The Adventures of Maite and Kepa: Part 71

The Adventures of Maite and Kepa is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

Torch in hand, Kepa walked to the sheep wagon. He stood there a moment before opening the door. Inside, he could see the simple bed and the belongings they stored there. He held up the torch.

“Ez!” cried Santi. “No!”

Kepa looked over and saw the older herder nearly in tears as he clutched his shoulder. But Kepa suspected that burning the wagon would be even more painful. All of Santi’s worldly possessions were in that wagon, including all of his photographs of his family from the Basque Country. He couldn’t fathom the loss Santi would feel.

He stole a glance back at Donny, who was watching him intently, his revolver still pointed at Santi. Donny made a nod at the wagon. Kepa threw the torch inside. He watched as the torch flew through the air in a fiery arch and landed on the bed with a soft thud. Almost immediately, the bedding caught fire, the flames licking up the side of the walls. 

Feeling as though he’d just taken a punch to the gut, Kepa mindlessly stumbled back to his chair. Santi just glared at him, the tears streaming down his cheeks. Kepa couldn’t look at him and instead turned to look at the wagon, which was beginning to go up in flames.

“Good boy,” smirked Donny as he watched the flames grow. Turning to the two herders, he asked rhetorically “And now what to do with you two?” His wicked grin made it clear he already had an idea.

Kepa seethed inside. He had never felt so hopeless, so powerless in his life, at least not since that day as a young boy when his aita died. He had never felt so alone and that feeling was resurfacing, flooding back in waves of grief. He trembled as he clenched his fists, his nails biting into his palms. Ashamed to look at Santi and not wanting to show his grief to the bastard sitting across the fire pit, he just stared at his shaking hands. He was surprised to see that the tips of his fingers were starting to glow.

“You,” Donny said to Santi, “you I’m going to let go. You can take one of those horses back to town, tell the other herders what happens when they trespass on cattle land.” He then turned to Kepa. “But you,” he continued, his mouth contorted into the most evil smile Kepa had ever seen, “I think we need to make an example of you. Show the other herders just how serious we are.” Turning back to Santi, he said “I want you to see this, and I want you to tell the others what you saw.”

“Get up,” Donny barked at Kepa, waving his revolver. 

As he stood up, Kepa whispered to Santi in Euskara “Prest egon. Be ready.” Santi just stared at him, a mix of hate and fear in his eyes. Kepa couldn’t help but sigh inside, frustrated that, in the end, he had made an enemy of his partner.

“Over there,” ordered Donny, pointing his gun to the clearing on the other side of the campfire. Kepa walked slowly to the spot Donny pointed to, his hands clutched to his side. When he got there, he turned to look Donny in the eye.

“You’re pretty tough with that gun in your hand. But, we both know how pathetic you are without it,” hissed Kepa, his hatred dripping off of every word.

Donny just shrugged. “You can put on a brave face if you want, but the end is going to be the same. Now get on your knees. I want you to beg for your life.”

Kepa hesitated for a moment. Donny shot at the ground at his feet. 

“I said, on your knees.”

Kepa fell to his knees. 

“Now,” he continued, putting one foot forward, “kiss my boot. Beg for your life.”

Kepa simply glared at the man in front of him before walking slowly forward on his knees toward Donny, the rage building with every step. He kept his hands clenched, but he could feel the warmth building, almost as if his fingertips were on fire. When he got close to Donny’s outstretched foot, he began to bend over, making as if he was going to kiss Donny’s boot. But, at the last second, he thrust his hand up as high as he could. 

“Kiss this,” he said as a blinding flash of light erupted from his hand.

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