TELL THEM THAT DON’T KILL ME
- Tell them not to kill me, Justin! Come on, say that. What for charity. Tell them like that. Tell them to do it for charity.
- I can not. There is a sergeant there who doesn’t even want to hear from you.
- Make me hear you. Use your ways and say that enough scares is enough. Tell him to do it for the charity of God.
- It’s not scares. It looks like they’re really going to kill you. I don’t want to go back there anymore.
- Go again. Just one more time, to see what you can get.
- No. I don’t feel like going. It is evident that I am your son. And if I go to them many times, they will end up knowing who I am and you can give them to shoot me too. It is better to leave things as they are.
- Come on, Justino. Tell them to be just a little sorry for me. Just say that.
Justin gritted his teeth and moved his head, saying:
And he continued to shake his head for a long time
- Tell the sergeant to let you see the colonel. And tell him how old I am. What little I am worth. What profit will you make by killing me? No profit. After all, he must have a soul. Tell him to do it for the blessed salvation of his soul.
Justin got up from the pile of stones he was sitting on and walked to the corral door. Then he turned to say:
- I will, then. But if they happen to shoot me too, who will take care of my wife and children?
- Providence, Justino. She will take care of them. Worry about going there and seeing what things you do for me. This is urgent.
They had brought it at dawn. And now it was late in the morning and he was still there, tied to a stake, waiting. I couldn’t be quiet. He had tried to get some sleep to appease himself, but sleep had been shaken. It had also shaken the hunger. I had no desire for anything. Just to live. Now that he knew quite well that they were going to kill him, he had such a strong desire to live that only a newly resurrected person could feel.
Who would have said that he would return to that matter so old, so rancid, so buried as he thought it was. That matter of when you had to kill Don Lupe. It was not just like that, as those of Alima wanted to believe, but because he had his reasons. He remembered: Don Lupe Terreros, the owner of Puerta de Piedra, and his friend. Which he, Juvêncio Nava, had to kill for that very reason; for being the owner of Puerta de Piedra and because, being also his friend, he was denied grazing for his animals.
First it held on by mere commitment. But then, during the drought, when he saw how his animals, lashed by hunger, died after him and that his friend Don Lupe continued to deny him the grass in his pastures, it was then that he started to break the fence. and pushing the mass of lean animals to the grass so that they get fed up with food. And Don Lupe had not liked that, so much so that he had the fence covered again so that he, Juvêncio Nava, would open the hole for him again. Thus, during the day the hole was covered and at night it opened again, while the cattle were there, always glued to the fence, always waiting; that cattle of yours that used to only smell the pasture without being able to taste it.
And he and Dom Lupe argued and went back to arguing without reaching an agreement.
Until Dom Lupe once said to him:
- Look, Juvêncio, another animal that you put in the pasture and I kill.
And he replied:
- Look, Don Lupe, it is not my fault that animals seek your comfort. They are innocent. You will see the consequences if you kill them. And he killed a bullock.
This happened thirty-five years ago, in March, because in April I was already walking on the mountain, fleeing the precatory. I was of no use to the ten cows I gave to the judge, nor the attachment of my house to pay for my release from prison. Still later they paid themselves with what was left, just so they wouldn’t chase me, although they chased me anyway. That’s why I came to live with my son in this other little land that I had, called Paio de Venado. And my son grew up and married my daughter-in-law Ignacia and already had eight children. Just like that, things are already old, and that is why they should be forgotten. But apparently, it is not.
I then calculated that with about a hundred pesos everything was fine. The late Don Lupe was alone, he lived alone with his wife and the two boys who were still hot. And the widow quickly died too, they say from sadness. And the boys took them away, to relatives. So, for their part, there was no need to be afraid.
But the others insisted that I went with court orders on trial to scare me and continue to rob me. Every time someone came to the village, they told me:
- Some strangers are around, Juvêncio.
And I fled to the mountain, entangling myself among the strawberry trees and spending my days eating only purslane. Sometimes I had to leave at midnight, as if the dogs were chasing me. This went on for a lifetime. It was not a year or two. It’s been a lifetime.
And now they had gone looking for him, when he no longer expected anyone, relying on the forgetfulness in which people had him; believing that at least their last days would pass them by. «At least this» he thought «I can do it with being old. They will leave me alone. »
He had given himself over to this hope entirely. That was why it was hard for him to imagine that he was going to die suddenly, at this point in his life, after so much struggle to get rid of death; having spent his best time walking back and forth dragged by jerks and when his body had turned out to be a simple hard leather, tanned by the bad days when he had to hide from everyone.
Hadn’t he, by chance, left until the woman shook him? That day that dawned with the news that the woman was gone, he didn’t even intend to go out looking for her. He let him shake without asking either with whom or where, so he wouldn’t have to go down to the village. He let it be as if everything else had gone without moving a straw. The only thing left for him to take care of was life, and life would preserve it anyway. I couldn’t let them kill him. Could not. Much less now. But for that they had brought him from there, from Paio de Venado. They didn’t have to tie him up to follow them. He walked alone, only held in fear. They realized that he could not run with that old body, with those legs weak as dry ropes, whole, with the fear of dying. Because I was going for it. To die, they said.
I’ve known it ever since. He began to feel that itch in his stomach, which came to him suddenly whenever he saw death up close and which tugged at his eyes, and which swelled his mouth with those sips of sour water that he had to swallow unintentionally. And that thing that made his feet heavy while his head softened and his heart beat with all his strength in his ribs. No, he couldn’t get used to the idea that he was killed.
There had to be some hope. Somewhere there could still be some hope. Maybe they were wrong. Maybe they were looking for another Juvêncio Nava and not the Juvêncio Nava he was.
He walked among those men in silence, his arms drooping. The dawn was dark, without stars. The wind blew slowly, took the dry land with it and brought more, full of that urine-like smell that has dust from the paths.
His eyes, which had shriveled over the years, came to see the earth, here, under his feet, despite the darkness. There on earth was his whole life. Sixty years of living off it, holding it in your hands, after tasting it as you taste the meat. He came for a long time, scrutinizing her with his eyes, savoring each piece as if it were the last, almost knowing it would be the last.
Then, as if to say something, he looked at the men who came to him. I was going to tell them to let him go, to let him shake: “I didn’t hurt anyone, boys”, I was going to tell them, but I kept quiet. “I’ll tell you later,” he thought. And I just looked at them. He could even imagine that they were his friends; but I didn’t want to do it. They were not. I didn’t know who they were. He saw them beside him, leaning down and crouching from time to time to see where he was going.
I had seen them for the first time at dusk in the afternoon, in that faded hour when everything seems to be singed. They had crossed the furrows treading the tender corn. And he had come down to it: to tell them that the corn was beginning to grow there. But they did not stop.
I had seen them for a long time. He was always lucky to see everything with plenty of time. He could have gone into hiding, walking a few hours up the hill while they were not shaking and then going back down. After all, corn would not grow at all. It was time that the waters arrived and the waters did not appear and the corn began to wilt. It wouldn’t be long before it was completely dry.
So it wasn’t even worth it to go down; to have gotten into those men like a hole, so as not to leave again.
And now he stayed with them, enduring the urge to tell them to let him go. I didn’t see their faces; he saw only the shapes that joined or separated from him. In such a way that, when he started to speak, he did not know if they had heard him. Said:
“I never hurt anyone,” he said. But nothing has changed. None of the figures seemed to notice. The faces did not turn to see him. They remained the same, as if they had been sleeping.
Then he thought he had nothing more to say, that he would have to look elsewhere for hope. He dropped his arms again and entered the first houses of the village in the midst of those four men darkened by the black heat of the night.
- Colonel, here’s the man.
They had stopped in front of the doorjamb. He, with his hat in his hand, out of respect, waiting to see someone leave. But only the voice came out:
- What man? – they asked.
- The one by Paio de Venado, my colonel. What you sent us to get.
“Ask him if he ever lived in Alima,” said the voice from inside again.
- Hey, you! The colonel asks if you lived in Alima? repeated the sergeant in front of him. .
- Yes. Tell the colonel that I’m really from there. And that I lived there until recently.
- Ask him if he met Guadalupe Terreros.
- He’s asking if you met Guadalupe Terreros.
- To Don Lupe? Yes. Say yes that I met him. Has died.
Then the voice inside changed his tone:
“I already know you died,” he said. And he continued to speak as if he were talking to someone, on the other side of the wall of reeds:
- Guadalupe Terreros was my father. When I grew up and looked for him, I was told he was dead. It is a bit difficult to grow up knowing that the thing we can hold on to to take root is dead. That happened to us. Then I learned that they had killed him with an ax, then stabbed him in the stomach. They told me that he survived more than two days lost and that, when they found him, thrown into a stream, he was still in agony and asking him to take care of his family. This, over time, seems to be forgotten. A person tries to forget. What is not forgotten is to come to know that whoever did that is still alive, feeding his rotten soul with the illusion of eternal life. I couldn’t forgive him, even though I don’t know him; but the fact that he put himself in the place where I know he is, gives me the courage to end him. I cannot forgive you for continuing to live. I should never have been born.
From here, from outside, everything you said was clearly heard. Then he ordered:
- Take him and tie him up for a while, and then shoot him!
- Look at me, Colonel! he asked. – I’m not worth anything anymore. I will not be long in dying alone, lost as an old man. Don’t kill me!
- Take him! – said the voice from inside.
- … I already paid, Colonel. I paid many times. They took everything from me. They punished me in many ways. I spent forty years hidden like a pest, always with the hunch that at any moment they would kill me. I don’t deserve to die like that, Colonel. Let the Lord at least forgive me. Don’t kill me! Tell them not to kill me!
He was there, as if he had been hit, shaking his hat against the earth. Screaming.
Then the voice inside said:
- Tie him up and give him something to drink until he gets drunk so they don’t hurt the shots.
Now, at last, he had calmed down. He was leaning against the stake. His son Justino had come and his son Justino had shaken and returned and now he came again.
Put it on top of the donkey. He tied him tightly to the harness so he wouldn’t fall down the path. He put his head in a bag so he wouldn’t give a bad impression. And then he tugged on the donkey’s mane and they rocked, hurled, quickly, to reach Paio de Venado with time to organize the funeral for the deceased.
- Your daughter-in-law and your grandchildren will miss you – I would say. – They’ll look you in the face and think it’s not you. It will seem to them that it was the coyote that ate you, when they see you with that face so full of holes because of so much mercy shot they gave you.