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You and Tequila (Make Me Crazy)

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With his task done at the main house, Miguel makes a circuit of the business proper and checks in. Now and then he comes across other employees who he greets with a simple nod, though the tourists get a faint smile and a tip of the hat. It is something he has seen Carlos do innumerable times, and it never fails to please the ladies. Today he gets shy smiles, a giggle and a blush from the group heading into the tasting room when he holds the door for them, and from behind the counter, Bernardo waves him away with the flap of a hand. 

It’s a small group, so a second handler would be excessive, lucky Bernardo. As there is no assistance needed in the tasting room, Miguel meanders his way to the tourist center, and then the distillery. Smaller groups today, which accounts for Señora Alvarez’s concern and the new posting for a social media and advertising expert. At a loss for what else to do, Miguel shrugs and heads out to the barn, turning over the possibilities in the back of his mind. Because it is nearly noon, the morning harvest will need to be brought in, which means preparing the team and wagon to head out to the fields. 

By the time he arrives, Rodrigo has already hitched up the grey team of horses to the harvest wagon. It’s no surprise at all to see his look of relief when he realizes he can hand the reins over to Miguel and send him out into the sun instead. Rodrigo will tell anyone who listens he’s getting to be an old man, and that it is time for the younger jimadors to take over. Before he can start on his speech Miguel accepts the assignment obediently, loading a cooler of ice and water into the back of the wagon. With a tip of his hat he climbs into the seat and takes up the reins, clicking at the geldings to urge them into motion. 

Though it means he’ll run into Carlos sooner than later, there is no point in putting up a fight. Besides, perhaps Carlos will not yet know of Señora Alvarez’s plan. Perhaps fate will be kind. 

Doubtful, Carlos has always had a certain otherness about him. For good or ill, he always knows . Which means he knows Miguel is involved, and it is better to get things sorted out sooner rather than later. 

With a gentle click of hooves, the horses move out, leaving Rodrigo waving cheerfully from the shade of the barn as they step into the sun. Miguel doesn’t mind being the one who takes the cart out to the harvesting fields in the afternoon, though there’s something of a risk involved now that he is sure to be caught in a tug of war between Alvarez and Alvarez. If it were anyone else, Miguel would lay money down on the fact that Constanza would win, but against Carlos? Well, it is safer to keep his money and his opinions to himself. 

With a firm exhale he shakes it all off for now and gives a gentle tug of the reins, encouraging the team to turn toward fields. As the horses stride along he gives a sigh, knowing that Carlos will be one of the first he crosses paths with. Just as likely, the other man will be waiting for him, knowing somehow that Miguel is a guilty party. Carlos has the gift like that, the Señora’s gift. He just always seems to know

Unaware of his inner turmoil, the matched pair of greys hauling the wagon move with a brisk stride, cheerful to be doing their work, and the wagon rolls easily over the hard-packed sand of the road. They move between two of the younger fields of agave, the plants barely knee-high and considered in their infancy. Harvesting won’t be done in these fields for many years, though they still require weeding and tending. It’s a fairly easy task, compared to harvest, which means these fields are often empty by the time the first haul needs to be brought in. 

‘What grief have you brought upon yourself?’ The jimador thinks to himself as he gently steers the team beyond some of the middle-aged agave fields. 

Miguel sits in the seat and broods as they pass more fields empty of people, knowing there is nothing else to be done. Being caught between the boss and her grandson is not an enviable place for anyone, but at least Carlos was a little more forgiving than his sisters. Carlos, at least, has mercy. If he decides to take things out on Miguel, he’ll do it from a distance with a gun rather than face to face with nails and words. Considering what Carlos used to do for the military, it was even more likely that Miguel wouldn’t feel or know a thing, until the retired sniper dropped him where he stood for daring to interfere. 

‘If you upset him, you won’t even feel it until it is too late…’ Miguel sighed, nodding to himself. He already felt a little better, all he had to do was look on the bright side. 

*

Family legacy is as important as it is weighty. For Carlos Alvarez, the only son of the most recent generation, it means an inheritance of a kind. His older sister is out there becoming a lawyer, doing her family proud. So it falls to Carlos to do this, to step up and carry the family. As an elder brother to two sisters that have begun to branch out and pursue their own dreams, he stands to become the sole owner of Fortalvarez Tequila. 

In his younger years, he had run as far as his legs could carry him. It had been natural to join the United States Military, to complete training and join a special forces team. It was the loss of his parents in a car accident five years back had brought him home, their tragic deaths the driving force that summoned him back to Mexico. A stint in the service behind him, he had left America and his military-issued rifle behind in favor of tradition. Honorably discharged he returned to Mexico to help his abuelita run the family business. 

Being the heir and future owner to the family business means that there are some tasks one may be exempt from, and some tasks which he should be an expert at performing. Though his abuelita would certainly excuse him from some of the daily tasks, Carlos finds that these are the ones most likely to soothe his racing thoughts to stillness. Not as good as having the rifle in his hands, but a close second. 

It is because of this that he was up before the sun, ate breakfast, dressed and hiked out into the Valley. He’d rather he working under the sun, hat on his head and coa in hand, to grow and harvest things than to end people’s lives. There was no place like home, after all. 

Like every other jimador that works for the familia, Carlos has been in the fields since shortly after dawn, tool in hand. Like the others, he’s dressed in jeans and a button-down white shirt over his usual tank, a dark leather cowboy hat on his head. He stands out mostly by the way he moves, the smooth predatory glide of it, the innate purpose. He winds his way among the elder agave plants and picks out those that are ideal for harvest. 

As soon as first light drips lazy fingers of light over the elder fields, he’s walking among the massive, spiked plants in search of the best harvest. Two or three others follow him at a distance, picking their way through the next aisle over. He can only see them when they stray past some of the aisle-breaks in his own row, the agave spikes reaching up past his head in most cases. 

The rows he winds his way through are all at least eight years old, many of them approaching a decade or more in age. Among these distinguished veterans, Carlos selects his targets carefully. It is a point of pride that the Alvarez Blue Agave plants are not harvested at younger than eight years, and more often than not are well amidst the decade range. After some consideration, he focuses his attention on an avenue of plants that are beginning to crowd each other and then gets to work. Fetching his file from the sheath in his belt, he runs it swiftly over the moon-bright curve of his coa de jima to ensure the tool is sharp. Returning the file to his belt, he takes the coa in hand and braces his feet at shoulder width. 

The sharp curve of the coa easily sheers off the first four spiny branches of the agave, leaving them resting in the sand. Carlos repositions his hands and strengthens his hold, slides a half-step sideways, and continues aiming the coa in downward strikes he sheers off more of the branches, until he can begin to see the pina at the core. When enough spines are removed that the base can be seen, he begins to chip away at the pina, separating it from the roots before returning to sheer off more branches. He plants the sole of one workboot against some of the sheered off branches and leans in firmly, mindful of the still-intact branches and their sharp points. Freeing the pina requires a bit of a balancing act, the division of tasks requiring some care unless one doesn't mind blooding themselves on the sharp blade or spiked plant. Shortening his strikes with the coa as he presses with his heel. The pina rolls free of the roots with a final swipe of his coa and Carlos sweeps it into the avenue. He finishes shearing off branches, resulting in the pina sitting separately from all the spikes. Most of the green skin has been removed by the careful strikes of his blade, leaving many white chevron shapes gleaming in the sun. 

The process repeats for hours, until there are dozens of pina sitting in the avenue awaiting pickup. Every now and then Carlos pauses in harvesting to gather the spines, leaving them heaped in one area for pickup later. The branches can be used for many things, so they’re sure to be picked up by another team by the end of the day. Carlos considers the time, sharpens his coa , and steps to the last plant he’s likely to finish before the wagon arrives for the noon pick up. 

Another agave pina ready to head to the ovens for splitting and cooking. Carlos glances up at the sun, pauses to take a drink, and nods to himself. It’s almost time for the noon haul, which means he’ll be heading back up to the distillery for lunch and to work on other things. A sudden breeze picks up, tugging at the dark silk of his hair and slicing over the sweat marking his arms and soaking his shirt. He turns to face it, eyes narrowed, and knows somehow that abuelita is laughing at him. 

‘Dios, what now?’