Win a $20 Amazon gift card just for reading a story in six days…three winners!
Hello, readers! This is the second installment! I am serializing my 9,000 word short story, “Nightfire!”, for a fun way to read a story over six days. On the seventh day, I am going to ask a question about the story, and the first three persons who e-mail me the correct answer will receive a $20 Amazon gift card. If you missed the first episode, don’t worry: There is a link to it just below this paragraph. “Nightfire!” is a prequel to the novel, Corvette Nightfire, and like the novel, it is full of love, heartbreak, crime, danger and heroism. Have fun with this, and I hope it whets your appetite to read the novel!
The seduction of the roads was what had drawn Día into the foreign world. His family and generations of ancestors had run the often faint paths of the mountains and canyons. They had eluded the civilization that had kept coming their way. For one hundred years, the chabochi had been building the one-passenger railroad through the harsh stoniness or verdant thickness of their vast land. It connected Chihuahua, the city, with the Pacific Ocean in Sinaloa, and it passed through dozens of mountain tunnels and bridges in the land of the Tarahumara (as the chabochi called Día’s people). It was finally completed in 1962. It made stops in Divisadero, where the passengers disembarked to gawk at the canyon, and in Creel, which, in Día’s youth, was a lumber village. The day that Día first saw Creel was as important a day as when he first had set eyes on Luna. The wide dirt boulevard in the middle of the town allowed the cars and trucks to pass to-and-from a world that the young man could not imagine well. Día stared with wonder at the broad flat road. He saw a running path that did not hide in the rocks and brush.
Surely only goodness can be at the opposite ends of a road such as this, he thought. He conveyed his opinion to Luna, who believed him.
Then, when he was sixteen, in Creel, he met the two older Mexican youths who affirmed what he had suspected: that the chabochi paths led to unimaginable wonders. The young men had arrived in a powerful black truck and were dressed in clean cowboy clothes and boots. Día made a quick assessment:
Maybe the chabochi don’t believe in the sharing and are selfish people, as my parents say. But maybe Luna and I can get good things for our people in the outside world and teach them how to deal with chabochi. If the outsiders see us strong, maybe they will respect our ways. We should influence the chabochi.
The youths were from Sinaloa. Día saw that their eyes had been assessing his body. Through short sentences and gestures they communicated a teasing challenge: They wanted to race, and they pointed to a sign that could be seen about two kilometers from them on the road. Only one ran. The other leaned against the truck. It was hardly a contest. Día stopped half-way and waited for the older boy to reach him, and then he shot off ahead to the sign and remained until the youth arrived. The other boy drove the truck to them and indicated that he would race Día back to the town. But when Día started to run, the two jumped in the truck and gunned it past him, bathing him in a swirl of dry road dust. Día got the message: the Rarámuri might run for days, but the roads and vehicles of the chabochi sliced time and distance into moments of flying scenery.
While his father traded articles in the town and drank with friends, the boys put Día behind the wheel of the truck and taught him its operation on the wide road to the end of the town. At first the truck jerked and shook and cut off as Día missed gear shifts, but quickly he got the hang of it. The windows were down, and the rush of wind against his face as they sped pressed his skin stronger than any breeze that cooled him when running. The excitement of this made him feel the hardness between his legs that, until then, only Luna had given him.
Before they left him that day, the youths strapped a pack on Día’s back.
“This for you,” one attempted in his language. “To help you carry things. Keep this, but meet us here again. One day you run for us with this on your back. Then you have truck.”
When he showed his father the backpack later, the man shook his head. “The boys gave you this because you won the race?” he asked. Día knew that his father did not believe his lie, but he felt a strange shame and did not want to tell the whole story. He had an intuition that the thrill of what he had felt in the truck should be private. He thought that he would only tell Luna. His father stared at him, shrugged, and handed him a beer.
It was months before he saw the young men again, and Día had turned seventeen. He had left his family to go on a run, he had told them, and to visit cousins. He wore the pack he had been given. But instead of going to see cousins, he went to Creel. He did not even confide this to Luna until after he returned days later. He saw the chabochi faces staring at him as he walked through Creel, and in just a couple hours a black truck pulled to the shoulder of the road where Día sat cross-legged. The two young men jumped out of the truck to greet him, as did a third, an older Mexican man whom Día judged to be about thirty years old. They fed him and then put him in the bed of the pickup and drove him north. They stuffed his bag and explained that he was running out of Mexico across the border. He met a man who took the bag in the middle of the night. When he ran back, they picked him up the next day from a hiding place in a roadside shrine, a wooden structure in which he squatted beside a battered statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It protected him from the sun and the cold wind. They drove him to a lumber yard on the skirts of Creel and showed him an old Chevrolet pickup truck with a flat tire under a lean-to. They told him that it was his and that he could keep it there. They laughed and gave him another bag to take home.
“You run like a demon,” one said. His facility with the Rarámuri language had improved. “Come back in twenty days. We will show you more of the world. You like it a lot. We will have another run for you, and you can drive the truck. Do you have brothers and sisters?”
Día felt an instinctive leeriness in his heart. He heard faint echoes of his mother’s warning about the chabochi. He didn’t want them to know about his brother or Luna, whom he loved so deeply. So he answered them, “I only have a young brother, who is just a kid. Besides, I am the best runner of the Rarámuri. I can run for you. You don’t need others.” And they laughed again.
He ran for them sporadically the next couple of years. They showed him things: guns, which he didn’t like, and “dinero” (currency and coins), which held little interest for him. Those were the obsessions of the chabochi. His obsession became speed: the running through flat desert or the acceleration of trucks and cars. These made his blood race. He met many chabochi. Most seemed mean and threatening to him. He kept them away from his people, and he told his family little of his absences, except that he explained to Luna about the speed of the vehicles and the vast expanses of the roads.
“I am caught up in it,” he admitted to Luna one night. “My spirit soars to the heavens when the earth falls so fast behind me. My body feels like when we make love and I shout my joy!”
“You make love to danger,” Luna told him. “I am a jealous woman. You will not leave me behind. Soon I will come with you.”
“No!” Día protested. “That can never happen!”
“Yes,” she answered him. “Or I will marry your brother. He is my age. You see his eyes for me. If I would lose you to the chabochi world, then I would at least have him.”
Día was shocked. He realized that, during his absences, his handsome young brother could be with Luna if she allowed this. He did not let this worry stir long in his heart. He married Luna when he was nineteen and she was seventeen. It was 1957. From that time forward, he kept Luna by his side everywhere. She was beautiful and desirable, and he read the eyes of the chabochi who looked at her. He began to carry a pistol. He might need to protect her from the people who more and more revealed their treachery in a world colder than he had known could exist.