The Irish Colonel
"A thirsty day it is," O’Leary
remarked as they crossed the plaza toward the cuartel. "Nice village,
Capitán. A quiet command?"
"I do not wish to disabuse you of this
illusion so soon, Colonel," said Monastario seriously, "but this
is a frontier post with crime and lawlessness. My command operates no
differently than one at war."
"I see," responded the colonel.
"Then I will count on you to give me a proper debriefing."
"I believe you are retired, are you
not?" commented Monastario.
"What’s the major crime in these
parts?" O’Leary redirected the conversation, not caring for what he
took as a dismissive attitude toward his rank.
"I’ll fill you in at your
‘debriefing," Monastario responded, but he smiled.
"Fair enough. Let’s get the bureaucratic
lunacy tended to," O’Leary yawned.
Monastario was annoyed by the remark, but by now they had reached the cuartel and he set his mind to the business at hand. The arrivals were impatiently awaiting his return.
The passengers fidgeted as Monastario checked the
forms they had filled out, and dismissed them one by one.
O’Leary lingered over each and every detail of
the form, muttering to himself and finally finished with a flourish of his
quill. He took pains, however, to nod to each passenger as they left and
winked at the merchant’s wife who tossed her head and grabbed her
son’s hand. The boy smiled shyly as they left.
When he finished, he got up and stalked around the
room, looking at the paintings and maps, plants and other furnishings
while Monastario reviewed the form. "I see you are a mixture of
austerity and good taste, Capitán," he noted looking out the window
onto the cuartel.
Monastario took the compliments for granted and decided that, despite his presumptuous attitude, the colonel would not be too much of a problem - if handled the right way.
"I am impressed by your remarkable memory of events at Valencia, Señor," commented the capitán. "Those were the days of glory. It must have been difficult for you to decide to retire."
fishing, me lad, thought the colonel. "Like I said, I don’t
forget a name or an important occasion. Ah, Capitán, it’s not often
that one can meet someone who lived through those times as a comrade. And
here, at the ends of the Earth."
"Now that you are here, as you say, at the
‘ends of the Earth,’ do you intend to stay for long?"
"Now that remains to be seen, my dear Capitán.
I’ve never been a man tied to one spot, but one can never tell."
"And what will you do here, if I may
ask?" the comandante pressed.
O’Leary seemed to take offense at the question.
"That’s a mighty personal question, Capitán."
"Please, do not take offense at my question.
Why don’t you make a statement – for the record," responded
"Let’s say that, for the present, I’ll be
looking for a lady. I presume there are a few, even on the frontier?"
smiled the Irishman.
"A few," responded Monastario. "And
you may find that you will have to overlook their rude pedigree in favor
of the wealth of their fathers."
"I trust you’ve made some progress in that
area," commented O’Leary, now interested.
Monastario made a gesture of dismissal. "I
hope you will forgive me, Colonel O’Leary, if I have some duties to
perform. Perhaps we can continue our conversation at a later time? The
tavern serves some excellent wines."
O’Leary nodded. "Any town with a good
tavern won’t be boring for long."
Monastario smiled benevolently and saw the colonel to the door. He watched until the officer disappeared through the gates of the cuartel and began to think of how he might make use of such a man for his own ends.