Inside the shack, Cayetana found a chair and a bed frame made of wood and ropes. There was a machete under the bed. A pregnant girl from distant Escuinapa was there, waiting. Cayetana didn't know her, but she let her move in, since the girl was afraid that she would lose her infant to coyotes if she had it outside. Cayetana accepted the girl's blessing, then swung the machete a few times. She liked the big blade. She started to walk home.
The sun was already setting. She didn't like that. The dark frightened her. That road was also scary. It wound between black cottonwoods and gray willows. Crickets, frogs, night birds, bats, coyotes, and ranch dogstheir sounds accompanied her through the dark. When she had to peeand since the child had sprouted inside her, she had to pee all the timeshe squatted in the middle of the road and held the machete above her head, ready to kill any demon or bandit that dared leap out at her. An owl hooted in a tree behind her, and that made her hurry.
She came around a bend and saw a small campfire off to the side of the road. It was on the south side. That was a good omennorth was the direction of death. Or was it west? But south was all right.
A man stood by the fire, holding a wooden bowl. He was chewing, and he watched her approach. A horse looked over his shoulder, more interested in the bowl than in her. Her stomach growled and her mouth watered. She hadn't eaten in a day. She should have hidden in the bushes, but he had already seen her.
"Buenas noches," she called.
He looked up as if noticing the darkness for the first time.
"It is," he agreed. Then: "Don't hit me with that machete."
"This is for bandidos."
"Son cabrones," she explained. "And I'll kill the first one that tries anything."
"Excellent," he said.
He put food in his mouth.
"I don't think you can kill a ghost," he said.
"We'll see about that," she said, flashing her blade.
The small fire crackled.
"What are you eating?" she asked.
"Cherries? What are cherries?"
He held one up. In the faint fire glow, it looked like a small heart full of blood.
"They come from trees," he said.
"Son malos?" she asked. "They look wicked."
"They are very wicked," he said.
"I am going home," she said.
"So am I."
"Is this your horse?"
"It is, but I like to walk."
Copyright © 2005 by Luis Alberto Urrea
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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