Carmen Boullosa: Bruno the Viking and his men…

by Nick

“Bruno the Viking and his men have just eaten. Most of them have gone back to work (brushing the horses, laying out strips of beef to dry); the boss is lying by the embers of the fire, next to a demijohn of sotol. A Mexican falcon flies overhead. Bruno takes his slingshot from his shirt pocket. He places a smooth pebble into the rubber band. He aims…
The shot misses, despite the face he had plenty of time. It’s the falcon’s good luck that the hunter had too much to drink.
The falcon circles. Once again Bruno has him within reach, he reloads his slingshot…But the sun plays a trick on him and blinds him just as he’s about to take his shot.
The falcon is one-in-a-million, and it escapes. This infuriates Bruno, mostly because of the sotol running in his veins, which puts him in a foul mood. He hides his face beneath the brim of his hat. And, just like that, he falls asleep.
He snores.
Pierced Pearl, his captive–the Comanches recently sold her to him but she won’t last long, he can’t stand having a woman around–has watched the whole scene with the lucky, free falcon.
It pleases Pierced Pearl–bravo for the falcon! A hand’s breadth from Bruno, she lays her head on the ground–there’s nowhere else to lay it–and curls up to try to sleep-it was a bad night. She dreams:
That Bruno’s snoring is the falcon’s voice. That the falcon approaches, flying close over her, flapping its wings noisily. It has a human torso. It’s neither man nor woman. It caws:
“There. Theeere. Theeere.”
The falcon develops legs, they grow till they reach the ground. It bends them. Continues flapping. It speaks:
“Leave this place. Here. You’re…hic. You’re interrupting my…hic…hic…hic…I’m…like a fish…”
The falcon stretches its legs, swaggers around and disappears into the air, like smoke.
Pierced Pearl, Bruno’s prisoner, awakens. Yet again she is overcome by anxiety and bitterness. Knowing the falcon escaped gives her the only flicker of hope she’s had in a long time. And then the falcon became meaningless in her dream.
Pierced Pearl grinds her teeth.
Just then one of the Born-to-Run arrives in a cloud of dust, like a ghostly apparition at a vigil, his eyes bulging. He pulls up short. He drinks from the goat’s bladder he wears around his neck. This liquid is poisonous to most, but it makes him feel tireless, immortal.
Pierced Pearl forgets her worries for a moment and pays close attention to the messenger. She hears him swallow, listens to him gargle, making sounds to clear his throat.
“Bruno!” the Indian messenger shouts. Bruno awakens immediately, lifts his hat, and his pupils are still adjusting when the messenger drops the news about Nepomuceno like a hot potato.
And in the blink of an eye, the messenger, like a flying arrow, whizzes off, back to the Well of the Fallen, his blood burning with the poison that fuels him.”

From Carmen Boullosa’s Texas: The Great Theft out now from Deep Vellum.