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The Boots! The Boots!

I was cracking up as I translated this!




At the end of the meeting, I noticed some commotion among the people. They whispered something amongst themselves and kept glancing in the direction of other huts.

There, I saw Arasibo walking towards us, holding a pair of Spanish boots in front of him, the cause of our fears the night before. The Indian limped slowly, with the solemn air of a priest bearing a sacred relic. With that impassive face, he reached us and approached me amid the general silence. All stared at us, captivated as if they were watching a bizarre religious ceremony. Vagura—always the joker—broke the silence with a snort of suppressed laughter.

“Your boots have found you!” he said to me. “There is no escaping them now!”

Arasibo stood before me and placed the boots solemnly at my feet. And they were serious boots: massive, huge, hard as a tool of torture, with uppers reaching above the knee. And if you wore them, they were as hot as hell.

“It’s the kanaima!” I jokingly shouted, pointing to my boots as if tormented, evoking the name of the vengeful spirit.

Arnak and Lasana laughed, but Manauri preserved a serious expression. Some frowned at hearing me invoke the name of the demon.

“Yan! We do not want you to get bitten by a snake,” said the chief. “You are a precious brother to us, and there are plenty of snakes here. Listen up, people! Are there vipers here, yes or no?” he asked the rest of the Indians.

“There are! There are! Plenty! Big ones, too!” all earnestly confirmed.

“We honor our chiefs with feathered caps decorating their heads,” Manauri continued relentlessly. “Whereas you... we will honor you with these boots decorating your feet!”

“They pinch like the devil!” I objected. “They bake my feet! You can’t make me wear them!” I defended myself as best I could.

“Life brings many heavy burdens which we must bear patiently,” Manauri said in an admonishing voice. “In these boots, you will look distinguished, respectable, powerful, invincible.”

“But I will be sore and unhappy,” I waved my hands in opposition. “Come on, wise chief, in the name of god, do not make me do this.”

But Manauri was not inclined to be merciful, stubbornly insisted, and did not intend to budge. He spoke to me in polite words but with an unwavering expression and a hard look in his eyes:

“I ask you, Yan, don your beautiful boots! They will be a mark of your dignity!”

The good Manauri had apparently devised for me some role of a ceremonial chief and chosen these nasty boots as my insignia of power. The devil take him! What was worse, other Indians seemed to share his view and got it into their heads that it was my honorable duty to wear these boots. Have they all lost their minds?

Only Arnak and Lasana did not take part in the general argument. They kept calm and were clearly having great fun at my expense. They had no intention of coming to my rescue. As for Vagura, his eyes sparkled with hilarity. He chuckled, addressing me in English:

“Your boots have caught you! You will now be a White Jaguar in Boots!”

He remembered—the cruel scoffer—that Lasana had called me White Jaguar, and he was determined to milk that for all the fun he could get.

Of the whole group, only Arasibo was an exception. He was still standing next to the boots and, immobile, was watching me intently. He watched my eyes and lips and was thinking something, calculating. The intensity of internal effort twisted his ugly face in a terrible grimace.

What did Arasibo want from me? How much intense desire was in that ugly face, in those little penetrating eyes!

Suddenly, I understood.

With a cunning smile, I turned to the chief:

“Well, then, Manauri, you say these are my boots?”

“They are! They are!”

“Very well then!”

I lifted them from the ground, and I handed them to Arasibo.

“There! I gift them to you!”

The chief seemed to puff up with indignation, but Arnak, Vagura, and Lasana exploded with such wholehearted and catching laughter, and Arasibo put on my boots with such lighting speed and dexterity that there was nothing left for him to do. He laughed with the rest of us and waved his hand, admitting his defeat.

When the laughter died down, Manauri declared:

“Very well, Yan. This time, I give in. But you have to promise us two things, and both are for your own good.”

“As it is a request between brothers, I agree in advance.”

“First: always, always, always watch your step, watch the ground and beware of snakes. And second, and equally important, when we enter our village, you will wear the Spanish captain’s uniform you have and the boots.”

“We are going to take that uniform with us, too?” I panicked.

“Yes, we will.”

“Very well, if you insist, I will deck myself out on our arrival. But just for our entry. Then, I will take it all off.”

“That is fine. But you will also put it on whenever other chiefs visit our village, OK?”

I looked at Manauri with admiration. The man deserved to be a tribal chief: he clearly understood the political importance of pomp and ceremony.

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