The Company – 10

It was a desertic day in August. You could stick your tongue out and it would dry up like a prune. We were sprawled under a tree, counting the countless army of grass leaves, or maybe smoking towards the clouds. As a joke we dared each other to do it. To put a foot down on that bridge and then venture a step forward. A stupid idea, of course, but it started as a joke. Later on, with its due seriousness, utterly aware of the dangerous undertaking, Turd and I accepted our own challenge. Why not? What did we have to lose? What else was there to do? It was the perfect day to be a moron, not to open a door but to go straight across it. OldThrown didn’t have an opinion, but he was still breathing.

We stuffed our hunting bags in our pockets and, without stretching our muscles, we set out in that foolhardy incursion into the savage neighbourhoods that lurked on the other side of the river, with their swollen buildings and dog-urine ridden sidewalks, with their dark trees and ill-intentioned creatures, like iguanas in the shadows, patiently waiting for their prey to appear.

As usual, we were heavy-laden with OldThrown. I’m not trying to say that he were a bothersome load, because that he never was. But he was still a load, inasmuch as we had to keep pulling at him if we wanted for him to follow us. Just like a kid. Sometimes he would flaunt his stubbornness and anchored his feet on the ground, and I had to grab one arm, Turd the other, and we would drag him, until through bad-mouthing his daughter he would come to his senses — or whatever he had within his skull that played the part of his senses.

Reaching the bridge, we looked at the other side. There was still time to reconsider. Why not to buy some cans of cold beer and let the hours pass in the safety of our environs? We could always cross the bridge another day. But Turd said “Are we really going to do this?” Possibly his way of backing down. But I responded with a “I guess,” and that was it. We didn’t say anything for a while and then we started walking along the bridge. First with an exaggerated confidence in our courage, which dissipated with each one of our steps, and was completely gone by the time that we reached the center of the bridge. From that point on, a feeling grew more and more intense in our guts. The realization that we were foreigners in adverse grounds. The suspicion that we were walking to our disappearance.

The fear in us was a fire thrusting our engines. When we stepped on the other side of the bridge, our adrenaline-bursting bodies still thought that they were athletic and ready for anything. Even OldThrown seemed to exude equal measures of alertness and anticipation. The sky was clear and intense, and we weren’t drunk. We were ready for some thoughtful exploration.

In principle, our only plan — after all we were mere adventurers and hunters, not brainless heroes—, had been not to wander stray too far away from the bridge. Just to walk around the adjacent streets and squares. Never too far away from the bridge. Inspect the material piled around the recycling containers. There could be wearable clothes, bottles of fancy whisky with some remaining drops, a dominos set with only a two-three missing. Always retreating to the bridge as our safety net. We would placidly spend a couple of hours either finding gold or experiencing again the calmed disappointment of an empty-handed search. In either case, we would know when it was time to return to our side of the city.

That was our simple plan. A placid stroll, contemplating the arrangement of the bricks on the walls, and the cobbles on the sidewalks. A general assessment of the offerings as well as the potential dangers and their lurking hideouts. There could even have been time to observe the bathing of fat sparrows in a puddle, their vivacious fluttering drawing a smile on OldThrown mask.

Our plans, however, rarely go according to plan. Otherwise, I would be the proud owner of a three-story bookshop only frequented by customers that asked the right questions and strung the right chords from the creaking wood floors, and Turd would be an operator in a churro stand, frying the fragrant dough, sprinkling each marvel generously with sugar, every other churro not making it into a parcel to be sold, but going down his gullet.

Turd saw them first and alerted me about their presence with an elbow nudge that penetrated my side. Before I could properly insult him, he murmured “Trouble,” looking down the street. Still at some distance, a couple of fascists, with their shaven heads, their overdeveloped bodies, and the attitude and fashion style that attested a deep compromise to their cause, and a generous close mindedness to go with it.

“Should we run?” Turd asked.

“Let’s wait a moment,” I murmured. Sometimes you had to hold your ground and see whether you were lucky and the fire stopped right at your footsteps without burning your toes.

They didn’t see us at first. We were ready to display a statuesque show and go unnoticed. Dead muscles, inoffensive gazes, nothing out of the ordinary. We would just be three smudges protruding on the city, like bark on a tree or a speck of dry mud on the sole of a boot. Our enemy would pass by us without colliding, at most they would simply hate our presence, project an insult or a threat, maybe spit at us, but a spit as a final statement, a last word. They would spit in their way out, we would remain statues for a minute or so, then reconstitute ourselves as human beings again. No harm done. Life as usual once again.

The one that seemed the leading fascist, the largest one, was fiery, his face red with contempt and tension. When he looked ahead of him and saw us, steam blew from his ears; purpose, as fuel, accelerating his trajectory in our direction. He said something to his second-in-command, and suddenly the duet of mastiffs was a missile with us as its target.

“Yes, let’s run,” I urged, getting up and launching my body forward, Turd having more problems mobilizing his massive frame. OldThrown also seemed to understand what a close encounter with the fascists would entail, and he started to run as soon as we did, completely on his own.

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