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152                                     Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
            II.  The short story as published in The Torch, Volume XLVIII,
               Number 2, February 1964

              The Untimely Death of J. Cristobal

                  by Jack Fritscher writing as John J. Fritscher

            “You did not read about it in the North American papers, señor. What
            is such a man in such a little country that you should read about him?
            To you it is all the same. And to us. But this time to me it was different,
            señor. Si, muy diferente.”
               In the Rio bar, the dark little man with the rheumy eyes sat across
            from me, elbows and eager arms on the table, gesturing, never resting. His
            gabardine shirt was wrinkled from the heat and beads of sweat diffracted
            the hotel light across his low forehead. He did not quite fill the slack folds
            of his dirty Panama suit.
               “It was in the Spring of last year the revolution failed. He had not
            wanted to lead us, but his father had the promise of him. That was his first
            mistake — that he did not have it to heart in him. But we did not know it
            then. And many do not know it even now.
               “When we took and gave him the republic and the former Presidente,
            he accepted the one and exiled the other. His second mistake. He should
            have had him lawfully tried and shot him then, even as a year later the
            evil one returned and killed him. But he could kill nothing needlessly. He
            had not really the cojones even for the bull ring.
               “In that year life was good but everyone wanted it better. How much
            can a man do in a few months? He was a General not a god.” His shoulders
            shrugged in disbelief at what he was to say and the wine glass trembled
            before his lips. “And then, one night the Presidente came back across the
            frontier and down the mountains to the Capital. Before dawn the main
            regiments were his and the fighting and rioting was over by lunch. In the
            evening they danced in the streets. Their feet paid no more mind to what
            had come to pass than did their heads. Who is the strongest, he should
            rule them. Until his strength begins to pinch their feet.
               “The next day, señor, there was a grand trial in the sports arena and
            there he was condemned to die as befitted a traitor who was part-Indian
            from the hills. While the fiesta went on above, he was delivered to the
            common soldiers’ quarters in the locker rooms below. And they did not
            treat him kindly. After he was dead I saw close up the marks on his body.
            But he was not so fortunate as to die from their beating.
               “I am not so sure what happened to him the rest of the day. I think,
            perhaps, he was interrogated much the same as we all were.”

          ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
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