Wellz, Russian bombers, fascist couper wannabes, American ambassadors getting persona non grata…seems we got ourselves a rerun of the good old days of Cold War down here. It’s coup season fellers! What about an upbeat story in commemoration? I was gonna put this on 09/11 in remembrance of Allende's coup, but duty called. Anyways, here it is (P.S.: September eleven, 1973: We will never forget).
“Today is a great day to the people of Santamaría! Salvador Moral has cowardly committed suicide as the valiant revolutionary forces, led by former mayor of the province of Luna Llena, and current president of our great nation, Augusto Médici.
“However, some of the sanguinary troops of the communist dictator that are still loyal to his reign of injustice and evil managed to escape punishment for their terrible crimes. The general of the great revolutionary forces informs our network that he shall not rest until they are brought to justice.
“The president of our sister nation, the United States of America, whose ambassador just returned to our country after being declared persona non grata by the deceitful Moral, made a speech in which he expressed his support to the valiant and noble Freedom Fighters that put an end to the dictator’s reign of oppression of the people.
“Among the many crimes of Salvador Moral was his financial support to terrorist groups that oppose the democratically elected leader of our sister nation, Colombia. These groups have already kidnapped and murdered more than a hundred people, and have made many terror campaigns aiming to destabilize the Colombian government these last few years.
“But the evil regime of Moral fell thanks to the destabilizing actions of our revolutionaries, supported by the CIA. The movement culminated in the apprehension and elimination of key supporters of Moral’s government, coupled with a campaign of shock and awe to disorient Moral’s less important supporters, all of them accomplices in the former dictator’s politics, that have brought famine and poverty to our previously rich and powerful country.
“The destabilizing actions allowed the popular masses to invade the palace yesterday, when thousands of people defeated with ease the few dozens of murdering animals that still supported the decadent and corrupt regime.
“And now, after this objective report on the facts, a message of our new government, expounding their version for this story about when courage and honour won over brute strength.”
Every man and woman in the bar lifted their glasses and laughed out loud. At least all that had glasses nearby. But no one lifted as enthusiastically as José. He probably only not got up from his chair and started jumping and giggling hysterically because he was in public.
After a few seconds, the glasses lowered one by one, but José’s kept itself in the air, only descending moments after the conversation had begun again.
The group of friends always met at Fernando’s bar, and they always sat at the same table: the second one from the counter to the door, right beside the poster where a woman with an extremely large cleavage offered them a bottle of some beer.
José was more or less the leader, he decided when the meetings would take place, and many times decided what was going to be discussed. From the previous night’s soccer match to why bachelordom is really the way to go. Ramón wasn’t even close to that, and didn’t want to.
But Ramón is the focus of this story. No special reason. Or perhaps the lack of reasons might be a reason in itself.
At any rate, Ramón was thinking of the previous day, when the people in green uniforms came down his street, with jeeps; shot down all the human barriers that stood in their way to the palace, throwing stones and being shot dead. The streets were still littered with bodies. He smiled, happy. But he didn’t have much time to think about that, because exclaimed, also smiling:
“I had a great idea!”
The group of friends dropped their glasses of beer on the table, changed slightly their position on the chairs and focused their attention on José, who said, with apparent spontaneity, but measuring each word, “We could…help the government, maybe,” he said, simply, “You know what I mean?”
Ramón and the others were intrigued with José’s proposal, and what it meant. Since the others just nodded, or just did nothing; Ramón asked what José meant by that.
“You know what I mean, we could teach the chili son of bitches that this country is ours again and that their shitty president finally got fucked.”
And, saying that, he picked up a stick with nails on the tip from his bag. Such a stick must have required some work to craft, and denoted the premeditated character of José’s idea.
Those that had previously nodded heisted for a moment. José’s face, normally paler than the others, was red. Ramón’s too, but for different reasons. He looked around the bar to see if anyone was staring at them. Some were.
“We don’t need to feel shame! We gotta help the new government in putting the people in power again!” said José, with enthusiasm. His left hand grasped strongly at the club, and his right hand rubbed slightly the silver and gold crucifix incrusted with diamonds tied to his neck.
“We gotta put those lazy brainless savages back into their place! We gotta do like Brazil or the United States, tell them to go live in a reserve and give the good lands to the working people. Only this way we’ll make Santamaría better!” José was the heir of a wealthy owner of many fertile lands, that visited the farm twice an year, spending the rest of the time in the parties of the high society that lived in the capital.
Ramón worked in a bank, but he wasn’t rich. He had a wife and three children. Sometimes he spent time with his friends in the Fernando’s bar.
“It’s our duty to help the government save Santamaría from chaos! I made four more clubs, here,” Saying that, he took even more clubs from his bag, and gave one to each of his friends. Ramón received his last. He couldn’t refuse now that all his friends had agreed. Could he?
“Tell those chili bastards to go to hell!” said a man of about seventy years old, lacking many teeth in his mouth.
Ramón grasped the club. Everyone in the bar lifted their glasses and cheered. Ramón had decided to accompany his friends, but he wouldn’t beat any Chielli Indian. His friends probably just wanted to have some fun anyway. No violence.
But he had no luck. A Chielli couple was selling indigenous ceramic art in a makeshift counter not far from there. They had lived in misery most of their life, and only recently did they manage to obtain enough financial stability to move to the capital, where they could sell their ceramic. But the tourists stopped coming since the civil war started.
José, seeing that affront to his democratic ideals, approached the counter, raising the club.
“Please, sir, we don’t want trou…”
“Shut up you stinking son of a mule! Your commie president isn’t there to protect you no more!” with a quick swing of the club, José destroyed most of the vases and other crudely handcrafted objects that were on the counter. The others, encouraged by this display of power, started clubbing the ceramic on the ground. Ramón, to avoid shame, took a ashtray that had been left standing on the counter and threw it on the ground. And stepped on it.
The group of friends then destroyed the fragile wooden construction that supported an ugly plaque, where “Xelle ceramk” could be read. They cackled. Except for Ramón. The wood cracked. Ramón hit here and there, without enthusiasm, only a weird feeling in his stomach. He looked at the faces of the Chielli, and to their deep brown eyes, from where tears poured.
They were ugly. Especially the woman. Their skins dried by the sun, dishevelled hair, almost toothless, their nails broken and dirty and sickly. José’s nails were much better looking. A much better symbol. The woman was fat. José’s crucifix shined attractively. The feeling in Ramón’s stomach became more intense.
“Gonna do something you chili son of bitches!? Don’t you got courage? Where’s your courage godless Indian!? You don’t believe in God do you, you pagans?” José kicked one of the wooden pieces of the counter still left standing, “Do something you blokes!”
Ramón saw the woman take her hand to her own chest and below her dirty shirt and take a badly made wooden crucifix and pray. The feeling in Ramón’s stomach grew. It was disgust. He felt like he would throw up. He picked a stone from the ground and threw it on the woman’s face. It hit her nose. She screamed, less from pain than from fear. She ran.
Everyone ran after her, except Ramón. His friends ran with clubs in the air. Her husband with the hands in the air. Yelling for them to stop.
José managed to grab her by the hair and throw her to the ground. Some strands of hair were still in his hand. One of his friends hit her jawbone with so much force that Ramón was sure it had broken it. Broken her. He ran over there. José and the others hit their clubs wherever they could, as many times as they could. The nails penetrated the meat and blood flew everywhere.
Her husband managed to reach them, screaming and trying to pull them from her. She didn’t scream. Ramón beat his club on the man’s arm. The arm bended in an angle that human arms were not supposed to bend. The man screamed. She didn’t scream anymore.
José clubbed the man’s knee, and he fell. Ramón spun his club in a wide vertical arc and hit squarely the face of the fallen man. A nail entered his eye, with a weird noise.
The others still clubbed and kicked the woman.
“Pregnant…Pregnant…” the man tried to say. But only Ramón stopped. José beat his club between the man’s legs.
“This’ll teach you a lesson you shitty blockhead! We got three instead of only two. Buy two, take three,” José laughed at his own joke, blood on his face, “Well enough. The less chili blood we have to pollute Santamaría the better, I say.
Everybody stopped beating, tired, panting. Laughing.
“Twas good what we did here today. If we do that every day, soon we’ll be back in the good old days before Moral. The seventies. Those were the days.”
The feeling of disgust had passed, and Ramón couldn’t help but to shed a tear. And the salty tear of pride and patriotism fell on one of the wounds of the Chielli man, making it sting even more until his death came. But the sting only lasted a few seconds.