Changó oba nikosó
The day after we saw the river I had the morning shift at the entrance to the compound, where me and Flaco had met the mercenaries when we first got the puppies. I had Changó with me. I’d stayed up all night gaming so I was dead. Since I had grown complacent from months of peace and quiet and because it was a hot-ass morning, I sat outside my bunker with my flak jacket open. Across the street from the compound, in a mostly abandoned, shot-up residential building, a sniper took aim at me thru a scope and shot me in the chest.
I felt as tho I’d been kicked hard by someone with excellent technique (someone like Wonderboy Thompson). I didn’t even hear the crack of the rifle, but as soon as I felt my idlozi expand and like, pervade, I knew what time it was (palo kindiambo, ya son las horas). My dog Changó knew as well and became very anxious. He whimpered and barked and didn’t know what to do with himself. Then suddenly he too was shot through the hip. He let out a yelp. His hind legs dropped and he dragged himself to me with his front legs as he whimpered and licked my face in a desperate —
After the sniper shot me he scanned the other bunkers on the rooftops. The rest of the guys were ducked down inside their bunkers and were shook thoroughly. They were scanning for new muzzle flashes from the sniper using mirrors. At one point the sunlight bounced off Jones’ mirror and briefly blinded the sniper. This annoyed him and he shot off the mirror. Then he spazzed out a little and moved to a different nest in the building. He kept scanning. (I could see all of this!)
This situation with all of us shook thoroughly and ducked down inside our bunkers went on for an hour until Corporal Pancho got too annoyed to stay scared. He got up inside his bunker and came outside and stomped down from his rooftop onto the entrance road. He crunched the gravel with his combat boots and came up to me and my dog Changó and kneeled. He felt my throat and said No, ni pinga, cojone’!
He got up and faced the building, but the sniper would not shoot! He kept caressing the trigger on his stick but he would not pull it. He thought it had to be a trap. The sniper figured Pancho wanted him to shoot and reveal his position. Actually, Pancho was purely gambling. His strat was to come out as the biggest rooster ever and pray it made the sniper falter. A pure meta play, and it payed!
He walked to the T-barriers and took off his flak jacket and swung it on top of the concertina wire. He took off his cammie blouse and swung it over the wire as well. Bare-chested and vulnerable he climbed up on top of the barrier and stood there, scanning the building for a full minute.
Then Pancho addressed the alibaba and all the haji civilians that were harboring him.
“Negro! Yo Cabo Franciso Manuel Abreu. To tata nkisi arriba mundo. Yo marufina cuatro viento, tormenta tiembla tierra. Viento malo de la muerte! Que va Zarabanda cheche bacheche arriba nkuto arriba ntoto. Y el día k choco mundo kuaba, Kalunga sube Kalunga baja! Mi nganga no se revienta, desde que ntango Isa hasta que ntango ndialemba. Negro y blanco ngangulero como yo!!” . . . and on and on like that he went, in our awesome Stick patois. (Y con una guapería infinita.)
Then he told ’em, “You will never get rid of me, my Marine Corps, or my country. We own your city and your desert country now. Fuck you!”
By this point the sniper was so overcome with hesitation that he put down his rifle and nearly balled up on the filthy floor. It was so fucking beautiful. (I was there with him, thru him, even! I could sense the kalapas in his innermost idlozi!)
Then Pancho about-faced and scanned the rooftop bunkers and addressed us.
“Wá kunan Congo!”
But we were too scared to respond.
“Ni pinga! Wá kunan Congo! What the actual fuck!” and he pounded his chest.
Here Sergeant Kadric said fuck it and came out of his bunker onto the rooftop and yelled back “Wá!’
Pancho jumped down from the barrier. Dust exploded around his combat boots, the thud loud and echoey, the neighborhood dead-ass quiet. He began pacing like a caged and restless potency. (Sal de la cueva, cimarrón!)
“Ndundu con ndundu, goddamn it!” he yelled up to us.
Now we all said fuck it too and came out onto the rooftops and faced him and the building with the sniper behind him.
Then he said, “Npaka con npaka!”
In thundering military unison now, “Npaka!”
Pancho, “Is we or ain’t we, goddamn it!”
Him, “Santo Tomás!”
Us, “Seeing is believing!”
Santo Tomás, seeing is believing!
Then we sang a call and response coro that goes, “Cuida’o con cuida’o, palo tiene e’pina!” It means, literally: take care with care, my stick has thorns. It’s so fucking awesome.
Sergeant Kadric took over as rooster and we kept singing the coro as Pancho carried Chango’s body and mine into the compound and headed to the cauldron cave.