Do not mess with the general’s daughter, they had told him. You are just a groom.
But she came to the stables. Many times. To admire her father’s horse, she said.
Early morning blazing sun. Everything white. Streaming eyes.
They shuffle him to the white wall. The pristine white wall.
He tries stretching. For the first time in days he can stand upright. He raises himself on his toes. His blood surges, races through starved muscles. He blesses the pain from every bruise and abrasion. He’s alive.
Someone scoops water from the well and offers the metal cup to his parched and swollen lips.
He lifts his face and breathes in perfumes from distant wild desert and close tended garden.
In his mind’s eye he sees her. Rosario!
Tin roof creaking in the heat.
A cock crows. A dog howls.
Orchestrated boots on stone.
The slap of leather. The jingle-jangle of spurs. Iron-shod hooves. He knows that horse. Only too well. And the expensive aftershave.
He welcomes the rough rag now masking his eyes from the sun, the world.
He listens to the shouted orders, gun-oiled bolt sliding in gun-oiled chamber.
He presses his shoulders against the pristine white wall.