Today’s episode marks the end of the Fiction Fest spotlight shining on our August titles, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find them in bookstores! You can find them online at places like Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and BooksAndThings.com, too.
Carla Kelly’s “Safe Passage” takes center stage in today’s post, but don’t you fear, Fiction Fest will return on Monday with sneak peeks at our September titles.
The Hancocks are traveling deeper into Chihuahua to discharge a debt Addie owes to a doctor who saved her life. They are now approaching Encarnación, a small town formerly under the control of el Presidente Madero that was blasted to smithereens by General Salazar’s rebel army. Ammon is coming to understand more and more what Mexico, the land of his birth, means to him. They have just passed Rancho Guadalquivir, where rebels have hanged four American cowboys from the ranch’s entrance. The bodies have been left there because it is too dangerous to remove them.
When they came to the four corners, where the Guadalquivir gates still sprouted their tragic crop of dead men, Ammon pressed his hand gently against his wife’s head, forcing her face into his chest. He sang to her when she started to cry.
“Addie, it’s not too late to return to Casa Salinas and Pablo,” he whispered when she was silent. “He’ll get you to the border.”
She shook her head, so quiet, and they continued toward the scene of the battle.
The name may have been grandiose, but Encarnación was just a village, typical of the vastness of Chihuahua. Nothing moved now. He pushed Addie’s face against his chest again as he rode down a side street and came to a flapping circle of vultures, ripping and gulping. They didn’t even fly away as Blanco shied and whinnied. Ammon looked closer in the moonlight, repulsed but curious. When it dawned on him that the creatures couldn’t fly because they were too gorged on dead men’s flesh, he looked away, too.
There were no standing buildings. From coop to city hall, every structure had been pounded to rubble by what he suspected was General Salazar’s rebel army, fighting the federales of el president Madero, whose powers were weakening.
He rode through the silent plaza in such despair that he swore when he saw the tile fountain blown into shards. The flagpole had been sliced in half and the tri-colored flag of Mexico dropped down to the gravel.
From the depths of his serape, where she had turned her face, Addie thumped him. “Am, you promised me you wouldn’t use language like that!”
Trust his wife to keep him civilized in the middle of chaos. What was it about women? “I now, and I’m sorry,” he told her. “I just remember this village as a lovely place with a wonderful fountain. The people were always so kind to me. I used to take a siesta under the trees in the plaza.”
“Maybe you’d better close your eyes, too.”
“Wish I could.”
He turned Blanco toward the flag. The gelding picked his way carefully through the rubble. Ammon took out his knife and cut the cords tying the flag to the pole. He pressed the flag to his face – a shell had ripped through the eagle and the snake – then tucked it in his saddlebag. Someday, maybe if he lived long enough, and Addie still tolerated him, he could get her to mend it. They could fly it from their own rancho’s flagpole or maybe over his business in Pearson. He looked around at all the destruction and death, wishing such a future were even possible. Right now, he wouldn’t have wagered a centavo on it.
“Mexico is breaking my heart,” he whispered to his wife, and she kissed his neck.