Montezuma, My Revolver
The first time I ever died, I was stabbed in the chest then set on fire by my friends on the bridge. It was late afternoon, and it seemed like the world was resisting the change of light, when everything looks the same peaceful grey, all one blurry shadow. As a kid, I thought, this is what heaven must look like--always dusk, just dark enough to fall asleep forever. The outlines of the American buildings merged seamlessly with the background of a flat Mexican landscape as if there were no border between us and them, no fence or armed guards, no difference between the U.S and Mexico--at least, not at this time of day.
I remember thinking I was jealous of the old men and women making their way across the crowded bridge by foot, faster. They stared at us--three punks in a fancy black truck, practically standing still in the smog of the crossing. We inched forward one conversation at a time. The sun disappeared behind the edge of the world to my left, and to my right, los viejitos walking. The daylight was being swallowed by the stench that arose from the brownness of the Rio Grande in the summer, but I loved that smell.
Chuy was in the back seat and Bobby Loco in the front. These were my partners and best friends. Chuy got his name from his father, even though his mother called him Jesús, which he hated. And Bobby Loco, Roberto Garza to his mother, earned his name on the streets of Brownsville. We did almost everything together, even the dealing. Vicente Fernandez played loud as hell and the feeling of music pounded our chests. "El Rey" was like our anthem. We talked in raised voices about plans for that night. It always led to stupid shit that nineteen-year-olds talk about when they've got money and time--who we've fucked, who we wanted to fuck, who wanted to fuck us, and lies we told as truths. The trip across the bridge would be a slow one, and we knew it. But, it was finally Friday, and that's all that mattered.
Cano, our fat boss, sent us on a big delivery guaranteed to make us a lot of money. It was the reason we were still here, still doing this shit after high school. Chuy's cousin Carlos was Border Patrol and worked on Fridays except when his ugly wife, Mona La Llorona needed him to take care of their baby. She was a nurse always on call or some bullshit like that, so Carlos had to be ready to go when she needed him. We had it all figured out though, when a delivery had to be made. Carlos was just an added guarantee, the kind of security we were willing to pay for.
Bobby Loco was also the only real American citizen in my truck and it made us feel safe too. Chuy was a mojado like me, but we both pretended we weren't, for the girls mostly. I could speak English because I graduated from a high school in Brownsville where I met Bobby who barely talked at all. Chuy, I met in a Mexican jail when we were just chavalones. I graduated for my father who died the summer before ninth grade, shot by Cano. I know. I was too angry to feel anything at the time. So at the funeral, my mother cried enough for the both of us. I just stared at el jefe's coffin even after everyone left. Pinche Cano pretended to be angry about my father's death, pretended he would seek revenge in his name, find out who did it, do what a son's supposed to do.
Cano was my jefe's best friend--partners with him, like me, Bobby and Chuy. He even took care of me after my father died, out of guilt, maybe fear. Of course, I loved my father, and that's why I went to work for Cano after the funeral, selling dime bags to middle schoolers for candy money. I did it because I knew it was him all along--pinche Cano.
Working for that fat fuck was how I'd get my revenge, and I couldn't wait for the day to come when I could get close enough to pull the trigger. It took me five years to decide to do it. By then, I was nineteen and big time--it was harder to do because of the money. I told myself, just one more big deal and then Cano's dead.
Sometimes, I couldn't hold his fat ass up when he'd lean in on me, breathing hot, sour words in my face, high on coke, smelling of tequila.
"Yo quería a tu jefe, chingos, carnal. I loved your 'apa," he'd confess repeatedly. "I loved him chingos."
"I know, Cano," I would tell him, "I know."
Every night he got drunk like that, I thought I'd do it. Kill him.
We knew we were in the U.S. side already. A dirty plaque stuck to the railing on the right marked the line. We were so high by then. I always carried a .357 magnum on my waist, and I wore a gold cross, blessed by Padre Buendía for protection. Chuy, in the back, always sucked on his stupid lollypop, a nasty habit we all hated, but tolerated because of his connection at the checkpoint. Bobby carried a big knife in his boot, usually. He liked starting shit for no reason. He was famous for it, even. They used to call him "Animal"--in high school before he dropped out--in part because of his size, part of it, because of his temper. Known throughout middle school for losing an eyeball while playing with bottle rockets, by the time he was twenty, he was the most feared vato in Brownsville. His glass eye had a red pupil, scary, but stupid at the same time.
Yeah, Bobby was a killer, or at least was fucked up enough to kill. That's why Cano liked him. For about a month, the chupacabra was blamed for all Bobby's fine work in Brownsville. It was all over The Brownsville Herald--pictures of Bruno Cano's enemies, gutted--big dealers found dead in alleys, trying to hold on to their insides spilling from their bodies, eyes wide, open-mouthed, or just left thrown in their cars or the cornfields north of town. "The Chupacabra at Large," the paper would say. Bobby Loco always made it look like an animal did it. That was his talent.
Right before I had left the house that night, my mother gave me a revolver that belonged to my father. It was all he left me, she said. It was all I was packing. Back at my place, I'd forgotten my .357, so this was good because I hated being without protection. I had put my jefe's revolver in my right boot, where he used to carry it, where it belonged. Mamá was proud to see me handle it the way she said el jefe would. He never called it a gun, but a revolver, and he named it Montezuma. He used to say that he only used it for "special occasions," like for revenge, mostly. One bullet at a time, for one target was his rule.
The fiery blue, pearl grip fit perfectly in my hands.
I had my father's hands.
The gun was engraved with the original nickel plate finish from 1948, a strong weapon, fucking beautiful. Montezuma was my baby now, my revolver, and saving my own ass was always a "special occasion."
I stopped drinking as soon as the sun went down and told Chuy and Bobby to shut up. It never took us this long to cross, I thought. Something was wrong and I lowered the volume to listen to myself for a moment.
We were stuck behind a dirty rig with mud flaps that were decorated with shiny naked women. The mufflers growled every time it moved a foot. I couldn't see very good in either direction. Behind us, another rig blocked our view to Matamoros. La migra looked restless up ahead. Heads in uniforms moved in and out of car windows and made me nervous. Maybe Mona La Llorona had called Carlos to take care of the baby tonight.
"You think we're fucked?" Bobby asked me.
"I don't know, vato. Did Carlos tell you que no iba estar?" I asked Chuy.
"No. No me dijo nada," he said.
"¿You didn't talk to Carlos o La Llorona tanpoco?"
"Your cousin's wife, baboso--Mona La Llorona!"
"No. No. She didn't call," he insisted.
I saw two Border Patrol guys walking toward us, checking with their flashlights, hands on their shiny, government-issued Barrettas, approaching everyone with caution.
This was no routine.
We'll shoot it out with them was my first reaction. No. We'll make a run for it and do what Cano told us to do in a situation like this.
"We should burn the shit and run," I said.
No one said anything back.
Bobby started to get paranoid, sweating on my leather seats, hand on his knife. Chuy spit his candy out the window and finished the line of coke carefully balanced on his left hand. We always carried five gallons of gasoline behind the third seat of my truck just in case we needed it, and it looked like we might. Chuy struggled with the tank, to bring it over. He washed the seats behind me with gasoline as fast as he could before I realized what Bobby was doing with his big fucking knife.
U.S. Customs reported that their hunch about us was bad information on their part. They didn't ask me any questions because Chuy had emptied the drugs before we left Matamoros, and I didn't know it. Fucking Cano. La Migra found no drugs in my smoldering truck, just me, pronounced dead at the scene, stabbed and burned alive by those fucking putos. Montezuma was found and returned to my mother, unharmed. She told the authorities at the hospital that it as a family heirloom.
The first time I died, I was stabbed in the chest then set on fire by my best friends on the bridge. I checked out of Brownsville Medical Center two weeks later, unrecognizable from the burns, ready to settle the score with Bobby Loco, Chuy, and most of all, Bruno Cano--ready to hold Montezuma once again and kill in honor of my father.
About the author:
Fernando is a graduate student at Texas Tech University working on a Ph.D. in American Literature. He grew up down in Brownsville, a town on the border in south Texas where some of his stories come from. His short fiction has appeared in Flashing in the Gutters, Fictional Musings and most recently, in MeatJournal.