Free Radicals, continued from page 29 hard. Tomorrow, they could rest and relive tonight, whatever happened, whoever remained alive. They shot across the road, into the forest cover on the other side. One by one they disappeared there, swallowed silently and whole; the forest made few sounds of its own. the birds slept, although one or two started up and shrieked. Nature had its sentries, too. To them it must have seemed that some articulated creature snaked threateningly through the trees. But they would see that the animal was earthbound and passed quickly, intent on something else. The band climbed now, one behind the other, all of them behind Jairo. Gradually at first and then more steeply. He pushed a button to illuminate his watch. It was nearly eight. They would reach the gully soon, where Gustavo and the radio team would meet them, where the narrow trail ended, and widened then to a clearing they had used before. Jairo knew the way Gustavo would come. Up an angled trail from pastureland, still dangerous to cross because the Sandinistas couldn’t secure it. They had fought the Guard back and forth across the bloody fields for months. The flat lands were hard to hold. Somoza’s men rolled over them in tanks, turrets at the ready, spinning like roulette. In the mountains, though, the tanks were useless, and the Sandinista forces picked off army men one-byone as their patrols poked their way haltingly through the hills. Jairo had a feeling that the end was near. The army was demoralized. Unsafe. No one wanted to die for Tacho Somoza, or even suffer much. He wasn’t worth it. He was a dragon of unrestricted public appetites. Tacho, he thought, time is nearly up for you, and he stopped suddenly, turned to signal at the edge of the clearing. The kids knew what to do now, and deployed themselves in the trees and brush that framed the clearing. Jairo feared their coordination might be shaken by the dark, and hoped that they remembered they were revolutionaries, not teenagers on some weird armed campout. He held his breath while stillness gathered and strained to hear Gustavo’s signal from the south side of the clearing. It would be a grackle’s single cry. Shrill and loud like a panicked bird, not the soft, timid coo of a creeping soldier making like a dove. They could not wait long because the moon would rise and light the clearing. Somoza’s patrols could be nearby. Not probable but possible. The army didn’t like to move at night, but they came through here regularly now You could no longer count on them to be bunked in and sleeping tight. Routinely these last months, they sallied forth after dark, seeking Sandinistas. Gustavo’s kids kept track with inside information. They knew a small troop would be by tonight. Probably passing muster right now, never ever imagining that they would be the lucky and congratulated few to grab the Sandinista transmitter. Time passed. Twenty minutes, twenty-five, and then they heard a deliberate ‘sound.A high-pitched outraged screech 32 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1/18/02
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