The Legend of El Grecko (It's A Classic)

June 1, 2008
By Tony Violante, Edina, MN

A northern wind blew through the town, bringing with it dust, cold, and fear, whistling a haunting melody. Empty streets, splintered houses, and a musty, weathered saloon composed the small, Mexican town of Del Ghostecapo. The street was vacant, except for a masked stranger, arriving from the North with his horse trudging slowly behind him. A Mexican vender began to sweep his porch when he spotted this mysterious stranger.

He possessed a certain air of experience and wisdom, that of a man who has seen all that there is to see, yet instilled in his proud posture lay the world-weariness of an old man. Leisurely, he tramped up to the front of the Taco Saloon, hitched his dead animal to a pole, and waddled John-Wayne through the doors. As soon as he entered, a wave of silence swept over the bar with countless eyes turning to him. He made his way to the corner like a chaffing penguin and sat down. No one spoke or turned away, until the waitress brought him a bottle of whiskey. He drank it with his head down, so his hat covered his face. A young man asked the bartender,

“Hey Pablo, who’s that sour old man in the corner?”

“Shh! Keep it down!” he warned, “Nobody knows for sure, señor, but they say that he just appeared out of the desert, like a ghost. You ask me, he’s un demon. You ask him, well, you just might find out. By the way, my name, it’s Francis.”

At first, he hesitated, but his curiosity got the best of him and he sat down directly in front of the stranger. The mysterious drifter finished the bottle, slammed it on the table, and met the young man’s gaze, making him flinch. His eyes were filled with a foul, tired hatred of the world, and it pierced through the youth’s soul, paralyzing him, until he found enough courage to ask,

“Are.. are you some kinda ghost or demon or any unholy spirit? ‘Cause I…” The stranger silenced him,

“ Be quiet.” After the young man had shut up, he removed his mask and his hat, revealing the battle-scarred face of a young, southern man. “I could tell you what I am, more importantly, who I am, and you could never have guessed it. I could share with you what I have seen, and you would never believe me.” Entranced, the youth urged the stranger on,

“Tell me. Please tell me,” for the young lad would have sold his soul to know the deep secrets of this haunted stranger.

“My name is Billy McNab, that’s Captain McNab to you, boy. And I was the greatest steamboat commander in the western world. Life was naturally sweet for me; I was successful, rich, young, respected, and I was even engaged to the most beautiful girl you’d ever seen. But life for my younger brother, Johnny, was pitifully awful. He was notorious for fighting, drinking, and even stealing. About a year ago, we were going to a small family reunion at the old, Texan farmhouse to see Mom and Pop, when Johnny told me that he had a few ‘errands’ to run, and that, my boy, is where my troubles began.

“I followed Johnny to the bank where he told me to wait outside. I knew, of course, that he intended to rob the place, but he’s my brother, after all, so I just leaned against the wall and begged the Lord to forgive poor Johnny. Not a minute later, I hear gunshots, and Johnny comes bursting through the doors, a big bag of cash in left hand and a smoking pistol in his other.

“C’mon Billy, let’s move it!” he said, racing past me, “We gotta book it!” I knew he had some sort of plan, so I followed him- he needed someone to look after him. It was dark when we arrived at the Rio Grande, and sure enough, there was a little raft waiting for us. Unfortunately, so was the sheriff. He held up his hand, as if to stop us, and bellowed,

“Stop, in the name of th-“ a gunshot cut him off, and sent him reeling to the ground, dead as a doornail. Looking over, I saw a mortified look on my brother’s face and a smoking gun in his hand.

“Get- get on the damn raft! R-right now!” I stammered, guiding him onto the raft. I had kicked off the shore and our raft had made about a fourth of the way across the river when I turned back around to see that he wasn’t aboard.

“Johnny? Johnny! Where are ya, boy?” I cried out in desperation. Blindly, I dove in and began my search in the water. I clambered around like a drunk postman in the black water, until finally, I grabbed ahold of the back of his shirt. As soon as I had secured him right next to me, I looked back for the raft, but it was too dark to see. All of a sudden, a tree branch, or something, must’ve hit me in the back of my head because everything went black.

“I awoke in the dark, on a riverbank near some forested bluffs, and lying right next to me was that scoundrel Johnny. I woke him up in a rage, beating him awake and screaming in his face.

‘You good-for-nothing dirtbag! What were you thinking? Robbing a bank, shooting the sheriff, and dragging me with you to get lost in God-knows where! I oughta just kill you here!’

‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please let me go, I’m sorry…’ When he started to sob, I felt guilty because I knew he didn’t mean to drag me into this mess. It was my own fault.

‘No, I’m sorry, Johnny, just please stop-‘ and right then, before I could comfort him, came a deafening roar that shook the ground and the mountains themselves. I fell over in the dirt, and, looking up, saw the silhouette of a wild beast from atop a cliff, outlined in the full, desert moon. I trembled as I remembered one of the oldest Mexican legends; The furious El Grecko. The legend tells of a cursed monster that stalks the uncharted lands of Mexico, punishing the wicked with a tormented death. And of course, none who have seen his face have lived.

We ran in the darkness, faster than jackrabbits, to find a sanctuary. I prayed that God would be merciful and let us live, but rarely are my prayers answered. My brother stumbled, and rolled down a hill, taking me too, for I was right behind him. When we got to the bottom, it was clear that he could not walk; his foot was twisted the other way around. Again I prayed for help, crying out to the Lord. And as an unholy answer to my prayer, El Grecko leapt down in front of us, revealing its horrible moose-face. It sneered at us, then charged, ensnaring my brother in its menacing antlers and then vanishing into the abyss. I chased after the bloodcurdling screams.

‘Help me, help me Billy! For the love of God!’ and then, silence. I stopped and listened. Dead silence.

‘Johnny? Johnny!’ I lunged forward into the void. ‘Johnny…’ that’s where I found him. Mangled, scalped, and gored, my brother Johnny lay sprawled on the forest floor. The sight was so gruesome that I turned and ran, horrified, so much so that I became blind with fear. And when I could finally see, I found myself in an old barn in the middle of the desert. I sat there crying for hours over the loss of my dear brother, and then a single feeling engrossed my being: vengeance. I would avenge my brother’s death and kill El Grecko. I knew he would find me, so I’d wait for him, but not in the barn. I gathered myself some cleaner clothes I had found an a heap and the lonely horse behind me. After saddling him up with all of the supplies I could find, I leaped onto his back and started for the town.

“I had no time for anything; I was consumed with the thought of revenge. I’ve sat myself down in the saloon, every day for a year, today, waiting for that wretched moose to come waltzing in through those doors to get what’s coming to him. And I have every intention of killing him, even if it means waiting here for my whole life”

“Wow,” said the young man, “Just- wow. You sure can tell a story cap’n. It’s a pretty good one, I’ll give you that, but I sure as heck know that El Grecko don’t-“ the sound of the tiny doors squeaking open was enough to shut him up, followed by the clunk of hooves. McNab held his breath as he reached into his pocket,

“Finally,” he whispered. The intruder took off his hat, revealing a moose head and sharp, blood-stained antlers. McNab shifted, for the Captain recognized him as the monstrous El Grecko! McNab stood up, ten paces away from El Grecko, seething with rage. Sweat trickled down both their brows. It was quieter than a graveyard. Dead silence, with all eyes moving from the captain to El Grecko. Silent until, “Pow!!!” Faster than a snap, both moose and man had guns in their outstretched hands, smoke protruding out of both barrels. For a few seconds, no one spoke. As soon as the gun smoke cleared, El Grecko fell to his knees, and then face planted on the floor. Cheers rang out, and the whole saloon lit up as everyone gathered around McNab. He smiled at the youth through the crowd of rowdy cowboys, who was in total awe, and then whispered to himself, in a daze,

“’Bout Time, huh Johnny?” He gave out a chuckle, and then collapsed on the floor. The excitement died, and the saloon resumed its natural silence. Ghostecapo fell into a somber mood yet again as the sun set on a bloody horizon.

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