All posts by Eduardo Fritis

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I believe…

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man”

 

George Bernard Shaw                                                                                               Man and Superman                                                                                                           1903

 

 

My first Sailing

It was the 60’s and Guaro was in charge of the boat house.  Guaro was a short man with curly hair and deep, dark, round eyes.  His skin was dark from being in the sun too much.  He was lean and strong, and his muscular arms showed big veins.  His hands were big and rough with fingers shaped by multiple cuts and bruises from the years of working with boats and rowing.

The boat house was a barn with dozens of boats and gear stored inside.  The combination of boats, gear and the salty moisture of the ocean produced an aroma that I will never forget.  The sweet smell of wood, dust, paint and sometimes an odd acrid smell of rotten shellfish or algae completed the perfume.

The walk from my house was at least 20 minutes.  First by the highway and then along a long and narrow road that crossed over a brook.  The tiny ripples over the water always fascinated me and made me want to play with a toy sailboat.   I liked to run my hands over the smooth, discolored wood of the railing on the bridge over the brook.  During the walk I wondered about the shape of the ripples in the water, the sail boats, the asphalt and the loose dirt on the brook’s bank.  On sunny days the asphalt smelled like oil and got soft.

I’m afraid of dogs and I always looked around in the street so that I could avoid them.   I have been bitten few times so I don’t like them barking at me.  I was 10 years old.

I was fascinated by the shape and smell of the boats, so I came to the boathouse every day to look around.  Guaro was a difficult person to deal with.  He got upset often and swore at me, but deep inside I thought he was a good guy.  Two or three of his children came to help him with his daily duties of caulking and painting boats.  He had years of experience fixing boats and it was clear to me that he had little formal education although he was the most knowledgeable person around with regards to boats.

During my visits I looked around for hours, learning the function of the boats’ multiple gears.  I was interested in learning how things worked and enjoyed the smell of the wood, the varnish and the bitter smell of the rotting iron.  My hands stroked the smooth surfaces of the boats that allowed them to cut through the water with ease.  I dug into every corner of the building eagerly.

At times I offered my help to Guaro, to which he had a quick answer.
“No, don’t bother me!”
“Can I borrow the boat to go rowing around?” I asked him when nobody was around.
“Only for 5 minutes, and don’t fuck it up.  Stay close by!” he said when he was in a good mood.  It was heaven for me.  I would jump in the small boat and row around, fascinated by the sound that the oars made in the water.  I listened intently to the sound of the water dripping from the oars when they were out of the water and the sound of the boat making its way through the water.  My heart pumped hard inside my chest and my cheeks hurt from smiling so much!

I knew that he was a good man and that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me.  The rumor around town was that Guaro didn’t know how to swim.  I never saw him swim.  I learned how to balance in a boat by watching him, he was the best.  He could jump into a boat as if jumping onto solid ground.

My family had a boat named after me – “Teddy”.  My sisters were too busy with their children to come out sailing with me and my mother was terrified of the water.  Dad was not around all the time but on the water he was something else!

I asked Guaro many questions all day long – about sailing, wood, paint –  just about everything.  Some days he sent me to hell fast.  On those days I would go to the dock to observe the boats dancing in the water, go for a walk by the beach or dive for shellfish.  I didn’t have friends that shared my passion.

One day Guaro said…
“Tomorrow you can take a Dolphin sailing.”
I couldn’t believe it, I was super excited. That day I looked for the dagger board, the rudder, the sails and the ropes.  I couldn’t believe that he was going to lend me a Dolphin sailboat.  I had to keep this excitement to myself.  If I told Mom or my sisters, I would be flooded with warnings and recommendations that I preferred to avoid.

The summers at La Herradura were sunny with the odd cloudy day. That day was sunny as usual.  I had breakfast and headed out the boat house with my swimsuit to go sailing.  When I got there Guaro was just coming in.  I couldn’t wait but I knew that I couldn’t piss him off by being too pushy.  After a while he called me to take the boat out with a cart.  I helped him pretending to be invisible and praying that he was not going to have a tantrum.  He dropped the boat in the water, I brought the mast with the sails and the rest of the gear.

I nudged the boat into deeper water.  The wind started pushing the boat so I knew it was time to get the dagger board and rudder – fast to start sailing. This was my first time sailing on my own and I was doing it by instinct.  I jumped on top, pushed the rudder, exposed the sail to the wind and pulled the sail sheet to inflate the canvas.  The boat reacted immediately, tilted a bit and started moving forward.  I was sailing!  I felt that I was the master of the universe  and that there was nothing bigger than me!

At first I sailed around the anchored boats and then ventured to get out further and further.  Quickly I learned how to turn with ease and how much to pull the sheets to have the sail in the best position.  The wind picked up a bit and the boat went faster.  At times water came on top of the deck and refreshed my behind.

The green color of the water, the blue sky and the color of the sails became unforgettable.  I sailed and sailed, loosing track of time.  When I returned, the sky was a darker blue than in the morning, and the sun was making the water shine like silver scales, it was later in the afternoon.  I took the boat out of the water, took the mast down and wrapped it up as it was when I got it.  I looked at the boat house, it was closed!

“Oh my god! Guaro is gone for the day!” I said to myself.
A flush ran through my body as I thought about how mad he was going to be the next day.  My next concern was where I could put away all the gear.  I got the cart, put the boat on top and hauled it to the boat house through the loose sand.  I sweated all the way and my feet hurt pulling though the sand.  I tucked everything away as best possible and went home.

“Where have you been all day Teddy!” my Mom said in an agitated voice while moving her hands like she was going to hit me.
“You can’t just disappear for the whole day!” Not good, I thought.
“I was sailing Mom.  I went sailing on my own, Guaro lent me a Dolphin.”  I was proud, tired and hungry.

The next day I went to the boat house and Guaro was upset at me.
“I’m not lending you the boat anymore!” he yelled and swore at me.

That day I started fixing my boat, I knew how to sail.

The boat accomplishment

 
At the end of school my parents take us to La Herradura for the summer.  La Herradura is on the coast, North of Santiago.  We have a cabin by the ocean.  I look forward to summers at La Herradura.
Mom, Carmen and Dad pack both cars with everything we need for the summer.  Carmen, my nanny, patiently does what she is told. Carmen has prepared boiled eggs, chicken, bread, thermoses with tea and cold beverages and other goodies to eat in the trip.  Hot and cold flashes run over the back of my head, my jaw clenches listening to the constant debate about what we are taking and what doesn’t fit in the car. 
At last the cars are ready and we take off in a convoy in the dark of the early morning.  Dad and Carmen in one car, Mom and me in the other.  There is barely enough room for me in the car. After a while, my Mom remembers that she forgot something.  We turn around, this adds more tension to the trip. It’s getting late.
I always think that if we run into problems at the beginning of the trip the rest is going to be just fine. The sun came up, my belly felt empty.
  “I’m hungry Mom”
  “Get something from the picnic basket, Teddy.” Said my Mom with her eyes on the road.
I look inside the basket for something yummy.
The smell of the chicken, the eggs and the hot bread transported me to unforgettable picnics at the beach.  I eat a boiled egg with bread and grabbed a bottle of water.
As we drive North, the trees started to disappear, the colors changed from green to brown, the landscape turned into dry slopes with few dried bushes.  The particular smell coming from the picnic basket, the heated plastic dash and the monotonous sound of road got me sleepy. Mom didn’t talk much, the trip was boring.  We stopped for lunch and bathroom breaks.  Finally after most of the day travelling we arrived to La Herradura.

The Bay from the top of the hill looked calm, one freight liner, the dock and the town were a familiar picture. As soon as we stopped at home, I jumped down to open the garage door, I stretched my arms and legs and hold a big breath of fresh air. After so many hours in the small place, I ran around, smile and explore what was new. Look around for my friends from the back, enjoying the fresh marine breeze and the fresh smells from plans, dust and eucalyptus trees from the backyard.  Mom, Dad and Carmen were busy unloading the cars.
The house smelled so good.  I have missed the smell of the thick curtains, the dry wood, the dust, the smell of the enclosure, the sweet metallic smell from the bathroom and Dad’s shaving cream. Everything was so familiar.
Last summer auntie Dolly taught me how to swim. She took me where I couldn’t reach the bottom and said.
  “Teddy, just swim out honey, you can do it.” And she let me go.  I moved my hands and legs as fast as I could until I reach the bottom.  She made me tried again and again until I was good at it.  From there on I became a fish, I imitate my sisters.  It worked well.
I can’t remember how old I was then.  The tradition was to swim to the boat and bring it to shore.  That year it was my turn, was super excited.  It was a challenge. I was looking forward to it.  My sisters would often talk about this during lunch time. Dad showed me how to let go the anchor and how to set up the oars and made me row.  The oars were really heavy. 
After few days, my Dad told me.
  “Tomorrow you will swim and get the boat.”
 I got the shivers. 
  “Be careful not to drop them in the water.” He said
That night I couldn’t sleep with the anticipation. I dream about swimming far to get the boat and then rowing it on my own.  I felt big, responsible, the owner of the universe.


The next morning I needed to pi more often than ever. I don’t recall what happen until I was swimming.  The water was green that morning, there was a gentle breeze.  I swim stroke, it felt an eternity to get to the boat.  I took the last pi before climbing.  Once on the boat, I looked to shore.  I could see my Dad and my sisters watching me not that far.  I release the anchor and set the oars.  I heard my Dad’s voice.
“Well done Teddy!” The wind had brought me to shore.  I didn’t have to row.
Thinking backwards, my father knew about it.  It was all safe.

Igor comes for the money

 

 
Sara and I sat after lunch in the small cozy living room.  It had three old comfortable wicker chairs with dark cushions, a wooden coffee table furnished the room and a book shelf. The house smelled like dried wicker and dust with a hint of dried hot wood, mud and straw from the roof.

There was a loud knock at the front door.
  “Yes?” I asked as I opened the door.
  “Elliot, I’m here for my money,” said the man slowly and calmly.
The man at the door was well built.  Tanned skin, a long and angular face, thin, square chin, and slicked back black hair.
 “Money? What money are you talking about?” I asked as I held the door open with one hand.


Sara came up behind me and pulled on my shirt,
  “What’s the matter Elliot?”
As I turned to Sara, the man pushed as he came in.  I fell backwards and on my way down grabbed on the book shelf.  My stomach was stiff, a shiver ran from head to toes.
  “What the hell do you think you’re doing!” I cried as I scrambled to my feet.
  “Cut the crap Elliot, give me the money or I’ll hurt you and this bimbo!” he shouted.
  “Listen Elliot, my name is Igor,” he paused,
  “I don’t have a hell of a lot of patience,” he said slowly again.

   “I know you brought 2.5 million dollars that you found on a street in Vancouver in a brown bag a few months ago.  That money belongs to me and I want it back.”  He looked straight into my eyes and grabbed me by my shirt and then pushed me.  I landed me on the floor again, my heart was pumping fast and my hands were shaking.

He looked like a tiger ready to attack.  For sure he was a gym guy, his agile body insinuated this underneath his crisp shirt.
  “Listen Elliot, you better fuckin’ do what I say!” he turned and whistled loudly out the open front door. 
  “Angel, ven aca muchacho!” he shouted in perfect Spanish.  Moments later the round figure of another man appeared.  He came in and closed the door.
  “Elliot, I want the money!” He demanded.
  “Where is it?”
My jaw shook with a punch.  I looked at Sara to see how she was.  My mind raced thinking of a way to escape.
  “I don’t have your…” my face burned with a slap, like it had been splashed with hot water.
  “What the hell do you want from me?” I mumbled holding my face.  Tears now ran down my cheeks.
  “The money, Elliot, the money, what’s so fuckin’ hard to understand?” he said.
My head throbbed, I felt a warm metallic taste in my mouth and I was short of breath.
Across the room, Sara cried quietly as the other man held her tight by the arms in one of the wicker chairs. I met Sara in Mazatlan three Month ago in the Cafe Panama.  Sara is not too tall with long brown hair and big almond eyes. We were both waiting to be seated and we started talking. She is a writer and has lived in Mazatlan for few years. She likes the weather, the people and the ocean and she is easy to get along.  We became inseparable right away.
  “OK, OK,” I mumbled feeling like I was about to vomit,
  “I’ll tell you about the money.”  I sat down in the wicker chair across from Sara and Angel, with my arms covering my head.
  “Please, don’t hit me again.”
I couldn’t see him, he was behind me.
  “Yes, I found a bag full of money in the street but I turned it in to my office.” I covered my head in anticipation of another whack.
  “I didn’t take a penny, I can prove it, look how I live.”  Tears poured from my eyes.

Something heavy landed on my head.  The room turned around, my head felt hot and intense, my stomach churned and I threw up.
  “I know that you brought the money inside the books asshole!” Igor yelled as he stopped in front of the book shelf, hands still in his pockets.
  “Angel, check these books, our friend here carved out the pages of the books to take the money through customs.”


Angel proceeded to look inside each book and threw them on the floor. Time seemed that stopped. I could count each second.

  “Nada jefe…these books have no holes!”
  “I can prove it’s true,” I appealed, 
  “I have proof that I returned the money to my office!”  Suddenly the room got dark, I could hear the voices far away, and my face was on the floor.  I didn’t know what happened, I didn’t feel any pain.
  “Angel, check the whole fuckin’ house.  Don’t come back without the money!” He roared.
I felt Igor’s pointy boot in my stomach.

Everything was blurry.  I tried to get up before the next blow, but I couldn’t.  Something was holding me down.  Igor’s foot was on top of me.
  “Angel!” he shouted 
  “Did you find it?”
  “Nada senor, nada!”
  “Let me show you, please…” I babbled trying to find Igor’s face.
  “What is it that you got?” Yelled Igor.
  “Let me get up,” I begged.

  “What is it?” Igor spouted,
  “Let me see, give it to me!”
His face didn’t move staring at the piece of paper.

He stood up he gave me a cold look and said,
  “What the fuck is this supposed to mean asshole?”
  “That sir…” I stuttered,
  “Is the Vancouver Sun reporting that I discovered a bag of money and that I turned it in.  It was on the news, didn’t you know?”
  “You are full of shit Elliot, you made this up.  Don’t try to take me for a fool, asshole.  Do you want more?” He said lifting his fist.
  “Please don’t hit me, see… that’s the newspaper.”  My thoughts moved slowly like my brain was full of sand.
  “Come on Elliot, you want to convince me that you returned the money?” he paused
  “What the hell are you doing here then?”
  “Let me explain to you what happened.” I said as I moved beside Sara.       
  “I found a bag with money in the street, I didn’t know what to do.  I took it home that day and the next morning before I went to work.  I brought it to my station and gave it to my manager.” I said breathing quickly. 
  “The Vancouver Sun interviewed me that day. I was on the radio too. I’m surprised that you didn’t know about it. My colleagues made fun of me, they said nasty things to me, that’s why I decided to move here.  I was done with walking in the rain and being the underdog of the office.” I looked straight into his eyes.

He stood up slowly and said,
  “You want me to believe this crap? You think I was born yesterday asshole?”  I felt a shudder through my body, my face got hot again and a metal taste flooded my mouth, my legs gave up, the room went silent and black. As I opened my eyes, I realized that I was on the floor again.  Sara knelled above me, sobbing, with a wet cloth in her hand that she dabbed on my face in an effort to clear away the blood.

“Are you OK Elliot?” She asked giving me a hug.  The room was torn apart, like we had been robbed.
I stood up slow and sat down on a chair as dizziness crept back into my head.  Sara brought me a glass of cold water.  My lips and throat were dry making it painful to swallow at first.

  “They said that they will be back tomorrow,” Sara whispered.
I tried to cleaned up the mess left by Igor and Angel, then washed my face and hands.
  “We need to call the police. We need to do something!” Said Sara.
  “Let’s go for a walk on the beach to think about it” I suggested.
  “Are you feeling OK?  We can stay here if you want.”
  “No, let’s get some fresh air and change of scenery, I want to talk to you about what happened.” I held Sara’s hand and limped out the door.


The afternoon was still warm and sunny, the soothing noise of the waves and the sound of the people, the cars and the dogs barking start to replenished my energy.  I walked barefoot letting the sand seep through my toes, I needed to connect to the earth and discharge the bad vibes.  The tide was coming in and the fresh water covered my feet, refreshed me.  A sudden wave of happiness and anticipation ran up my body.  I knew that this would happen sooner or later and I thought that it could have been a lot worst.
  “Sara, this is what happened!  You can choose to stay or leave to Mazatlan if you want.”  Sara looked at me with curiosity, still holding my hand.
  “I found a bag of money in Vancouver, it had lots of money.  I thought about keeping it and running away.  After much consideration I thought it was not a good idea to take the money, it was for sure, not clean money.  Who leaves a bag of money in the street?” I look at Sara while we walked along the beach.
  “I took the money home that night, I counted it, I was curious about how much money was in there.  There was 2.5 million dollars. The next morning I took it to work and I gave it to my manager.  The next day I was interviewed by The Vancouver Sun, two other newspapers and a radio station.  They wanted to know what happened and why I returned the money.” I stopped and looked deep into Sara’s eyes.
  “The people at work made fun of me, they told me things I don’t want to remember.  After a couple of weeks I had enough and decided to quit my job and come here.  Over the years I have saved money. The rest you know.  I never thought that someone was going to come here for this. I thought that these people had seen the papers.” I held Sara’s hand with both of mine.
  “I am sorry that you had to experience this afternoon. I didn’t even think about this, it was something that I never thought that could happen.  I am not too sure what are these guys going to do to me tomorrow, but I have nothing to hide, you know me Sara, don’t you?”
  “I am so afraid Elliot, I don’t get why these guys came to see you, and I know that you are not rich. What are we going to do?” Sara kissed me.
Early the next morning Igor and Angel were at the door.
  “Elliot,” said Igor,
  “Listen, I don’t like hurting people but I need my money back.” He looked at Angel who pushed me into a chair.
  “How do you think that I could bring 2.5 million dollars from Vancouver?  Check my bank accounts, look how I live.  If I had 2.5 million dollars I would not be living here for sure, don’t you think?”
    “Elliot, Elliot, you are underestimating me. I have been watching you since way before you found the bag of money.  I know everything about you, everything!”
  “If that is the case, just tell me how come you don’t know that I returned the money? If I brought the money, where would I keep it? And for what purpose I would have 2.5 millions and don’t enjoy them?” I said, shaking from top to bottom and expecting a knuckle sandwich.
  “Have you noticed how I live? There are no luxuries around here.  I go fishing every morning for food. I don’t have a car, just a little boat.” I looked around.
  “Mmmmm, let’s go to the bank.  Give me your bank card and the password.  Angel, go check the bank, get me statements since he opened the accounts.  I’ll stay here talking to this smart cookie.” He said.
  “Tell me more of your fantasies Elliot, I’m having fun. Tell me the story from the beginning one more time to see if I understand this time,” He barked.
  “As I told you already…” I repeated the story one more time with more detail and then stood up to get the piece of the newspaper for Igor.
  “Did you check with the Vancouver Sun?  They interviewed me.”
Close to lunch time, Igor left.
  “I will be back as soon as Angel reports his findings from the bank,” Igor assured as he slammed the door.
 
  “Let’s go for lunch?” I said to Sara.
  “We need to have a plan to deal with this guy. What do you want to eat?” Sara asked shaking.
  “Let’s go for tacos Don Pedro,” I said.  Pedro sold tacos on the street a couple of blocks away, Pedro is a big talker.

We ate fish and shrimp tacos, they were delicious as always. After the tacos we went on the boat fishing for the afternoon.  The sun was hot and the ocean was covered with shining silver pieces.  We caught a Dorado, my favourite fish.
We talked about the events form that day.  Sara didn’t want to leave me by myself. We went over and over how to convince Igor that I never had that money.  Sara suggested we run away. 
  “No Sara,” I said,
  “We can’t run away from something we haven’t done.”
That evening was quiet, we ate fish and drank a bottle of white wine to calm our nerves.
Igor arrived late in the afternoon the next day. He threw my bank card in my face and said.
  “Elliot, are you going to tell me where the money is?  Or will I have to hurt your girlfriend?” he said in a tedious tone of voice.
  “Don’t do anything to Sara, she has nothing to do with this.  Besides tell me what it is that you want me to tell you and I will, so that you leave us alone,” I said.
  “You still think I’m an idiot Elliot?”
  “Don’t get upset with me,” I said,
  “But I do!” I bumbled. 
  “I already showed you that I returned the money in Vancouver, you have seen that I don’t have such amounts of money, not here, not in the bank. What else do you want me to do to prove to you that I don’t have your money?”
I felt the angry haze come over my body, tears rolled out of my eyes, and I felt dizzy.
  “I don’t have you fucking money!” I shouted. 
  “How hard is it for you to get that I don’t have your fuckin’ money.  Hit me as hard as you want you’re not going to make the money come from Vancouver to here just because you are such a man!” I threw a punch at him.
He punched me back and I landed on top of the coffee table with that metallic taste of blood filling my mouth again.  I spit it out.
  “Fuck you Igor,” I mumbled.
  “Are you trying to get killed Elliot?” said Sara when I woke up late that night.
  “He is gone.” Said Sara with sadness in her voice.
The next morning nobody came.
Two weeks later, I asked Sara what happened that night when Igor knocked me out.
  “You don’t want to know honey.” Said Sara frowning.
  “And don’t ask me again, I will tell you one day. He wouldn’t come back. You can count on that.” Sara said, she looked like she has seen a ghost.
  
“I’m not going to ask you about the money either Elliot, one day you’ll tell me.” Sara said holding my hand.
Sara’s proposal was fair.  It was a smart idea to have returned half a million and have the press reports it. At least I had proof of my story.
The next two weeks we were busy organizing the house.  One morning I went fishing on my own, early as usual.  I dropped anchor in the same spot as usual.  Before I began to fish, I threw my grapnel anchor a few times until she caught on to something.  I pulled it up slowly making sure there was nobody close by.  It took me a good hour to pull the heavy load out.  Finally, a stainless steel box appeared.  I tugged it on board.  I unlocked the box and slowly opened it.  Stacks of money, all intact and dry.  I put a couple of hundred dollar bills in my pocket, locked the box and meticulously dropped it back in the water.  I looked to shore and smiled after all.

At times I still wonder what happen to Igor and Angel.  I have read most of Sara’s writing and I know that she has lots of imagination.