Written By: Ed Miller
Somewhere in the south of Chile, high on the Patagonian Steppe, surrounded by windswept pastures dotted by cattle, the occasional outriding huaso spurring his corralero along a remote hilltop, a small pueblo leans into the vagaries of time with an abiding dignity.
This obscure place, San Ignacio, its zocalo imbued with a fugitive history—gray, faded, bullet-pocked—the ghosts of firing squads lingering in the far reaches of collective memory, stands apart from its neighbors. Here, at the end of the square, commemorating that glorious revolution, are the decaying statues of its heroes, Manuel Rodriguez Erdoiza and Jose de San Martin, their proud and resolute gaze fixed on distant victory, swords thrust outright.
By midmorning the town begins to stir. Arises from it slumbers.
A dog passes in the street, followed by another.
Old men bend at dominoes under the shade of the monkey puzzle trees. Some play for money. Some for honor. Some for both.
They are drinking coffee. Moving tiles.
Smoking and gossiping.
When the unexpected arrives. From the sky.
Skidding and then bouncing.
Slamming through the adobe wall of a panderia.
A small crowd gathers; heads dip and peer through the settling dust of the bakery’s interior. A wider investigation leads to the rear of the property, where the Sidewinder made its exit and ploughed a new furrow in a meager garden.
Hijole, a woman says. Dios mijo.
Departures effected suddenly and in all directions.
Later military vehicles convoy into town, diesel smoke guttering from exhaust stacks, engines blattering.
The authorities have come to take custody of the missile.
Bottle of pisco in hand, a second lieutenant wobbles down from the cab of the lead truck. Smiling, slurring his words only slightly, he announces—
Don’t worry, friends. We are here to help. We are professionals.
Ed Miller teaches English at Madera Community College. Included among his areas of interest are pop culture, politics, poetry, and postmodern fiction.
Lately his work has appeared in Border Senses, Review Americana, and Birmingham Arts Journal.