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-7. .m.. ‘; .. . a fp, ,,.. child, a tiny baby human he held over his heart. She wriggled hard, used her head to arch her back and push herself off the crook of his arm: a fierce little captive trying to get loose. If he let her go at all, though, her new neck buckled and her whole head swayed. Her eyes focused, unfocused, focused again, asking him in no known language, more directly than anyone ever had, “Who are you? Why do you have me?” Jairo, who had fought many years from the mountains, noticed lately that the recruits were getting younger, and he couldn’t stand that either. He watched them, his troops, half-starved teenagers, the boys with pimples and wispy beards, the girls just shedding baby fat. Used to be the guerrillas were at least eighteen, but now they came to him still growing. Only yesterday, he’d had to find new boots for two of them because their old ones turned too small overnight. During the last few months, he had managed an informal system of hand-me-down fatigues, like some sort of Grandma Guevara. Girls and boys alike fell on the food. They had not eaten since before dawn, and not much even then. After sunrise, they had walked nearly ten kilometers. Not one of their smarter clips, but the terrain had been rugged and they had slept only a few hours after striking the garrison at Esteli. All of them scooted swiftly away from that all right, fueled by adrenaline and pure uncut uproar. They had slithered off into the woods just as the floodlights blazed on in all directions from the top of the fort. The stupid bastards on watch had mostly lit the sky, as if the stealthy raid had come from heaven or some other nonexistent place. At dark, they waded to the dinghies and loaded Peche’s replica. They banged it a bit here and there on purpose. It would have to look damaged to explain why it wouldn’t work. Otherwise Aztray would turn it on right there in the chosen clearing and expect to announce his triumph nation-wide. Carefully, they climbed in after, so calculated and counterweighted that the boats barely rocked. They shoved off silently just before the moon rose so that watching them from far away, they could have been mistaken for a couple of cows come to the lake for water. They did not speak at all, and Jairo hissed when one of the smaller rowers grunted. Sound carried across water, amplified better than by boom box. He knew things like that, and they obeyed instantly. They trusted him to keep them alive, and he’d done well so far. From the bellies of the boats they watched him like they would have watched their bandleader, he supposed, if they’d had time to go to high school. It was flat dark, but they rowed fortyfive degrees left of a cluster of lights and. the village dock, where a hump of muddy shoreline let them land. Each second Jairo felt the boat lurch gently forward as the oars pulled against the water. They progressed about a meter a stroke. Fast. He was glad the kids had had the food and time to eat again. They would need the fuel to burrow through the mountain brush almost all night long tonight. His boat lurched aground on shore just a second or two before the other one did, both of them caught fast but rocking slightly fore and aft. Four kids jumped out and heaved against the weight to secure them in the weeds. They all moved swiftly, coordinated, trained, shouldering packs and rigging a sling with two poles and a blanket. There, with tenderness, they placed their dummy radio, in the same way that they placed their dead. Hands and faces blackened, barely visible even to each other, they departed single-file through the swampy grasses to the culvert by the gravel road to town. They changed direction at the road, following a marshy ditch, heading uphill. By Jairo’s watch and his best guess .about the moon, they had no more than an hour and a half to meet the others, coming down the gully from the ridge. He made them move. He pushed them continued on page 32 1/18/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29