(Continued from The Colonel Comes Home – 4)
Sylvia Palacios sat on a hard stool in the courtyard of her home and let her eyes flow over the untended garden and the darkness of the ever-encroaching jungle. Years before, they’d cut many trees in clearing this land. What she knew is that trees, like memories, were never gone. You could drop the thickest tree, cut it into logs and send it down river or burn it for charcoal. With a strong mule and harness, maybe a little dynamite, you can be rid of the stump and with dirt fill, the ground would look fine. Would look strong. Would be strong; for a while.
But over the years the roots below ground would be eaten by insects; would rot. Would disappear and become voids where there was once strength. The voids, unseen on the surface, would create sinkholes that lay in wait to twist a knee, crack an ankle or crumble a house. That is what memories are: voids from the never-forgotten past that open sinkholes in the soul and she had fallen into one and gotten horribly twisted.
She could not grasp why she did what she did. Even now, in the light of day, she could barely remember it. But when she finally awoke this morning and found Laurencia gone, she knew what she had done. She was strangely composed as she changed from her night clothes into an old, shapeless cotton house dress: a fitting garment for her last day on earth. She deserved no better. She wore no underclothes in case there would be another whipping before her execution.
Her long hair was tied in a braid to make it easier for the hangman’s noose or, God forbid, the chopping block. She’d heard of beheadings-horrific stories of tribal warfare-but had never seen one. If they were to shoot her, she hoped it would be against the front wall so the last thing she would see was the garden and the purple mountains beyond. That was her preference, she supposed. Antonio had been shot. In battle, yes. But shot.
These were her thoughts as, with a rumble, the soldiers rode into her yard. The first of the riders, a tall one with gray hair, had an axe strapped to the side of his saddle. Had she eaten anything in the previous days she would have lost it from one end or the other. Idle rumination of one’s imminent demise are one thing; seeing the instrument of your own end riding in, is was quite another. As it was, her stomach empty and feeding on itself, she only stared, bowels roiling.