Charles Haddox lives in El Paso, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border, and has family roots in both countries. His work has appeared in a number of journals including Chicago Quarterly Review,MASKS Literary Magazine, The Normal School, and Stonecoast Review.
SAN MARCOS ZORRILLOS AND THE MOON
In the 1930s, the government decided to bring electricity to San Marcos Zorrillos, my grandmother’s home village in northern Jalisco. She was a young girl, but she still remembers the excitement and anticipation that everyone felt at the idea of turning night into day. The government was making all sorts of promises and plans back then. Unfortunately, some had to wait while others went forward. Wiring, streetlamps, and power lines were a tall order for a remote little village surrounded by rocky, mesquite-covered plains, and a year and a half passed without any signs of progress.
People grew impatient with all the unfulfilled promises and decided to do what they could while waiting for the government to act. They knew that when the moon was full, people had plenty of extra time for work or leisure, but something had obviously gone wrong with that great ruler of the night during its eons of service. At least once a month, its glow would slowly fade and eventually go out. The light would always return, but only after hours and nights were lost to darkness.
Don Julio, the mayordomo, an old man who was responsible for bringing the village’s citizens together to work on public projects, decided that the time had come to fix the moon. It was acting like a clock that couldn’t keep time, or a jammed water pump, or a scale out of balance. He began by meeting with the local blacksmith, Don Melesio, who lived on a cactus-covered hill at the edge of the village. The blacksmith invited the mayordomo into his sturdy stone house, which was also his shop, and they shared a few glasses of homemade brandy and sweet almond biscuits as they discussed the moon.
“Don Julio, that moon has needed fixing for centuries. In the past, people relied on angels for the upkeep of the skies. But we’re living in a modern age. We don’t have to wait around for anyone. I can fix the moon like that—if you’ll just haul it to my shop.”
“Are you sure, Don Mele?”
“It’s a promise.”
“We’ll have to use a rope to pull it out of the sky. But how do we hurl a rope that high?”
“With a skyrocket, no? I’ll have to build the biggest skyrocket the world has ever seen to carry a rope all the way to the moon.”
“We can use money from the big raffle held at last year’s fiesta to pay for it.”
“Consider it done,” Don Melesio said, stroking his chin with a dark, calloused hand.
Now, we all know that people have tried for years to tie a string to the moon and sail it like a kite. No one has ever done it, but occasionally someone will succeed in attaching a line to the moon’s scattered reflection on the sea and steering it like a ship. However, that’s not the same. To hold the moon securely, like an icy balloon, against the swirling celestial gales—no one has ever done that, and certainly no one has ever hauled it down to earth like a kite that’s tired and wants to sleep. But then again, no one ever built a skyrocket like the one Don Melesio built. If this sounds like a tall tale, let me assure you that it all really happened just like my grandmother said. People today have forgotten how to do so many things, and they don’t believe in the marvels that our great-grandparents and grandparents achieved back in their time.
The skyrocket Don Melesio built stood ten meters tall and was painted bright red. Don Julio figured that the moon would be easier to lasso if it was only a sliver, so the village waited until it was just beginning to wax before they launched the towering missile. A line fashioned from all the ropes in the village was tied to the rocket and the other end grasped by members of the League of San Miguel.
With a whiz and a shriek, the rocket soared to the sky. High in the heavens, it exploded with a colossal bang, and the force of the blast wrapped the end of the rope around the shining gold crescent that had just climbed over the world’s edge.
“Pull, pull,” Don Julio shouted.
“Slowly, slowly,” Don Melesio said, as he calculated the rope’s height with a homemade quadrant.
Just when the moon appeared to be moving, a thick cloud of soot enveloped it. Don Lolo de la Llave, a cantankerous farmer who lived in the countryside and never went to church or participated in the mayordomo’s projects, was burning old cornstalks and filling the night with smoke.
“Can you see the moon?” Don Julio asked.
“I can’t see anything,” Doña Cuca, president of the League of San Miguel, shouted angrily as she felt the rope grow slack.
“What’s making all the smoke?” Don Melesio asked, coughing.
“It’s that pendejo de la Llave.” Don Julio said, annoyance in his voice. “He’s clearing his fields.”
If the plan to fix the moon failed, he knew who would get the blame.
“Call out the fire brigade,” Doña Cuca called to the mayordomo.
“And ring the church bell,” Don Melesio added.
By the time Don Lolo de la Llave’s fire was extinguished, and the heavy smoke dispersed, it was clear that the moon had slipped the rope. Doña Cuca and her League stormed off in disgust. Don Melesio went home to eat his dinner.
A few months later, the government began the process of constructing electrical lines and installing hookups, and as soon as the first streetlamps were lit, the village forgot all about repairing the moon. The only lasting consequence of the villagers’ efforts came from the noise of the exploding skyrocket. A young steer grazing in the same field as the rocket launch was made deaf by the blast. But even that was not all bad. His benevolent owner decided to spare him from the slaughterhouse after he lost his hearing, and when my grandmother left the village for secretarial school five years later, he was still happily grazing with the bulls.