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An Excerpt From "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio"

An Excerpt From "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio"

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Published by Joel Hirst
An excerpt from the new novel by Joel D. Hirst, available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other retail outlets
An excerpt from the new novel by Joel D. Hirst, available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other retail outlets

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Published by: Joel Hirst on Sep 15, 2012
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07/21/2013

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An Excerpt From “The Lieutenant of San Porfirio”
By Joel D. HirstBuy the book on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles or www.iuniverse.com  Young Machado had been born in a rural village in the interior of Venezuela, on the great plains fromwhich meat was exported to consumer nations across the oceans. His father had been a simple peasantwho worked on the finca owned by a white family descen
ded from the colonial conquerors. They’d held
the land in perpetuity for over three hundred years, ever since they had received it as a reward for someforgotten act performed for the Spanish monarchy. The finca consisted of over thirty thousand hectares,which were sub-divided among a few hundred families who held and worked the land. For this honor,they paid huge percentages of their yearly earnings
—“for protection,” the landowners had always said,
but Machado had never seen any protection and never understood what they were to be protectedfrom. They had nothing that even poor thieves would want.The Machado family home had been built with love and care by his father and older brothers. It hadmud walls and a dirt floor that his mother constantly swept, hunched over with her old broom made of branches and the long, strong grass that grew prolifically in the surrounding marshes. In her futileattempt to keep a well-ordered house for her family, she harvested the grass as often as possible, beingcareful to avoid the huge old anaconda that lived in the deep pool at the end of the narrow path towardtheir garden. The Machado family plot had been given to them as a wedding gift from the overseer
who had taken it from another family when the father had become sick and unable to work the land. Inthe house were two large rooms. One was the living room, where the family of seven spent most of their time
when they were not in the fields or with the cows, of course. The second room was forsleeping. Machado recalled with nostalgia the feeling of warmth and companionship as they spread out
together on the hard floor covered by blankets for their short night’s sleep.
On the walls of the living area were old posters of the Virgin Mary and Jesus
the European versionportraying them as blond, blue-eyed Caucasians. Given as a Christmas present by the landowner family,they served to remind the peasants of the true nature
and race
of the Holy Family. The room alsocontained some rough furniture made by hand by the elder Machado. These consisted of a few chairs, atable, and a bookshelf to hold the five- or six-
book library they’d carefully collected over the decades.
The roof was made of sheets of zinc, a thin metal that was fantastically loud during the long, powerfulrainstorms that fell on the plains. During these downpours they would huddle together, using their twobuckets to collect the rainwater that flowed freely from the holes in the roof that the elder Machadocould never afford to fix. The whole house smelled musty, like the odor of an early mountain morning
earthy and clean. The kitchen, where Señora Machado spent most of her time, was out back behind thehouse.
 
In the late afternoons, when he was back from helping his father and brothers, the young Juan Marcofr
equently listened to the sizzling of his mother’s cooking as she prepared inexpensive but nourishing
meals assembled mostly from ingredients grown on the land by their own hands.
“Very soon we will get lucky. We will have a crack season when we birth enou
gh cattle and harvest
enough crops, and I’ll buy a—” The elder Machado’s planning would be interrupted by a bout of coughing, the early signs of the tuberculosis that, untreated, would seal his fate. “Eeeghem, we’ll buy asmall place in town. We’ll even ge
t a small TV and a car. Those will be the days, going together to get a
cold cerveza, smelling the tangy sweetness and toasting to our freedom …”
He would turn and look toward the powerful mountains in the distance, eyes glazing over as he assumedthe faraway gaze of memory mingled with hope and salted with despair. A much younger Juan Marcohad cherished those moments when his family was seated together on the porch in the homemadechairs and looking across the massive plains toward the towering Andes
this was his home. A mist rosefrom the plains. Relieved as another scorching equatorial day released its hold on the land, the wildanimals moved about more freely and openly. The mountains turned slowly red, then purple. The snowcaps turned a fluorescent pink before the small pinpricks of stars came out, covering the sky in a blanketof shining diamonds. They would smoke unfiltered, hand-rolled cigarettes from tobacco grown in theirlittle garden out by the kitchen. The sweet, pungent smell took them together to a different place.
“Here he comes.” Often a mouse or a rabbit would run breathlessly through the compound. “He’s only afew minutes away,” the meadow creatures would say to Juan Marco, solidarity with their co
-inhabitantsof the land overcoming their natural timidity at talking to humans. They were, naturally, referring toEnrique, the overseer
whom they hated as much as did the peasants, for his cruel traps placed to catchunwitting rodents for his evening stew.
“There you are, lazing around again.
 
I pay you too much.” Too often, their simple camaraderie wasinterrupted by the dreaded snarling voice of the landowners’ primary enforcer. Enrique lived in thesmall village at the center of the finca. He’d been hired by the landowners to manage the finc
a and allhis peasants, officially making sure that they were paid. But more importantly, he and they knew,though it was never formally written, that his primary job was to make sure that the peasants wereregistering each calf born and each kilo of crop harvested
protecting the compounding wealth of thelandowners.Machado remembered Enrique as a brutal, hard, dark man with thick black hair and a thick black beardwhose own parents had been peasants but who had curried favor with the landowner family through hisexcessive loyalty tinged with fanaticism and his unjust sense of justice. He often went beyond the call of 
duty, making a habit of going around to each of the peasants’ households and demanding an increased
share of their crops
for himself, naturally
and oft-
times even a “private moment” with one of thepeasant’s daughters in exchange for giving a good report back to the landowners in the capital.“I’ve come to inspect your finca.” Enrique never cared at what time he came to the Machado home.“But
 
that smells good. I think I’ll join you for dinner first.”

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