sábado, 7 de noviembre de 2015

The Silent Sands

Side B

Lost and Found.

"Amo a mi país, pero mi país no me ama a mí." -Gerardo Enciso

"En algún lugar de un gran país,
olvidaron construir, 
un hogar donde no queme el sol 
y al nacer no haya que morir. " -Duncan Dhu.


Paul 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 right.

-Hey, man, are you done? -said Henry, his deep voice coming from the other side of the warehouse's door.

-Yep -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.

The 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.

Paul 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.

At 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 their hunting.

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?

-See 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.

Henry Jones's 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.

It 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 U.S.

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 machine.

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.

-Nice. 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.

-Wasn't 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.

Paul 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.

Hunting 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.

Nick 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.

He was 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.

-I 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 counter.

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 truck.

-Fine. Paul, go help him -conceded Henry, if only to put an end to the conversation.

Fifteen 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.

-I 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?

Paul 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.

Paul 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.

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