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Back You are here: Home Stories Words for the People Poetry March 2011: The Ides La Amante
Monday, 28 February 2011 23:26

La Amante

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La Amante has hung shimmering above the mantle since I was a toddler. The glimmer of the chrome was what first attracted me to it. I was told very early that I was never to touch it. After all, it was Grandpa Antonio’s gun. A revolver he had gotten from his father Papa Julio, who grew up in the Wild, Wild West. Well, not so much the Wild, Wild, West, but what was the equivalent in northern Mexico. It was a beautiful six-shooter that was nicknamed, “La Amante”,  “The Mistress”. It was named so because it was the only other woman my great-grandfather ever did such wicked things with. Grandpa Antonio got it when Papa Julio died and then passed it down to my father right before he perished. I am heir to the gun once Pops is gone.

It’s always a topic of discussion when people come to the house. One can’t help but ask why there is a gun hanging above the fireplace where a family portrait or something just as personal should be. Pops loves to tell the stories that come with the gun. Some true, some less than. Pops especially loves to tell the story of how his grandfather, my great-grandfather, Papa Julio, obtained La Amante. Pops always starts off with, “Now, legend has it…” and goes on about how his grandfather used to run with the likes of Pancho Villa, when he was still a bandito. Tonight my father isn’t here to tell you the story, so I will have to fill in for him. Do not be daunted as I’ve heard my father tell the story a million times. Please believe me when I tell this tale.

Now legend has it that one day Papa Julio was in a cantina and getting properly drunk. A man bumped into him and Papa Julio took offense when the stranger offered no apology. They exchanged some words right before Papa Julio challenged him to a duel. The stranger looked at Papa Julio’s drunken demeanor and told him he needed to sit back down and finish his drink because, as the stranger put it, he didn’t want to have to do something he would regret. Stumbling to his feet, Papa Julio again challenged the stranger to a duel.

“Señor, you are the one that will be sorry if you DO take me up on my offer!”

Slightly confused, the stranger dismissed Papa Julio’s challenge. Papa Julio continued to egg the stranger on to a fight. It wasn’t until he called the stranger a coward that he finally broke through to the man. At the time, no man ever let another man call him a coward.

The stranger got up from his chair and told Papa Julio to meet him outside in order to have his honor stripped from him. Papa Julio told him he had to get ready and needed 5 minutes. The stranger told him he had two minutes and that if he wasn’t out by then, he would be the coward. Papa Julio smirked at the stranger and waved his hand at him. He told him he’d be out when he was ready. As the stranger walked out, Papa Julio sat back down in his seat and asked the bartender for two more tequilas. He downed them both and stumbled out of the bar a minute later.

The stranger warned my Papa Julio that he was making a terrible mistake and that he had one final chance to run away. The stranger then brandished his weapon from behind his long-coat.  The small crowd that had gathered gasped at the sight of his shiny revolver with intricate engraving and the astonishing pearl handle. They were in awe as the stranger pulled it out of his holster and twirled it around in his hand, then quickly replacing it in its leather home. Papa Julio dismissed the stranger’s little show by mocking him with a pretend gun in his hand. The stranger grew angry and asked Papa Julio to show his gun.  Papa Julio told him he’d have to wait and see it. He continued that he would only see his gun a moment before he died and that he’d have to be sure to catch a glimpse, because he would not get a second look.

The stranger grew slightly concerned. He wasn’t sure if Papa Julio was speaking with liquid courage or if he was that good a shot. The stranger demanded that they get things on their way and told Papa Julio they would start back to back and take twenty paces. Once they both reached 20 paces, they would turn around and fire. Papa Julio smiled like a drunk who had no worries and agreed. They started back to back. The stranger commanded the scene and took it upon himself to be the one that started the count. He shouted off numbers as he took a step away from where he and Papa Julio started. With every count the stranger’s voice grew audibly weaker and higher in pitch. Approaching count number eighteen, the stranger drew aside his coat and placed his hand on his gun. At nineteen he gripped his weapon’s majestic handle. At the twenty count he drew his shiny pistol, turned and prepared to fire. Suddenly, the stranger felt a sharp pain in his neck. He looked over to his left and observed Papa Julio standing there with a bloodied knife.  Papa Julio quickly buried the knife into the stranger two more times. The stranger fell to his knees without ever pulling the trigger.

As Papa Julio stood over him, the stranger gurgled, “Where is your honor? What kind of a man fights so deceitfully?”  Papa Julio bent down slightly and told the stranger, “The kind of man that you disturbed while he was mourning the loss of his wife.” Papa Julio drove the knife into the stranger’s chest one last time. He left the knife as he took his revolver. Just as the stranger was closing his eyes, Papa Julio slapped the man in his face to keep him conscious just long enough to show him his gun for the last time. “Here is my gun,” Papa Julio whispered. “Now you’ve seen it.” Papa Julio stood up and staggered back into the cantina. The small crowd remained where they were outside.

The  stranger’s body remained unmoved for four days. On the fifth day when the town awoke, the body was gone. No one ever asked about the stranger, and if they did. people denied knowing anything about it. It’s not known if they kept quiet out of fear of retaliation or out of respect for Papa Julio. Although no one spoke of what happened thereafter, the tale still finds its way to us today.

Papa Julio was never the same after the only woman he loved died, and went on to do some more despicable things with La Amante. Some would say that Papa Julio died that day and the man who left that the fight unscathed was a stranger. The only proof we have today that Papa Julio did, in fact, survive that day is that I am the spitting image of the man. Since I was little I’ve heard that I look just like him. It’s the second thing I remember most of my childhood after La Amante, of course. Ancient souls I used to come across would double take when they saw me. They often smiled and shouted’ “Hola, Papa Julio” as I walked by. I was confused at first until Grandpa Antonio told me how much I resembled his father.

Again, there are many more stories about Papa Julio and La Amante, but I don’t believe this is really the time for another tale. It’s 2:30 in the morning and I’m holding La Amante for the first time. I can tell you that it is a lot heavier than I thought. Up close, its beauty is even more mesmerizing. I’d let you feel for yourself, but under these circumstances it would not be a smart thing for me to do. After all, I’ve just caught you burglarizing my house. Now, you have a choice. You can either put back everything you’ve taken and leave without consequence or you can try your luck and run with what you got in your hand. If you choose the latter you might just be another story that will be told about La Amante. Which will it be?

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Frank Reyes

Cop by day, novelist by night. Vigilante on the days off. Novelist on the nights off.

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