Lost and Found.
"Amo a mi país, pero mi país no me ama a mí." -Gerardo Enciso
"En algún lugar de un gran país,
un hogar donde
no queme el sol
y al nacer no haya
" -Duncan Dhu.
closed the box shut with the tape roller. He then put the decal with
the shipping information with a lot of care, making sure it was done
-Hey, man, are you done? -said Henry, his deep voice coming from the other side of the warehouse's door.
-responded Paul, getting up from in front of the workbench with some
difficulty, having to use both hands to support himself as he stood up.
leg was a piece of shit, but at least it was a piece of shit that
worked as it should. Made of plastic and aluminum, it was held in place,
just below his left knee, with a couple of straps, and all the gauze he
could use to try and cushion it a little.
Paul grabbed the box and put it on top of the others, so Nick would grab them before going out to buy lunch for everyone else.
walked back to the front of the store. He was wearing a deep green
t-shirt with an orange screen-printed design of ducks flying away, a
pair of faded jeans and a pair of very used blue Adidas shoes.
30, he still had some very good years ahead of him, considering he had
already left behind a couple of very bad ones. He looked a bit younger
than most, but it was compensated by all the experiences that had pooled
inside his eyes and behind them. His skin was a little paler than
usual, and his faced itched from time to time, reminding him that it had
been a couple of days since he last shaved.
There were good days
and bad days, and that was one of the not so bad days. A couple of
customers had stopped by already, just buying a bit of supplies for
Henry was busy dusting off one of the deer heads
next to the wall dedicated to the hunting gear. The fat man was using an
old red rag, taking extra care with the horns of the trophy. He was
dressed in mis-matched camouflage clothes: a shirt with different tones
of gray splotches, a jacket with a digital design in earth tones, and
pants with green, brown and black spots. And of course, black boots,
polished to a mirror sheen.
-It's done, boss -reported Paul, trying to sound casual. -What do I do now?
if we got enough orange vests on display - Henry answered, stopping in
his task just long enough to adjust his black rimmed glasses, his voice
coming out from behind his thick red beard
Paul just nodded. He
knew there were enough vests because he had counted them just the day
before, and the day before that. And the number had only went down by
two, when a father had bought two for his sons.
But he did it
anyway, counting them with care. It was something to do, while they
waited for Nick to come back from the taxidermist two towns over, with
Henry's latest trophy in the bed of the truck.
Grizzly Gear store was both peculiar and common at the same time. It had
all kinds of supplies that anyone would need if they wanted to go into
the wilderness to enjoy the Lord's work, and kill any kind of animal.
also served as a kind of trophy room and museum of natural history. Up
until he was 43, Henry had hunted all kinds of prey from all over the
There were a couple of cougars baring their fangs, groups of
ducks frozen in mid-air while they flew, a dozen deer and doe heads,
and la piece de resistance: a grizzly bear that was almost as tall as
the store itself, giving it its name.
Among these were some more
recent trophies, of a different kind: all kinds of trouts, bass and
catfish. They too looked frozen in the middle of jumping or battling to
cut loose from the line.
Other hunting and fishing stores were
pretty sad affairs, where the air was thick with the stench of cigar
smoke, and deer pee not stored in a proper manner. Not to mention the
dim lightbulbs all around, the light coating of dust on every surface,
and the group of sad looking ancient men huddled near the counter,
watching time move one second at a time.
Henry's store was
different. There was proper illumination everywhere, no surface was ever
close to dirty, the store front was air conditioned, and if anyone
wanted to hang out for a while to recount a hunting trip, they could do
it at the wooden tables in the parking lot, right next to the soda
His philosophy was that, if you build it, they will come. They, of course, being paying customers.
Paul liked it there, even if it wasn't the same as going back to the open highways, blasting rock music while driving his rig.
-We got eleven vests left on the display, boss -said Paul, walking back with that slow rythm he still hadn't got used to.
Could you put back these camouflage shotgun bodies back behind the
glass? -indicated Henry, while keeping his eyes on the cleaning. -Wish
that last guy wanted to do more than just look at them.
he impressed when you told him about the dipping process that transfers
the design onto the body? -asked Paul, grabbing the items like they were
made of crystal.
-No, and I'm glad you're paying attention to the sales speech -said Henry, stopping for a moment.
-Anything to get some of that sweet commision money, boss.
gazed at the wall of the guns, the largest display in the store. The
second largest was that of the fishing rods, but these just couldn't
compete in calling the attention of the customers as well as the guns,
with their gun metal black, warm wood stocks and rugged polymer bodies.
rifles, shotguns, revolvers and pistols were side to side, behind
bulletproof glass with an electronic combination keypad. The ammo was
stored in a locker with the biggest padlock Paul had seen. On a corner,
almost like an after-thought, there was a small selection of air and
paintball guns, adorned with the same camouflage patterns and black
metal as everything else in the store.
The bell above the entrance door announced that someone had entered the shop, with it's clear metallic ringing.
Paul turned around, and saw that Nick had come back.
was a bit taller than Paul, who was just a bit shy of a solid six feet
tall, but a lot more skinny. The effect was amplified since he preferred
to wear clothes that were a size too big for his body.
dressed in a pair of dark brown cargo pants, a blue t-shirt adorned with
painted on concentric circles of a practice target, with the words "You
better don't miss!" on the lower right.
-Hey man, come give me a hand -yelled Nick, pointing towards the parking lot. -That shit's heavy!
-Now, don't try that lazy shit with Paul, Nick -said Henry, having just finished his through cleaning of the deer horns.
wouldn't if that thing wasn't so huge! Why don't you next time try
catching one of the small ones? - continued Nick, getting closer to the
Henry just chuckled.
-Now, that's rich! I didn't
go all the way to Baja, and spent all that time and money just to catch a
"small one" -explained the boss. Then he turned to Paul and pointed at
Nick. -Are you hearing this bullshit? If you start spewing it, then I'll
have to commit both of you.
-I agree, boss, that's so rich I
could put it in bags and sell it to the orange farmers for ten bucks a
pound -said Paul, with a smile.
-Alright, alright, I was wrong
-admitted Nick, lifting both hands in defeat. -But that thing is still
pretty heavy, one of Rob's boys had to help me put it in the back of the
-Fine. Paul, go help him -conceded Henry, if only to put an end to the conversation.
minutes later, Paul was taking off the last of the wrapping material
from Henry's latest trophy: a hundred pound Blue Marlin, that looked
like it was jumping out of the ocean.
-So, have you decided already, Paul? -asked Nick, while picking up the discarded bits of wrapping and rope.
don't know. I just don't see how going there will be any help at all
-he said, while grabbing a cleaning cloth to dust off the fish.
-Are you kidding? -said the younger man, a bit exasperated. -It's a chance to do something good for our country, man.
-How is it good for the country that I go to stand under the desert sun, looking at the horizon for hours?
finished cleaning the Marlin, and got up to go back to the warehouse.
They would need the power drill to put the hooks in the concrete wall,
in a place that Henry had cleared three days ago.
-It's not about
what we accomplish, it's about making a statement, man -insisted Nick,
becoming a bit agitated. -That we care, even if the goverment doesn't
give a shit!
-Well, I'd rather do that statement while in a nice,
air conditioned bar with a cold beer in front of me -responded Paul. He
then walked slowly back into the warehouse.
Paul was riffling
through the contents of the big toolbox, trying to find the case with
the drill bits, when Nick's voice came from behind.
-Okay, I will
not insist that you go with us-, he said, with a tone of defeat. -But
at least go tell the rest of the boys you will stay behind. They really
insisted that I told you about it.
Paul stopped for a moment, looking over his shoulder.
-Fine, I guess I should at least do that, after all they've done for me -Paul conceded.
-Really? Oh, man, that's great! -exclamed Nick, clapping his hands in triumph. -They'll be at Josie's after seven tonight.
spent the rest of the day working with his mind only half-present. He
knew the guys would be dissapointed in his decision, but he had already
made his mind.
Still, it was hard to say no to the only group of
people that had helped him after he had come back home, after a year of
intense physical pain and surgeries, of dealing with memories that very
few people could ever understand.
Add to that the loss of his
livelihood, finding out that most people's sympathy ran only skin deep,
that they only cared about him as far as what he could give, something
that he would never forget ever again.
In the end, he was afraid
of losing the only friends he had left in his life. But fuck it, he was a
goddamn adult, and being alone again wouldn't that bad.
It hadn't killed him then, and it sure as hell wouldn't kill him now.
Or at least that was what he hoped.