The pain in her belly kicked Cayetana Chávez over. She
dropped her cup. She felt a cascade of fluids move down her
bowels as the child awoke. Her belly!
It clenched. It jumped. It clenched.
At first, she thought it was the cherries. She had never
eaten them before. If she had known they would give her a case
of chorro . . .
"Ay," she said, "Dios."
She thought she was going to have to rush to the bushes.
They had come for her the day before. The Chávez girls were
known by everybody. Although Santana Ranch was divided into two
great lobes of territorycrops to the south and cattle to the
norththere were only fifty workers' households, and with the
children and grandparents added up, it made for fewer than 150
workers. Everybody knew better than to bother Cayetana's older
sister, Tía. Good Christ: the People would rather move a
rattlesnake out of their babies' cribs with a stick than go to
Tía's door. So when they came from the northern end of the
rancho with news that one of the Chávez sisters' cousins had
killed himself, they'd asked for La Semalú.
Ay, Dios. Cayetana was only fourteen, and she had already
learned that life was basically a long series of troubles. So
she had wrapped her rebozo around her head and put on her flat
huaraches and begun her slow waddle through the darkness before
the sun rose.
She wondered, as she walked, why the People called her
Hummingbird. Was it because she was small? Well, they were
all small. Everyone knew semalús were holy birds, carrying
prayers to God. She also knew she had a bad reputation, so
calling her Semalú was probably some kind of joke. They loved
to make jokes. Cayetana spit: she did not think anything was
funny. Especially now. Her poor cousin. He had shot himself in
the head. Her mother and father were dead, shot down in an army
raid in Tehueco lands. Her aunt and uncle had been hanged in a
grove of mango trees by soldiers that mistook them for fleeing
Yaquis near El Júpare. The men were strung up with their pants
around their ankles. Both men and women hung naked as fruit.
Some of the Mexicans had collected scalps. She sighed. Aside
from her sister, she was alone in the world. She put her hands
on her belly as she walked along the north road. It was three
miles to the cattle operation. The baby kicked.
Not yet, not yet.
She didn't mind being called a hummingbird.
Hours later, she pushed through the shaky gate of her
cousin's jacal. He was still lying on his back in the dirt.
Someone had placed a bandana over his face. His huaraches were
splayed. His toes were gray. The blood on the ground had turned
black. He didn't stink yet, but the big flies had been running
all over him, pausing to rub their hands. A rusty pistola lay
in the dirt a few inches from his hand.
The neighbors had already raided her cousin's shack and
taken all his food. Cayetana traded the pistola to a man who
agreed to dig a hole. He dug it beside a maguey plant beside
the fence, and they rolled the body into it. They shoved the
dirt over him and then covered the grave with rocks so the dogs
wouldn't dig it up.
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