"Oh no," said his best friend, Don Lauro Aguirre, the great Engineer, on one of his regular visits.
"There was a young man from Guamúchil," Tomás recited, "whose name was Pinche Inútil!"
"And?" said Don Lauro.
"I haven't worked it out yet."
Tomás rode his wicked black stallion through the frosting of starlight that turned his ranch blue and pale gray, as if powdered sugar had blown off the sky and sifted over the mangos and mesquites. Most of the citizens of Sinaloa had never wandered more than 100 miles; he had traveled more than anyone else, 107 miles, an epic journey undertaken five days before, when he and his foreman, Segundo, had led a squad of armed outriders to Los Mochis, then to the Sea of Cortés beyond. All to collect Don Lauro Aguirre, arriving by ship from far Mazatlán, and with him, a shipment of goods for the ranch, which they contracted for safe delivery in a Conducta wagon train accompanied by cavalry.
In Los Mochis, Tomás had seen the legendary object called "the sea."
"More green than blue," he'd noted to his companions, already an expert on first sight. "The poets are wrong."
"Pinches poets," said Segundo, hating all versifiers and psalmists.
They had gone on to greet the Engineer at the docks. He fairly danced off the boat, so charged with delight was he to be once again in the rustic arms of his bon ami très enchanté! Under his arm, carefully wrapped in oilcloth, Aguirre clutched a leather-bound copy of Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. In Aguirre's opinion, the Scotsman had written a classic! Don Lauro had a nagging suspicion that electricity, this occult force, and magnetism, certainly a force of spirit, could be used to locate, and even affect, the human soul. In his pocket, a greater wonder was hidden: a package of Adams's Black Jack chewing gumthe indescribable flavor of licorice! Wait until Tomás tasted that!
The ship looked to Segundo like a fat bird with gray wings floating on the water after eating some fish. He was delighted with himself and pointed to the boat and told one of the buckaroos, "Fat bird. Ate some fish. Floating around." He lit a little cigar and grinned, his gums and teeth clotted with shreds of tobacco.
Segundo had the face of an Aztec carving. He had Chinese eyes, and a sloping Mayan forehead. His nose was a great curving blade that hung down over his drooping bandido mustache. He thought he was handsome. But then, Aguirre also thought himself handsome, though he seemed to have inherited the penchant for fat cheeks that was supposed to be the curse of the Urrea clan. He tried to remember to suck in his cheeks, especially when he was being compared to his friend Tomás Urrea. Where had Tomás's cheeks gone? In bright light, you could see his cheekbones casting shadows as if he were some Indian warrior. And those eyes! Urrea had a ferocious gleam in his eyesa glare. Men found it unnerving, but women were apparently mesmerized. They were the only green eyes Aguirre had ever beheld.
Copyright © 2005 by Luis Alberto Urrea
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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