Madre Con Queso

Prologue — Part 2 — Madre Con Queso

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Boots Diablo lay on a vast plateau of red stone, gazing up at the cloudy Mexico sky. Life was harder these days in the village of Tamarindo, harder than the people of the village had ever known it to be. The farmers had been suffering under a cloud-stricken, sunless sky for several months now. Boots wondered what his mother would do if the cows went hungry another month. As a particularly large, puffy, white cloud blew lazily past him, suddenly there was a bright light in his eyes.

“Agh, no me moleste!” cried Boots, as the sunlight poured down through the opening in the clouds.

The dizzying lights receded slowly from Boots’ vision as the cloud cover encompassed the sky once more. He rolled lazily over to look at the rough stone on which he whiled away many of his hours so as to avoid any serious work. Every few feet tiny red squares populated the plateau and it was one of these squares that caught Boots’ eye as his gaze wandered across the empty landscape. The square was writhing slowly, from side to side, as if it was trying to escape the red rock prison in which it had been trapped for thousands of years. Boots sprang forward to get a better look at what was happening, but almost immediately leaped backwards in shock. Hundreds of tiny crystalline cubes exploded out of the rock face and were now hovering about a foot above Boots’ eye level. Boots stumbled back in shock and then several feet more as a thin black line came racing along the ground towards him. Mere inches from his rough-shod leather boots the line halted and then began to spiral rapidly upwards growing larger and emitting black tendrils of smoke as it rose. Boots fell backwards and covered his face with his hands, wondering if this might be the last thing he would ever see.

Moments that felt like decades spanned before Boots plucked up the courage to open his eyes.

A tall, handsome man stood before him. He wore a long, dark gray overcoat over a heavily brocaded shirt and dark pinstripe pants. His hair was long and rather unkempt and large obsidian loops held it in place on the back of his head. His skin was very light but looked to be somewhat sun-weathered. Boots thought vaguely that he looked only a few years older than him, perhaps twenty-five. The tall man was staring intently up at the red cubes which were now easily fifteen feet in the air. Boots stood slowly and walked a bit closer the the tall man.

“Uh… Señor?” he tugged lightly at the man’s sleeve but as soon as he did he was propelled backwards with such force that he flew nearly fifty feet before he landed in a heap near the edge of the path back to Tamarindo. Boots groaned and rolled onto his back in agony. He was sure his arm was broken and as he blinked blood from his eyes he guessed his nose was too. His vision began to fog over and he realized he must be passing out. Or dying.

When Boots awoke he found himself in the room he shared with his brother, Tortugo, and his cousin, Roccia. “Boots?” came a voice from the doorway. The voice belonged to his cousin, Roccia. Her long black hair covered most of her face as it always did, but the usual expression of mischievous delight had been replaced by a look of concern. She gestured to Boots and backed away from the door, looking expectant. Boots got slowly up from his bed, he felt as if he had been sleeping for days. Boots trod out into the hall and towards the kitchen where he could see Roccia and his mother Pela talking to someone he could not yet see. As he got closer he realized that Pela was not speaking in Spanish, and the other voice, a man’s voice, seemed to be speaking the same strange nonsense. Boots stepped out from the shadowy entrance to the kitchen and at once recognized the tall man from the plateau. Immediately the man strode forward and extended his hand, obviously expecting Boots to take it. Boots did so hesitantly and the man spoke in a clear, powerful voice.

“Good to see you up and about boy, you’ve given your lovely mother and cousin quite a fright you know!” The man, whom Boots realized must be at least forty. looked genially towards Pela and then back to Boots.

“Yes they were quite concerned you had dehydrated yourself out in that heat.” Boots felt strange, as if he could not quite believe what he was hearing.

“What happened to me?” Boots stammered. At once he remembered the broken arm, and he clutched at it expecting a torn mass of ligament and muscle but found only his arm, whole and functional as ever. Pela ushered him into a seat and put before him a glass and jug of water. She then strode over to the ice box to fetch some food. Roccia had her more usual roguish grin adorning her lips as she spoke softly to the tall man.

“It is so wonderful that you found him in time Mr. Paz, Boots is always sitting in the sun for far too long. Well, you know what boys are like I’m sure.” Boots thought she looked a bit too taken by this new guest and tried to stand up but immediately felt dizzy. He downed a glass of water and tried to clear his head. Before Boots could imagine a question that would do justice to his confusion, the door opened and in sprang a tall, gorgeously tan, young man in dazzling flamboyant clothes.

“Oh! Tortugo!” Pela ran past the kitchen table and hopped over an enormous yellow cat curled on the floor. She nearly dropped the plate of cheeses she was carrying in her excitement.

“Ay dios mio! Mi madre con queso!” Tortugo exclaimed, looking delighted at the sight of so many cheeses in one place. A moment of silence passed and Pela looked a bit startled at the sound her eldest son had just made. The tall man practically galloped over to the door and hastily shook Tortugo’s hand.

“Oh my where are my manners,” Pela said after a moment of puzzlement. “Tortuga, how nice it is to see you back from college this early. This is Bellatine Paz, he’s just saved our Boots from being cooked on a rock!” Tortuga looked briefly uncertain but shook it off almost at once, and shook Bellatine’s hand again with more vigor than before.

“Well, as I always say, ‘If there’s one thing I love more than my mother,’” he gestured vaguely at Pela, ”’and a plate of cheese,’” he pointed at the cheese emphatically with both hands, ”’it’s mysterious strangers who have just saved my little brother from almost certain death!’” Bellatine looked slightly flummoxed by this mad combination of gestures and words but smiled at the look of delight that had crossed Tortugo’s face as he started devouring cheese, as if hadn’t eaten in months.

“How did you make the crystals fly?” A strange assortment of reactions followed Boots’ question. Roccia’s visible eye widened and she looked more surprised than Boots had ever seen her before. Pela looked as if she had dropped the plate of cheeses, but Bellatine coughed and when Boots looked back at Pela and Tortugo, Tortugo was still eating diabolically, if a bit slower than before while he looked around from Boots to everyone else.

“Boots… why don’t you sit back down and we can all eat together in celebration of your brother’s return and of Bellatine being our hero of the day.” Without quite understanding why, Boots sat down and ate with his family, not yet knowing that after that night he would never see them again.

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Madre Con Queso

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