Review: Pepė is the son of his mother, Mama Torres. She is a widow, her husband having stumbled and fallen flat on a rattlesnake. “When you are bitten on the chest, there is nothing much that can be done.” Pepe is good with a knife.
Pepe is still a whimsical, lazy, laughing boy when he is given the responsibility to ride to Monterey. He is to stay with friends overnight and wear his father’s hat and green scarf. While at the friend’s house, they drink wine, someone says something insulting to Pepe and Pepe kills him with a well-aimed knife.
What follow is an excruciating tale of flight through the mountains while he is hunted by the law. His horse is shot. His arm is wounded. He is almost done. He tries to avoid one bullet. Then he struggles to his feet to receive the next bullet. He tumbles down the hill and lies, his head buried by the small landslide that accompanies his fall down the hill.
A boy becomes a man when a man is needed, says Mama Torres. I have known boys who were forty years old. Pepe faced his destruction like a man.
Short Story Masterpieces. Ed. RP Warren and A. Erskine. New York: Dell Books. 1954.