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Rated: E · Short Story · History · #2168641
Inspired by the sad realities of South America's revolutionary past.

Alejandro's consciousness emerged like a submerged log from the depths of slumber. He slowly opened his eyes, trying to shield them for as long as he could from the glaring stabs of the sun. It was going to be a sunny day, a sweaty day, perfect for toiling the land.
"Simon? Get up, Simon. We will be late." He stretched a hand towards his brother's pallet, but the fingers met only the rough sensation of the straw. "So that lazy bones's already up. I must really be late."

Alejandro stood up and put on his shirt, probing with a finger the depth of his beard. It felt two days old, or maybe more. "That won't do," he murmured. He skipped to the piece of glass he and his brother insisted on calling a mirror, tore out a shard and began to clip the bush on his chin. Alejandro blinked at his reflection: that day Juanita was going to serve the men during the midday break at the Hacienda, and he had to make the best of his sweaty impressions on her. "This time I'm going to get you, mi vida" said, removing a leftover of bread from his front teeth. Whistling, he pried open the door of the shack.

"Simon? Are you here?" Alejandro scanned the yard for any sign of his brother. Only a chicken cuckled a reply to his calls. "That's strange. It's easier to convince a donkey to pray as a good Christian, than Simon to go working for Don Batista. Maybe—maybe he's finally decided to grow up. Maybe," he muttered, picking up his plough from the wall of the shack.

"Simon? Stop fooling around! We're going to be late!"

"I'm here, brother."

Alejandro turned and saw his brother marching up towards him, kicking a cloud of reddish dust at each step. He stopped right in front of him, clicking his heels together. Alejandro threw a glance at the piece of wood and metal clutched in his brother's hands. "A rifle. That's no instrument of toil, Simon. I thought we've been over this."
Simon's gaze pierced him with the sharpness of a rapier. "That's an instrument of freedom, brother. And you can't be over freedom."

Alejandro leaned on his plough; an invisible force weighing down on his shoulders. "So you have decided to follow that road,then. I knew teaching you to read was a mistake. You've filled your head with all that - revolution - manure."

"It's better than to shovel manure for that Don Batista bastard for the rest of my bloody life."

"Don Batista may be a bastard. But he's our bastard. Our family has respected that bastard and his family for generations. And you know why? Because our masters never left us to starve. Just for that, they're good masters, and we should be thankful."

Simon tightened his grip on the weapon. "Right—because you can really thrive on the crumbs that fall from his table, while he's stuffing himself like a damn pig with the fruits of our work! It's high time we put him to the slaughter and feed our families with his flesh!"

Alejandro pursed his lips in a smirk "Bold words, boy. But these aren't your words. That's the rubbish those men of law, with their butts stuffed in a sofa, write when they're bored. Or when their masters don't pay them enough. Then they make big talk of history and revolution. But, guess what? It's we, the peons, the poor men who have to dirty their hands. The men who read books just dip their pen in our blood to write the next chapter in their great History"

"It's you the one who doesn't understand, Alejandro. You only listen to what Don Batista tells you. Or what the ploughing priests tell you. And what you've got to show for all your hard work? This arsehole of a shack and your loser's pride!"

"You insolent brat! This shack is what our parents left us!" Alejandro's muscles hardened, struck by a sting of pain.

Simon looked at him, smirking in defiance."You see? You've been breaking your back for Batista for years, and that's your reward. You're going to rust like your plough! But for me, no more masters. I'm going to join the revolution. And one day I'm going to tear apart Don Batista limb by limb. And you, and all those who lick his boots like they're made of honey, are going to thank us for that!"

Alejandro heaved himself up, clutching the handle of the plough as if it were his last hold above the chasm of that insanity. "You don't even know what you're talking about, boy. There'll always be a master, as there's a Lord in heaven. Now, enough with this nonsense. You're young and naive. I understand that boys like heroes, and that hero Raul Miguel De Alvado, or whatever his ploughing name is, just deluded you into thinking you can be more than a farmer. Well, you're not, and will never be. Throw that—thing away, and get your plough, or we will be late."

"Is that a request? Or an order?"

Alejandro stared back at his brother. "I am your older brother, and so you have to obey me for as long as you live. So, yes, that's an order!" A metallic sound reverberated in his ears. Alejandro lowered his eyes, and met the steely gaze of the rifle.

"Didn't you hear me? I don't have masters anymore. Not even you. I'm dead to you, you get it? Dead for you, Don Batista, God and whatever else greedy leeches are sucking the soul out of the people in the name of authority. I'm going to get my freedom, right now, on the point of a bayonet. You can stay here. Or you can go to work, yes? Have all the ploughing serfdom you want!"

Alejandro closed his eyes, losing himself in the reddish dome of the eyelids crossed by the light. Then, opened them to a new resolve. "So be it." he said, raising the plough over his head.

"What are you—I'll shoot! I'm warning you!"

"Don't be silly. Dead men don't shoot the living." Alejandro put the plough on his shoulder, and strut towards Simon. As he passed by him, he caught a glimpse of the quivering barrel of the gun, and looked at the weapon with the same indifference he would've reserved to a rotting branch.

"Hey! Where are you going?"

"I'm going to work, or I'll be late. I also need to pass word to the undertaker my brother has just died for his freedom. I'm sure Don Batista will be glad to hear there's a mouth less to feed." And Juanita a man less to serve he thought, as a mellow feeling melted in his body like a swig of Tequila.

"I'm finally—," Simon panted, cringing in pain as his breath filled the lungs like a cast of molten lead "here". He opened his eyelids, trying to penetrate the coat of sweat that had accumulated in his eyes, until he was able to see it: the Hacienda of Don Batista: a strip of green that looked as if it'd been sewn by God himself on a patchwork of dust and rocks. "Twenty years," he gasped. His memories of the place fit the image as perfectly as a postcard frozen in eternity. Nothing seemed touched by the ravages of events. Especially the master house, surrounded by rows of corn plants like a general surveying the battlefield. "Still a monument to injustice." he muttered.
Clutching the stock of his rifle, he limped along the dirt road that cut right through the fields like an arrow shot in a sea of turquoise. Simon gazed at the corn plants, as swarms of farmers moved back and forth under the watchful eyes of the foremen. "So much blood shed— yet, here we go again. Poor bastards shedding sweat and tears for their superiors. So long for equality and fraternity."

"You there!"

Simon turned, catching a glimpse of a man running towards him. As he approached, Simon's eye darted to the weapon holster on his belt. "What's the matter?" asked Simon.

"The matter is that vagrants and beggars aren't allowed here. Get off this property, now!" barked the guard.

Simon stuck his eyes right into the guard's, as he used to do in the days when he tried to elevate the country's lowest serfs into the highest tiers of an elite fighting force. "You know it was beggars who won the revolution for us? This is supposed to be their country now. Their property."

The guard's gaze wavered, as if trying to look for a justification. "I fought in the revolution too, you've got no rights to—," the man's hardened features melted like wax "Wait—General? General La Higuera?"

Simon's heart leaped in his throat. "I am. Who asks?"

The guard's lips sprouted in a smile "It's me, general. Angelo Mirada! I was one of your men during the assault at the government's barracks. Do you remember? We took the artillery, and that won the day!"

A bullet of memories struck Simon's mind. "Yes—Yes! I remember now. It's been a long time. What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same, general"

"I used to work here."

"And I work here now."

"You work for Don Batista?"

"Don Batista?"

"Yes, the master of the Hacienda".

The guard scratched his chin in a puzzled fashion. "I work for Don Alejandro, general. I know nothing of a Don Batista."

Simon felt his breath flee the lungs.
"What did you say?"

"Here general. Do you want me to introduce you?"

Simon shook his head and gazed at the main door shining under the midday sun like a slab of marble. He stretched a hand, feeling his muscles unable to comply.

"Is something wrong, sir?"

"No, nothing wrong. Rest, soldier. You've still got a long day—," Simon clutched the handle "and life ahead of you." The man returned to his duty, leaving Simon alone with his thoughts. "Alejandro the master of this house—" whispered. Then, he took a step inside, trying to brace himself for the impact with that new reality.

Simon's skin tickled as the dim light of the interior swallowed him. A string of sounds coming from further inside caressed his eardrums. Simon followed the trail in the air, as the music became louder and louder, until he reached the entrance of what seemed to be a study. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and entered the room.

The music stopped. Simon's eyes opened and met the pallor of a little girl's face. Her fingers were frozen in mid-air like little icicles; her mouth frozen in a silent shriek. Simon followed her gaze and realized his hands had run for his gun. A shadow leaped out of his blind spot, putting itself between him and the girl.

"Wait, I wasn't—"

"Who are you? Raise just a single finger on her, and I'll gut you like a pig!"

Simon eyes focused on the features of the woman before him. Despite a heavy make-up, her wrinkles made her skin look like a piece of parchment, telling a story of long days spent under the blows of the sun. Simon looked down and caught the glint of a blade pointed at his groin.

"Isabella? Why did you stop? It was a beautiful piece."

Simon's muscles hardened.He turned, as a figure emerged from the shadows of another room. Simon felt his tongue freezing in his mouth. "Alejandro?" The man looked at him, then turned to the woman and the child.

"Juanita, dear. Take the child away.
I've got— business with him." The woman took the girl's hand, slowly backed away and left the room.

Simon looked at the man. The memories of his older brother fit the image before his eyes like the wrong pieces of a puzzle. Alejandro's clothes were something the two brothers once couldn't even begin to dream for, and the beard that once had looked like goat's fur, now looked as if had been trimmed to perfection by the best scissors money could buy. The older brother approached a cupboard. Simon froze: his istinct screaming danger to every fiber of his body.

"Take a seat. You must be tired after walking all those miles from the capital."

Alejandro turned, and Simon felt the grip on his gun and heart loosening.
"Here. That's Irish Whiskey, you know? Good stuff. Not good like a Tequila, but good stuff. It's good for you. Or, as they say at the club in the capital, it has the most restorative effect. They have such a way with words, those lawyer suckers." Alejandro nodded and showed him to a little table where he put down the bottle and two glasses. He filled both up and offered one to Simon. "I think you should put that thing down first."Simon looked at the rifle, and slowly put it on the floor. Alejandro forced the glass into his fingers, and gulped his in one shot. {/b"

You were expecting me?"

Alejandro smiled. No matter the amount of silk he was wearing, Simon recognized his teeth were still rotten to the core like old logs. "We've got a free press now, don't we? There's not one in the country who isn't aware of the fact Simon La Higuera, hero of the revolution, is now out of jail. But I don't read that trash. One of my peons told me. News fly fast these days."

Simon took a sip. The whiskey filled his mouth like a wall of fire on a field of withered grass. "Not fast enough, it seems. What's this travesty, brother? Where's Don Batista?"

Alejandro poured himself another glass. "Ah! That's a good one! Me and the others have been asking ourselves the same thing for almost sixty years." The older brother raised his glass and gulped it down. "Right after you guys took power, Don Batista packed and ran, leaving it all behind. No surprise; weren't you the one who told the revolution was coming to skin him and all the pigs like him? Now he's probably up north with the Gringos, or maybe shoveling dirt in Africa, or perhaps under a bed of dirt. I really don't know, nor I care."

"You didn't answer my question."

Alejandro poured himself another drink. "Well, you know what? You were right about one thing. We didn't need him as master. So, after he left, we peons, sharecroppers, workers or whoever else was with us in those days occupied the Hacienda. Oh boy! Those were the days! We stuffed ourselves with his food, sucked his cellar dry, and did whatever we wanted. But. you know how those things work. Don't you, general? Wasn't it what you went fighting for?"

Simon found himself incapable of forcing out a single word. Alejandro smirked, poured him a shot of Whiskey, and then another for himself. Simon felt a nauseous miasma coming up from his stomach, and turned the glass away.

Alejandro drank from his glass, then picked up Simon's. "The thing went on for days, weeks, or maybe more. But then—" A sad expression surfaced on the older brother's face as he shook the bottle, "by then the food was all eaten, and all the wine drunk. So many left to find other places to raze. Only me, Juanita, and some others stayed. Then, the news that the land was to be given to the people came. And we took it. And we did exactly the same thing we'd been doing for generations: we worked it. And found we were good at working it, and i was good at selling its products and at getting good prices. So, the news flew fast. But, you know how fast they run. And so, soon people started calling me Don Alejandro. And, I liked it. And, I think I deserve it."

Alejandro put the bottle down. Simon picked it up, only to find it empty. "You were right. But I was righter. There'll always be a master. And there is a master now, me. Just like there are new masters in the capital. They know it, too. Only you still don't get it. And that's why they put you in jail." Alejandro patted his waistcoat and pulled out two cigars. "Because all that it takes to do a revolution is guts. But then, to run a country, or a farm, you need pesos; you need money! And so the great Raul Miguel De Alvado, your commander in chief and hero of the revolution, started taking money from the gringos. And with that money he built casinos to get their green leafs. And, the stroke of genius is, that he blamed you, and other poor sods like you, for that! What were the accusations? Oh, yes! High treason, conspiracy, bribery! You hit the doors of the prison even before you realized what'd hit you!""

"That son of a bitch—"

"You left your home to follow that son of a bitch. I warned you, didn't I? All that we're born equal manure. Only yokels like you could truly believe it. But not him. Because he reads books, you know? He knows people're not equal. He knows he can't let other people stand shoulder to shoulder now that he's got the power. First, it's rise up oppressed! Then, it's duck you suckers!"

Simon bit his hand, trying to stop it from reaching his weapon. "Then I guess you're smart too, aren't you? Now that you're the master of all this. How many books have you read?"

Alejandro smiled, taking a book from a nearby bookcase. Laughing, he ripped a page and used it to light his cigar. His rotten teeth flashed red as the flame reached the tip. "You see all these books? I haven't read one of them. But now, you can't even imagine how many ploughing lawyers I can hire!"

Simon clinched his fists on his thigs. He felt a silhouette under the fabric. His old knife. Just one second. A quick slit, and his brother's derision would drown in a gurgle of blood. The girl's eyes appeared out of his conscience, stopping his resolve like the tip of a spear pointed at his chest.

Alejandro's stared at him."You're dead, brother. You told me, I know this to be true. You died for the revolution. You died for all of this. But, from your carcass, something good grew for my family. And I know I'm in your debt for that. And, for that, I want to give you a second chance of coming back to the fold— if you're willing to pick up the plough again, and finish that work you never started twenty years ago." He chuckled. "You still know how to use a plough, don't you?"

Simon widened his eyes. "What do you mean?"

Alejandro giggled. "How silly of me. Of course you know how to plough. You've become an expert at it. Because, what was it? Oh, yes! Those who served the revolution, have ploughed the sea."

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