About Fifteen miles below Monterey, on the wild coast, the Torres family had their farm, a fewslopingacres above acliffthat dopped to the brownreefsand to thehissingwhite waters of the ocean. Behind the farm the stone mountains stood up against the sky. The farm buildingshuddledlike littleclingingaphidson the mountain skirts,crouchedlow to the ground as though the wind might blow them into the sea. The littleshack, the rattling rotting barn were gray-bitten with sea salt, beaten by the damp wind until they had taken on the color of the granite hills. Two horses, a red cow and a redcalf, half a dozen pigs and aflockoflean, multi-colored chickens stocked the place. A little corn was raised on the sterileslope, and it grew short and thick under the wind, and all thecobsformed on the landward sides of thestalks.
Mama Torres, a lean, dry woman with ancient eyes had ruled the farm for ten years, ever since her husbandtrippedover a stone in the field one day and fell full length on arattlesnake. When one is bitten on the chest there is not much that can be done.
Mama Torres had three children, two undersized black ones of twelve and fourteen, Emilio and Rosy, whom Mama kept fishing on the rocks below the farm when sea was kind ans when thetruantofficer was in some distant part of Monterey County. And there was Pepé, the tall smiling son of nineteen, a gentle,affectionateboy, but very lazy. Pepé had a tall head, pointed at the top, and from its peak, coarse black hair grew down like athatchall around. Over his smiling little eyes Mama cut a straight bang so he could see. Pepé had sharp Indian cheekcones and an eagle nose, but his mounth was as sweet and shapely as a girl's mounth, and his chin was fragile and . He was loose and gangling, all legs and feet and wrists, and he was very lazy. Mama thought him fine and brave, but she never told him so. She said, "Some lazy coz must have got into thy father's family, else how could I have a son like thee." And she said, "When I carried thee, a sneaking lazy coyote came out of the brush and looked at me one day. That must have made thee so."
Pepé smiled sheeply and stabbed at the ground with his knife to keep the blade sharp and free fromrust. It was his knife to keep the blade sharp and free from rust. It was his inheritance, that knife his father's knife. The long heavy blade folded back into the black handle. There was a button on the handle. When Pepé pressed the button, thebladeleapedout ready for use. The knife was with Pepé always, for it had been his father's knife.
One sunny morning when the sea below the cliff was
Pepé was sitting on the ground with his back against a box. His white teeth glistened. On either side of him stood the two balck ones,tenseandexpectant. Fifteen feet away aredwoodpost was set in the ground. Pepé's right hand laylimplyin his lap, and in the palm the big black knife rested. The blade was closed back into handle. Pepé looked smiling at the sky.
Suddenly Emilio cried "Ya!"
Pepé wrist flicked like the head of a snake. The blade seemed to fly open in mid-air, and with a thump the point dug intothe redwood post, and the black handlequivered. The three burst into excited laughter. Rosy ran to the post and pulled out the knife and brought it back to Pepé. He closed the blade and settled the knife carefully in hislistlesspalm again. Hegrinnedself-consciously at the sky.
The heavy knifelancedout and sunk into the post again. Mama moved forward like a ship andscatteredthe play.
"All day you do foolish things with the knife, like a toy-baby," she stormed. "Get up on thy huge feet that eat up shoes. Get up!" She took him by one loose shoulder andhoistedat him. Pepé grinned sheepishly and came half-heartedly to his feet. "Look!" Mama cried. "Big lazy, you must catch the horse and put on him thy father'ssaddle. You must ride to Monterey. The medicine bottle is empty. There is no salt. Go thou now, Peanut! Catch the horse."
A revolution took place in the relaxed figue of Pepé. "To Monterey, me? Alone? Si, Mama."
Shescowledat him. "Do not think , big sheep, that you will buy candy. No, I will give you only enough for the medicine and the salt."
Pepé smiled. "Mama, you will put the hatband on the hat?"
Sherelentedthen. "Yes, Pepé. You may wear the hatband."
His voice grewinsinuating. "And the greenhandkerchief, Mama?"
He went into thebarnand brought out a rope and he walkedagilelyenough up the hill to catch the horse.
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