Wednesday, April 18, 2012

BLACK WINGS (a portion of one of my short stories)


 "When the moon is a cold chiseled

                                                        Sharp enough to draw blood from
                                                        A stone
                                                        He rides through your dreams on
                                                        A coach
                                                        And horses and the fence posts
                                                        In the moonlight look like bones."
                   -Tom Waits, "Black Wings"

     The collectivos, trains and cars ony went so far into the Lacandon rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico, especially at night, even along the new highway, the jungle was a dangerous places full of jaguars, tapirs ocelots, drug cartels and mercenaries raiding the rancherias, and Marisol had had to procure a cheap "eco-tourist" guide.  Miguel Ortiz, a sun-cracked old Mexican from Mexico City, in San Cristobal De Las Casas, drove them the rest of the way to the highland jungles of the Monte Agules Biosphere Reserve.  And she had all but exhausted her credit cards travelling throught the Palenque Mayan ruins in order to write her graduate thesis for her Master's Degree of Anthropology for U. T.  The dissertation detailed the repercussions of trade such that of N.A.F.T.A. and the Zapatista conflict on the preservation of Mayan relics, artifacts and culture.  The bilingual guide had brought her and a few other ecotourists curious about the montane ecology of the Lacandon Jungle deep into the central forests on their way to explore some recently excavated Mayan temples and caves near Guatemala.  Marisol, whose family had immigrated to Texas from this area, was especially interested in seeing some old Camino Real mission ruins and Lacondon and Tzotzil Mayan villages. 

     "Fucking fascists", said a  fellow tourist dressed in Indiana Jones cosplay turned to Marisol, an older man who had introduced himself to her as a "Dr. Randol Dalton", but Marisol simply referred to him in her mind as "Dr. Random Douche-bag", and pointed in the direction of some soldiers situated on the roadside interrogating a Lacandon native, "the government should let these folks be.  This their own land.  They should be recognized as an autonomous entity by the U. N."

     "Yeah", for once, she agreed with his sort, the kind that burned the candle at both ends, "but I seriously doubt that will happen.  Their culture, language, way of life, will most likely fade away and be integrated into the dominant culture of Mexico, I'm afraid."

     Army checkpoints abounded along the main highway en route southward into the Mayan wilderness.  The battle raged on between the oppressive Mexican nationals and the reformist and freedom-seeking Zapatistas of Chiapas at the time.  The travel guidebooks Marisol had read extolled Chiapas as a safe and friendly destination, but in the southern jungle river valleys and highlands the tension and bloodshed seethed like a wild animal ready to pounce from the darkness.  The Mexican army discouraged media coverage of the events and area.  Therefore, Marisol and the others took the back roads of dirt in the back of the ecotourism guide's ravaged pickup, complete with wood railings and chicken coops full of clucking and squawking birds. 

     "Mr. Ortiz, wait, where are you going?  This wasn't part of our agreement-"
     "Gracia, amiga-" he said as he was slowly rolling away in the old truck, oblivious to her complaints.  "Gracias.  The Nativos will help from here."
     Then he had left them at a river lagoon outpost to be guided across in a dugout by a very primitive Tzotzil Mayan Indian guide, which would have to do, as the river taxis had stopped running dure to the impending storms coming in from the Caribbean.  As an employee who was paid a pittance the ecotourist guide didn't deem it necessaryto put his ass on the line in the dangerous environs.  Indigenous Mayans still lorded over the Ocosingo wilds, the languages and customs of their pre-Columbian ancestry still somewhat intact.  These Tzotzil savages would be coming to pick them up at this cabana at nightfall, they were told very unceremoniously, were a paid a percentage from his fee and knew the nooks and nuances of the area by heart.  With that the guide had disappeared, scrambling off in the rickety old truck down the dirt road without so much as a goodbye salutation.


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