My friend and MFA colleague, Matthew Blasi, published this strange, violent, darkly funny story in Drunken Boat magazine, about conquistadors, possums, and herbal drugs. They nominated it for a Push Cart award, Mat’s second.
Every night Francisco meant to call the men together, the hundred soldiers, and explain. Yes, they were to wait for de Soto. No, they were not to plunge into barbarism. God was watching, looking down from His holy throne and judging. But he never called the meeting. Every night at dusk it seemed too heavy a burden.
When de Soto comes, Francisco thought, he will set them straight. Marvelous, meticulous Hernando de Soto with his black curls, his oiled beard. He looked very fine in his painting—the one in Francisco’s tent: sleek and powerful in his shining breastplate. Ready to command. Ready to conquer. Francisco would be there on the shore when de Soto finally arrived, down on one knee, to welcome such a man properly. They had laid up plenty of beard oil, good smells. The winter would be mild.