La Guajira (Part 2)

[Part 1, Part 3]

All the men had names that began with ‘Rafael.’ It was a family tradition. There was Rafael-Andres, Rafael-Gregorio, Rafael-Miguel, Rafael-Francisco and two other Rafaels that I did not remember. They all worked in the coal mine, working twelve hour shifts day or night four days each week. On their days off the Rafaels drank whisky together. Her father, who was Rafael-Gregorio, was president of the miner’s syndicate. He motioned for my attention and drew up his shirt to reveal a pistol tucked in his waistband.

Los Guajiros son gente de la palabra. We are people of the word,” he said proudly.

Three other Rafaels lifted their shirts to reveal pistols. It is necessary, explained her father. There had been one attempt against his life and a cousin had been assassinated three years ago. It was some business related to his position as head of the syndicate.

“The assassin is not known,” said the one called Rafael-Andres.

“But we will know him one day,” said the one called Rafael-Miguel and patted his revolver.

“Yes, we will. Por Dios, we will,” said the one called Rafael-Francisco.

A mototaxista pulled up and a cousin I had been told about joined us under the mango tree. He was called Leonardo and, true to what I was told, his head was abnormally large. At birth there had been water inside the cranium that had swollen his head and stunted the growth of his brain. Leonardo was now physically a man but had the mental ability of a small boy. He spoke with his jaw clenched and he was not allowed to drink the whisky, but he was good natured and even as the others made jokes on him he grinned happily.*

We drank whisky under the mango tree all through the afternoon and into the night. When we said goodbye the vallenato had stopped playing at the corner bar and the domino players had gone home. We drank four bottles of whisky and we were all well drunk and happy and we promised to do it again.

* The shape and size of his head reminded me of Placido Polanco, a fine and professional hitter and third baseman for the Phillies and formerly of the Detroit Tigers. I have long wondered about Mr Polcano’s large head and whether his batting helmet is specially prepared for him, though I do not believe Mr Polanco to have the mental ability of a small boy or to suffer any mental disorder.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Copyright © Moraline Free