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; .1, 1/4 f A la altom-c -41 .44111 r .1 fir lot Aft ‘,Su. ous standing up straight in the mountains, in the moonlight. Another answered, “Oh shut up. If they were watching us, they would have shot us all by now.” The first was not consoled; he slouched doubtfully. More milling around, wondering, oddly at ease. Apparently, they never asked themselves why the radio team had run away without the transmitter; they figured they had spooked it with their bold approach. The fire still smoldered, but the butts were definitely dead. From where Jairo hid with Peche, only the one guy seemed mildly puzzled. The others wanted to believe. Finally, finally, they radioed their own commander back in Esteli for orders. The one who seemed to be in charge here told the duty officer to wake their commander. They had good news. Static and voices drifted up the hill to the two guerrillas, who quietly, deliberately, constantly flexed their knees to keep from going numb. They needed to be ready to run. Right now, Peche would have traded his mother for a cigarette. He loved his mother, but he craved a smoke. He thought of both with longing. Curious where you mind went when you were bored and terrified, intrigued, impatient and hopeful all at once. They heard the name Aztray. Both of them heard. They saw the sergeant or whatever he was assess the dimensions of the clearing. Could a helicopter land? “Of course it can, imbeciles,” whispered Jairo, “That’s why we chose this place.” Jairo willed the sergeant to give the right answer. More yes and no. Endless indecision. Pointless back and forth. But when the communication sputtered out, the sergeant ordered the others to settle down and wait, back, beyond the rim of the clearing out of sight. Some of the lower rankers slumped.They didn’t understand, or recognize their coming glory, but they knew that they would lose a lot of sleep before this got over with. The moon set and blackness came again. Incredibly, Peche found himself fighting sleep. Right here, right now, on the brink of triumph, looking down: Long day, he thought, packed with hiking, tinkering and hoping. It was the hoping that wore you out fastest. Hoping wai. for him a constant. Unlike Jairo, he hoped in real time for things that might come years from now Like a brand-new Nicaragua with no Somozas. For him, one feature of the new world always amazed: no terror. He imagined that there would be fearof accidents, inconvenience, ugliness, death. But not of other peoplenot like now Both of them must haVe dozed because the beat of an approaching helicopter woke them. This would be Aztray arriving grandly. God from the machine. The lower, more limber trees bowed to him and the great huge breathing locust set itself down in a swirl of leaves and brush. The forest seemed in shock. Leaning away from the spinning blades. Jairo and Peche too, with the suddenness of it. They held their common breath. Jairo saw the U.S. markings on the long, protruding tail, and his stomach knotted. Loss of a weapon could provoke everlasting yanqui vengeance. Aztray himself appeared in the lit up cut out of the cockpit. He jumped and ducked, running beyond the perimeter of the sucking wind to the sergeant and the dummy transmitter. The sergeant saluted, but Aztray clapped him happily on the back. This was it, he seemed to say, pleased, delighted to be brought out in the middle of the night. He peered at the box, lit it with a flashlight. Here on the ground lay the voice of the Sandinistas. He gave the order to two gawking soldiers. Load it. Jairo felt Peche tense and flex. If it blew now, they would need to run. But it didn’t. The soldiers treated it gingerly and only turned it once to fit through the cut out and back behind the seat. Aztray was only a silhouette, taller than the others. Upper class. He ran for the helicopter and climbed in. The blades whirled faster then and the tail tipped up. The pontoons left the ground. Neither Jairo nor Peche could really see much. For the most part, they only felt the gathering speed of the blades, the more intense vibration. But then they saw and heard. First a small flash that lit the cockpit. Aztray had turned. Then a deep dropping roar like a furnace when it caught. The blast blew up the sky, and soldiers fell flat to the ground, as if in worship. From that moment on, Jairo ran with Peche. they paused and turned only once to see the blooming fireball the monster bug engulfed. Beatrice Edwards is a research analyst for PSI, the international labor federation for public sector trade unions. 34 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1/18/02