Big Men (9)

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For a good long while there is silence. Everyone comes out of hiding. They see what Silvio and I have done. A cheer erupts from the crowd. Someone begins chanting a colorfully worded chant about Zapata as others kick him in the head. Zapata’s personal guard muster enough strength to grab their charge and drag him away. The crowd follows.

“That was tiresome. I need a nap,” Silvio says.

“You have some explaining to do, Silvio,” I say.

“No I don’t,” he replies.

“You punched a noble! And the way you fought, hitting everyone without getting hit yourself. Like a- like a whirlwind! Like Xiao Singh himself! How did you do that?” I ask.

“That is a longer story than I have the energy to tell right now. Besides, we need to be making our leave,” Silvio says. The Meycan woman and the golden eyed girl cry over the body of Midori Mizumaru. I feel tears well up in my eyes. I walk over to her.

“Are you okay?” I ask her.

“No!” she says, crying. “My father is dead!”

I feel like the world’s biggest moron.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for… for everything,” I say.

“I saw what you did,” her mother says. “You are a brave and foolish boy, but I thank you for saving my husband’s body from the hooves of that horse.”

I nod but say nothing. I realize there is nothing left to say. I leave them to their grief and look for Silvio. I find him busy looting Zapata’s men.

“We should go,” I say.

“You can do whatever you like, boy. I am working,” Silvio says. His brusqueness jabs at my soul. I do not know him very well at all, but I would have thought spending two months on the road with a person would make them a little more familiar. But Silvio is a loner, that much I know.

I turn to leave and realize that I’d dropped Rodrigo’s bag when Zapata was pushing my face into the ground. I go to retrieve it when a new voice appears.

“In the name of Her Royal Oneness, halt!” A group of patrolmen come ride in, lances at the ready, two with long rifles. “Who is responsible for this?” the one in charge asks.

“It was incredible! That man over there, the basurero, he fought and defeated Senor Zapata and all his men!” a woman says.

“Oh no,” Silvio says with a tired sigh, rubbing his face.

“They saved the Burro. Now Zapata’s ugly bathhouse will never see the light of day. Our homes are safe!” someone else says.

“Is this true?” the leader of the patrolmen asks the growing crowd.

“How could it be? Look at how many there are. There is no way a basurero and a boy like me could possibly have done that,” I say, opening my big mouth. Silvio sighs again.

“What is with your accent?” the patrolman says.

“He doesn’t sound like a nomad,” another patrolman says.

“Oh. I. Um,” I struggle to find my words.

“He killed Tino! He knocked the others out cold! Arrest him!” one of Zapata’s men says, still trying to pick himself up from the dusty earth.

“We will sort this out later. For now, clear the streets. As for you,” the patrolman says, pointing at us. “For violence against Senor Zapata and lying to an imperial agent, everyone here is under arrest!”  Silvio, the thugs who are left, and I, are rounded up and shackled together. I panic and try to run but a patrolman hits me in the gut, taking the wind out of me. I see a pair of golden eyes staring at me through my tears. Next to her the most important bag I’ve ever carried.

“My bag! Hold on to it for me, please!” I call to her. I don’t know if she hears me, the world is too loud and blurry to see straight anymore. “Please! don’t lose my bag!” I cry as I’m dragged away in chains bloody, crying and spitting to avoid throwing up.

And that is how I met Mina, the golden eyed love of my life, mother of my children and my forever companion.

***

We were sentenced to a week in jail by the patrolman chief for causing a ruckus in a public space. No further charges were laid on us as the patrolmen did not believe that Silvio and I were capable of murdering and injuring that many people on our own, but a search for accomplices turned up empty. Still, our release is delayed and postponed for days. Silvio is calm for most of it, showing no emotion as the jailmen question us. Only when a finely dressed woman visits the jail does he finally begin to look worried.

She is a beauty and wears bright colors. Her eyes sparkle like morning dew. She is like a creature of fairy, stepping into our world every so briefly before flitting out of sight again. When she sees Silvio’s eye on her she smiles and whispers to the warden of the jail before leaving without another word. After that we are taken to individual cells and told to get comfortable.

Days turn to weeks. I very quickly lose hope that I will ever see the outside of this jail again. I know in my heart that my journey is at an end. I took this task upon myself to honor Sear Rodrigo’s dying wish and I end up in a jail months away from home.

I ask Silvio why they do not let us go, and his face tells me he knows the answer, but he says nothing. I come to realize that Zapata is the one keeping us there, or perhaps an influential friend or family member. The days are endless and the nights are stolen by the wails of caged men.

We are made to work in the punishing sun. Breaking rocks. Making bricks. Moving foundations and support posts. I see men collapse and die; aged creatures here since before I was born. Perhaps since before Silvio was born. We eat slop meant for hogs, or as I am convinced, slop that the hogs rejected.

We are trapped.

 

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