The soldiers sat in groups about the tables in the res-taurant, ragged men, filthy with sweat, dirt and smoke, their hair matted, wild, disheveled.
“I killed two colonels,” one man clamored in a guttural harsh voice. He was a small fat fellow, with embroidered hat and chamois coat, wearing a light purple handker-chief about his neck.
“They were so Goddamned fat they couldn’t even run. By God, I wish you could have seen them, tripping and stumbling at every step they took, climbing up the hill, red as tomatoes, their tongues hanging out like hounds. ‘Don’t run so fast, you lousy beggars!’ I called after them. ’I’m not so fond of frightened geese—stop, You bald-headed bastards: I won’t harm you! You needn’t worry!’ By God, they certainly fell for it. Pop, pop! One shot for each of them, and a well-earned rest for a pair of poor sinners, be damned to them!”
“I couldn’t get a single one of their generals!” said a swarthy man who sat in one corner between the wall and the bar, holding his rifle between his outstretched legs. “I sighted one: a fellow with a hell of a lot of gold plastered all over him. His gold chevrons shone like a Goddamned sunset. And I let him go by, fool that I was. He took off his handkerchief and waved it. I stood there with my mouth wide open like a fool! Then I ducked and he started shooting, bullet after bullet. I let him kill a poor cargador. Then I said: ’My turn, now! Holy Vir-gin, Mother of God! Don’t let me miss this son of a bitch.’ But, by Christ, he disappeared. He was riding a hell of a fine nag; he went by me like lightning! There was another poor fool coming up the road. He got it and turned the prettiest somersault you ever saw!”
Talk flew from lip to lip, each soldier vying with his fellow, snatching the words from the other’s mouth. As they declaimed passionately, women with olive, swarthy skins, bright eyes, and teeth of ivory, with revolvers at their waists, cartridge-belts across their breasts, and broad Mexican hats on their heads, wove their way like stray street curs in and out among groups. A vulgar wench, with rouged cheeks and dark brown arms and neck, gave a great leap and landed on the bar near Demetrio’s table.
He turned his head toward her and literally collided with a pair of lubric eyes under a narrow forehead and thick, straight hair, parted in the middle.
The door opened wide. Anastasio, Pancracio, Quail, and Meco filed in, dazed.
Anastasio uttered a cry of surprise and stepped for-ward to shake hands with the little fat man wearing a charro suit and a lavender bandanna. A pair of old friends, met again. So warm was their embrace, so tightly they clutched each other that the blood rushed to their heads, they turned purple.
“Look here, Demetrio, I want the honor of introducing you to Blondie. He’s a real friend, you know. I love him like a brother. You must get to know him, Chief, he’s a man! Do you remember that damn jail at Escobedo, where we stayed together for over a year?”