Fistful of reefer, p.23
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       Fistful of Reefer, p.23
 

           David Mark Brown
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TWENTY-TWO

  The Road to Revolution

  At the station a large crowd cheered as the wagon pulled up to the platform. Dazed, Chancho failed to understand it. Grady steadied the team while Pepe ran ahead to ensure a doctor got on board and that everything was ready. Esperanza silenced Chancho’s sputtering, trying to explain the situation. “You have inspired people to get involved—to live life rather than watch it happen.”

  “But the train, where am I—”

  “To Austin. We are riding with you. The entire train is for you. The switches have been cleared from here to the capital.”

  “Austin?”

  “We will demand a pardon from the governor. He will have no choice.”

  “But why? I failed.” Tears streaked his pain-etched face.

  “No.” Esperanza shook her head, a ringlet of her dark hair whispering across his cheek as she held her face only inches from his. “Don’t you see? You’ve succeeded.” A tear of her own mingled with his. “When you first came to Santa Polco you said you were in search of a different life.” She brushed his cheek with the back of her hand. “You didn’t just find one. You created one for all of us.”

  “What? The coins?”

  She smiled. “Not just the coins, you dense, silly man. The vision behind them.”

  Chancho couldn’t believe the words he was hearing. How did she know about the vision behind them? How could anyone have known? And right when he had finally killed all hope of its fulfillment, erased the revolutionary nonsense from his dream-addled head. He uttered one last pathetic question, “What vision?”

  Esperanza rolled her eyes. “That if one person’s kindness could make a difference, together we could change everything. That our fears and doubts should not keep us from doing what we know to be right.”

  “Oh.” Stupefied, Chancho closed his eyes.

  “The ranger is not the kind of leader we need.” She kissed him on the forehead.

  “We’re ready.” Grady tucked his head into the back of the wagon. “Pepe found a stretcher to make it easier. Clever boy you got there.”

  Esperanza blushed. “Here, help me, and we’ll load him. He needs a doctor. He’s getting weaker.”

  In the open air, cheers and thunderous applause greeted Chancho as several men streamed forward to lend a hand at carrying the folk hero’s stretcher. Much of the crowd were brown-skinned, but even more where white. A few Chinese huddled together at the back of the platform. Weak and flustered, Chancho managed to wave as the sea of humanity pushed him forward, lifting him up the steps and onboard the train.

  Inside, Esperanza directed the stretcher into a private car where a doctor waited. They transferred Chancho to the bed, before everyone but Pepe retreated under strict orders from the doc. Clinging stubbornly to the bedside, Pepe took Chancho’s hand and placed something cold into it. Finally he relented, joining his mother.

  A song broke out among the crowd on the platform, but Chancho couldn’t understand the words. He focused on the object Pepe had placed in his hand. A golden eagle with a snake in its beak shimmered back at him through his tear-clouded eyes. He clutched the last gold coin to his chest as the doctor applied pressure to the wound. Eyes fluttering, he passed out.

  The view from Chancho’s third floor window at the Driskill Hotel included the governor’s mansion, Saint Mary’s Cathedral and of course the State Capital. But the opulence of his hotel room distracted him from the view, lifting him out of his skin and dropping him on foreign soil.

  He fingered the drapes for the eighth time and turned to look at his disheveled bed. It was the plushest thing he'd ever come into contact with. Had he not been nearly unconscious when his new friends had helped him into it the night before, he certainly would have resented soiling it.

  Nearly lunchtime on his third full day after entering Austin, he struggled to wrap his mind around the sudden changes thrust upon him. Most of the first night and day blurred together, highlighted by occasional snippets of Esperanza running her fingers through his hair or nurses changing his bedpan. Yesterday morning he'd been escorted by a mob from the hospital to the capital steps, where a rally had been in progress since his arrival by train.

  After a hand shake with the governor it was done. He held a full pardon. Only later, during the governor’s speech, did he realize the pardon included Muddy and Nena as well. A bittersweet victory, considering their disappearance after Blondie, and that technically the pardon covered them whether living or dead.

  Whisked from the capitol steps straight to a celebration banquet and ball, he posed for photos and shook hands while answering the same questions. “Will you honor us by running for the House of Representatives?” “Too bad you haven’t been a Texan longer, or we’d have you in the Senate.” What could he say? He’d never been to Austin, never seen the capital, had no idea what the legislature even did.

  Seventy-two hours earlier he had been determined to surrender to the rinche and forfeit his dreams. But now. He scratched his chin, finding it nearly smooth. Gazing at his reflection in the window, he barely recognized the man he saw there. Sallow and haggard around the edges, the wear and tear of his month in the wilderness was obvious, but the intensity and humility in his eyes startled him most. He had gotten a second chance for a second time.

  Finally he understood that dreams held repercussions. The mere dreaming of them changed the world. Acting upon them, well, Chancho’s heart fluttered. Acting upon a dream cost the dreamer everything. He put his hand to the glass, trying to feel the pulse of Texas’s capital city. Was he really doing this? Could he nourish the dream, draining his own life until it flourished, leaving himself an empty husk?

  He skimmed the pages of his life, remembering the sun set over the Catholic Hills, the warm brush of a beautiful woman’s skin, good coffee and stories shared across the fire. Everything hinged on two moments. First Ah Puch’s death at Columbus. Then his moment of defeat in the village of Santa Polco. He had thought the former proof his dream of revolution had been false. But then the latter had shown him that revolution could still be possible through sacrifice rather than force.

  The dreamer’s very soul births a dream, his energy nourishes it, his life’s blood brings it to blossom. Jesus had summarized it brilliantly, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

  For the first time he felt the depth of the words, and he knew the answer. Born a dreamer, he would also die for his dream. He had only to learn humility to understand the dreamer’s sacrificial role. His was still the same dream, to liberate the land and its people. Only now it took surprising shape. Politics. He slapped the glass with his palm, taking a deep, determined breath and stretching the ache in his shoulder.

  “Austin, mi amigo, we’ll do this together. ¡Viva revolucion!”

  The telephone beside the bed rang as he shared his first official declaration of intent with his empty hotel room. He finally heard it on the second ring. “¿Hola?”

  “Um, yes.” The voice on the other end addressed him with the same formal rigidity he had encountered frequently over the last twenty-four hours. “A lady and a small child are here to see you.”

  “¿Si?”

  After a pause the voice continued, “Shall I send them up, sir? Or will you be coming down?”

  “Ah. Well I’m not properly dressed, so just send them up.” Chancho stared out the window, still basking in his recent decision.

  “Sir?”

  “¿Si?” Chancho scratched himself.

  “Very well. I’ll send them right up.”

  Chancho hung up, looking at his naked reflection in the mirror on the back of the bathroom door. “Now, what to wear?” He stepped to the wardrobe and opened it. A tailored and freshly pressed tan suit with patch pockets and a faux belt hung on a single hanger.

  Chancho zipped his pants just as a knock came at the door. “¡Buenos dias!” He opened it to Esperanza and Pepe, both wide-eyed at their surroundings. “Mi casa es su casa.” He bowed with an ela
borate flourish. “Almost makes the whole manhunt and getting shot thing worth it, si?”

  Esperanza closed her gaping mouth and smiled.

  “Are you rich now?” Pepe bounded onto the bed.

  “Pepe!”

  “Sorry, mama.” Hang dog, he crawled down from the mountainous bed.

  Chancho put his arm around the boy while addressing Esperanza. “No really, we should try it out.” He slapped the bed with his hand. Esperanza started and raised her eyebrows. Chancho sputtered, “I mean, you know. For fun.” Esperanza blushed. “For jumping!”

  Confused, Pepe looked up at them until Chancho changed the subject. “And there’s an indoor toilet. It’s amazing. I’ve used it four times.” He showed Pepe the handle, explaining how gravity caused it to flush. Finally he turned back to Esperanza. “So, to what do I owe the honor of this visit?”

  Esperanza sighed, suddenly looking very serious. “We must go home today. Our train leaves this afternoon.”

  Chancho felt the gravity of his recent decision settle as the thought of being alone tightened in his throat. He took her hand while keeping Pepe clutched to his side. “All of this is because of you. I would be in jail or dead if you had not stood up to him.”

  Hugging him, she cried softly onto his good shoulder. “You have brought the village to life. Wildcatters have troubled us for months. We did not know how to stand up to them. Now we do.”

  Chancho looked her in the eyes. “Really? I had a dream about oil and Santa Polco.” They stared at each other for several seconds. “Never mind.” He took a deep breath. “I’ve decided I will run for the House.”

  Esperanza looked hurt and excited at the same time. “Really?” Chancho nodded. “You will win, and you will make a difference.” She released him, taking Pepe’s hand. “We’re glad you’re healthy, and that the governor pardoned you and your friends.”

  “Thank you.” The thought of Muddy and Nena grieved him. “I have to find them. I will leave for San Antonio today.”

  Esperanza smiled nervously while backing toward the door.

  “But I will come visit you soon, in Santa Polco.” Chancho waved his good arm around in the air to illustrate a whirlwind. “Elections are in a month. I know Santa Polco is not quite in my district, but I’ll make an exception.” He knelt down to look Pepe straight in the eye. “And for you, Pepito. I left a present for you at our meeting spot.”

  Pepe’s eyes popped from his head. “You mean—”

  “Chancho!” Esperanza stamped her foot.

  “Of course you will have to listen to your mother, and do everything she says.” He smiled up at her. “But I can think of no one better to care for my motorcycle than you. Keep it in working order for me. Okay?” Pepe grinned. It was the same mischievous grin Chancho had seen in the church when they’d first met. “Now let’s go. I’ll walk you to the station.”

  “But don’t you have to pack?”

  “Oh yes. I almost forgot.” He grabbed the gold coin from the dresser, slipping it into his pocket, and tucked his sombrero under his arm. “Ready.” Hand in hand, with Pepe tucked in between, the couple walked down the hall.

  The boy piped up as they reached the steps, “Since the governor is paying for us, don’t you think we should have lunch first?”

 
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