by Camille Thomasson
The boy asked for chew. I offered him a pinch. He took three. He was only eleven but those were hard times in a hard country in a bad season. The beeves were dead. Carcasses swelled, the earth cracked, stench spread her black fingers across rattling plain grass. La canícula is the time of bleached bones and dust, but la canícula during wartime is to be between the searing sun and cannon fire, death from thirst or death at the hands of the trigger-happy.
We let the horses loose to give them free range and a fighting chance. We bartered buckles and sabers for an egg, for flour. Let them have their war. I never had a slave. I’m going back to Goliad to find my wife and daughter.
I said this to the south wind, not the boy. I heard him pull his rifle. Now I was looking down the barrel. You quittin’? You a coward? said the high-voiced kid.
I said, Son, sooner or later the rain will come. No place on earth springs back to life faster than the Texas plain. For now, we’re ghosts and this is the land of the dead. You’re a ghost. I’m a ghost. All we can do is wait for the hand of God to bring us back to life.
I walked away, not knowing if an eleven-year old orphan with enough chew in his cheek to make a grown man sick would let me live or shoot me in the back. In that moment, the parched prairie grass smelled sweet and the blue of the sky was a gift and I thought don’t take me away from this hell. I still have hopes for it.
Camille Thomasson is a professional screenwriter from South Texas.