A Night in Huancayo (A Short Story))Suspense))
By Dennis L. Siluk
In English and Spanish
Copyright, © December, 2006
By Dennis L. Siluk
“A Night in Huancayo”
A Night in Huancayo
He stared at the red capped cathedral. Sparklingly lighted, it laid enveloped in the Mantaro Valley, in the city of Huancayo, surrounded by what he called Mountains, and the inhabitants called hill.
He had been in Huancayo for two weeks, hand not really got used to it; the Plaza de Arms carefree composure he liked.
In the countries he had visited—which were many—few were lit up like this church. Yet he been told, and was aware the side streets were to be feared at night (ah, yes in deed, there was a difference between day and night in this Andean city); likened to the haunting-ness of the Dark Ages, with its cobblestone streets, and its Spanish balconies. He had come form the 20th century, United States.
The bus was a passenger vehicle; it was being loaded, he knew it was going to leave by one O’clock this very day, leave to go to Lima, Peru, through the Mantaro Valley, and then the Andes, and onto the Imperial city of Kings. They put boxes upon boxes in the side hold of the bus, along with the baggage left on the outside of the bus, two men lifting up the heavy loads, baggage and boxes, silently, as if they were on a mission, throwing them into the hold like sacks of potatoes, tossing them into the deepest part of the hold.
The bus was being made ready for its trip to Lima, and the Huancayo rains had stared (December rains); the rains rose and descended from city to city, town-let to town-let, village to village, black clouds shifting all day long, drifting throughout the valley.
The rains engulfed the whole region (within a short period of time), from, and to include Concection, to San Jeranimo, Cajas, and Sapallanga, was flooded, and the heavy downpour in Huancayo, flooded the street likewise.
The rains were heavy, and the cities first stank, and then got swollen with the seepage of waist, especially in Huancayo. He felt he was not all that safe in the rains, and wanted to get onto the bus.
Beyond the Andes had become the last hope for an American fugitive, as he called himself, a veteran of the Vietnam War (know in Huancayo as the Americano). Here he thought he felt safe, avoiding justice to keep his freedom, which could be purchased in Peru. This was the gate to tolerance, so he called it, if it was not to be had here, than where (?) He was lost for a plan ‘B’ perhaps condemned to be imprisoned in a concrete jungle in the United States where his visa was a one way ticket to Hell and freedom unobtainable. Only one thing mattered, a new identity, and here he found it.
He had blackmailed fate, married a Peruvian, found his way to Lima, changed his name, got a residency card, and paid a few people off.
The Bus tickets were sold out, and he could not pay even double the amount to get another ticket (even too late to bribe other passengers).
He had made his plans to move on, not sure where, but Lima would be a centralized point to start, and then elsewhere, he was familiar with the city slightly. This bus was the last way out of the Andean city, on this holiday weekend. He was the only gringo, in Huancayo, and felt he was the only unescorted foreigner.
He asked the bus driver if he could pay double fare, and sit in the isle. An absurd idea for even if he had talked the driver into it, allowing it, where would he sit—everyone had mounds of luggage by their seats in the isles…but I suppose in desperation or despair one tries anything.
(Haunted he was, and paranoid of capture)) who knows what logic was reasonable for his reality)).
It was early in the morning (3:00 AM), and the Plaza de Arms was almost deserted —but for a vagabond (beggar in the morning, vagrant at night, he had seen him before), sleeping hunched in the doorway of a shop, across the street stood, Lugar Cathedral. The vagrant was sleeping, hunched in tightly. He became aware of a second homeless soul, as he walked indecisively about, paced the plaza platform, and stared at the two street people.
He took no further interest in the two down-and-out, as they wakeup and stared, watching him pace. He kept his watch, still fearful of the police, though he had done no wrong in Peru.
Fearful, he kept in the shadowy areas of the plaza, the cathedral. He walked about slowly, as if he were about to be captured at any moment, while trying to design a new plan.
He stopped for a rest, heard steps behind him, nearer and nearer they came, he then started back up walking. If he got arrested, he would be questioned, and his wife would find out he was missing (leaving), she was sleeping at her sisters in El Tambo (a district of Huancayo), thinking all was well.
He then disappeared down a side street, a very narrow cobblestone street, adjacent to the plaza. Now those footsteps were next to him. The shadow of the man behind him was large, larger than his.
“Are you lost?” said a voice in Spanish.
He shook his head ‘no’ and kept on walking (the street lights allowed the shadow to see).
“Americano?” Indirectly, questioned the voice.
He didn’t answer the voice, but continued walking, looking at the red-shadowy tile roofs on the houses and the moon’s glare. (He knew very few people in the city spoke English, and he spoke very little Spanish.)
“I’m not the police,” said the voice, in smooth English, with no British accent.
He did not believe the voice and continued his pace, although he did take a quick look behind him, noticing the large man was not wearing a police uniform, but rather rough looking civilian cloths, with a motley looking jacket on (gloomy like his facial appearance).
It was a chilly night, wet, light rain intermittently. He had been arrested, he told himself: too many times in America, he wasn’t going to take any unnecessary chances now, not here, not anywhere. He knew he had papers on him, showing he was a resident, but he’d have a hard time explaining himself with the little Spanish he knew to the authorities, and he did not, DID NOT! What them to find out that he really was, not who he was, or what his papers said he was suppose to be.
“I saw you looking at the itinerant men back at the Cathedral,” said the large man (who seem to be educated but down and out himself), “So I got thinking…!”
He showed indifference to his statement he didn’t care what he looked like, he wanted him to vanish. He needed to find a place to stay, figure out his next step, a new plan, he was wet, and getting hungry, and he had missed the bus, he wanted to get out of Huancayo.
“Do you want to get out of the city?” the voice asked.
He did not reply. A few more feet, and he could turn about and knock the guy out with a solid punch to the side of his head.
“Here,” said the voice, holding out a set of car keys, “I can help you, you can help me, even you can go to Bolivia you wan, fro a price of course!”
He swathe keys, they looked like car keys in the feeble light. He felt it was now safe to stop and confront his ghost, his second shadow…
“Porque! (Why!)” He asked in Spanish.
“Do you think I need to get out of dodge?” He had learned a few words in Spanish, but only a few, but the shadow seemed to be quite able to carry on a good conversation in English.
“Come with me, I can assure you a way out of the city, and on your way to wherever, even Bolivia.”
“I’m not in need of a taxi!”
“Ah, yes…!” then he stared at who he figured was the taxi man, who wasn’t really a taxi man, whom didn’t seem to be a policeman neither.
(‘He must have known it was a holiday weekend, and all the buses were full, that is why he is perhaps offering me a ride ’)
He said to the person who he thought was a taxi driver, “Your car is worth its weight in gold this evening, I mean, early mourning! Whoever have not left, are stuck in this isolated city. I’m sure you can get paid double for your services.”
(The big shadow didn’t fully understand the Americano, stared at into his face.)
“I’m not worried about the fare, do you want help me amigo?”
This surely was his way out, if the large shadow, Peruvian Shadow, was upfront about helping him get out of the city, and it seemed he was sincere, yet he was puzzling. Yes indeed, hope was no the table, as they say, or in his bowel of soup; with his American passport, he did not need a visa until he got to the boarder and they would just stamp it automatically there, and the car perhaps was full of gas, so he hoped.
“I want to leave Huancayo before sunrise (he murmured:’ I hope’).”
His arms were tired and wet, lying like a rug hanging on a cloth line downward by his sides.
“Se Vende (for sale)” said the Voice, adding, “the car.”
“How much?” he asked the voice.
“You help me, and I’ll give you the car, no dollars involved.”
This was too good to be true, and He knew when such deals emerged, there was always, a hidden price.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing too difficult,” the voice implied.
“What is exactly…nothing?” he asked.
He looked at the large man, perhaps in his 50s, but looked more like he was close to 70, yet he was to agile, for that age. He looked deep into his harsh eyes, hard dark eyes, life had been unbreakable on him, he concluded, as it had been for him, yet we all have a breaking point, so he pointed out to his second self.
This large calm, quiet total stranger could provide his salvation, but the question remained: what did he want in return, if not money?
“You help me, I will help you, and the car ill not cost u a dollar.”
He was becoming a broken record, repeating himself.
They both started walking back to the plaza, side by side, passing ‘Koky’s’ restaurant,
“Wish we had time for a cup of coffee,” implied the Voice, “but I suppose we are both too much in a hurry.”
“Coffee, yes, why not, I have a little time to spare, if there is a place open at this hour of the night, or should I say morning.”
“There is a place I know of, they make Huancayo Pancakes, as some American called them, big as elephant ears, in hot oil, and with …”
“As I was about to say, it is an outside café of sorts, stools around a wooden table, a big umbrella for a roof, but you get what you pay for.”
Having said that, they both entered the man’s car that the Americano thought was a taxi, and they sat in the front, damp, dark mildew smelling front seat.
“A tinge wet,” commented the Americano.
(‘He will fulfill my destiny’)) both putting their faith in the hands of the other.))
He wanted the car, it was his salvation, and the voice wanted what he wanted, an end to his dilemma—perhaps both would be saved once and for all by the other, this thought had entered both their heads, they both (strangers and all) got sight of faith, in each other.
The car circled around the plaza, down several streets and the headlights found the outside dingy and grayish café— a few folks sitting on stools, eating those elephant ear-pancakes, and pouring some liquor (hidden in their coat pockets) into their coffee cups.
You could hear the oil boiling, sizzling in a large heavy looking metal container, over a small gas stove.
“I don’t know this part of Huancayo;” He told the driver, he was only acquainted with the plaza are for the most part, and a few streets in El Tambo, where his sister-in-law lived.
They left the car and sat and drank coffee, ate a pancake, hot and greasy, but tasty.
The dark sky, and misty lit moon, gave a somber silhouette to the mountains that rose up behind the city.
He looked over towards the mountains, beyond them was freedom, Bolivia—(Bolivia although were among the Andes), this was his new vision, his plan ‘C’.
“Yes,” said the driver.
“With the car I can be in Bolivia in no time.”
He put his keys in his pocket and drank a second cup of coffee.
“Let’s go,” said the Voice, “and get on with it, get it over with, so you can get on your way,” then he pointed his finger towards ‘Liberty Hill’ saying abruptly, “that is where I want to go! We will not attract any attention there.”
A moment passed, the cup of coffee was finished, the driver looked up as if he was visualizing something, then down, as if he was emotionally drained—a sigh came out of him, a long sigh, quiet sigh, said, “Do you believe in life after death?” he was looking at the perused when he asked that question.
“I’d like to say I’m not sure, never known anyone to come back from the dead to explain its environment, but I’d like to believe there is a heaven and hell.”
As they drove up the hill to the Park, he earnestly said, “There is only one think that can match poverty, and that is death. It’s been one hell of a life trying to survive. If there is a struggle to survive after death, I will soon find it out.”
You could look down upon, and over and throughout, the city of Huancayo, see its roof tops, see it all, all that was there to see that is, and at night, only lights, and shadows, and noisy cars, musical garbage trucks.
The driver got out of the car, with a sigh of relief, and a grinding of his teeth, said (after filling his lungs), “I am prepared.”
The other man sat stone still in the right side car seat and thought (‘…he wants to go to sleep forever!’)
“My name is…” said the smaller man, and before he could give his name, the driver standing outside the car by the car door, said, “No, I don’t want to know, just run me over, promise me you will, I’ll turn my back, walking down the road.” (The keys were in the ignition, and the car was running, and the big man was moving slowly down the road, as he said he would be, and he meant what he said).
He nodded his head in dismay, trying to figure out what to do next. They were both happy, both had whet they wanted; both would get want they desired in a moment that is, providing a certain criteria was met
The big man turned around in surprise (the car had not moved). His eyes said: what are you waiting for, but the Perused could not of course see his eyes, but he felt them. (‘He doesn’t look like a man that wants to live, rather one that cannot kill himself, needs someone else to do his dirty work for him.’)) The following moment of silence is nondescript.))
‘Yes,’ he told himself, thinking of the past, ‘Vietnam, 1968, war, heavy. No one understands war, how can they, I can’t even explain it to myself. That is why I have to have these keys, have to go someplace before someone finds me. If I try to explain it to anyone, tell someone about it, it all will come back to me, and haunt me, it never becomes clear in my mind.’ (He shook his head out of his trance state); the large man was moving along, moving down the road, in the middle of the road, as he had said he would be.
“Yes, he’ll come, it’s not hard to understand him, and he’s killed for fewer reasons. He has violence in his eyes. The only thing worse than being dead is poor and I’ve been that for a very long time. And soon I’ll see if fact is fact or fiction”
“We had many losses in Vietnam (the war), hard to take at times, it comes and goes, comes and goes, like a plague of grasshoppers in the middle of a desert, swarming overhead. He’s really just one more—nothing to sustain him here on earth, terribly strange, is this night in Huancayo.”
She received the news her husband was dead, some kind of a car accident, or perhaps a robbery (the police said, yet were still investigating it), where the robber also took the car. The news was received with cramped insides.
She gave the death certificated to her lawyer, a few day later, and surprisingly found out she had an insurance policy. She would be rich now, and perhaps have that bowel of shrimp soup, Cuy Colorado, her husband used to tell her he was going to buy her at the most expensive place in Lima.
She looked about for her husband, in the house, calmly—he had not been there all night, so she told her sister.
She showed no sign of irritation, she didn’t listen to the radio, or turn on the TV for news, either, didn’t know of the man run over by his own car. She showed no sign of irritation, and tried to show proper etiquette to her sister throughout the afternoon.
“Where do you think he went?” asked her sister.
“After Vietnam I met him, and he was exhausted from the war, he had jitters all the time. Smoked cigarette after cigarette, he was always unhappy it seemed, and often unfeeling. In the beginning he talked so sweet, he caught me off guard, like a fish hooked me and brought me into his heart, yet I never understood him.”
“Well then, we must find him,” said the sister.
“He made me think he was happy when it was just a moment of happiness in our life. I do realize seldom is one fully happy let him go, let him be, and we can keep our pleasant moments, I sense they are all we got, or will ever have together. It is the best thing we can do for each other, I fear. He keeps thinking someone is after him. Not sure where it all comes from: a dream perhaps, or illusions, a war thing, you know, that PTS soldiers get, or some unknown reality he never told me.”
If Death Had Wings
If I saw death and death had wings
I know were I would go—
Someplace between heaven and hell,--
In the form of an eternal soul:
Where peace and hunger is no more;
If I saw death and death had wings
That is where I would go—,
Yes, that is where I would go!
If only death had wings
Wings, wings, wings
I’d put them on my soul…!
—For the Voice, faring forth from day to day was too punitive for him to live among the human race—(or so it would seem). He was not thinking their thoughts; liken to the perused, but who was the pursuer (?) He had had enough—whatever must come did not come quickly enough to change his mind. The staggering thought perhaps became synchronized simultaneously with the other’s to run; the invisible pursuer; thus, both accomplished their mission (even though it may seem, sound and be, frail and feeble.
No one awoke either one—of the terror that evidently griped them. Two engines of self destruction—the effect of their actions upon others was little less remarkable. They halted their lives but an instant, then sprang forward to finish it, renewed.
I have no words wherewith to describe the aftershocks—all I know is all involved disappeared into the tangled undergrowth of the forest of life and death.