The Colonel Comes Home

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He sat cracking his neck on the veranda overlooking the river. His bed always took some getting used to after months peacefully rocking in a hammock. He might be done with it; the bed, the house, all of it. Pitch his hammock out here and sleep under nets like everyone else. They seemed happy with it.  Why should those with nothing be content with their lot and he feel so fucked all the time?

The river wasn’t a torrent by any means but neither the low green stream he was hoping for on his return. It ran full and brown-café con leche-filling the banks the way it never did in the summer and covering the marsh grass that deer would eat wading in the cool shade in the heat of the afternoons.

A swollen cow floated by, hooves reaching for the sky, then a couple of chickens. The lowland peasants always take the brunt of the weather. Floods this late in the season would mean hunger in the winter-not famine-there would still be food here in the most fecund valley he knew, but less of it. Without their chickens and corn they would be hunting his hills for game all winter. Which was fine, so long as they steered clear of the poppy fields, which they knew to do.

He had gambled before leaving and had the crop planted high on the mountain. Making the new clearings so far from where he usually farmed had been arduous but the rains which would have washed him out on the lowland fields, drained quickly up there. He had ridden through the fields on his way in and the crop was beautiful and lush. Thus did the rich get richer.

The sun peeking over the ridge downstream colored the trees and awoke the woodpeckers and the crows. Everyplace the filtered light touched him burned slightly, like a warm stick pressed against his skin. It would be hot today.

He heard the soft scraping tread behind him and steeled himself.

“More coffee Excellency?”

When he was sure Buenila couldn’t see, he had spilled what was left in his cup into the brown river. The pestilential rains had ruined the coffee crop and they were reduced to drinking chicory which was better than tea he supposed but worse than everything else.

“Yes, Buenila. Thank you.”

“It’s good then?”

“Wonderful”, he said turning his head slightly toward her but not looking back.

“Good…” she shuffled away.

Below him a pig floated by, tits up and mottled by the sun. His stomach gurgled an ominous reminder of his miseries.

“Wait”, he called back over his shoulder “A glass of Port instead. And a piece of the bread you made last evening.” She would know to bring the cheese without being told. Might as well start the day.

The sun was directly overhead when he pushed the last of the ledgers away and rubbed his eyes. He still had the eyes of an eagle, but they, like the rest of him, were only good for short spurts. Most of the morning had been spent with Diego, who was effectively the estate foreman, responsible for everything when the Colonel was gone on conquest or otherwise indisposed. Small and dark, Diego was young enough to be-and whispered that he was in fact-the Colonel’s own son. Neither man remembered Diego’s mother-she was gone when he was a swaddling babe, left to the capable hands of Buenila. To the Colonel-then a striving Captain-she had been one in a long continuing series of couplings.

While his wiry physic and green eyes could have been a give-away, neither of the men seemed to care about the certainty of his lineage. As a boy, and now a man, Diego wanted nothing more than to sit astride whichever mule or horse the day’s labor called for and do his work. “Nothing between my God and me but my hat!” he would smile doffing his well-worn woven skipper.

They had opened the canopy before noon and he now toyed with the idea of stringing his hammock and taking his siesta right here. Just toyed. While there was a breeze, the thick masonry walls that had survived two earthquakes to his knowledge kept his house cool even at midday. He would go inside.

Before he could push away from the table Buenila appeared at his shoulder.

“A girl from the village is calling, Excellency.”

“The village?”

The crone shrugged. To her, everyone not of the estate was from ‘the village’.

He settled back in his chair. “Send her out.”

Good Lord, he thought as he did when confronted by young girls. Is this my daughter? He didn’t think so-she was too young with striking raven eyes and thick straight hair the color of jungle dirt. Her cheekbones were high disguising the baby fat that still rounded her. She hesitated at the edge of the veranda.

“Come, come”, he said gently.

The girl shuffled closer. He could not ignore her full pouty lips. “What’s your name, daughter?”

“Laurencia”, she answered. “Laurencia Palacios.”

“Come, come…” he repeated reaching out a hand. The girl held back-walking in sand. Palacios, he thought. I know that name. “Do I know your father?” he asked.

“He’s gone.”

“I see, I see… What brings you here to see me today, Laurencia?”

“My mother, your majesty. She…”

He snorted loudly. “There is no crown on my head, sweetheart. I’m a simple Colonel.”

“Yes sir.” Her eyes wouldn’t meet his. “My mother says I should come by. I should make myself…an introduction. I mean…I should make myself available to you….”

An icy hand gripped the Colonel’s chest. There were women, God knows, who approached him-who always approached him-wanting to be close to him and share what he’d won. And God also knows he had a weakness for them which is why there were so many of a certain age across the territory and in his service that had his green eyes, his sharp nose, his wavy hair.

He was used to these clingers and grabbers and had done, in his mind, a reasonable job recently of keeping his distance from such hardscrabble paramours. These days, his victories and powers brought a different class of women to his bed; ones who had their own gold and houses-even husbands-and only wanted to share of his essence if for a night or a week or a month. That was one thing. There was a special place in hell for those who would whore their daughters out for the same reason.

“How old are you, Darling?” he asked covering his rage.

He watched the girl freeze-the truth of fourteen colliding with the lie of seventeen her mother had given her. He had sat on too many tribunals to be fooled by a naïve virgin and her conniving mother.

“If you are contemplating a lie to me, just say nothing. It will be better.”

The girl stayed quiet, then, peeking up at him, “Fourteen, your majes…colonel.”

“Ah, fourteen. Very good. Very good.” He leaned forward conspiratorially. “You weren’t supposed to tell me that were you?”

The girl blushed and looked away.

“No matter, no matter. I’ll make sure I tell everyone you’re eighteen, is it? Seventeen?”

“Seventeen, Colonel.”

“Very good.”

Regardless of her looks and the beginnings of regal bearing, the girl’s accent was of the mud. It was tough to hear such guttural tones coming out of a mouth as wonderful as this.

“Do you read Laurencia?”

“No, Colonel”.

“Numbers?”

She shook her head.

What is this mother thinking? He didn’t know, but he would find out. The girl brightened when he offered her chocolate and a cup of watered wine. She had come up the mountain alone on a handsome burro that she loved and had all her life. The colonel smiled; there is hope for one who loves a burro as the girl loved hers. The words poured about her burro, then her cats, then the dog, then the chickens-the girl who had slinked up the mountain in fear babbled on happily about the animals in her life. Probably preferable to the people she knew. The Colonel had daughters, both known and unknown, native and mestizo, and knew how to speak to girls. What he thought would be a five-minute interview extended to a half an hour of laughter and simple stories.

“Well Laurencia, it was wonderful to meet you”, he said finally. “But I have work…” he gestured apologetically toward the table.

“Yessir. I’m sorry to have taken your time.”, she said primly and stood. “I will go now. Thank you.”

She bowed formally and turned away her pert bottom pressing against the woven dress. They always mature first back there, he thought before looking away.

“Laurencia!” She stopped and turned. “I want you to…” how to say this? He didn’t want to appear to be offering what her mother had sent her for but wanted to ensure that the girl knew she had a place to come to if she ever needed one. “Stop back and see me. I don’t have the time now, but would love to meet your burro. Would you bring him back to visit?”

“Oh yes sir. And I will bring you eggs-from my chickens.”

“You will never be able to bring eggs up the mountain on your burro”, he teased. “They will all be scrambled when you get here!”

“You’ll see. I know how to pack eggs”, she smiled widely and for a moment he saw the woman she would become.

Dios Mio, he thought. Then with a charming smile that betrayed nothing, “Have your mother stop by to see me, would you? Not you, just her. Same time as this tomorrow. High noon. You’ll remember that won’t you?”

“Oh yes Colonel. I will tell her. And remember, I am seventeen!” She laughed like pearls flowing over pebbles.

“Dios Mio”, he whispered as she strode across the patio and was gone. He didn’t feel guilty for his arousal but rather proud that he hadn’t acted upon it.

 

(To be continued…)

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June 16

The first tentative chirps of the morning birds far preceded the dawn. He snapped to and imagined it no later than four. There was a cardinal, the robin at the arbor, the turkeys on the hill and the mourning doves all calling below the stars still spattering the resistant sky.

He smelled eggs boiling downstairs-does the woman never sleep?-and a whiff of coffee. By the stench he knew it bitter and strong-would need heavy doses of cream which he was fairly sure had curdled. She could fuck up a one-car funeral this one.

He’d been dreaming about a train accident that Frank was somehow tied up in. He was being interviewed on the teevee-Frank was-and the camera had inadvertently it seemed allowed his cock into the frame as he was not wearing pants. Why didn’t anyone notice? Could the camera man not see it there hanging listlessly like a sail on a windless lake? Weren’t there editors to prevent such things from getting onto the air? Truth be told though, old Frank’s uncircumcised seven (don’t let him tell you nine) would not be the worst thing to hit telly today.

He’d never get back to sleep now. His own cock was soft and bladder full but as soon as he went downstairs he’d be done for. Maybe piss out the window. Had she brought in the laundry? He fluffed his pillow and lay back in a huff-determined to wait out the night. The bob-white called but he didn’t count-he was up all night the poor bastard.

Lines

I knew there was a line. Plenty of them-actually. Too fucking many of them. And they always moved, sometimes blurred, but they were there. And why were they scratching at the door so early, the cats? By rights, they were hers and she should have taken them with her. Some bullshit about no room, allergies, carpets, whatever-she just said what came into her mind at the time. So she’s gone, the cats are here. Three years of cooing, baby talk, petting and combing-out the fucking window. So I hadda get up-they wouldn’t stop. I stepped into the hallway dragging my feet so I wouldn’t trip over them-or stomp them-and went downstairs not turning a light on, so they would know somehow that it was the middle of the night and not time to be getting up. With only the streetlight watching I opened the can, split it into two bowls, added warm water and leaned back, listening to them lapping in the dark. I sure as hell wasn’t going to make coffee-had to be too early for that-so I opened the fridge for orange juice. None, of course. But there was a beer. A few actually, left from last night. How long ago could that have been? An hour? Two? It mattered somehow: was it still night, or morning? Quickly tired of waiting for an answer, I popped the top on one and closed the door, slipping back into the shadows. I expected to shiver at the first swallow, but it went down so nice. Nothing had felt that smooth in weeks. My cigarettes were in the jacket pocket over the chair. I grabbed the pack and headed for the door to smoke on the porch but caught myself. My fucking house now. Using a cat’s bowl for an ashtray I sat at the table and drained my first, or one of my last, beers of the day.

Chrissy

thedutchmountains.tumblr.com

thedutchmountains.tumblr.com

Shitty to say, but there was a special joy in hearing that they’d split. That’s small I know, I’ll own that, but they had a good run, time-wise anyway. How am I supposed to feel? She ditched me to marry that dick. Not right away, of course, but within the year. Her kisses were so soft you could be fooled into thinking she had no teeth-just a tongue or two and a couple pair of lips. The first time with her, sliding along the leather back seat of Bull’s Caddy while he got loaded in Frankie’s Blue Note, is still in my top five and probably always will be. I was love sick and gob-smacked when she told me she was going to give it another try with him. That was it; she had only dated he and I and I was an interlude.  I went back to fishing in the deep, wide sea and they bred two footballers; hideous little brutes that grew to look just like him. Now they’re split and there’s nothing to be done. I’m entangled like a feral shoat in a discarded bundle of bob wire: squealing and wishing for freedom but completely out of ideas for winning it. Besides, heard she preferred women now. I can see how being married to him would turn her off the sex. Probably surprised it didn’t turn her off the species. But really, she had a killer laugh, a great smile and beautiful teeth. I just never felt them. Not once.

 

August in Denver

Rainy afternoon coffee on the shitty end of Larimer Street-

The kind of day that always pulled me to brown liquor as a young buck;

Drinking on the boat as we ran the lines-

Slaves to currents and tides then, not weather.

Now, as the rest of the party has repaired elsewhere to

Toast with THC gummies and loaded lollipops,

I sip harsh black coffee less than a mile from

Neal Cassady’s childhood home.

 

Should I have gotten the cream?

Her question threw me.

Still can, but not sure.

Do I usually take cream?

 

The surface of the coffee waves and crests with the

Vibrations of my hand; so I clatter it back down,

Again wiping at the new crescent moon between my

Thumb and forefinger.

My first tattoo-still fresh enough to feel foreign.

 

My dad had an uncle who died on a bar stool.

That meant a lot to him-he told the story often.

He’d also killed five men

But three were in the war so they didn’t count.

The old man never disowned him until his own deathbed;

Far too late.

 

The fucking stories we choose-

The characters we become.

 

I’m getting the cream.

It’s right there-just get it.

Maybe the next one.

Might as well,

This rain will not let up.

 

“…Nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”

-Jack Kerouac, On The Road

© TDR 2017

 

Happy Bloomsday!

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“Be interesting someday get a pass through Hancock to see the brewery. Regular world in itself, Vats of porter, wonderful. Rats get in too. Drink themselves bloated as big as a collie floating. Dead drunk on the porter. Drink till they puke again like christians. Imagine drinking that! Rats: vats. Well of course if we knew all the things…”

-James Joyce, Ulysses

Celebrate as you will. Myself, I’ll steer clear of the porter. Did run into a charmer at the pub yesterday though-where we all huddled out of the storm. Extolled the virtues of stouts. Almost had me with the eyes; but I’ll still with the IPA’s because, as we know, bitter is better.