Holding his mop, Miguel escorted them out of the shop, as the afternoon sun shone in the sky, the market brimmed with shoppers,
and Father Ricardo stood by the church door, talking to some of his parishioners.
He wouldn’t agree with Homer’s new enterprise in the jungle. Pushing those thoughts off his mind, he hurried along
the street, keeping away from the church.
It wasn’t his fault the Indians murdered each other to get their coca.
“Are you buying merchandise now?” the priest asked.
“Yes,” Homer said.
“Remember to pray to the Lord.”
“I’ll do that.”
As Homer led the Indian through a wide street with a few shops and a cafe bustling with life, they arrived at the city centre,
where bicycles and cars mingled with carriages.
A grey station loomed in front of them amidst the palm trees and bushes. Espresso Palmira, it said in big letters by the door.
They stepped on people’s luggage and some of their animals.
Looking like an oasis in an angry sea, a girl filed her nails behind a desk filled with papers. Homer put his suitcase on
the desk, disturbing her concentration.
”I want two tickets to Villavicencio,” he said.
Blowing on her nails, she checked a notebook, full of names and numbers.
“It’s four hundred pesos,” she said.
Homer wanted the heads, even if he had to spend some of his money. Counting the pesos he put them in the counter by the papers
“Thank you,” she said.
She gave him the tickets, after putting a big stamp and her signature in a corner. Homer liked her big breasts and long black
hair but he felt shy.
“Do you live around here?” he asked.
“It isn’t your business,” she said.
“I’ll be back with a lot of gold.
“Your friend is waiting,” she said.
“He’s my guide to the jungle.”
“Is it to find gold?” she asked.
“You must be crazy.”
Holding the tickets, he went back to the Indian, sitting at a table, interrupting the man’s concentration.
”We’re going to Villavicencio,” Homer said.
Faced with the man’s silence, Homer wondered how much money his own head might fetch in the shops.
He wanted to go back home and save his life, even if he didn’t get what he wanted. Thinking of his future, he got ready
to talk to the Indian once more.
“Are we going the right way?” Homer asked.
The Indian went on looking at the garage, where the driver checked the bus tyres.
Having travelled alone a few times, the Indian would know if they had caught the wrong bus. Homer wanted to stay at home,
but the jungle with its mysteries beckoned him.
He would come back to see the girl afterwards, when he had made lots of money. The image of Maria helping in the shop came
to his mind.
Her black hair, and sweet smile brought an avalanche of thoughts to Homer’s heart, but he didn’t want anything
He had to have lots of money to attract women and have fun before dying. Then he noticed a vehicle about to leave the station.
“That must be our bus,” Homer said.
“Mmmm,” the man said.
Taking his case with one hand, his bag with another and the tickets in his mouth, Homer rushed out of the room, followed by
They arrived at the bus, as the driver revved the engine.
“Open the door,” Homer said.
After a few moments, the man beckoned them inside, a sea of faces greeting them.
”It’s not a sin to leave on time,” the driver said.
On moving along the aisle, they struggled amidst the bodies, stepping on people’s feet, and making them angry.
“I’ll kill you,” a fat woman said.
Homer shrugged. “I’m sorry, Madam.”
“You’ve broken my leg.”
She gestured somewhere under the other people, where her limbs had to be, but Homer couldn’t do much in the confine
Amidst all the commotion, Homer saw two empty seats in the back of the bus. Wondering why no one sat there, he made his way
amongst the other passengers, sitting next to a cage full of chickens, while the Indian sat on the other side.
Flapping their wings, the birds looked at him with beady eyes, while a woman under the cage, muttered to herself.
”They don’t like buses,” she said.
“I don’t like them either.”
“Weirdo,” she said.
“You sit under cages.”
“Are you making fun of me?” she asked.
“No,” he said.
“In sell them,” she said. “Give me twenty pesos for them all.”
“Not now,” Homer said.
“Why did you sit next to me then?”
Homer ignored the woman and chickens, as the bus drove through the countryside, and the sugar plantations went on forever.
Then the wind brought him a rain of feathers and shit.
Coughing, he covered his face with his hands, trying to stop the dirt going up his nose.
Homer wished to be in his shop, looking after the customers and earning his money. As the bus stopped, a rain of dirt fell
He wiped his face with a cloth he had in his bag, as the woman laughed.
“They don’t like you,” she said.
Homer chewed a bit of coca, and dreamed of the Indians dancing to the sound of drums.
He had to meet the queen, a beautiful girl wearing a long gown. He awoke as a rain of feathers filled his senses, and vendors
appeared within clouds of dust.
“Empanadas,” a woman said.
“Tamales,” another one said.
Putting their trays up to the window, they tried to tempt Homer with their concoctions.
“I’m not hungry,” he said.
“He eats shit,” the woman said.
Not wanting any arguments, Homer thought she had to be the biggest shit eater in the world. Then he noticed the Indian had
left his seat.
He might have gone outside to stretch his legs or to go to the toilet.
Worried, Homer moved down the aisle, stepping on people’s feet once more. He had to get to the driver, before he drove
“Have you seen my friend?” Homer asked.
“No,” everyone answered.
“He wore a long gown,” Homer said.
People followed his movements as he walked along the aisle full of people. A little dog barked in his face, and a child trying
to calm him down.
“He’s harmless,” she said.
“Ufff,” the dog, said.
Homer shrugged. “Go away.”
He had reached the driver, who smoked a cigarette in his seat.
“He’s outside,” the driver said.
At first Homer couldn’t see anything outside the window, but then, he noticed a figure waiting by a few mules. Getting
down into the hot road, he hurried amongst the vendors accosting him.
“I want some money to buy a coffee,” a woman stretched a hand towards him.
“Empanadas,” another one said.
The Indian greeted him with cool eyes, the mules munching grass by his side.
“I thought we had to go to Villavicencio,” Homer said.
“Mmm,” the man said.
The Indian put their bags on a mule, before climbing on another one. Having seen a few cowboy films, Homer tried to get on
his animal, but fell down again.
That had never happened to his heroes in the Wild West. He staggered around the mule, as the Indian chewed some coca.
Homer wanted to strangle him and take his head as a trophy. That would be the best thing to do.
“You won’t have any more coca,” he said.
“Mmmm,” the Indian said.
A few people had gathered to watch Homer’s efforts to climb on the mule, and everyone cheered when he managed to get
on the saddle.
Homer paraded along the street, followed the Indian, as the other mule moved behind them with their bags.
Trotting down the lane, they went past the trees and bushes, as the Indian guided them towards the jungle.
Having come through here many times, he had to know the road very well.
A flock of birds flew above them, chatting to each other in their own language. They had to be parrots or macaws.
Maria appeared amidst the trees, smiling and wearing her best dress. Homer shut his eyes for a few moments, but the girl had
gone away when he opened them again.
He didn’t want any more hallucinations now.
They went past small houses where children waved, while their mothers washed the clothes by a well and dogs barked.
Homer observed nature during the next few hours, hoping the animals wouldn’t be dangerous.
Then a big river appeared in front of them, its water rushing through the savannah.
Plants and bushes grew by the shore, as ants carried their leaves through the mud.
After stopping his mule, the Indian helped Homer to go down to the floor full of grass.
Feeling thirsty, Homer moved amidst the plants and crouched by the shore, scooping some of the water in his hands.
It tastes better than the water in his thermo, warm under the hot sun. The Indian was by the shore with a net in his hands.
On throwing it in the water, he remained still, and after a few minutes a fish drowned in a sea of air and grass.
Cutting the head away, the man cleaned it with his knife, the scales adorning his hands. He made a fire with Homer’s
matches and some twigs, the smoke rising to the sky, and frightening the insects.
After a few minutes, the Indian put bits of the fish on plantain leaves. It had a few bones, but it tasted delicious.
Homer ate his fish, sitting by the fire and studying the world of the savannah full of life.
Birds sang in the trees, while macaws flew overhead chatting in their language, and little monkeys jumped from branch to branch.
Erecting a pole amidst the grass, the Indian hammered its sides to the floor, disturbing the ants and other animals.
Homer hoped the snakes wouldn’t go inside during the night.
Then he imagined Maria tiding the shop, with her sexy body, her image hovering next to the snakes and the monkeys.
I love you, she said, before vanishing in the air.
On opening a bottle, the Indian poured aguardiente on some mugs, he had brought in his bag. He had not forgotten anything.
Night had come quickly to the plains, the sun turning into a ball of fire before disappearing in the horizon.
Lying down inside the tent, Homer covered himself with his jacket to stop the mosquitoes biting him, while listening to the
sounds of the night.
Touching the gun in his pocket, he felt secured. Nothing would happen to him now or ever.
He must have gone to sleep because he dreamed of walking through the forest.
As he reached a town with a few huts built around a central square, he heard the sound of drums echoing around him.
He awoke in the darkness, as the crickets sang in a corner.