Prince of Mexico
By: Mark Kodama

Matteo, the High School Soccer Coach's Prologue

The Day of the Gophers


Gophers were everywhere and everywhere there were gopher holes.

One of my soccer players nearly broke his ankle, so I submitted

A requisition to the school district administration for an exterminator.

For two years, the administration did nothing so I took matters into

My own hands. “Shoe,”my assistant coach, owned a hardware store.

So I asked Shoe for gopher traps. Armed with wood shovel, weeder,

Steel bucket and gopher traps, I set out for the P.E. field. I dug out

The gopher burrows with my shovel, the square iron blade stained

With rust, the white wood handle, cracked and weathered with age.

I set my traps. Sweat ran down my face, cooling my sun burnt cheeks

Hot from the morning sun. The sweat underneath my polo shirt wet

My armpits, my pungent sweat filled my nose. I wiped my sweaty

Face with a white gym towel. I baited the traps with peanut butter

And perfume. I detonated smoke bombs and noise bombs in their burrows.

Soon I was digging out their limp furry bodies, their spines broken

By the steel coiled traps. Blood dripped from their mouth and nose.

I pulled them up by their thick hairless tails and threw them in my bucket.

Some gophers were only wounded. They defiantly faced me with their

Beady black eyes, bared teeth and bristling whiskers. They were small,

Slow of speed but courageous as hell. In fact, all they had was courage.

I brought down the square metal blade of my shovel heavy on their heads,

Smashing their skulls with a whump. I buried their bodies inside their

Underground network, the stink from their rotting corpses, drove other

Gophers away. Some died easy; others adapted. The more I killed,

The more they bred. It was a Darwinian struggle – man versus nature,

Man versus rodent, man versus himself. I flooded the field, drowning

Dozens of them. But there was one big one that I could never catch.

He grew as big as a shoe and never did he yield. He moved to the

Baseball field. I flooded the outfield and his whole network collapsed.

I found him on the grass exhausted and gasping for air. I raised my

Shovel to kill him and then stopped. I picked him up with a shovel,

Put him in the bucket and brought him home. He lived in my aquarium,

Feeding on the choicest vegetables and fruit, growing fat with age.

A history teacher knows how to respect bravery, even from

An enemy. History, my friend, history.


To be Continued…

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