A common misconception about machetes is that they are razor-sharp. Historically used as agricultural tools more often than weapons, a machete tempered for farm labor will not hold a finely honed edge. Accordingly, brute force must supplant finesse.
Consider a stalk of sugarcane. A lateral chop fails, because the dense, vertical fibers act like plant-based Kevlar, and a blade swung sideways propels forward with only the strength of a man’s arms and shoulders. If he comes at that cane from a steep angle, however, he commands the power of his whole body, a technique enabling a competent machetero to reach an enemy’s heart, not with a stabbing thrust, but with a diagonal slash entering between the neck and shoulder, then driving through the clavicle and upper sternum. Unlike the loud stuttering of a Kalashnikov, the machete’s whispered swish allows its user to breach a perimeter silently, making him the more valuable man when stealth is desired.
My first was garbage. A purist might argue any post-1950 machete is a mass-produced piece of mierda, but when Miguel Otero began my training, I learned even an inferior weapon can be effective in the hands of a skilled man. I was no man back then, merely a surfer-streaked gringo crossing the border ahead of juvie, my stepfather, and a dealer seeking cash from the product he’d advanced.
Six years later, when cancer ended Miguel’s life, I inherited my mentor’s position, along with his burnished, Collins-made beauty, the tool I have used for a decade as the Reyes cartel’s head machetero.
Across the room from the chair in which I sit, the Collins leans against the wall point-up. That stupid boy should have left it point-down. “Seconds lost in bending to grasp the non-business end will cost you your life one day,” I have told him, but Javier is not the natural I was at his age, and I fear he will never be a machetero.
In my years working for Señor Reyes, I have never stepped foot inside his hacienda. He keeps family separate from business, so the white stucco walls of the hacienda protect an enclave of domesticity within the compound.
Those walls keep out the rough men who toil for mi empleador, but are less effective at keeping his daughters within their boundaries. Nathaly, the eldest, barely deigns to acknowledge our existence on her vacations home from Northwestern University, and little Esli’s passion is horses, not boys, but Adriela, the middle child, haunts the dreams of every servidor here, whether he carries a machete, AK-47, curry comb, or bags of fertilizer for Señora Reyes’ rose garden.
Her father’s frequent trips away provide Adriela opportunities to freely stroll the compound, heartbreakingly demure in a peasant blouse and long, swirling skirt one day, exquisitely tempting in tight denim jeans the next.
Inept at more than the handling of a machete, Javier unwisely met her brazen gaze once, misreading Adriela’s general desire to torment us all with her budding erotic skills, foolishly believing the flirtatious performance was for his singular delectation.
Her burst of cruel laughter in response to his pathetic assertion of interest humiliated my useless protégé. Adriela’s flashing eyes alone can bring a grown man to his knees.
I was that man two nights ago, worshipping at the fragrant altar of la concha de Adriela, as I have for months whenever Señor Reyes is away and my angel slips out in darkness to my private quarters. Because her father likes to arrive home with fanfare, in his helicopter or lead Humvee of a caravan, Adriela always had warning to leave my bed.
But someone spat poison in the ear of mi jefe—and I don’t doubt the perfidious little shit’s identity—for Reyes returned that night with the stealth of a machetero.
Bound as I am to this chair, I can only watch when Javier enters and bends to pick up the machete across the room. Approaching with a smirk, he raises my precious Collins, then spreads his feet in a solid stance. Stupid boy, he swings the blade back for a lateral slash that will not do the job. At least not in one strike.
Dios, this is gonna hurt.