from the south end of the clearing. Jairo had almost felt them near, although he could see nothing. He gave the answering call, the short and irritated gargle of a startled monkey, and then inched into the clearing, pulling Peche with him. They crept together as if by radar, but the moon rose minute by minute. The starlit sky showed no clouds. “Jairo?” Gustavo’s voice and a hand on his shoulder. “We’re here.” “Quickly then.” Two figures scuffled from the bushes holding something. Peche pushed the radio replica forward, but when he felt the real one, he tried to lift it for a second. “Jesus, Jairo, it’s much heavier.” Jairo heard his heavy breathing. Fuck. Of course. The real internal works weighed more than a blob of exploding jelly. “Take off the front. Set the sensor. Is there room for a rock in there?” Jairo hissed. “Sure, there’s room. Can we find one in the dark?” “We’ll have to use a flashlight,” Jairo answered. He scrambled off to do it himself. peche used a flashlight too, but he had planned it. He pried the front off, swiftly chiseled the plastic logo from the real transmitter and glued it to the fake one. He pulled off knobs and shoved them onto twigs protruding from the dummy. This was cruder than he would have liked, but it would pass in the dark if the weight felt right. A light blinked in the bushes as Jairo and the others searched for stones. Gustavo whispered, “We should have thought of this.” “How could we know until we had them both together?” Peche asked. “We could have weighed the thing.” “But we didn’t have a scale on our end. Unless we broke into the grocery in town. And then someone would talk.” Jairo stepped into the clearing bearing two rocks. He had chosen smallish ones and hoped they were enough. Peche shoved them; secured them. Tacked the front back down again. He had set the sensor so that rough vibrations would make it blow. A helicopter lifting off would definitely do it. Two of Gustavo’s kids lit a fire, which took off fast because they had brought the dry twigs and wood with them. Then they stomped it and dropped used up cigarette butts and coffee dregs. They hustled like stage hands changing scenes in the dark, and for this to work, the soldiers would have to be a willing audience, wanting to believe they cornered the transmitterthat it fell into their hands. Gustavo clapped Jairo on the back. The moon had risen high, and they knelt there in plain view. “Okay, ” he said. “Thanks, everybody. Let’s get them out here.” Both bands withdrew into the bush again leaving the bait. Backstage, two guerrillas piled the real radio into the sling and took off down the mountain in the direction they had come. Gustavo fired, then fired again repeatedly, as if he were frightened, shooting wildly. Across the clearing, Peche whooped. One sharp holler. Then another cry. Both troops drew back speedily; Gustavo and his people completely gone in less than a minute. Jairo ordered all his kids away, including Peche. He meant to stay alone and watch, but he saw Peche hesitate, torn between obeying and protesting. “I’d like to stay,” he said. “You should go. I’ll need you to lead them, if I’m overtaken here.” “I want to see it blow” Jairo balked at first, but then nodded his agreement. He could not recall Peche ever asking for something just because he wanted it. Not for two years in the mountains. Peche grinned widely, as if he were a child who could stay up after dark. But only for an instant. They drew back again, further up the hill to the north, into the brush, consolidating themselves into a minimal presence looking down on their scene.The soldiers would come from the south, but they might surround the clearing in the darkness, planning to capture anyone who tried to run. The two men needed to perch beyond the cordon. It was nearly ten when they heard the racket of fifteen men crashing through the woods. Since they so infrequently engaged the Guard directly, they were always surprised by its clumsiness. Its lack of stealth. Because the bastards thought they owned the country, they refused to believe that they could be attacked, even in the mountains in the middle of the night. In five years they had not learned. The mountains belonged to the guerrillas. From up the hill, burrowed into underbrush, the two saw the blundering patrol enter the clearing one-by-one and recognize the transmitter. At first, they approached it cautiously. Then they huddled heedlessly. Anyone could have shot them all in the back. They squatted there like cavemen baffled by an artifact of human culture. They even grunted. One whistled in amazement. Peche held his breath. He had to hope they did not pull the knobs off. Stupid as they were, they might do almost anything. He scarcely breathed. They seemed to consult each other. He wondered if in this case two or more heads were better than one. He despised them, but he relaxed when he realized they were afraid to touch this magic box they had. Clearly, they knew what it was supposed to be. They held consultations; three of them whispering together away from the other twelve. About a plan, maybe, or who would get the credit from Aztray. “Radio him, you fucking idiots,” Jairo swore at them inaudibly. They circulated and appeared to think. Should they move somewhere more accessible, or should they stay here with it? What if they broke it? Who cares? It’s already banged up. One of them went for the large round pseudopower knob, but another slapped his hand away, hissing at him, like you would treat a dog in a dinner plate. One of them asked quite clearly, “What if it’s a set up? What if they’re out there watching us?” He was nerv 1/1B/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 33
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