think everyone has to do that? How can the world become better unless people imagine what it can look like.”

“You think too much,” said Horacio.

“It speaks,” said Juan Carlos.

“The world gives us enough hardship and goodness to satisfy all,” said Horacio. “The problem with today is children like you chasing imaginary fruits and missing the real ones.”

“So what’s your story,” I said.

“You ask it too late,” said Horacio. “It is time to go. It is time to sleep. There will be work tomorrow and we must be ready.”

And so it was. As we’d spoken the food court had emptied steadily, with only the janitor remaining, mopping some obscure stain. The room was entirely white, I noticed for the first time. We’d been there a while.

“But will I ever hear it?” I said.

“Someday, yes,” said Horacio. I had no reason other than the way he said it, but I trusted him.

-:-

I was worried, I thought things would return to the same depressing way, but when we were reunited a few days later I could tell Horacio was pleased. There was this glow about him.

“How are you my friend,” I said.

“There is fresh air to breathe, water for when we are thirsty and we have work; more than many people,” said Horacio.

“All true things,” I said. “And truth is always good.”

“Never always, no such thing,” said Horacio. “Don’t confuse yourself with such thoughts. You will know what is good when you feel it.”

Prior to this, although the Mexicans applied themselves diligently, they had always kept to the same slow, deliberate speed, no matter how much Hogarth or Mr. Gore or anyone prodded them to move faster. Eventually Mr. Gore or Hogarth would give up, considering them lost causes, but it seemed a logical process. The Mexicans often worked six and seven days and many had part-time jobs at other farms or orchards. Anyone could see they were trying to conserve energy. I wouldn’t want to spend myself for some boss who didn’t understand that, if it were me.

Little things changed, though. Juan Carlos still wore the same permanent grin, but after that day he always volunteered to use the machines. It was the sweet water he later said, shaking the steel bottle close to my face. He said it made him feel like a sorcerer with the machines. Like he could do anything. But it was much more than that. Some of the other Mexicans started opening up.

“I need a break man, from that dust,” said old Demetrius. Old Demetrius was Jamaican and didn’t know any Spanish, though Mr. Gore and Hogarth grouped him in with the Mexicans anyways.

“I completely understand,” I said to him.

“Ah, so you say you’ve accepted Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, the one true God into your life.”

“What other God is there.”

“A clever answer,” he said. “But clever answers will get you nowhere in the face of God.”

“I’m no Jonah, that wasn’t my intention.”

“Ah, but you did. I saw you. You were laughing behind your eyes.”

“Okay…”

“That is alright meybrotha,” said old Demetrius. “It is good to find laughter amongst this miserable work, and it is miserable, hard, dirty work. Yes, God did not create us, his servants, for this crude labour. You see, we are his servants and he is our servant; Christ Jesus walks with us every day of our lives and that is why we uphold His word above all others.

Because God’s empire is an empire of the soul, God’s empire is holy. That is why God created us, to fulfill his spiritual promise upon the eart. Some people have gone as far to say that we are descended from monkeys, but think nothing of this ridiculous notion. You see, God created us in his own image. We are hue-man, made from the many hues and colours of the eart. We are men of the eart. That is why we cannot help ourselves, why we are concerned with dirty things and why we are so easily distracted from God’s purpose. We must remember that perfect gift -”

“You two, get back to work,” growled Hogarth, coming at us. “Look at the others, it’s hot out and they’re working. You think you should get some special treatment.”

“Yeah, we needed a break from that dust,” old Demetrius said forcibly. Hogarth was taken aback, not expecting such a reply. Mr. Gore had taken the company truck into the city that day and left Hogarth in charge. It looked strange; old Demetrius being bossed around by Hogarth, a year younger than me. We were supposed to listen to Hogarth, but he’d overstepped some hidden boundary then and everyone knew it.

“Man, let them rest if they need it,” said Lee. “It’s better than having someone pass out with heatstroke and calling an ambulance.”

“Okay,” said Hogarth, as if it were still his word that mattered. But his earlier aggression was gone. “Don’t take all day.”

“That white boy’s got something fat in his arse,” old Demetrius whispered loudly.

I laughed and I knew Hogarth’d heard because he didn’t turn around and in the way the other men returned to work without him asking. I laughed because I’d wanted him to know I didn’t care.

-:-

The pine forest looked like it went on forever and I liked imagining it was the last untouched wilderness of the North, containing something hidden or willfully forgotten by our great civilization. In reality though, it didn’t extend to the highway. There was a university for rich kids that specialized in wetland ecology and wildlife back there, somewhere. I’d never seen it but that was what Hogarth told me.

“Hey cowboys,” Hogarth rolled down the window as he passed us. “Want me to stop by the Taco Bell on my way back.”

“We’re alright,” I said after Horacio and Juan Carlos said nothing.

“Whatever,” said Hogarth and he sped off in a cloud of dust which blinded us for a moment.

Hogarth never stayed with us on break, even when the Latins weren’t around, always zipping off for lunch with his girlfriend. I understood that, but there was something about his going off every day that made it seem like he was trying too hard. I don’t know what, exactly, but I got the sense he was trying to fill someone’s shoes. He’d grown increasingly distant since our conversation about the paintings and I knew Mr. Gore was leaning on him pretty hard, giving him new responsibilities every week and training him on the machines. I don’t know if souls exist, but if they do, his was surely damaged or bruised in some way. I wasn’t sorry for him, though – he’d made his choice.

Juan Carlos and Lee and Amadeus started talking how much they hated working at Shenandoah, and how much they hated work in general. The conversation eventually turned to forklifts and from there forklift racing and then on they would often all three disappear into the distance. Sometimes though, Juan Carlos would stay with Horacio and I and the others.

“Look at this,” said Hogarth upon the sudden appearance of Amadeus and Lee. They seemed surprised at not receiving a warmer welcome. “You should watch yourselves. Even the Mexicans work harder than you two.”

It was true: Juan Carlos had been on the forklift the entire day unloading the latest shipment of stones. Still, it was an awkward comment and Juan Carlos, though smiling like the drunk idiot he was raised an eyebrow as if deciding to be offended or pleased.

“It’s not a competition- ” said Mr. Gore.

“Everything’s a competition,” said Amadeus without a hint of sarcasm. In addition to many other things, Amadeus was a hockey player and didn’t like to lose. Lee looked scared, and with good reason because after that day, construction on the Road advanced and in a few weeks we were nearly finished.

That was only one instance, however, and whenever Mr. Gore or Hogarth were gone, those three were as well, but I didn’t mind. I liked them for who they were and if who they were took them away I would have to live with it. Besides, it gave me time to talk with Horacio.

“So,” I said.

“There is always something with you,” said Horacio.

“You did promise.”

“Making promises doesn’t sound like a thing I would do. I learned my lesson a long time ago.”

“You said you’d tell your story.”

“That’s fine. There’s never harm in putting your stories into the world, as long as you know the people can hear. I was testing you before, to see if you were truly interested.”

“Well I am, and we’re back where we began.”

Horacio was born in Colombia in a village by the sea. As a child Horacio imagined he would live in that place until his death, like his father and their grandfathers. There was talk of war somewhere deep in the jungle, but that didn’t interest Horacio. Horacio didn’t know about any war. Horacio knew about good things like fish and work and his family. Horacio’s family happened to be a good one and they raised him well. Their way of life was hard and he knew this, but he was not a man to complain and he survived and grew strong because of it.

Horacio set his eye on one very pretty girl named Lara, only a few years younger than him. Her family knew he was a good worker and would be a good husband and father and so they agreed to the match. Horacio and Lara were born two beautiful daughters Alexandra and Reyna and a son named Diego, who was the oldest and named after his grandfather who had been a great man and when the time came Horacio took Diego fishing with him and the other men so he could find his place as a man in the community.

One day when the men were out in the boats a group of paramilitary soldiers arrived at the village. The soldiers asked for food and water because they had been wandering the jungle for many days and were exhausted and the villagers were hospitable to them and gave them those things. After the soldiers had eaten they got to talking amongst themselves and when they finished they said to the villagers that they were supporting communists and that they must turn in the guerrillas they were hiding. This was a lie: none of the villagers had met a single communist and they told the soldiers this. The soldiers did not believe them and they said that if they did not immediately turn over the fighters then they would suffer the consequences. The villagers tried to make the soldiers see reason, that there were no communists, but the soldiers didn’t listen: they were convinced that the imaginary communists did exist and they grew angry. The villagers tried to make them hear the truth but the soldiers could listen no more and so the soldiers took the villagers to the centre square and executed them. The bodies were then mutilated with machetes and placed in rows in the center of the village. The soldiers then set fire to the houses and disappeared to where they had come from. The men saw the smoke rising and went back to find everything as it was.

The soldiers had killed all the women and children, young and old. Lara and the two girls were dead and Horacio was overcome with sadness. Diego was also grief stricken by the deaths, but this turned to anger and infuriation when he saw how his father was incapacitated. Diego wanted to do something, he wanted to change the corrupt order of things. He wanted revenge against the violators, and in that moment of fury, he wanted to prove he was better than his father. Against Horacio’s wishes Diego resolved to go with his uncle Batisa, who had also lost his wife and daughter in the massacre, to join the communists. The way they saw it, the government had allowed the paramilitary soldiers to go where they wanted and cause wanton destruction where they wished and so the government was to blame. The communists offered a real alternative and were therefore better.

Horacio wanted very badly to pursue his son and brother, but he was needed to care for his father who was afflicted with old age. What was more Horacio wouldn’t have known where to start looking. The land outside his home was jungle and unknown to him. But Horacio was not so much daunted by fear as by necessity. The constraints of time and the slow burn of the houses dried Horacio’s tears before they could fall as he tended the remains of his family. Horacio’s father looked in bewilderment as the reality of what had happened entered his understanding: that the soldiers would no-doubt return and they must leave the land his family had inhabited for so long. No words passed between them. His last sight of the village would stay with Horacio: the edges of the forest were just starting to catch the fire and the sand was stained with blood while there were no bodies and the turquoise sea was bright.

Horacio found a job in the city working at a hotel for wealthy American tourists. The job paid better than he’d ever received previously but living in the city was much more expensive than he could have imagined and with his father significantly weakened and unable to work, the largest house they could afford was a single room hut among a sea of corrugated tin shacks, built in the shadow of new urban high-rise condominiums.

His father mostly stayed with the house to watch over their belongings. He had stories of the neighbourhood, how naked children made small ships out of cardboard and sailed them on the rivers of raw sewage that ran in the street, but Horacio was often too tired to hear: falling asleep at the end of each day the moment his head fell against the pillow.

Horacio was not only exhausted with the effort of work, but from the city itself. Horacio didn’t like the city much; it was sweltering and smelled of rotting meat but he would never complain. He had a job to do.

Once established in the city and had time to think about how to go about doing it, Horacio saw he could not ask the government for assistance in finding his son. Any information he provided might increase the chance of his son being killed. So he resolved to study the newspapers. Every day on his lunch break Horacio would read the sections in the paper related to the war in the jungle, or if there was no war he always enjoyed the baseball coverage. Soon however, Horacio found that the papers did not adequately explain what was happening in the jungle. Needing to know more Horacio applied for a library card and was diligent in his reading, completing one book every week. It was at this time Horacio acquired his love of reading and literature. Horacio found a kind of solace in the world the words brought to life. He eventually caught himself, however, and he realized that he was not letting himself think about the past, filling his days with work and self-education. He only allowed himself to think about bringing his son back. He realized that if he were to think about the mistakes of the past he might blame himself and begin to hate himself too, and that could do no good.

After years of life in the city, it happened one day that Horacio’s brother returned to them. It took them several days to get the story straight, his brother was so exhausted. But eventually they found that Diego had died some months before in the jungles to the South. Diego had been shot in the leg in a skirmish with the cartels over some territorial dispute. The wound hadn’t looked bad to begin with, but after a few days of trudging through the jungle it became infected and Diego was unable to walk. Batisa and another officer dragged Diego through the jungle for a few days until they reached the camp. Somewhere along the way Diego had lost consciousness and they could not wake him up no matter how hard they tried. The doctors at the camp operated on him but Batisa had known even before they started cutting that it would be no good: the skin around the wound was rotted and he could see under the skin a long vein had turned black.

Batisa showed Horacio a picture of his son standing in front a tank holding a large gun with rows of bullets slung over each shoulder. He was wearing a balaclava so Horacio couldn’t tell but Batisa assured him it was his son. Batisa apologized to him then, saying he was sorry for what had happened. Horacio looked at him and he realized that he wasn’t sure what he was feeling. Perhaps if he had been there he would know.

What was important was that his brother was alive and so he set about finding him a job. This happened quickly and Batisa soon found work at a bar along the shoreline, but his brother did not adjust to life in the city like Horacio. Batisa was unwise and spent his salary on cocaine and often times he would not return home for nights on end; then he would come home and pass out for days, not eating anything. The days he came home became few and fewer until he stopped showing up altogether. Horacio went to the bar to see if he could find him but they hadn’t heard from him in days. Horacio’s father blamed him for Batisa’s disappearance, saying this would’ve never happened if Horacio had only forgiven him. Horacio though this was a ridiculous thing and Horacio and his father didn’t speak for the longest time.

In fact, it happened that they never spoke meaningfully again. One afternoon Horacio came back to find his home in ruins, with his belongings smashed, clothes ripped to shreds. The pages from a book were torn out and strewn about in the doorway and the muddy street. Horacio picked up the paper closest to him on the water. A Tale of Two Cities; the last book he’d been reading.

What happened here, Horacio wondered. He looked around, it was the time of day for the shadows to begin to lengthen.

One of the children from the neighbourhood, a little girl who introduced herself as Miranda, said she had seen all that had happened. Miranda told Horacio the police had come sometime early that morning and had interrogated his father, saying they had proof that one or more members of the household were consorting with known communists. The old man denied it fervently and the police grew frustrated and pushed past him into the house and began making a mess of things, perhaps looking for evidence. The old man shouted at them, saying it was all he had. The old man tried to stop them and grabbed one of the officers, but this only made the officer angry, causing them to push the old man too hard. A crowd gathered to see what was happening, but the officers held them back, saying it was just an old man who’d fallen, that an ambulance was on its way. That was what they said to the crowd, but Miranda knew better. She’d seen the whole thing through the door while she was playing with her boats. The ambulance arrived eventually, but by then Horacio’s father had already died. Horacio thanked Maranda then for all that she had told him, but he made her promise that she would never tell anyone that she had seen him there.

“I will let you know one of my great secrets now, but you must promise never to tell,” said Horacio.

“You have my word,” I said.

“My real name is not Horacio, as I have led everyone to believe,” said Horacio. “My real name, the name given to me at birth, is Wayne.”

“You’re joking.”

“My father used to love the old cowboy movies, John Wayne was his favourite, so he named me after him,” said Wayne.

“Why’d you change it.”

“After my house in the city was ravaged I knew I must leave Colombia,” said Wayne. “I knew the police would never forget about me, so I had to escape. The name ‘Wayne’ is such an uncommon one in Colombia and it was necessary for me to change it, so I could begin anew. I decided to rename myself Horacio, after one of my favourite authors who lived over a hundred years ago in Uruguay. I even went as far as to have myself baptized again under that name so that when I finally went to the government people and told them that my name was Horacio and that I was from the countryside and all my documentation had been lost because of fighting in the jungle, I was able to believe my own words.”

“Well that’s sure a secret… seriously, I would’ve never guessed that one,” I said. “You’re saying you’d rather be called Horacio.”

“Very much,” said Horacio. “But you must have better questions than that.”

“I do, trust me, I do. Just give me time to formulate them.”

“Don’t think about things too long. It’s better to say things as they come into your head, thoughts can turn sour too.”

The truth was I did have one burning question I wanted to ask. I told myself I would bring it up again when the time was right, but after hearing his story I couldn’t imagine when that would be. I wanted to ask if he had ever considered getting remarried, starting again, but I thought better of it. It was a foolish question, but other than the obvious trauma of his past life and a chronic case of bad luck, Horacio had a lot of things going for him.

He was smart, dedicated, soft-spoken and yet wise and also good looking for an older guy. The years of his life spent dragging fishing nets and suitcases had given him a strong build, which made his body press up against his clothes around his shoulders, chest and all the other right places. He had a tall forehead, wide set eyes and nose and this deep voice I guessed women went crazy for.

I remember one time this smoking hot blonde came over to our side, to the fields. She was older, maybe thirty-five, but she was just slim and beautiful and that red dress fit her real well. Regular customers weren’t supposed to be over there, but none of us were going to go out of our way to tell her that. She just walked in like she owned the place; she knew nothing would ever happen to her in this life. It was amazing: she took one look around and went straight for Horacio.

“So,” she said. “Where’s the merchandise.”

“I’m very sorry Miss,” said Horacio in and accent thicker than I’d heard him use before. “But I do not know about what it is you are talking.”

“Oh,” she said, taking off her sunglasses. “You’re from Mexico then,”

“Very close Miss,” said Horacio breaking into a beaming grin. “But my home is in Colombia.”

“Perhaps there’s something you can help me with, then. I’m looking for a tree… a very specific kind of tree to be exact.”

“Perhaps I can. Do you remember what this tree looks like.”

“It’s okay,” she said, going for her bag. “I have it here somewhere. The name, I mean. It’s here somewhere.”

“Perhaps miss,” said Old Demetrius. “Our Horacio would give you a tour of that orchard overthere. If it is for a plant you’re searching, he’s the man for that job.”

“Your name’s Horacio,” she said.

“If it pleases you, miss,” said Horacio.

“A lot of things please me.”

“What’s going on here – ” said Mr. Gore, stopping as he caught sight of her. It’d been one of those times when both Mr. Gore and Hogarth were away and so when the woman in red appeared, most of us were just sitting, slouching around. Horacio was the only one standing then and he looked slick after having wiped his face clear with water from his canteen. That must’ve been why she approached him first. He had this glow about him.

“Be chill, captains,” said old Demetrius. “You let old Demetrius do the explaining. This customer, she was curious about the trees and our Horacio was kind enough to offer a tour of the magnificent gardens.”

“That’s ridiculous: Horacio couldn’t give a tour, he’s not even an employee,” said Hogarth.

“How is that possible,” she said to Horacio. “How can he say that; I can see you, and you’re covered with the same dust as everyone else.”

“That isn’t his meaning,” said Horacio. “In a way he is right, I’m not here-”                                                                                 “Mr. Gore,” snapped Hogarth. “Why don’t you show her around.”

“Yeah,” said Mr. Gore, reddening. “What’s that. Sorry, I missed what you said.”

“I said why don’t you show her around,” said Hogarth, smiling. “That is what you want, am I right, ma’am?”

“That was what I came for,” she said. Mr. Gore’s a slow guy in general but he caught on pretty quick after that and they departed from us then. Mr. Gore was doing his best to look and sound like an expert.

“That Mr. Gore guy, what a winner,” said Hogarth laughing to himself when they were out of earshot.

“Mr. Gore’s lucky all right, but only because he showed when he did,” said Lee. “Horacio, now that guy’s talent.”

“What,” said Hogarth.

“It’s impossible to know, you have to see meybrotha in action,” said old Demetrius. “This woman, gorgeous girl; takes one look at our Horacio and suddenly, she’s acting like somekindofa lovesick teenager. She was like a ripe apple, waiting to be picked.”

“I don’t understand,” said Hogarth, but at that moment I was watching Juan Carlos and Horacio. They were speaking in Spanish in serious tones, something I hadn’t seen them do a lot at work. Suddenly Juan Carlos broke into laughter and Horacio looked away.

“What were you guys saying just then?” I asked.

“I was commenting that I had no idea he was such a master,” said Juan Carlos. “I asked him what was his secret.”

“And so why were you laughing?”

“His answer.”

“Which was.”

“Charcoal.”

“Charcoal?”

“Mmhm, the old man rubs it on his teeth every night. I made fun of him, before, for being like the old-style. But now, after seeing his results I’m almost willing to try.”

“Is that right,” I said to Horacio. “Charcoal?”

“All of it,” said Horacio. “You young guys think you can do anything you like, but as you grow old the fact is you learn somethings.”

“She looked back, you know.”

“I know.”

“How could you, you were looking the other way talking with me.”

“I knew she would.”

“Charcoal? That’s the secret. You had her eating out of the palm of your hand.”

“I don’t know what I can tell you, I’ve always had this way.”

“What’s this,” said Hogarth.

“Horacio was just telling me his formula for success with women,” I said. “Apparently all he needs to do is rub charcoal on his teeth and the girls fall all over him.”

“You eat charcoal?” Hogarth said, his face contorted with confusion.

“That wasn’t- ”

“That’s disgusting,” said Hogarth.

“Man, you’re not even listening- ”

“What the hell is this anyway,” Hogarth snapped. “You think this is some kind of festival? God damn wastrels, get back to work, everybody.”

And so we did, and the field waved as if to welcome us home.

-:-

© – Neil McKenzie-Sutter 2013. To view more of Neil’s work or to contact him, click here.

Image from Oriol Jolonch. To view more or Oriol’s work or to contact him, click here.

Read I of Men of the Earth here.

Part III here.

And Part IV.