The letter

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

Noemi sat in contemplative anger as her brother entered the room. Her gut reaction was to shout at him and shove him back out the door whence he came. A part of her that was too exhausted one the day in the battle of her emotions and forced her to stay silent and refuse to look him in the eye. It was a small protest, but it was hers.

Surveying his sister and clutching the leather bound letter, Jose moved into the room slowly. That she was as still brimming with anger was no surprise. There was no sense in pointing out the logic to her. That Uncle Tito killed himself was not the cause of Jose and his desire for a new life. Uncle Tito killed himself because he wanted to. The potential trip or the fact that Jose and Noemi might not go if he refused to tag along may have pushed him over the edge, but it was not the reason. It couldn’t be. Edging closer he put the letter in front of him, as if an olive branch.

Looking up out of curiosity, though still with great anger, Noemi asked, “what exactly is that?”

“I don’t know,” shifting closer Jose said, “but it looks like it’s from our Uncle. Not recently though. It looks like he wrote it some time ago.”

It was too tantalising for her to resist the interaction with her brother. The anger broke, if only just to read the letter.

“Have you opened it?”

“No, it has both of our initials on it, so I thought it only right to read it together.”

“Ok then, sit down and open it up.”

They read the letter together:

“Dearest Noemi and Jose,

It is with great sadness and joy that I write this letter to commit the events of the last few months to posterity. You sit here sleeping in each other’s arms as I write and watch over you from the corner of my eye. There has been too much pain in your short lives that I cannot bear to add this additional pain to your souls. So, I am writing it down and will one day give it to you. Knowing my cowardice, it will probably be the day I die. I am sorry you won’t get a chance to question me if that is in fact what I do.

I was a leap older than your mother, but it was enough to shape me in a different mould. Perhaps there was something deep in my bones that compelled me along my course as well. Not that it matters much why it happened as it did. We were poorer when I was young, our father being out of work. He took some out on me and I was put to work whichever way suited.

It was clearly not our father’s design, but the outcome was that my work lead me to meet unsavoury types who made their living at the edges and beyond the law. When father got back to work properly, I was pulled away from working to be schooled. The connection was made though.

Your mother, on the other hand, was born into a life which was stable. I shouldn’t have resented her. Of course I have to admit that I did. Life seemed so much easier for her. As we grew older and I got more involved with my unsavoury friends, I resented your mother even more. She met your father, had a nice life and then was gifted twins of all things. These pleasures did not fall into my lap.

The group I fell into wasn’t all that bad at first. A pick pocket or con here or there. Small things that left the victim annoyed, but not destitute or harmed. That doesn’t make it right. I just didn’t feel so bad about it. Besides, it afforded me what I thought was a good group of friends. Of course, this turned as I became deeper entrenched in the group and they took a turn for the darker.

They say that when you get a taste of something – knowledge, crime, rum – you become insatiable for more. I don’t quite believe that this is true. There are always degrees and times when you don’t follow such a rule. Sadly, that wasn’t so for me and this crime. Brutal muggings took the place of quiet pickpockets and armed burglary took over from simple theft. Each time I notched it up, I found a way to justify it to myself, to my soul, without any scruples. I guess I wanted it to be ok so bad that my mind made it so.

In the year just before I came to sit here with you and write this letter, your father was put in charge of an enterprise hauling precious wood back to port to be shipped back to England for use in whatever was made with such would. I didn’t much care then and don’t now. I just know that it is valuable stuff. It infuriated me that he had gotten a leg up and that it was going so well for him and your mother. Resentment bred in my heart. Why should they be successful and I sit here doing odd jobs scraping by? I still saw your mother and father frequently, but I was just treated as a slight oddity.

So it came that a couple of my ‘friends’, who there is no sense in naming now they are returned to dust, came to me with a proposition that I wasn’t allowed to refuse – force my brother in law to tell us where the next large shipment was going and when, so we could rob it. I didn’t like the idea of it because it meant I’d have to reveal what it was I did.

Your father was not cooperative, so some of the gang I was with showed him how they felt about that. He was badly beaten, but still not talking, so they found your mother. I protested, but not loudly enough. Not that it would have made a difference. All that would have happened as me losing my life. When they threatened your mother and showed they were serious, your father talked.

Now, my gang had put everything in an awkward position. We couldn’t leave your mother while we took your father to show us where the best place to ambush the shipment was, so she was dragged along. It meant one gang member for each of your parents plus two of us spare. I think my gang knew I might get weak which meant I didn’t get to watch over your parents.

After a slog through the forest we reached a point by the banks of the river, just after a bend, where we could catch the shipment of logs coming down river. Your parents sat tied up as we worked. The operation went according to plan except for that we had to kill two men who were moving the logs downstream. These were your fathers friends.

Your father was a proud and honourable man and this sent him over the edge. He managed, in his bruised and bound state to tackle one of my gang into river where he quickly drowned. One of my gang then quickly pointed a gun at your mother while I stared on stupefied and your dad somehow managed to wrestle down the other. I can’t quite remember it but somehow in this commotion it ended that both your parents were shot dead. Only then did I react and end the life of my two gang members.

I couldn’t believe and still can’t, what my reckless choices lead to. So I cremated all the bodies roughly and made my peace so to speak. I was left with a haul of wood I could not move and absent a sister and brother in law. Distraught only begins to describe my feelings.

Heading back to your parents house, where I sit now, I realised I had to look after you. It was some surprise that your parents had also left that in their will.

If it wasn’t for the fact that you need someone to watch over you, I would have taken my own life. Instead, I will carry this shame with me and make myself a changed man. The spoils from my previous life will be used to your benefit. I don’t know how, but there must be a way. And perhaps some day, I hope, you will see me as a parent, even accepting my failings so plainly laid out in this letter. Though I don’t believe I could ever accept that honour.

All of my love and begging forgiveness,

Uncle Tito

P.S. I love you both dearly and hope that these facts will not scar your memory of me into something ugly and misshapen. Carry this into your new life so that you can well and truly leave this one behind. Good luck.”

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