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Dennis E. Thompson

Conquistador

 

The hot sun glinted from the gold chain resting on his bare chest. He reclined off the veranda, sweat glistening from his white, bloated belly. He enjoyed his new home, an imposing structure built into the hillside. The marble pool, its ornate fountain spilling water, created continual music for his ears. He admired his kingdom, a thirty-six-hole golf course, expensive condominiums built where decaying hovels had once existed.

He remembered the day when the bulldozers razed the shack homes. Families made their pilgrimage, carrying boxes of their lives and loading them into trucks to leave the area. Many of them had risen from their squalor and had come to him for work. They became his gardeners, greenskeepers, caddies, and household servants. He enjoyed watching them work as he sunned himself.

On this day, they were preparing for the banquet he was hosting that evening, a feast to celebrate the power and strength of the dollar. The governor of Jalisco, investors from Guadalajara and Chapala, all would attend to laud his conquest, the renovation of their land.

He smiled as four old men worked together to build a platform riser for the mariachi band. Two younger fellows carried the feast's main course, a large trussed pig, a whole mango stuffed into its mouth. They labored up the small path from the roasting pit, bearing his meal on a palanquin-like stretcher. The pig's eyes, sunken, charred by the fire, appeared to chart their course toward the kitchen entrance. Greasy juices dripped down their shoulders and backs, making a trail on the ground behind them.

He turned his attention to Ana as she stood at the table folding linen napkins into peacocks. Her small, delicate fingers darted as she worked. Ana was his favorite. He liked the way her crisp, cotton uniform clung to her firm, nubile body. Someday, he thought to himself, when she and I are alone.

"Ana, come here," he called to her.

She approached him, eyes averted.

"Rub this sun lotion on my back," he demanded.

"Si, Senor." Her brown hands quickly rubbed the white cream across his thick, bristly back. When finished, she rose and walked away, wiping her hands, ready to complete her work at the table.

He cocked his head to the side, watching her behind move to the rhythm of her gait. His eyes were transfixed. His gaze was broken by the sound of a sudden "thwap" from above. A large palm frond crashed next to his chaise lounge. The sap-smeared, pithy stock slapped the back of his leg as the leaves fluttered to the ground.

He bolted upright and squinted into the bright sunlight filtering through the palm tree. The man noticed a simian-shaped body clinging to the tree, a machete raised high.

"Goddamnit, Ana. What is he doing?" he yelled.

She rushed over to him, staring up at her husband hanging high overhead. She called out, "Victor, que estas haciendo?"

A second branch dropped, brushing hard against the man's back. The machete tumbled down landing near his feet. Victor called down from the treetop.

"Es para la mesa, es un centro de mesa para sentar el cerdo."

She picked up the machete from the ground. Tracing her finger along its edge, she looked him in the eye and smiled.

"He says it's for the table, a centerpiece for the pig to rest on."

"Ahh," the man grunted, returning a smile. He carefully lowered himself back onto the chaise lounge, now garnished with palm leaves.


D. E. Thompson lives and writes in the heartland of central Iowa. He holds a MA degree from Iowa State University and teaches at Des Moines Area Community College. His work has recently appeared in Colere, Sketch, and The Wabash Review.

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