He spends the evening washing blood from his son’s clothes until a group of men come knocking on the door. They carry shovels, axes and handguns. Their snow hats, cut with eyeholes and mouth-holes, are pushed up from their faces.
The farmer tells them, “I have no gasoline to give you.”
“The outpost won’t burn without gasoline,” they say. “It’s too big. It will take all night.”
“You should leave the outpost alone,” the farmer says. “Those people helped save a woman’s life today, and recovered my pigs when they ran from the pen.”
“The government is in your head,” one of them says. “You’ve lost your way.”
“The only thing lost is my faith in this plan,” the farmer says. “I have no gasoline to give you.”
The men shout, pound their feet and curse the state. They accuse him of being a traitor. The farmer closes the door as they turn and storm down the road toward the outpost.
“You are not going to school,” the farmer tells his son over breakfast much earlier that day. “I just discovered our pigs have fled, and you are helping me find them.”
“But his education,” the mother says. “You cannot keep doing this.”
The boy says he wishes to go with his father, and the mother throws up her arms. They dress in many socks and cut new slips of cardboard for their shoes. The boy does his best to warm their jackets over the stove while the father prepares the horses. From the door, the mother watches them ride off until they disappear down the hill. At the bottom, the farmer points out the broken gate that has allowed the pigs to escape.
“What if we don’t find them?”
“How can you know?”
“They could not have gotten far in this snow.”
The father feels sure his son knows he is lying. The government cleared the snow well last night, and the pigs could have wandered far down the mountain in search of warmer weather.
They loop around to the main road that separates the lake and government outpost from the cliff on which their home sits above. The previous summer, the outpost finished construction and reporters came up from the city for a press conference about a new plan to help resolve the many problems plaguing the Indian population. That was the word they had used: Indian. It is in these situations the farmer is supposed to solicit their help, but he can only clench his jaw, spit at the ground and push on. The city people have never cared about their struggles, as far as he can tell, nor could they understand them. Two chanchas, each with eight, six-month-old babes, bringing in several months of meals and tens of thousands of pesos not coming from anywhere else. An Indian problem.
Further down, an elderly woman sits shivering on a boulder with a handkerchief pressed to her forehead, blood streaming from the cloth onto her neck. The father and his son slow their horses to look down at her.
“Let’s continue,” the farmer says. “We are making good time.”
“She is nearly frozen,” his son replies, and dismounts to inspect her.
“While our animals wander off into the wilderness, you will stain your clothes with blood and no one will be the better for it.”
“Not a single car will pass all day, and very few horses.”
“What do you expect us to do? The hospital is hours down.”
But the farmer sees how the handkerchief cannot soak any more blood from the woman’s head. He dismounts his horse and kneels down beside her.
“How did you come to have this injury?” He asks.
“A rock fell from the sky.”
The power is out when the farmer awakes at the beginning of that day, so he goes around to the back and strings wire through the house. He considers how much his wife and son hate for the generator to wake them, but even more how bitterly they loathe the darkness of winter mornings. He doesn’t run it for long, anyhow, because he needs to save the gasoline for tonight.
The farmer heads to the timber pile at the edge of the cliff, finding not wood there but a snow-covered mound of autumn debris he has mistaken these last few months for his final supply. The government has not delivered the community rations all winter. He goes down the hill to his in-laws’ home in hopes of borrowing some, but is stopped where the path meets the road at the sight of his gate, which has been shattered again by the night plow. Even worse, his shack of pigs is empty.
His in-laws cannot afford to share wood, so the farmer returns to his yard and begins shoveling through the debris pile. Digging focuses his mind and invigorates his body, but does not quell his anger. He is drawn to the sight of the ice floating on the lake down below, and more so to the outpost on the shore just off the road. He is thrilled by his anger for tonight’s plan, for the glow of it in the darkness of these mountains, and for the future that will rise from its ashes. The farmer gives a shout and hurls a stone down below, does not wait to see where it lands and then returns inside to wake his son for breakfast.
Max Radwin is a journalist based in Santiago, Chile. His writing has appeared in Americas Quarterly, USA Today, The Miami Herald, Vice News and Al Jazeera. He graduated in 2015 from the University of Michigan with creative writing honors in English Language & Literature