from Huizache #5

The Eight Incarnations of Pascal’s Fifth

Fernando A. Flores

Of the eleven sailors that drowned saving the civilian vessel Louisa Marcondes from sinking into the roaring soup of the Pacific, five were destined to keep returning, crossing paths in different lives.

In a linear timeline, the first incarnation fated them to be remembered as the Green Children of Curlywee, later interpreted as a Scottish folk tale about three boys and two girls with a green skin tone who appeared delirious and grief-stricken, all of them shivering, muddy, and holding hands, making throaty sounds like grinding glass to communicate. Upon being separated and forcibly educated, they each swelled with depression. Two suicided in morbid ways using tools or utensils, and the other three (it was always said like this) simply lay down and died.

In the next life they were all born girls to peasant teenagers out of wedlock. The mothers, at varying stages of early womanhood, abandoned their daughters, and the girls were forced into labor until their teens when they were recruited by Las Carmelitas Descalsas, the convent that also brewed its own famous ale to sustain itself. There they lived in mostly harmony until middle age, when the Great War arrived, along with soldiers of the opposing religious persuasion. They pillaged the town and the convent, where it can be imagined what cruel fates awaited our five and the Carmelitas.

The third proved even bleaker. Born in the middle of a very long social rebellion, the only time they crossed paths was in their final moments. Following a great uprising, one they felt a weary detachment from, our five had people close to them gravely injured. It was in the rusted, dark medical building they found themselves under the same roof and had no way of knowing the barbarous cavalry was well on their way, massacring with unheard-of weapons.

In the following incarnation, the paths they crossed were not physical but metaphysical. Born in distant corners of the world, when they reached their formidable years, they were all seduced by the cantabile aria of collage art, and each pioneered it in unique styles, scores of years before it started to be seen in art galleries and institutions. But our five grew old in meager surroundings, with occasional bubbles of inspiration, and their collages never took off.

Their most mundane incarnation, it could be argued, was being born clerics, secretaries, lackeys, and accountants for the same banking mogul in Europe, until they were invaded by the east and the country’s regime. Banking families were overthrown and executed, leaving the people, including our five, oppressed, deracinated, starved and poor.

Before they came back as sailors destined for that Homeric voyage on the Louisa Marcondes, they were born in different agricultural villages on opposite sides of a violent border. Outside their farming and families they knew little else, so the conflict between the two countries confused them. They fled their villages, orphaned after the initial raids, and formed a gang of displaced boys, along with six others. None of them had any trust for authority. It was in La Pascua that the gang of eleven took over an abandoned villa with a vineyard and barn. They were heavily armed, cared for the crops and animals there, learned to survive and not go hungry. One day, upon spotting some of Santa Anna’s army from afar, the boys shot and killed every soldier (they’d become experts at artillery and marksmanship). Another day it was Sam Houston’s men and they repeated the gesture. Suspecting one another, the Mexican and American armies prepared for battle in what was thought to be the ghost town of La Pascua, which is documented as the most confusing battle of that period. When the armies figured out they were both being shot at from the villa, it made the soldiers dizzy, like a hot wind was sucked out of all their ears. Everybody fought everybody, and the battle lasted thirty-seven hours. Nine of Sam Houston’s men were the sole survivors, none of whom history grants the favor of remembering. But history does imagine well the expression the men must’ve had when, surrounded by bodies, they scouted the rooms and corridors of the villa to find the cause of everything was eleven young boys. None a day older than fourteen. Seven Mexican. Four were blond, blue eyed, suspected to be American and brothers by blood. Mexican and American textbooks have contradicting accounts of the occurrence, but in La Pascua they are known as Los Niños Héroes and have bronze busts in the town center to commemorate each of them.

In their final incarnation, though they came from different social and racial backgrounds, they were made to attend boarding school quite young. They met in their final years, each with artistic, avant-garde inclinations, and a year after graduating, traveled to a recording studio in Port Isabel, where a sound engineer friend of theirs owned a condo by the beach. They considered themselves more a collective than a band and adopted the moniker Pascal’s Fifth as the name of their musical endeavor. They rotated instruments and messed around with lyrics as a unit, and out of the five sessions recorded that week, put together two LPs that were released by Sprocket Records out of Pittsburgh. They had one catchy hit with radio play that moved people to buy the first album, and later some leaped for their second. Aside from that one hit, the rest of the tracks were deemed by the public as too out there and unlistenable. Our five went on to study at different colleges, and each landed some type of engineering job in their thirties. Sprocket Records had gone under long before, their entire catalog auctioned off and picked up by a telephone company with big plans. A retro thing came into fashion many years later and young people started fishing around for those Pascal’s Fifth records. The label took good care to re-master and rerelease those recordings our five created, and shockingly, money was made. They never played a show together but reunited for interviews and documentaries on several occasions. They all became professors at decently respected universities and were allowed to grow old and to die with no pain, surrounded by sunshine and their families.


Fernando A. Flores was born in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and lives in central Texas. He is the author of Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas, Vol. 1, and the recipient of the 2014 Cisneros del Moral Award.

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