User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Isidro Alvaro de Jesus Dominguez was fifteen but barely tall enough to peer through the hole in the wooden fence surrounding the soccer field. Several times a year, the strangers who descended on his village were rumored to be from Guadalajara, but no one knew for sure. His mother tried to keep this secret pleasure from him.

Often the games didn’t begin until midnight. Because his mother wouldn't allow him out of the house after sundown, these night-time sorties, walking down dark alleyways and lurking in shadows behind trees when a car approached, added to the joy he experienced. Miguel or Angel, whose mothers were used to their sons coming and going at all hours of the night, mocked him for worrying about his mother. 

They spoke slangy Spanish, thick with the words of el Norte.troca, lonche (lunch), bai (bye), unlike the soft intonations and contractions of Tabasco. Every night the canvas-topped trocas filled with men and women were dropped off in the town square near the church of St. Isidro the Farmer, his own namesake saint and his father's dying wish before tuberculosis finally killed him.

In the morning, his mother mentioned the Guadalajara men were leaving that night. He wondered how she knew that as she covered herself in her black lace funeral shawl and avoided speaking to anyone the few times she left their home unless she had to walk to the market to buy flour for tortillas.   

That night was his last chance to watch the men from Guadalajara. The day passed slowly, even though he dragged out his chores and paced in his tiny bedroom to make the sun go down faster. 

Waiting for the rhythmic sound of her breathing in a deep sleep, he crept out his bedroom window. He had traveled this route so often he could have done it blindfolded.

He took his place near the knothole where he always watched. The field was dark, but the men stood around near the trucks smoking. The crimson arcs of cigarettes being drawn into mouths looked like fireflies from a distance. A 55-gallon barrel was blazing near the entrance gate. Sparks flew above the rim and made popping sounds in the night air.

The words coming from behind and so close to him, despite the friendly tone, made him leap forward and bang his head against the wood of the fence; he dropped back on his haunches. The speaker was one of the Guadalajara men. When Isidro dared to look up, he saw the man’s mouth covered in a black handkerchief knotted in the back. One hand cupped the stock of an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder. He walked away in no hurry, slipping into the dark heading toward the men near the trucks.

Venga,” the man ordered in a calm voice.

Isidro was tempted to run, bolt for home, hide in the underbrush beyond the field. But something else, a voice in his head, ordered him to follow the man. 

Up close, he heard their slangy gabble, note the butts of big silver or black guns on hips, and held his breath when they noticed him coming.

One of the men who saw the man approach with him trailing behind said: "⸮Qu¿ pedo, wey?"

The “wey” pronunciation of güey, a slang word he’d understood to be friendly for a ‘teammate’ during their soccer games.

The man spoke rapidly to a man standing near the front of the truck. The man said something back. Isidro didn't hear.

Two men grabbed him by the shoulders and shoved him ahead of them. They led him to the barrel. The man with the rifle said, “Mira, chico. El guiso.”

Isidro didn’t understand what “looking at stew” had to do with anything, but with his heart hammering, he stepped up to the rim and peered inside. 

A flaming human head cocked up, perched on a smoldering blackened pile, looked back at him, flames spurting out of both eye sockets. A sooty smoke boiled up through fissures in the skull and from the locked-open mouth. The gold incisor told him he was staring at the head of Diego Becerra.

The man who spoke to the man with the rifle grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. A flashlight blinded him, searching his face. Isidro shut his eyes but resisted squirming away from the man’s painful grasp. Sweeping the beam back and forth across his face several more times, he turned away from Isidro and spoke to the man with the rifle.

Several pairs of hands hustled Isidro into the back of a truck. Laughter from two men seated near the tailgate. And One man stood behind a mounted gun. The gun barrel was so long it swiveled over the cab in a sweeping motion. 

Isidro understood at once two things: he would never see his mother again. The other was that where he was going was into a world he had glimpsed the first time he sat behind a wooden fence and watched dangerous men kick a soccer ball around a field. 



Born and raised in Northeastern Ohio, Robb (Terry )White has published several crime, noir, and hardboiled novels as well as crime, horror, and mainstream stories in various magazines like Down & Out, Mystery Weekly, Tough, Mystery Tribune, Switchblade, Out of the Gutter, and Near to the Knuckle. His two ongoing series feature private eyes Thomas Haftmann of Jefferson-on-the-Lake & Raimo Jarvi of Northtown, Ohio.


Donate a little?

Use PayPal to support our efforts:


Genre Poll

Your Favorite Genre?

Sign Up for info from Short-Story.Me!

Stories Tips And Advice