The Great Boot Rebellion
|This is a short story written in response to the double
challenge of "Write a story from Corporal Reyes' point of view,"
and "Imagine a minor rebellion by the garrison because they have
not been paid in a while." It was originally posted on the
GWOL fanfiction archives a few years ago.
My thanks go to all of my friends in Guy and to Don Diamond and Henry Calvin. Their characterizations of Reyes and Garcia were part of what made Zorro so very memorable. And after having met Mr. Diamond, I can see why Reyes is so endearing.
"Sergeant Garcia! Do you see these boots?" Corporal Reyes lifted up his right leg and showed his commanding officer his worn footwear. The sole flapped loose and showed the threadbare sock beneath. "You want me to march in these? It cannot be done. I trip over my feet in these when you make us march."
"You trip over your feet when you march anyway, Corporal Reyes. Even when you have new boots to wear," Garcia commented, chuckling at his own joke.
"You think this is funny, Sergeant?" Reyes said, his face turning a deeper shade of red. Sitting down in the middle of the parade ground he jerked his boots off and threw them at Garcia's feet. "I will not march anymore in these. I will not chase Zorro in these. I will not stand guard in these, these, these...things that a goat would not even want to eat."
Standing up and slapping the dust from his trousers, the corporal stormed to his barracks, occasionally hopping in pain when he stepped on a stone. Garcia stood on the parade ground, his mouth hanging open. Several other lancers watching the scene started cheering their comrade. Soon a shower of boots was seen flying through the air in the cuartel, and a pile formed near the befuddled acting comandante. "We will not wear these either, Sergeant," they all cried and marched into their quarters behind the angry corporal.
Sgt. Garcia was still standing in the middle of the pile of boots when Diego de la Vega and his manservant, Bernardo came visiting. The sergeant looked up at Don Diego in hopes of a solution to his problems, but was dismayed when he saw the caballero trying valiantly to hold back his laughter.
Finally Don Diego asked, "Sergeant, what in the world are you doing with this pile of old boots?"
"Oh, Don Diego, I do not know what to do. Corporal Reyes became upset and refuses to do his duty because his boots are old. And all of the other soldiers pulled off their boots and will not work either. What can I do?"
Reaching down Don Diego gingerly picked up one of the boots and held it out at arm's length. The sole flapped in the breeze. "Sergeant, I think that we have boots that are beyond old."
"But there is nothing I can do about it. I have not received pay either and if I did, it would not be enough to pay for new boots!" Garcia exclaimed.
"Would it help if I talked with Corporal Reyes and the others?" Don Diego asked.
"Sí, Don Diego, would you?" The poor sergeant's face lit up with the hope of one who has been told that he may be saved from a painful death.
The caballero nodded and dropped the boot onto the pile. "I will talk to them now. Perhaps a suitable agreement can be reached." Garcia nodded. His friend headed towards the barracks, the deaf-mute following behind. He saw them conversing together in sign language.
"Don Diego, I do not think you have a piece of paper long enough to hold all of our complaints," Corporal Reyes said indignantly. He had always been the soul of utter equanimity, but his patience had run out when their payroll had been delayed for the fourth time in five months. They had actually been paid only twice in that time. How in the world was an army supposed to do its duty when there was no pay? Don Diego nodded for him to begin.
"No pay!" Reyes said angrily. The other men who had been able to crowd into the tavern shouted their agreement. "I cannot remember the last time I had so much as a centavo in my pocket and when I did, Sgt. Garcia 'borrowed' it from me for a glass of wine." Reyes noticed the sergeant wince slightly at that reference.
"No new uniforms." The men muttered about holes in their pants and seams ripping at the most inopportune times, for instance when they bent over to cinch up their saddles.
"No supplies of food and wine." Reyes looked around. All of the men were nodding.
The innkeeper was nodding so hard that his double chins threatened to wobble off. "Sí," the innkeeper said testily. "I have not been paid by some of you since Navidad." Some of the lancers glared at him menacingly. He dashed back behind the bar.
"Sí," Reyes elaborated. "We are only eating by the good graces of some of the hacendados. For that we are grateful, but the government should do its part, too."
"Without pay, there is no chance to enjoy ourselves in the pueblo on Saturday nights," Private Menendez grumbled. "We sit around and play bruha amongst ourselves and use horseshoe nails to bet with." The muttering grew louder.
Don Diego held up his hand. "I think that I have the general idea, señores. Let me think about what you have said and try to come up with some solutions that will help."
"Well, all right, Don Diego, but those boots were just about the last straw," Reyes said. "We could make a better living mining diamonds in the hills." Even Sgt. Garcia sighed a lusty breath of relief.
The next evening, the lancers, who were still in stockinged feet in protest, were very surprised to see a wagonload of boots and uniforms sitting outside the tavern. Cpl. Reyes was even more surprised when he saw who had delivered them. Sergeant Garcia was shining his tarnished buttons with his sleeve when he saw the owner of the wagon, while at the same time rubbing his boots against his pants legs.
"Oh, Corporal Reyes, now I know why you declined my offers of dinner at my hacienda, you dear, proud man," the older señorita said. "And I missed dancing with you these past months."
Reyes could only stand gaping, an astonished look on his face. That was not the reason for not going to her dinners. Sgt. Garcia's wrath was one of the real reasons. Finally he said, "Señorita Bastinada, that is not..."
"See Señorita Bastinada, it is just as I said yesterday evening, with the season for rustlers on us and the cuartel being understaffed the way it is, he just did not feel comfortable leaving his comrades to do his work while he was dancing in San Pedro," Don Diego interjected.
Reyes looked at the patrón in astonishment. Actually, he was thinking somewhat along the same line, except the corporal was also thinking of what his comrades might do to him if he went to San Pedro every Saturday to have a good time with a wealthy businesswoman while they were stuck back in Los Angeles with no pay. He shuddered. The thought was not pleasant.
"And you see, it is also as I was saying. These poor men have worked themselves and their clothes ragged. Fine Spanish soldiers and such poor clothes." Don Diego shook his head. Reyes was a bit suspicious when he saw the caballero smile knowingly at the wealthy señorita. She nodded.
"But if I had only known, I could have done something earlier, Diego. Shame on you for not letting me know that this dear man and his companions were in such dire straits," the señorita chided. "And to think that my cousin had a whole storage building full of uniforms and boots from Spain. Holding them there until he had payment from Madrid. I reminded him of the payment from Spain that got him his fine Andalusian stallion and his wife her fine pearl necklace."
Don Diego walked over to the acting comandante. "My father had a quick meeting with many of the hacendados in the area and they agreed to donate enough cattle and wine to keep your lancers fed. Enough pesos were collected to help the men with whatever expenses they had until their pay comes through. It will also make you happy to know that Don Geraldo is going to Monterey to file a formal complaint with the governor about the lack of pay coming to the soldiers of the king," he explained to the sergeant.
Garcia nodded, only half hearing. He was watching his
corporal in threadbare stocking feet, arm in arm with Señorita
Bastinada, talking merrily, laughing periodically and bantering
pleasantly. He heard her say, "Corporal, let us go into the
tavern and have some wine, while we discuss the fiesta that I am
going to have next weekend, that you are going to attend."