Reyes Takes a Vacation;

A Crossover in 4 and 1/2 parts.

 

 

Senorita Bastinada

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Reyes stared at the stranger, wondering at the white clothing that seemed to fit more tightly than even his own underwear, and at the man’s speech, which was definitely not the King’s Spanish.  And he watched the man’s hands, hands that seemed to be very capable of doing him harm. 

But at the same time, Reyes wondered at this man in white.  White?  Was he an angel sent to chase away the devil, which had come for him the previous evening?  If so, and Reyes was becoming increasingly of the opinion that such was the case; this angel must have had a horrendous battle.  The white clothing was smudged and dirty and faintly smelled of the brimstone scent that had accosted Reyes’ nose the night before.   Regardless, he had to thank this man.  Besides, even if he weren’t an angel, it wouldn’t hurt to be on this man’s good side.  “Gracias, Señor Angel,” he said in his most respectful manner.  He had had enough practice with superior officers and especially with that insufferable Don Sebastian Varga last year to know how to be very respectful.   

The angel stared at him in surprise and then straightened up, his pose no longer threatening.  “De nada,” the man said in return, after pausing for a moment.  It was as though he had been searching for the right words and had finally come up with them, or close to them anyway.  It was as though the man was from a foreign port and didn’t speak the corporal’s language.  Reyes pondered, didn’t all angels speak the same language?  But then, he reasoned, perhaps not all angels were from the mother country.  Maybe this one was English or French before he had died and became an angel.  It was possible, Reyes supposed; anything was possible.  But it would make talking with this angel interesting, because Reyes knew no other language beside his native tongue. 

The man in front of him pointed to himself and said, “Buck Rogers.” 

Reyes congratulated himself on his astuteness.  Even the man’s name sounded English, the last name, anyway.  He pointed to himself and said proudly, “Corporal Juan Reyes y Morista.”

The angel smiled broadly and held out his hand.  Reyes took it and the two men sealed their friendship with a handshake.  Señor Buck pulled him to his feet.  

“Corporal Reyes, I do not know Spanish well.  Please be . . . patient.”   Buck said, stumbling over his words, and then asked, “What day is it?”

“Saturday,” Reyes answered simply. 

Buck sighed again.  “What is the date?  Year, month, day?”

“Ah,” Reyes said.  Now he understood.  And his feelings that this was an angel became even stronger.  Who else but an angel, who went from place to place, would not keep up with dates?  “It is Saturday, August 25th, 1821.”  The angel’s eyes widened, and Reyes saw him swallow hard, as though something had become stuck in his throat. 

“And the place?”

“Near Los Angeles,” Reyes said.   He watched as the angel, Señor Buck, looked out at the ocean, his eyes thoughtful and distant.  Reyes looked out and saw only far-off clouds and white-capped waves.   “Are your fellow angels coming to get you?” 

There was a long pause before Buck smiled softly and then nodded.  “Sometime, I suppose.”

“I am here until tomorrow night,” Reyes said.  “Is it all right for me to stay here with you while you wait?”  Reyes wondered what it would be like to see a whole legion of angels or to see one going back into the sky.  He shivered slightly in anticipation.

Buck nodded and then watched the waves again. 

It was as though Señor Buck’s mind was elsewhere—heaven, perhaps?  Then Reyes wondered what angels did when they weren’t in heaven.  He had only come here anticipating a bit of hunting, a great deal of sleeping and some exploring, things that most would never think to do, but that had strangely appealed to him when he had asked for the pass.  The only other thing he had brought was a deck of bruha cards.  Reyes wondered if angels were allowed to play bruha.  He would ask later, right now, he was hungry, not having had his dinner the night before.   “I have a few tortillas for breakfast and I was going to get some eggs from nearby nests.  Would you care to have some breakfast with me?” he asked.   “Do angels eat breakfast?”

Again, Buck pondered and then finally answered.  “Yes, thank you.  I would like that.”  He looked back at the fire.  “I think that was your . . . uh, rabbit I ate last night.  You were not here.” 

“No, I ran away from the devil that you saved me from,” Reyes replied. 

Buck’s brow furrowed in concentration and then he chuckled softly.   He began to say something and then seemed to change his mind.   “It was . . . frightening, wasn’t it?” Buck asked, his hands making motions to try and convey his thoughts. 

“Oh, yes,” Reyes said, crossing himself at the horrible memory. 

“What can I do to help you?”  Buck pointed toward the fire.  “With breakfast, I mean?” 

“Oh, no, nothing.  I can do it.” 

“Can I at least gather wood for the fire?” Buck asked.  He felt distinctly uncomfortable deceiving this man, who seemed so trusting and simple in his beliefs.  Buck was especially uncomfortable since he was not only Reyes’ ‘angel,’ but his ‘devil,’ too.  However, after he had been told the date, it wasn’t hard to decide that telling this soldier the truth would be much harder to accomplish than allowing the fantasy that the man had come up with on his own to stay as it was.  Buck was struggling to think back to his high school Spanish class and, although the teacher had been very good, years of not using what he had learned had left him with less than passable communications skills.  Trying to explain vortices and space and time travel would be impossible even under the best of circumstances.  Buck sighed.  This jumping around to various times and places could not only get confusing, but annoying.   And then there was the possibility that he might be stranded here.  That caused a surge of panic to grow in his chest and he willed it away.   Wilma and Dr. Theopolis would surely be able to figure out the machine that had sent him here.  He only had to stick around and wait.  If it so happened that he was stranded . . . no, he wouldn’t even think about that right now.

There was a tap on his arm.  Looking down, he realized that the little corporal had been speaking to him.  Buck concentrated on the soldier’s words, then he nodded.  “Yes, I’ll go look for some wood now.” 

Reyes watched Señor Buck wander off into an area where scrub brush grew and wondered what his fellow soldiers would think of his story.  They would most likely think he had bought sour wine and eaten bad meat.  But Reyes could not deny what he had seen.  And this angel did not refute anything he had said, either.  He wandered to the area where the sea birds made their nests and was disappointed to find that there were no eggs to by seen anywhere.  Then he realized it was not the right time of the year.  He berated himself for his stupidity.   Sighing, he returned to the camp and pulled out his meager stores, barely enough to feed one man for the next day and a half.   What would they think of him in heaven now?   He took the small bag of ground corn and poured a goodly measure into a pot, then he added water and mixed. 

He was building up the remains of the fire when Señor Buck returned with more wood.  “I am sorry.  I forgot that this is the wrong time of year to gather eggs,” Reyes told him. 

“That’s all right.  Do you like . . . um, fish?” 

“I have very seldom eaten fish,” Reyes admitted. 

After thinking a moment, Buck replied, pantomiming to get his words across.  “It has been a very long time since I . . . caught any.  I will see what I can do.”  He stripped off his white shirt, or whatever it was, and left it on the sand beside the campfire.  Reyes noted that the feel of the material was not like anything he had ever handled in his life.  It was something like silk, but it also stretched and seemed very strong.  It was smooth to the touch and Reyes hoped when he went to heaven, he would be allowed to wear something like that.  Buck walked out toward the water, where he dove into the incoming waves.  For a while, Reyes wondered what kind of fish catching technique this was and then realized that Señor Buck was simply playing in the surf.  Shrugging, the corporal took the wood his angel had gathered and built up the fire.  He put the pot near flames, but not in them so the porridge would warm up slowly.   When he had finished and looked up, he saw his friend walking back out of the surf with something in one hand.  Then his angel gazed at the wet sand for a moment and quickly began digging.  He did this a few more times before gathering what he had caught and bringing it to the fire. 

They were not fish; they were clams and mussels.  Reyes had never eaten those, considering them a bit on the dirty and slimy side.  “Do you have a knife?” Buck asked.  “Been a long time since I’ve….”   Here he used words that Reyes didn’t recognize,  “‘shucked oysters’, but I am willing to try.” 

Reyes handed him a knife and watched carefully.   Buck fumed at first before he figured out the technique.  Finally, he got one shell open and then looked around.  “Do you have a . . . a pan or something to cook these in?”  Again, he accompanied his halting words with signs, a feat that was difficult at best with his hands full. 

Reyes understood, but shook his head.  He had only brought the pot to cook his breakfast in.  Buck studied the area around him, then pointed to a fairly flat, wide rock.  “That one, put it by the fire, please,” he said pointing.   Reyes did as he was told, curious.  Buck brushed it off as best he could and then laid each piece of meat on it to slowly roast as the fire heated the rock. 

Soon they had a strange meal of roasted shellfish meat in tortillas, with porridge, but it tasted very good, Reyes admitted.  Buck left most for him, claiming to still be partially full from the rabbit the night before.   They sat next to each other, sighing in contentment, leaning against a large boulder.  “What country did you die in?  You are not an angel from the mother country,” Reyes said in the ensuing silence. 

Buck gazed at him in puzzlement and Reyes repeated his question.  He nodded and said, “America.” 

“You are Americano?”

“Yes.”  Buck didn’t feel as much of the sting of his deceit in this revelation, because he had somewhat died and he was American.   Or had been.   He wondered how long it would take Theo to figure out the workings of that machine.  Of course, they had to figure out what had happened to him.  He sighed.   As much as he liked the idea of being on Earth in its more pristine nature, and as much as he liked this interesting Spanish American soldier, he missed his friends and he missed the conveniences to which he had become accustomed.  Like a shower.  That would be nice.  The salt water was beginning to itch.  

“Do you want to play a game of bruha while you wait for your fellow angels?” Reyes asked. 

“Bruha?”

“Yes, it is a game.  Played with cards.  Or are angels allowed to play games with cards?” Reyes asked. 

“Oh, a card game.  Yes, I can play, if you show me how.  But first, is there water nearby where I can . . . wash off?  The salt water, you know.”  Again, Buck made signs to supplement his words.  The corporal seemed to be very astute in that regard and caught on quickly. 

“Sí, Señor Angel.  Just over that rise,” Reyes said, pointing.  “There is a stream.  I think it is deep enough to bathe in.  At least part of it is.”

Buck was gratified to realize that he, at least understood Reyes better.   He got up and, following the corporal’s directions, found the stream in question.  Stripping off the filthy uniform, Buck quickly washed off the salt water and then rinsed out his tunic and pants.  He slid them back on, even though they were still damp.  This type of material dried quickly and he didn’t have the luxury of having a change of clothes anyway.  By the time he had reached the soldier’s camp the uniform was almost dry.   Again, Reyes asked him if he was ready to play cards with him.  Buck shrugged, and then nodded.

Happily, Reyes realized that if Señor Buck had never played bruha, then he would have a fairly good chance of beating this angel.  He certainly couldn’t beat his fellow soldiers.  He probably couldn’t even beat Señorita Bastinada’s little brother, Pogo, for that matter.  With that happy thought, Reyes commenced to gather pebbles to bet with.   Then he shuffled the deck, all the while explaining.  Several times, Buck would stop him and ask for him to clarify something.  Finally, they began playing in earnest, Buck intent on remembering the rules and Reyes intent on winning a hand for once in his life.  He didn’t.   Señor Buck seemed to have a natural ability with the game and he began collecting Reyes’ pebbles.  Soon Reyes had nothing, while the pile in front of Buck had become a mound of prodigious dimensions.   It could be something to do with his friend being an angel, the corporal thought, trying to console himself.

Finally, Reyes sighed.  “I am glad we were only playing for pebbles.” 

Buck grinned.  “My friend, I have to tell you this is like a game I played . . . when I was younger.  I was very good at it.”  He separated the pebbles and gave Reyes his pile back.  Then he looked a bit contrite.  “I am sorry.  I know you wanted to win, but I cannot help it.  I just play and try to win.”

“If I could play like that, I could maybe get enough money to put aside for when I retire.”

Buck studied his Spanish friend.  “Do you not get enough to . . . um, save for your . . . the time you retire?” he asked, hoping Reyes would understand him. 

“We are lucky to get our pay a few times a year,” Reyes said sadly. 

Buck was appalled.  “But how do you live?”  He knew what it was like to be in the service and live from payday to payday, but that was every month.

Reyes shrugged.  “We have a place to live and food to eat, most of the time.” He paused and seeing Buck’s curiosity, he elaborated.  “We live in the cuartel.  Sometimes they send food from Monterey and sometimes the rancheros send beef for us to eat, along with corn and some wine when our supplies are very low.  We patch our uniforms until we can get new ones.” 

“How do you keep enough men in the Army?” Buck asked.

“For most of us, it is better to do this than to be a peon working for a rich landowner.  If we stay in the Army long enough, we get a little land of our own when we retire.”

“Oh.”

“It is all right,” Reyes said.  “I can think of worse things.”  He paused.  “Is it wrong to want a little money to wed a señorita with a lot of money?” Reyes asked, changing the subject.

Buck looked thoughtful, wondering how he had suddenly ended up with a Dear Abby type of question to try to answer.  “I . . . uh, guess there is nothing wrong with it, if you like the woman.”

“Señorita Bastinada is nice to me and says I am charming.  I have a good time when I am with her.”

“I guess that is a good start, Corporal,” Buck admitted.   “Is that why you want to win money at bruha?”

Reyes looked thoughtful.  “I thought angels knew everything,” he said, curious.  He thought they had wings, too, but he wasn’t going to ask that question yet.

Buck thought furiously.  “Uh, Corporal, only God knows everything.”

“That is true,” Reyes admitted with a nod of his head. “But I do wish I could have enough money to buy one nice suit of clothes.  To go see Señorita Bastinada.” He thought if he had something decent, he might be able to actually woo Señorita Bastinada, the only woman who had really been nice to him.  Other than his own mother, that is.

“You do not have any other clothes except your . . .” here Buck reached over and touched Reyes’ uniform jacket.

Reyes shook his head.  “No.” 

“I can teach you how to win at bruha,” Buck suggested, feeling very sorry for the luckless soldier. 

“No, many have tried to teach me, but I just cannot seem to learn well enough to win.”

“Well, let me try.  It’s an easy game.  Maybe I can see what you are doing . . . wrong,” Buck said.

“I certainly have time,” Reyes replied and the two men began to play again. 

 

 

 

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