a short story by Richard Aronson
Ferdinand’s sperm met Isabella’s egg then one thing led to another and El Pequeño León, their little Nino, found himself at the end of a noose. The desert sun beat down upon his gallows stage baking him from within his black silver-studded Charro outfit while all around the sweet aromatic drifting smell of the surrounding vineyards went unnoticed by El Pequeño León.
Apparently the townsfolk, the executioner, and the ugly bad guy also didn’t seem to notice the wonderful aroma or hear the beautiful sound of the local canaries. The annual celebration of la Virgen de la Viña reúne el Ojo de Dios where a local virgin girl is betrothed to one of the vineyard workers was overshadowed by the seriousness of the days dilemma.
El Pequeño León looked over the Valle de Cerdo, the jewel of Aranda de Duero and smiled with pride at his historic town sprinkled liberally with immaculate pueblos blancos but his smile faded as the shirtless flan-bellied executioner, complete with black hood, approached him.
“Do you have any last words?”
“I only want to let the people of Valle de Cerdo know that today El Pequeño León, the midget Mariachi Cowboy, saved them from that traitorous liar, Hongo Negro.”
“The only thing you will be saving today is our ears from listening to your stupid monologues,” belted out Phil “Hongo Negro” Morales.
The portly executioner moved towards the gallows arm, preparing to “release” justice. Hongo Negro sneered at the midget cowboy and nodded with approval towards the masked killer. Under the intense heat El Pequeño León found himself traveling in his thoughts back to a simpler time, back to when he was the one giving the victory speech.
“People of Inodoro Roto, listen to me. I am El Pequeño León, the midget Mariachi Cowboy and today I have saved you from the rotten Serpiente Clan. Know that from this day on, you will no longer have to live in dread of their asp bite”
“El Pequeño León, did you just say ass-bite?” questioned some hombre. A slight jiggle of laughter flowed through the crowd.
“Silencio! I said what I meant and what I said was aaasssp-bite not ass-bite. Please do not interrupt my victory speech again. Now, everyone, look upon your hero and never fear again.”
El Pequeño León assumed the posture of a mighty warrior. With hands on hips and head tilted, slightly up and to the right, he waited for the chants and accolades of the village people. The autumn sunset shot beams of light reflecting off of the silver studs on his black Charro outfit. Not sure what to do next the people of Inodoro Roto looked curiously on at him.
“Senior León, are you looking at something in the sky?” asked a humble village woman. The hero looked on, not wavering from his position.
A precious Nino, much too young and unsure of what was happening, called out.
“Has the ass-bite of the Serpiente clan paralyzed the vaquero?”
At this last remark, El Pequeño León was shaken from his stance. He leaped from the small wagon he had been standing on and approached the little child. He stepped up to him and stood on his tip toes to look the boy in the eyes.
“ASP BITE! A-S-P B-I-T-E, LIKE THE BITE OF A SNAKE. Please Nino, get it right.”
At that moment a horseback rider, riding with haste, rode into the village. He hastily approached the crowd causing no small commotion.
“Whoa Popa Rápida.! Whoa boy.”
El Pequeño León heard the ruckus and made haste towards the rider who was no longer riding the horse but instead was making his way, and pretty damn quickly at that, towards the midget Mariachi Cowboy.
“El Pequeño León? El Pequeño León? I must talk with you right away. Where are you El Pequeño León?”
“I am right in front of you,” replied the midget with just a little contempt in his voice.
“Now tell me rider. What news causes you to ride with such haste?”
“It is Hongo Negro. He has returned to Valle de Cerdo and he swears that he is going to kill every man woman and child if you do not come and meet him face to face.”
Suddenly the sweetness of the day’s victory became soured by this riders message. El Pequeño León was all to familiar with the villainous ways of Hongo Negro, perhaps the most treacherous outlaw in all of Aranda de Duero. It was not because of Hongo Negro’s many atrocities done to the people of de Duero that made the midget Mariachi Cowboy’s nostrils flare with anger. It was because this terrible man killed El Pequeño León’s parents right in front of him when he was only twelve-years old.
As Hongo Negro took the last breath from Isabella, Cesa Lesa (the name given to El Pequeño León by his parents) leapt at Hongo Negro and bit his ear. Instead of killing him right than and there the man in black clothing who smelled very badly took Cesa into the town square and tied him to one of the poles that held the town’s clock but he didn’t just tie him to the pole. He stripped him naked and burned three words into the flesh of his chest: El Pequeño León, the tiny lion.
“El Pequeño León, are you okay? Your eyes look like they were somewhere else,” said the rider to the midget Mariachi Cowboy.
“Sí my little fast rider friend, I am okay and yes, I was somewhere else. I was remembering the time when that stinky man in black took my parents from me. In a way he made me who I am today,” replied El Pequeño León as he raised his hand to his chest and gave a little scratch.
The tiny hero walked posthaste to Mi Caballo, his trusty miniature horse. He and the fast rider mounted their steeds and rode crazy fast towards Valle de Cerdo. One thing led to another and El Pequeño León, the midget Mariachi Cowboy, found himself at the end of a noose and at the mercy (as if he had any) of Hongo Negro.
“The only thing you will be saving today is our ears from listening to your stupid monologues,” said the stinky man in black as he sneered at El Pequeño León and nodded towards the Executioner.
Valle de Cerdo had built a permanent gallows years ago to discourage anyone from stepping outside of the law. The platform was strong and sturdy and raised about ten-feet from the ground. Directly across from the gallows and at the same height was the “Platform of Awesome Justice” named after the amazing feeling of righteousness people would experience when the bad guy was hanged but this time it would be Hongo Negro receiving justice because the only person to be hanged in the last ten years was Conejo Tonto, Hongo Negro’s brother, and the one that put him there was El Pequeño León.
“No longer will the people of Spain have to put up with your ridiculous black Charro outfit with its blinding silver-studs. I should have killed you when I killed your parents. Better yet, I should have killed you and let your parents live. They would have thanked me.”
Cesa’s blood began to boil. The vein above his right temple throbbed with red-flowing anger. His Mariachi clothing stuck to his body, now stained with sweat. He knew that he could not disappoint the people of Aranda de Duero but what would he do? How would he escape this despicable fate?
Hongo Negro sneered at the midget and nodded towards the executioner one more time. The fat black-masked man gripped the platform leaver, ready to release El Pequeño León into eternity. The midget Mariachi Cowboy prepared his heart to meet his maker. Then SUDDENLY, there was a bright light, so bright that El Pequeño León was blinded to everything else around him and then there was the voice.
“El Pequeño León, I am here to bring you a message from Ojo de Dios,” thundered the voice from the light.
“Speak to me for I am but your humble servant,” replied El Pequeño León
“Ojo de Dios has seen your courage, even though you are small and hard to find, and has sent me to bring you comfort.”
“Will you loose my hands from their bonds and free me from this noose so that I can have my vengeance against Hongo Negro?” asked El Pequeño León.
“El Pequeño León, I came only with a bucket of water to pour over you because of the heat of the sun, hence why I said Ojo de Dios sent me to bring you comfort.”
“You have come from Ojo de Dios. Along with the cubo de agua that you have brought to give me comfort, can you not also help me to remove this rope from my neck?” questioned the tiny cowboy.
“I certainly can help you but that is not what I was sent to do. Un momento por favor while I go and check with Ojo de Dios and see if he approves this request. Hopefully I will return before the shirtless fat man pulls that lever over there.”
El Pequeño León blinked his eyes and the light was gone. Looking frantically for relief from his predicament, the midget Mariachi Cowboy yelled out his crazy supplications.
“Ojo de Dios! Please return to me. Do not leave me at the end of this rope.”
“Listen to your hero now, people of de Cerdo. He is looking for Ojo de Dios as if the all-seeing one would come to this godforsaken town,” snorted the stinky man in black.
“¡Menuda estupidez! Enough already! Pull that lever and kill the midget!
SUDDENLY, just like the first time, there was a bright light, so bright that El Pequeño León was blinded to everything else around him and then there was the voice, just like before but different.
“El Pequeño León, Ojo de Dios has seen your courage, even though you are small and hard to find, and has sent me to bring you comfort.”
“Yes, you said that the first time you came. Now please, tell me, will you save me from this noose?”
“So I went and spoke with Ojo de Dios and asked him if I could help you with this matter. He told me to return to you and ask you one question first,” said the voice coming from the light.
“Yes, yes. Please ask me and please hurry,” shot back the midget cowboy.
“Ojo de Dios wants to know…”
“Do you want him to save you or…?”
“Please finish already!” shouted El Pequeño León
“…or would you like to go and be with your padre y madre?” answered the voice from the light.
Up to now, it seemed like time was barely moving, at least since the light came on the scene but now, with the question asked, time had completely stopped. The heat of the sun seemed to vanish and any thoughts regarding Hongo Negro, the fat masked man or the noose around his neck disappeared. El Pequeño León was at a crossroads. He lifted his eyes to the sky and addressed his parents.
“Padre, madre, what should I do? I miss you holding me in your arms and singing me to sleep. I want to come to you now and say damn the people but they need me to protect them from loco hombres like Hongo Negro. What should I do mis padres?”
“Uh, Cesa Lesa?” interrupted the voice from the light. “Your parents, they will not be able to answer you. They can’t even hear you. You kind of have to make this decision on your own.”
“Oh, okay,” replied El Pequeño León. “ I thought maybe since you were here from Ojo de Dios they would be too, but I guess not. Okay, so I guess I will take that as a sign that I should stay. Can you free me now?”
“As Ojo de Dios as my witness I set you free from your bonds and, oh, by the way, I have put an 8” Okapi high carbon steel throwing knife in your boot. Be careful when you take it out that you do not cut yourself.”
“Gracias Ojo de Dios. Muchas gracias. You will not regret this.” said El Pequeño León as a small tear ran down his cheek.
The light disappeared with a flash and just as fast El Pequeño León was free from his death sentence. He knelt quickly, which, for him was much quicker than most men, due to his short stature. He grabbed the 8” Okapi high carbon steel throwing knife from his boot and moved quickly towards the shirtless flan-bellied executioner, complete with black hood. El Pequeño León, not wanting to waste his one throw on the fat guy, decided to put into effect a flying, full-body, jump kick. His tiny body flew quickly through the air, like an arrow shot from a bow. His feet connected with the chubby, death-dealer’s head and knocked him on his butt. Well, first he fell off the gallows and dropped down to the dusty earth below and he didn’t really land on his butt. He kind of hit has head which, probably wouldn’t kill most people but because of his intense weight problem he snapped his neck.
One down and one to go.
“Do you think that just because Ojo de Dios has shined his brilliant light of favor upon you that you can defeat me, Hongo Negro, the mighty?!” sneered the crazy-eyed, stinky man in black. He stood defiantly on the “Platform of Awesome Justice.” He turned to face the people of Valle de Cerdo.
“Today, not only will I personally kill the midget but I will take the virgin, you know, the one dedicated for the celebration of la Virgen de la Viña reúne el Ojo de Dios, and make her my wife.”
“You will not be making anyone your wife because only a man can get married and, soon, you will be lacking the necessary man parts to do this,” yelled out El Pequeño León. The man in black spun around quickly and looked for the midget cowboy but he was no longer on the gallows.
“Where did you go you obnoxious short person?”
“Hola señor. I am standing right in front of you,” replied El Pequeño León and this time he didn’t have any disdain in his voice. He was glad this one time to be so short that Hongo Negro did not see him there and before the stinky man in black could utter another word Cesa Lesa lunged his 8” Okapi high carbon steel throwing knife into Hongo’s groin and cut out the man’s dos huevo’s. After that he jumped into the air and landed another spectacular flying kick into Hongo Negros’s chest making the stinky man stumble backwards and fall off of the “Platform of Awesome Justice.” Hongo Negro did not weigh nearly as much as the fat executioner so this time El Pequeño León used his 8” Okapi high carbon steel throwing knife to throw and when he did it pierced the stinky black man’s heart, thus killing him
The people of Valle de Cerdo vociferously sang out the praise of El Pequeño León, their patron hero. The village people thronged about the gallows stage. The tiny cowboy leaped off the platform into the receiving arms of his adoring fans. After fifteen minutes of crowd surfing he requested to be put down and made his way to Mi Caballo, his trusty miniature horse. As he headed towards the edge of town a dwarven mujer bonita threw him the one accessory that his black silver-studded Charro outfit was missing, a sombrero de vaquero. He looked up to her as she leaned out from her window and blew her a kiss.
Now all was complete and life was beautiful. He had the victory and, apparently, he had the woman. The only thing left was to visit his parents resting place and thank them for sending the servant of Ojo de Dios. He would have rode into the sunset except the place where his parents were buried was in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, he rode metaphorically into the sunset and lived mostly a happy ever-after life.