By Ricardo Quezada Based on the work of Tania Quezada for La Novena de Nueve Series.
I grew up with my grandmother, in a modest house near the hill of the cross in Amealco. It is not necessary to highlight, but we lived in a very modest way and one of the daily activities was going to the forest to get twigs to light a fire. For me it was a little annoying to have to walk the trails in search of fallen branches because my grandmother wouldn’t let me cut logs, she said that everything was part of a whole and that we couldn’t devastate a tree without thinking that on the other side of the hill, Don Octavio the lumberjack was going to cut down another one. I remember that she would sit on her legs and explain to me -He cuts the wood, it’s his work and we plant mushrooms, that’s ours, if we all cut down a tree on each side of the hill without thinking about what others do, little by little we would eat the hill a bit and die of cold. In the same way, if the lumberjack sows mushrooms, we would be stuffing ourselves with mushrooms all year round and we couldn’t eat them any more because we would be full of flavor, that’s why it’s important to respect everyone’s work, so we’re all happy, working together, like the birds that cut the air to be able to fly more easily. At that age I listened to everything, but to remove any kind of disbelief I ended the story with -Thus the creatures of the forest leave us alone and will not make us mischief.
During my whole childhood I lived a little bit afraid of those things, so I never dared to contradict her, but when I grew up it was different, we were doing a little better thanks to the money my parents sent us from the other side. Suddenly we had gas in the house and no longer needed to buy wood although my grandmother kept buying logs from the lumberjack; I did not understand why, she said that the nixtamal did not cook the same in the stove.
Every morning she would walk about five kilometers to the church of San Juan Dehedó where she would go to Mass or pray and come back with corn and wood, as she was an old woman I always scolded her and told her not to carry such heavy things, but she was stupid, foolish.
By that time I had my first beard and moustache, which meant that I was already a man. I took the axe and went out one morning to cut down the biggest tree I could find, of course at two axes the titan of wood m
it turned out to be too much for me. So I was hitting all the trees with axes, looking for one that would curl before my strength, until I found a small and young pine tree, about my age, barely taller than me. I hit him and the log snapped real fast, like when you twist a chicken’s neck. I tied a rope around my waist and walked home, but I never found her. It was a road that I knew by heart, I walked it hundreds, I say millions of times and yet I was fucking lost.
When it was night I heard giggles and I began to fear for my life, I sought refuge in the forest but everything seemed terrifying to me, I could not enter any cave or hide in the niche that is formed in the trunk of the trees because from there came the noises. I walked for hours and hours, and well into the night a little song sounded and I saw the light of a fire in the distance; I approached being as quiet as possible and I saw several children with the face of an animal dancing around the fire, like chaneques or nahualitos. I was very frightened, but before I could run away, they were already seeing me, they started to approach me and in an outburst of terror I told them that I had brought a tree to warm us all up, I dragged the tree to the campfire and the creatures sang to me – Here… here nothing is wasted, here everyone sings, here everyone dances – and they began to sing – A palpable leap from the North for the challenges ahead, another to the east for what has just begun and all that is born, two turns of buttocks and with the face resting to the west for what is asleep and a lot of jumps because the south is warm and lively – then they laughed and began to improvise again -Muchacho, boy, pig-face, got lost in the grove because he was walking like a ufano, now he has to dance and dance, otherwise in the cold it’s going to freeze – again laughter and more dancing. The tree began to burn very strongly and they wouldn’t let me stop, or stop dancing until six hours later the tree had finally burned. When the fire went out, the creatures disappeared in mockery and laughter – Look at her legs,”said the raccoon girl as her voice was lost in the forest like a dream that left me with blistering soles of my feet and cramped legs. I walked back, I didn’t say anything to my grandmother, she just laughed when she smelled my smoky clothes.
I’ve never seen them again, I’m very respectful of the forest, but once I heard a hunter tell a story – I’d been hunting.