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XIII


Someone plunged a knife
Deep in my side.
Did he know why?
I don't know why.
Maybe he knew,
I never knew.
The blood flowed out
Of that mortal wound.
Did he know why?
I don't know why.
Maybe he knew,
I never knew.


His head lowered, his hands crossed over the pommel
of his saddle, Demetrio in melancholy accents sang the
strains of the intriguing song. Then he fell silent; for
quite a while he continued to feel oppressed and sad.

"You'll see, as soon as we reach Lagos you'll come out
of it, General. There's plenty of pretty girls to give us a
good time," Blondie said.

"Right now I feel like getting damn drunk," Deme-
trio answered, spurring his horse forward and leaving
them as if he wished to abandon himself entirely to his
sadness.

After many hours of riding he called Cervantes.

"Listen, Tenderfoot, why in hell do we have to go to
Aguascalientes?"

"You have to vote for the Provisional President of the
Republic, General!"

"President, what? Who in the devil, then, is this man
Carranza? I'll be damned if I know what it's all about."

At last they reached Lagos. Blondie bet that he would
make Demetrio laugh that evening.

Trailing his spurs noisily over the pavement, Deme-
trio entered "El Cosmopolita" with Luis Cervantes,
Blondie, and his assistants.

The civilians, surprised in their attempt to escape, re-
mained where they were. Some feigned to return to their
tables to continue drinking and talking; others hesitantly
stepped up to present their respects to the commander.

"General, so pleased! . . . Major! Delighted to meet you!"

"That's right! I love refined and educated friends,"
Blondie said. "Come on, boys," he added, jovially draw-
ing his gun, "I'm going to play a tune that'll make you
all dance."

A bullet ricocheted on the cement floor passing be-
tween the legs of the tables, and the smartly dressed
young men-about-town began to jump much as a woman
jumps when frightened by a mouse under her skirt. Pale
as ghosts, they conjured up wan smiles of obsequious ap-
proval. Demetrio barely parted his lips, but his followers
doubled over with laughter.

"Look, Blondie," Quail shouted, "look at that man
going out there. Look, he's limping."

"I guess the bee stung him all right."

Blondie, without turning to look at the wounded man,
announced with enthusiasm that he could shoot off the
top of a tequila bottle at thirty paces without aiming.

"Come on, friend, stand up," he said to the waiter.
He dragged him out by the hand to the patio of the
hotel and set a tequila bottle on his head. The poor
devil refused. Insane with fright, he sought to escape,
but Blondie pulled his gun and took aim.

"Come on, you son of a sea cook! If you keep on
I'll give you a nice warm one!"

Blondie went to the opposite wall, raised his gun and
fired. The bottle broke into bits, the alcohol poured over
the lad's ghastly face.

"Now it's a go," cried Blondie, running to the bar to
get another bottle, which he placed on the lad's head.

He returned to his former position, he whirled about,
and shot without aiming. But he hit the waiter's ear in-
stead of the bottle. Holding his sides with laughter, he
said to the young waiter:

"Here, kid, take these bills. It ain't much. But you'll
be all right with some alcohol and arnica."

After drinking a great deal of alcohol and beer, Deme-
trio spoke:

"Pay the bill, Blondie, I'm going to leave you."

"I ain't got a penny, General, but that's all right. I'll
fix it. How much do we owe you, friend?"

"One hundred and eighty pesos, Chief," the bartender
answered amiably.

Quickly, Blondie jumped behind the bar and with a
sweep of both arms, knocked down all the glasses and
bottles.

"Send the bill to General Villa, understand?"

He left, laughing loudly at his prank.

"Say there, you, where do the girls hang out?"
Blondie asked, reeling up drunkenly toward a small well-
dressed man, standing at the door of a tailor shop.

The man stepped down to the sidewalk politely to let
Blondie pass.

Blondie stopped and looked at him curiously, im-
pertinently.

"Little boy, you're very small and dainty, ain't you?
. . . No? . . . Then I'm a liar! . . . That's right! . . . You
know the puppet dance. . . . You don't? The hell you
don't! . . . I met you in a circus! I know you can even
dance on a tightrope! . . . You watch!"

Blondie drew his gun out and began to shoot, aiming
at the tailor's feet; the tailor gave a little jump at every
pull of the trigger.

"See! You do know how to dance on the tightrope,
don't you?"

Taking his friends by the arm, he ordered them to
lead him to the red-light district, punctuating every step
by a shot which smashed a street light, or struck some
wall, a door, or a distant house.

Demetrio left him and returned to the hotel, singing
to himself:

"Someone plunged a knife
Deep in my side.
Did he know why?
I don't know why.
Maybe he knew,
I never knew."





The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Category:
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
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