“I have an envelope for Lulu Williams,” I said, handing the envelope over the counter.
“Please wait Sir, Mrs. Williams asked me to call her when you get here,” said the receptionist with a squint in his eyes.
“I don’t have time to talk to Lulu now,” I said as I searched for the car keys in my pocket.
“Just a moment please,” replied the receptionist holding the phone to his ear.
“Mrs. Williams, this is reception, your envelope has arrived, however the gentleman is in a hurry.” He handed me the phone.
I picked up the phone with a frown on my face.
“Lulu, how are you?”
“Hi Bruce, I want to see you, can we have a drink? I will come down in a minute.”
“I would love to see you but I have to run. Let me know next time you are in town.”
“Call me, I’m here until the weekend. I’m in a conference. I would love to have a drink with you and catch up. How long has it been?”
“Oh… I’ll call you.”
“Many thanks for bringing the envelope, I hope to see you soon.”
I know Lulu since I was little, we used to spend the summers together with a bunch of kids our age. She is single, extremely attractive and a successful business woman. Lulu was staying in the fanciest Hotel and Casino in town.
I had nothing to do that afternoon and I have this itch for gambling. I snuck into the slot machine section, first making sure there was nobody I knew. The noise of the bells, the smell of the new rugs, the machines, that particular scent of the gamble and the hum made me shiver. I checked in my pockets, my wallet was not there. “Damn it, I really wanted to play the slot machines!”
Later that day I had dinner with the kids and sat to watch TV. When Leslie is away I have trouble sleeping.
The phone rang.
“Hi Bruce, come, join me at the casino,” Lulu said.
“Now? It’s midnight.”
“Come on, don’t be a wuss! I want to see you. I’m all alone!” Lulu said with a bedroom voice.
I thought for a few seconds. “OK… I’ll see you in twenty!” I replied.
The kids were sleeping, Lulu was an old friend, and nobody would care.
As I walked in the Hotel lobby, I saw Lulu waiting for me. She looked like a model from a cover of a magazine.
“Hey Lulu!” I said giving her a tight hug.
“It’s so good to see you Bruce!” she said with a look in her eyes that seemed to scan her surroundings with purpose.
She grabbed my hand and pulled me down the hall directly to the bar.
I glanced around the room and I was amused to see how many eyes were fixed on her.
“Get us a bottle of Moet and Chandon Brut!” Lulu commanded the barman.
She didn’t wait for the barman to react and off she dragged me to the roulette.
Lulu was holding my hands like when we were kids. The dim lights, the high ceilings and the noise were like magic to me. We played a couple of round and she pull me back to the bar.
“What are we toasting Bruce?” she said lifting her eyebrow.
“How about the good old times and tonight!” I said puffing out my chest like if I have just won the lottery. I look around and realized that the place was full of people that most likely would know Leslie.
“Let’s go play Black Jack, I feel lucky tonight!” Lulu said grabbing my hand.
I let myself go, seduced by her nature.
“Give me $1,000 in chips!” Lulu said to the dealer handing the money between her extended fingers.
“Let’s make some money Bruce!” she said holding my hand under the table.
We played three rounds, Lulu played big, she didn’t stop looking at the dealer’s eyes and won every time.
“I’m thirsty Bruce, let’s go for a sip?” she said grabbing the chips.
She stood up holding my hand and looked straight into my eyes.
“I’m having so much fun,” she said with a glint in her eyes.
“Me too!” I said with a tremor in my chest.
We sat at the bar and had a glass of champagne as we talked about work, life and old times.
“Do you still smoke Bruce? Let’s go for a puff,” she said without waiting for my answer. She hugged me and we walked outside holding hands. I thought that she wanted to kiss me.
“Tell me more about your work,” I asked in an effort to cool things down.
“Oh… It’s just boring, I make money, that’s it.”
“And you, do you have something spicy to tell me?” she said nudging up close to me.
“Not much either, married life is boring too,” I said as I looked around.
We finished the smoke and went inside for a drink.
“Get us another bottle!” Lulu said to the barman.
“What do you want to play now Bruce?” she asked me rubbing her knees against my leg.
“Whatever you like.”
The champagne was getting me.
“Do you want to play doctor?” she said with a loud laugh.
“Let’s get another drink.” She nodded at the barman.
We had two more glasses of champagne and we went to play roulette again. She won every time. The chips didn’t fit in her purse any more.
Her blue eyes remind me of a windy day on the ocean. She reached out for her drink, bringing her surprisingly generous breasts into sight.
We went to the cashier to exchange the chips.
“Put the money in my account,” she directed.
“Certainly Mrs. Williams,” said the cashier.
Lulu turned around and hugged me around my neck, looking into my eyes again.
“The kiss is coming!” I thought excitedly. I didn’t know what to do. The champagne rendered me helpless. “But Leslie?” I thought.
“Let’s go for more champagne,” she said with a smile grasping both my hands.
Nothing was missing. I had forgotten about time, wife, kids, work… all.
When we were on our third bottle, there were fewer people at the tables and the noise seemed to me father. I saw her yawning. I checked the time…5:30 am.
“Lulu, its 5:30, we should go!” I said with a shake.
“To bed?” she said wide eyed.
“Yea… I mean.”
“Don’t be silly, go home, you’re a married man.”
“Yea…” I didn’t know what to say.
“Is it going to be OK if I give you just one good night kiss?” she said examining me.
She didn’t wait for the answer. Her sweet plump lips melted into mine.
“Good night Bruce, I had a wonderful time. We should do it more often.”
“Me too Lulu. Good night.”
I arrived at home at 6:00 am I expected a call from Leslie anytime.
“How long is it going to take the rats to tell Leslie that I was out last night?”
I jumped into bed and fell asleep right away still shaking from the excitement.
At 8:30 am the phone rang, it was Leslie.
“I heard you were out and about with a blonde last night!”
“We’re going down Dad!” shouted Klaus.
“Watch out!” I shouted without looking at Klaus while the boat was tipping on top of us. “Fetch the boat!”
I swam behind the boat. The wind pushed the boat away from us.
I made an effort to swim as fast as I could. The life jacket was getting in the way.
“If I don’t catch it soon it’s going to be too late!” I thought.
I looked to the beach. “We are too far,” I thought. “Not good!” I thought.
I swam fast and grabbed onto the boat and pulled the main sail down in the water to slow down the boat. I looked up to see how easy it was going to be to climb up the tilted boat from where I was and hop to the other side to get it back up. I saw Klaus’s hands grabbing at the side of the deck and then I saw his face looking down at me in the water.
“Pull the boat back!” I shouted.
“It may be too heavy for Klaus,” I thought.
I lifted myself up, pulling hard with my arms, I sat on the side with one leg on each side and slowly put both of my feet on the centerboard close to the boat and let my body back. Immediately the boat started coming up.
“Watch out Klaus!”
The wind tipped the boat on top of us again.
I have been in these situations before, I had to get the boat back up and start sailing again. The day was sunny and the water was green, waves crashed around us with a silver shine. The water felt good on my body, refreshing. It was familiar to me.
This time the bottom of the boat was facing the wind. I climbed up holding onto the centerboard to the top and pulled back. Klaus was on the other side. The boat stood up gently this time.
“Get on board Klaus!”
He was up in no time.
“Give me a hand!” The boat was catching speed and I had no strength left to climb by the side on my own.
“Give me a hand!” I shouted again as I grabbed harder onto the side of the boat that was moving faster and faster.
Klaus stared at me.
I had to do something different to get on board, Klaus was not reacting. I slid to the back and pulled myself in.
“Pull on the Jib!” I shouted. “Pull the jib now.” The flapping of the jib tangled the sheet.
Klaus was not reacting to my commands. I pulled on the main sail sheet and the boat started flying, cutting through the water like a warm butter knife. I was having fun!
I didn’t look at Klaus’s face, I sensed that he was not enjoying the ride. I focused on the boat, checked for damages caused by the flipping. I checked the stays that hold the mast in place, everything looked fine. The wind was gusty and I didn’t want to flip again. The beach was getting further and further away, fast.
“We should go back!” shouted Klaus.
“OK, watch out when we turn!”
We turned as slow as I could, got on the other side and pulled gently on the sheet. The boat reacted like when you let go of the reins of a horse. I gathered we were at 18 knots.
“Pull on the Jib! Pull the jib.”
Maybe he didn’t want to pull more because we could flip again.
“Pull on the Jib! Pull the jib.”
I knew that I didn’t have much time to enjoy the speed, the feeling of when the boat wants to start flying on top, faster and faster, flowed through my body!
It was Saturday and we had decided the day before to come back to Puerto Aldea where the wind is always strong. We arrived after lunch, as the day got sunny. We took our time to prepare the boat. We had troubles setting the mast since the wind was hard. Klaus warned me that it was too windy and perhaps we should abort the idea of sailing for the day.
After four legs, I thought it was prudent to go back to the beach. Klaus was not having a good time. We got to the beach easy. After we hauled the boat out of the water, we exchanged our thoughts. We were exhausted.
“No se olviden que hoy hay Feria!” said Gustavo with a smile on his face.
“Good idea,” I said. “Is it going to be sunny today?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, the sun is coming soon!” he assured as he squinted his racoon face with round brown eyes and dark tanned skin. “There are nice big peaches, the skin peels off easy and they are delicious, also get the big chirimoyas, the ones with spikes, those are the best. You can find clothes there too,” he said showing his white teeth.
“We should check it out Dad!” Klaus agreed with Gustavo.
“Let’s take the truck only, we can bring the groceries home and pick up the boat to go for lunch and sailing after.”
It was mid morning and the sun remained above the clouds. The regular crash from the waves, the birds chirping, the bark of a dog in the distance, the smell of the moist and the dry dirt brought me back in time to La Herradura, a familiar environment. I wasn’t cold, the fresh air hugged me gently.
“It’s just a block from the police station!” he said waving at us.
“Thank you again Gustavo,” Klaus said.
“I’ve heard the chirimoyas are very good for you,” I said to Klaus as I jumped in the truck.
“We need to get lots fruits and avocados Dad.”
“I also want a bandana for my neck,” I said.
Tongoy is not a big place, it’s a 4 hour drive north of Santaigo, and at this time of the year, only a few visitors are around. In the summer, the visitors outnumber the locals. Klaus has an ongoing safety concern. Most of the people are poor and some of them look spooky. The unusual number of cars parked together was a good indication of the Farmers Market.
“Is this the farmers market?” I asked to one fellow that helps you park and watches your car.
“The next street to your right Sir!” He shouted back pointing with his hand.
“Are you sure that we can park here?” asked Klaus, concerned that I was parking the car on top of the sidewalk painted yellow, which means no parking.
“Is it OK to park here?” I asked an older man who was watching this part of the street.
“Certainly gentlemen,” he said smiling, his face was gently sculpted by age. “I will take good care of your car!”
I wanted to do this fast, get the boat, have lunch and then to the beach and sail just in time for when the sun comes up. Klaus is different, he is never in a hurry, and he likes to take his time.
It surprised me as we entered into the Farmers Market the amount of clothing stands. I expected to find more veggies and fruits.
“Do you like these pants?” I asked Klaus pointing to hippie baggie pair with orange, light blue and yellow stripes made of a thick canvas.
“Those are for women Dad!” he exclaimed.
“I don’t mind, I would like to own a pair,” I said thinking about where could I use them.
“Buy them if you want them…” he said.
In the next stand, they had bandanas. I looked for a color that appealed to me. White, black, grey, light blue and pink.
“Those are bandanas Dad!” Klaus pointed out.
“Yes I know, this is what I want for my neck.”
“You’re not picking a pink bandana, are you Dad? What is with you and pink?”
“I like pink, I always have!”
“How much is it?” I asked the girl.
“800,” she said with a smile.
I put the bandana on right away. We walked the two blocks of market through the crowd to look around. I enjoyed the symphony that the crowd made, the salespeople as they shouted their offers in their slang, the smell of cumin, strawberries, corn, cilantro, celery and an acrid smell of fish. The market is a place to meet for the people here. I can tell by their faces, what they are wearing, their speaking, who they are.
“Corn, caserito… five for a Luca!”
We picked cherries, strawberries, nectarines, mangoes, bananas, avocados, tomatos, garlic, green peppers, eggs. Chirimoyas were green and no big peaches…December…too early in the season.
The yellow plastic bags with all our treasures were getting heavier and the thin plastic was hurting my hands.
Cheap clothing too.
“Is Antonio around?” I asked the attendant when we got to the restaurant “La Ballena Azul.”
“Antonio?” asked the attendant opening her eyes very wide.
“Yes, the person who serves here,” I said.
“Haaa…you mean Cheri?…” “Cheri…” she called. “The people for the sea urchins are here!” she shouted to the back.
Antonio showed up looking very well groomed as usual, I noticed his broken nose that might have been smashed by one ugly punch many years ago.
“Where are the other two?” he asked.
“We are all here,” I said counting one, two, three and four pointing at Klaus and me each time. He looked at me intrigued.
“We are having two servings each,” I explained.
We sat by the water. We have come for lunch most of the days. Sea urchins are very rare. When we arrived in Tongoy, I asked around and I told Antonio to phone me if he got them.
“Why do they call you Cheri?” I asked.
“Well…when I was a kid, I had a shield…you know? Cowboys?” he explained.
“Sheriff!” I said.
“Yes, Cheri!” he said with a big smile lifting up his shoulders.
“Who is the girl that was serving here last night?” I asked
“That is my daughter Alicia.” He said with a squint.
I moved my eyes pointing to Klaus and back. Few moments later, he arrived with Alicia.
“Hi Alicia.” I said as I extended my hand.
“Hi, jaja jaja,” she replied with a permanent smile while staring at Klaus.
“Hi Alicia,” said Klaus extending his hand with a smile.
“Hi… jaja jaja,” she said still smiling.
Then they turned around and left.
“Should I have stood up to say hi?” Klaus asked.
“I think you should have.”
The sea urchins were delicious. After that I was still not done lunch, I wanted to try the empanadas from La Pink. The place was packed and the service slow. The waiter wasn’t the smartest cookie in the cookie jar. We sat at a table that was not cleaned up.
“What is the best to eat here?” I asked.
He stared at me lost. “Everything is good,” he said slowly.
“We will get one Crab-cheese and one shrimp-cheese please,” I said with a smile to see if that would make a difference.
A while later Klaus noticed that people were getting angry because of the slow service and some of them moved to the restaurant next door.
I went inside to find out about my order. La Pink, a short older woman behind the food counter was shouting orders to Maruca, the woman on the deep fryer. From what I gathered, the deep fryer woman was replacing the official one and she had troubles reading the orders from the new POS. I waited to see more.
“Where are my crab cheese and my shrimp cheese?” I asked.
“I don’t have any of that!” Maruca said.
La Pink gave me a look and said, “What did you order?”
“One crab-cheese and one shrimp-cheese please,” I said with a smile.
“I’ll make them right away,” she said and the two empanadas came out from the fryer.
In less than a minute, I was walking to our table with my two empanadas.
People around escalated their anger.
The empanadas were light and delicious, quite different from the ones we had tried so far. We pack our own Aji Diaguitas hot sauce. Klaus is always concerned when I arrive at restaurants with our water and hot sauce. After we ate, I went in and asked for another order, directly from La Pink.
The day was still cloudy so we headed to Puerto Aldea, at the South end of the beach for sailing.
We drove along the beach as the sun started breaking through the clouds. Thewind was blowing hard.
“Are we ready for sailing?” I asked.
“Let’s wait for a bit Dad,” Klaus said.
I lay on the sand to get warm before the sail. My mind started wondering about the day. Suddenly, I remembered we didn’t bring the main sail.
“We forgot the main sail at home!” I shouted at Klaus who was still in the truck.
Should we go back to get it or we just have a beach day no sailing? The wind was blowing hard so beach was not that great. “What can we do?”
“Let’s take pictures with the pink bandana,” I said.
We had so much fun that he even agreed to try on my Speedo and later on to facebook the pictures except the nude ones!
After that, I started walking around looking at the sand. I found clam shells, and grabbed as many as I could hold in my hands and started throwing them into the water. They fly smooth like a frisbee. Soon Klaus joined me in throwing shells. A flock of ducks were swimming not too far off the shore and I started aiming at the ducks. One of the shells did it. The ducks, contrary to logic started swimming towards us. Fun! My arm got sore after a while.
I found a sand bank. I wanted to dig a tunnel. I looked for a stick something to dig, nothing. I chose a scallop shell. I started digging and soon Klaus joined me.
“Let’s make a tunnel, you dig there and we connect at the end,” I suggested.
We must have spent an hour digging and finally we connected. We made a wall and called it Fort Klaus.
So much for nothing to do! It reminds me of my days at the beach, always busy doing something simple, trying out something else, it’s still there!
I felt butterflies in my stomach that Saturday morning.
“Where is this coming from?” I asked myself out loud. “I haven’t felt this way for a while.”
The day went by fast as I ran the last errands before taking off to Chile the next morning. I left packing my bags and double checked the weight to avoid troubles at check in time.
On Sunday morning there were few people at the airport. The lights were dimmed, as if it was too early in the morning, it was too early!
“The recession!” I thought. “Maybe it’s just too early…no, it’s not that!”
While in line for the check in, I observed the attendants. I noticed one in particular, checking everybody’s luggage’s weight. Her face was longer than the rest, like an olive, curly black hair with a pony tail, her almond eyes and long nose made me think of people I’ve met before, by the book!
“Maybe she’s having troubles at home and she is taking us on for a payoff,” I wondered.
My theory is that people alike do things alike. I hoped that she would not not be the one to check me in.
I like to look at the travelers, I check their faces, who are they traveling with, their clothes, their shoes, their bags and their carry on. I make a picture of who they are, their families, their friends, why they are traveling and such. I make stories and categorize them in sets.
“Next please,” a Phillipino attendant called to me.
“I got lucky!” I thought, it was not the nasty one.
“Good morning, where are you traveling today?” she asked.
“Have a great flight,” she said with a broad smile. “You need to go to Gate E 80.”
Then to customs, waiting for the flight to LA and the flight was uneventful.
Read, snooze, read and land.
The plane arrived in LA and I felt that it was breakfast time again. I looked around the food court of the Alaska Airlines domestic terminal for something appealing. A sweet smell of cinnamon flooded the terminal. Burger King…no, Starbucks…no, I wanted something more meaningful after my four month stint of hard-core diet. Gladstone’s was the only Restaurant. I looked at the tables where people were already eating, for something that appealed to me. Scramble eggs with sausage looked good.
The place was almost full. I ordered immediately since my belly was calling for food fast. I looked around and noticed that everybody was doing something, nobody just wondering. I took my time, I had 5 hours to wait until my next flight. I kept on making stories about the people around. The day was beautiful in LA, I walked to the next terminal slowly enjoying the fresh morning breeze, the light smell of airplane fumes and the noise of the cars going by.
Time flew and before I knew it I was boarding the Lan Chile brand new Airbus 340.
“Only men flight attendants? “ I observed. “That’s weird.”
“The flight will be 10 hours and 40 minutes.” They announced first in Spanish and then in a strong accent English.
“They must be reading from a script,” I though. “How do I sound? Perhaps the same…I don’t want to think so!”
The man sitting next to me in the other side of the isle started an animated chat with me. He told me that he is in telecommunications and that he was going to Chile, Argentina and Bolivia on this trip. He told me about his family, the family business Man Tires, the house in Santa Barbara that has 40 rooms, the Mercedes he bought foro his only son for his 16th birthday and then he dug for pictures, yes, and the old paper ones and showed me everything.
“Wow, this is going to be entertaining!” I thought.
The plane was awesome, the best thing was that they had individual screens at each seat that you could watch your own movie, TV, play games and what not. They supplied great earphones that didn’t fall out when I went to sleep.
Thanks to the recession, the plane is not full!
I can’t remember which movies I watched, I slept through every one of them.
Why is it that I want to write?
What a great question, especially when we have trouble expressing what we feel. I’m afraid of what you are going to say about this?… moreover I’m afraid of what you are not going to say…
When I say we, I am referring to you and not to me. I use the “we” because it sounds softer, perhaps better.
Enough of running around the bushes. I like to write because it gives me a tremendous satisfaction of being with myself in an undivided engagement with my deepest thoughts. I do it for you!
I feel happy every time that I write and engage with my thoughts letting my imagination run wild. Play with the drama, the tension, creating the characters at my will, the settings, the smells and noises to show you the story that I am living in.
More, the writing gives me freedom, let’s me fly and experience.
For me it is a challenge to the courage of the expression and fear of the critic. It’s a tsunami of emotions, that overall is awesome, for lack of a better word.
I am a story teller, I love talking and entertaining people, it makes me happy. My mind works and experience.
I wear light clothe easy to walk, easy to row. I meet with my friends, they are my inspiration, they don’t know. Some of them are nice and some are not. I like them all, why not!
I write the wind, I write the ocean waves. I write with the moon sitting on my side.
Blue, soft and tender,
warm and gentle.
That is my experience of love.
I can wait to write
Sometimes, I wait to keep me excited,
I hold for the prize,
for the taste of the words.
I love the drama, the hope, the love. I love the feeling of being at the edge of the seat all the time.
I noticed the bag across the street from Mrs. Chow’s house, by the hedge. It was a brown fabric bag. At first I thought it was garbage left in the street. I delivered the bunch of letters for Mrs. Chow and as I was coming down the stairs, my eyes went back to the bag. Curiosity took over and I crossed the street cautiously checking both ways beforehand, making sure nobody was watching.
The hidden camera idea crossed my mind and I looked down both sides of the street and at the houses around, just to make sure again that nobody was watching. In my business being observant is a skill that I’ve developed over the years. I picked the bag up with my left hand and noticed that it was heavy, maybe full of papers I thought.
The bag had long leather handles, the fabric was brown with flowers, nothing new or in fashion. It was like an old lady’s bag. I put it back on the ground and pushed the bag with the letters with my elbow as I was crouched to open the brown bag. I slide the zipper and my eyes froze at the sight of the pile of money. Stacks of 100 dollar bills! Wow!
Blood rushed to my head and a shiver ran through my body, still crouching I looked one more time from one side of the street to the other. What in the hell is this bag full of 100 dollar bills doing sitting in the street with nobody around, slowly I stood up, carrying the bag with my left hand I continued walking towards where I had parked my car earlier that morning.
Shaughnessy was an affluent neighbourhood in the city. With large homes characteristic of the area, nicely painted in yellows, greys, and a few browns with black trim. Very seldom did you see people in the streets at that time of the day, except for few old ladies walking their dogs and I was sure I knew them all by first name. That day was grey, it was spring and the air felt fresh with the sweet smell of Jasmine. All the lawns were meticulously mowed and there was no sign of anything out of place in the perfectly landscaped yards.
When I reached the car, I opened the trunk. I felt excited and confused. I turned to think what the sensible thing was to do. My memories sled through every event I remembered involving people finding a bag of cash. I deposited the bag in the trunk and closed it as I looked around for somebody following or watching me.
I leaned my back on the driver’s side door. I wanted to smoke, have a drink or take a leak. I realized that I was beyond nervous although I knew I had to act calm and easy as usual. I thought about what to do with the still half full bag letters that were due to be delivered. Should I deliver? Should I run….?
I decided to finish my day, which would give me time to think. I walked back to the street where I had found the bag and finished delivering the mail at the same pace as every day. As usual, I didn’t see anybody. I returned to the car, stuffed my jacket and empty mail bag in the back seat and, as usual, got in and drove home.
As I turned south onto Oak Street, a policeman flagged me down to stop. “License and registration,” he said looking at my eyes. I handed him the papers without saying a word. He walked slowly to the back of my car, then got into his car that was parked at the corner. “What the hell is this policeman is doing here,” I said to myself, “Does he know that I have a bag of money in my trunk? Should I say something about it?”
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, I remembered. The policeman is doing his job, following his routine, calm down Elliot, I said to myself. It seemed like an eternity when finally the policeman returned to the car, handed me the papers and said, “Thank you, have a good day sir.” I put the registration away in the glove compartment resisting my instinct to fly away quickly. I took my time, shaking, started the car and drove away slowly. I passed this one, I reassured myself. Nobody knows about that money….uufff…I was sweating.
Once at home, I couldn’t wait to see how much money was in the brown bag. I dumped it on my bed and then proceeded to clean the night table and organize the stacks one on top of the other. As it turned out there was around 2.5 million dollars and the bills looked real to me.
I went to the kitchen to make myself some tea. My dog Harley followed me around, happy to see me. I had been too excited to say hi to Harley when I came in so I knelt down to pet him. He looked at me wagged his tail. “Today is our lucky day….I have found a bag full of money,” I said. “Our life is about to change.”
I had been a mail man since I was 20. I chose this job for many reasons, one of them being that I would have lots of time to myself, nobody checking on me and I would get to walk outside. During these 18 years in the job I have had time to think, man! lots of thinking. In my free time I like to stay home, enjoy Harley’s company, drink tea, read and occasionally watch TV.
My house is small but quite comfortable, I had been renting it since I started delivering mail.
Among my favourite things to think about was, what would I do when I retire. Where would I go? Now it came in handy, having planned so many alternatives. I had never married, although I have had a few girlfriends for short periods of time. I don’t like to dance and certainly I don’t like to go for walks on the weekends. I guess I was more of a hermit than anything. I never found a girl with the same likes as me, quiet and simple.
I started planning my retirement. I packed the money back in the bag and tucked it in the attic. I could not read that day, I was hungry so I cooked a pot of rice with extra veggies and I grilled a chicken breast. I opened a bottle of wine to quietly celebrate my finding. I will work until I get my holidays in August and then go down to Mexico to live, but how would I bring the money?
During dinner, I made up my mind that I was going to take a direct flight to Mazatlan to avoid entering the US. There was a risk of being caught with the cash, and they could presume it was drug money. Whose money was it actually? I didn’t want to go there. I was busy planning my escape. Once in Mexico it would be easy to live like I have here, low profile. I didn’t have any luxurious dreams apart from being by the water, fishing and perhaps sailing…why not.
The went by. I gave notice to Mrs. Jones. She was surprised that I was leaving. I told her that a distant relative in the East needed my company. I gave notice at work. I told them the same story. I told the few friends I had the same. Everybody seemed quite surprised. From time to time I checked on the bag, just to make sure everything was fine.
I booked the tickets for that Wednesday in August. I paid with my Visa. I picked Mazatlan because it is a tourist destination 20 years ago it used to be most popular Mexican place to go and now, not very many people went there. Perfect I thought. I sold most of my furniture and packed my books and the things I wanted to keep in storage, and threw away lots of junk that I had collected over the years.
As the day approached my stomach began to feel empty, I felt light and afraid. The summer was hot and finally my last day of work came. My colleagues gave me a small party at the office, hugs and the traditional good wishes and keep in touch requests. Nobody knew that I was going to Mexico.
Two days before taking off I had to return the house to Mrs. Jones. She was sad. I thanked her for everything she had done for me, and say “By the way I have paid for your house!” all of these years paying rent, covered her mortgage payments. I moved to a small hotel nearby where I stayed watching my bag. Everywhere I went I brought the bag with me. I was afraid that somebody would steal it.
On the morning of my departure I called a cab and drove to the airport, I was taking a suitcase, Harley’s kennel and the brown bag. At the airport everything went well. They asked me to put the brown bag with the cargo. I thanked them but said, “I would rather bring it with me”. I had rehearsed my face going through security for weeks and what I would say if they asked me what was in the bag.
I got my boarding pass, thanked the attendant and headed to security. I was nervous, I felt my blood leaving my face. I walked to the officer with my boarding pass in hand, carrying the brown bag and Harley’s kennel. The security person checked my boarding pass and took a look at Harley, who was behaving so good, curious and quiet. She noticed that my hands were sweating,. “I’m afraid of planes,” I said quietly.
I placed Harley’s kennel where she pointed out and the brown bag on the belt for the X-Ray scanner. I put my shoes, belt, watch, pen and the loose change I had in my pocket in the tray, behind I put the brown bag and pushed them into the machine. I waited for the security person to let me go under the arch. I needed to go to the bathroom, I was sweating cold! She indicated me where to go and I did. Nothing happened. I just turned to the belt to pick up my things, the security person behind the X-Ray machine called me as I was grabbing the brown bag. “What is in here,” she asked. “Books,” I said. “I am going to have to open it,” she pulled the zipper and opened the bag. I was frozen! I didn’t look directly at her, I was about to faint.
“Are you feeling alright?” she asked me. “No…not really,” I said. “I am really afraid…the planes…I need to go to the bathroom,” I blabbed quietly. “Nothing to worry about sir,” she said, “planes are quite safe nowadays, nothing to worry!” She looked into the bag, put her gloved hands into it and lifted her head and smile. “You are good to go….have a good trip and relax…enjoy your holidays”.
My body felt so if was about to explode, I smiled back and said thanks. Quietly and slowly I picked up the brown bag and Harley’s kennel. As I walked out of the room I could feel the drops of water running down my back. Picking up the pace, I looked for the nearest bathroom. I was through, next stop Mexico. I checked on Harley, he was fine, he was my company.
In the bathroom, I thought, “One more hoop and we are done…The Mexican authorities. Once I cross that I am done. I felt hungry and thirsty, I stopped for a sandwich and pop at Tim Horton’s, and I got a glass with water for Harley. We were set for the plane, I had bought two seats one for me and the other for Harley. In the plane the friendly attendants from Westjet were cracking jokes.
I placed the brown bag underneath the seat. I loved my seat by the window. As the plane started rolling down the tarmac, my stomach contracted one more time. I didn’t pay much attention to what the attendant was saying into the microphone, I was magnetized looking out the window. The pilot put full throttle and the plane began its frenetic run until it got smooth and the nose pointed up, we took off. The ground began to change, the view was different, new. At times the plane would start shaking, like if we had gone from a very smooth road to a dirt one with bumps and then smooth again.
During the flight I reviewed my life, I wondered about the choices I had made, leaving my parents house at age 16, choosing to be a mail man, not having a partner or having the freedom of not having one, the absence of kids, somebody to teach what I’ve learned. My walks, the people I met during the 18 years delivering their mail, how their kids grew, the people that moved in, the ones that move out, the house renovations, the new cars, the changes in the weather, all that I knew was already behind. My house, my yard, my seat. All that I had, was in the bag and Harley’s kennel beside me.
Five and one half hours later we were landed in Mazatlan. It was noticeably hotter than Vancouver. The faces were foreign to me, the colors much more intense, and the noise much more loud. I walked to the immigration booth, the officer asked me how long was I coming for and I said, “long sir”. He stamped my passport and let me in, next stop customs. This time I was relaxed, I had nothing to fear but fear itself. I handed my declaration to the officer and he checked Harley’s kennel, my suitcase and my brown bag. “What do you have in here sir?” he asked, “Books,” I said, “Books”. I went through. It was hot, the big light brown tiles of the floor, the high ceilings and the numerous people around me, all shouting, it was my home, my new home.
Days later I rented a little house in “Barras de Piaxtla”, a small fishing village of around 450 people one hour north of Mazatlan. Although they had electricity and running water, the people live much as they have done for hundreds of years, fishing and ranching. Many of the houses are still made from small sticks cut from the local woods and woven into walls.
In my little house I unpacked the few things I brought, took out the books I had in my brown bag, and carefully place them in the shelves in the living room. Carved inside of them, was the money. I had reflected that the best way to pass my treasure through customs was inside the books. I sighed and I headed to the beach. I was going fishing, it was my new job.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Frankie raised his head, “You just made a mistake Andy…a fuckin’ big one.” Andy standing with the empty bottle in his hand, Frankie’s face was dripping in water. Frankie was in the habit of going to the gym every morning during the week, he felt good doing that and spending time with his acquaintances. He enjoyed the effect of the steam after a hard work out. Frankie was not huge like Andy, but fit for his job. That morning, as often they were making jokes and Andy took it bad.
Frank had long blond hair and his slim body lean slightly to the left, as if he was leaning into a wall, it made him be different. He would swing his head constantly to get his long hair out of the way, especially when he was not happy. He approached Andy, pointed his finger at him and in a low voice said, “You are going to pay for this fucker.” Andy gave him an “I don’t care” look and he continued talking loud with the rest of the guys ignoring Frankie. That pissed Frankie off even more, he walked to the shower and the steam room to think about his next move. Nothing good was going to come after that mishap…
After completing his ritual, Frankie left the gym and went to his car. He took a deep breath as soon as he was outside, stretched his arms to enjoy the fresh air from that cold morning, it was sunny but fresh. The black Cadillac was waiting for him in the parking lot. And as soon as he opened the door that characteristic smell of the Cadillac brought him all kinds of memories. It smelled like a mix of heated oil, dust and cigarettes, it was actually a good smell. He turned on the ignition and drove directly to Andy’s house. He knocked on the door. He had never been inside the house before.
The door opened and Helen showed up. She was a taller than the normal woman, in her early 30’s, dark hair and overall good looking. “Hi, I am Frankie from the gym, Andy asked me to come and pick you up, did he call you?” he said in a friendly voice.
Frankie was attractive, woman never had much resistance to him. “Andy hasn’t called me, but come in Frankie.” Frank closed the door behind him and grabbed Helen by the hair. “Listen bitch, you are going to do what I tell you or I will beat the crap out of you,” he said while slapping Helen face furiously. “Nobody fucks with me and your macho hubby thinks he can, now we are going to see how it goes.” Tears pored from Helen’s eyes and she let out a moan of pain. “Don’t hurt me please, don’t hurt me” she cried. Frankie was holding her by the hair. She was frozen, in shock, very afraid.
“Did you understand what I just said?” asked Frankie in a soft but penetrating voice, “Did you bitch?” She noted with both of her hands covering her mouth. “You and me, we are going to go for a ride, and you are going to behave good like I tell you!” Frankie was shaking her head back and forth for her to understand that he was not joking. “Put your shoes on, we’re going,” said Frankie letting here go. Helen let go an “Ayyyyyyy….” and quickly obeyed Frankie’s demand and walked out the door to the black Cadillac parked in the driveway. Frankie closed the car door after her and drove away.
Her big dark open eyes were telling how afraid she was. After a while, the car stopped in front of a warehouse in the South part of town, it was an industrial area with few people around. The area was close to the train tracks. Frankie drove the black Cadillac in and closed the overhanging door. The warehouse was fairly empty, just a few old machines around. He pushed Helen to the stairs that led to the office above. The room was 20’ by 10’, white, at the end there was a metal desk with a bunch of papers and boxes on top, an old telephone and a screen. The reclining chair must have been from an auction from the fifties, it was dark wood, with a dark green leather cushion and the back was nailed with round buttons. On the side there was a couch, green and red fabric, old and dusty. A couple of shelves with scattered books and boxes completed the office. The place smelled like cigarettes and steel, the lighting was poor but acceptable.
He pushed Helen to the couch and lit a smoke. “What is it that I’m going to do with you?” he said aloud as he dragged into the cigarette. “Your hubby needs a lesson, what do you think?” Helen was speechless, she was petrified. All her body was shook, she was shivering. “Do we want to hurt your kids?” “No, no…please leave my kids out of this, you can do anything to me, but leave my kids alone. I’ll ask Andy to apologize to you and we’ll put an end to this and we’ll forget everything.” Helen pale face was looking straight at Frank’s. Frank was trying to find a way to screw Andy up for good.
Frank dialled… “Andy, it’s Frankie… I need you to go down to Holguin to pick up a box for me.” Andy knew that Frank was involved in drugs. “Fuck you Frankie, you go yourself to get it, I am not your chulis.” There was a pause, “Listen asshole, I am not asking you for a favour, if you want to see your wife in one piece tonight you do what I tell you. From now on you work for me… and yes, you are my chulis…” and he laughed.
“I will text you a picture of your bitch and then you will call me for the address, do you get it?” Frankie texted a picture of Helen laying on the nasty couch to Andy. He finished the smoke and threw the butt on the floor, he was too lazy to put it out.
Frankie’s phone rang, “Frankie, don’t do anything to my wife, let me talk to her.” Andy’s voice was more submissive than earlier this morning. Frankie passed the phone to Helen, she started crying and slobbering and couldn’t speak, she could only mumble “Andy, Andy” repeatedly.
“Enough!” said Frank, “give me the phone back”. With the phone in his ear Frank said…
“You see Andy what you did, for pretending to be a macho man in the gym, now you are my bitch just like your wife… I told you nobody fucks with Frankie!” The other end was quiet. “Now do you want to see your wife in one piece tonight Andy?” Frankie said in a nice voice.
“What do you want me to do Frankie? I’ll do anything but don’t touch Helen please!”
“Drive to Holguin and pick up a package for me at 371 Pan de Guadalupe, don’t open the package and don’t do anything that you will regret later, do you understand? Did you get the address?”
“Yes I got it 371 Pan de Guadalupe in Holguin.”
Andy knew exactly where it was, over the 110 to the Carretera Federal 45 in Mexico. Perhaps it was a 2 hour drive at the most from Chaparral, New Mexico, where his office was. Andy, Helen and the girls enjoyed going down to El Paso on the weekends to try the inexpensive Mexican restaurants and meet the locals. “What is in that package?” Andy asked, “It’s the insurance policy for your wife’s health asshole, now quit the chatting and get on the road. They are expecting you in a couple of hours, you call me when you are back in the States partner.” Frankie laughed. “In the meantime I will get to know your wife a little more fucker! Hurry up and don’t fuck up!”
Frankie sat on the couch next to Helen, “What are we going to do in the meantime cutie?” Helen turned around hiding her face from Frankie, “Nothing… just leave me alone!” she was getting more of a voice Frank noticed. He grabbed by her hair firmly and turned her face towards him. Her eyes started letting tears popped out. She was scared. “Now, we are partners, your hubby is helping my business…” he laughed hard. “At what time do we have to pick up your girls from school? Soon is going to be lunch time and I am feeling hungry. You never know what direction your day is going to take… funny… don’t you think?”
The tires were screeching, blue smoke billowed from below the car as Frank took the corner as fast as he could. Somebody in a red pickup truck was chasing him and gaining fast. The black 1972 El Dorado was his baby. He was wearing white, white suite, white shirt and white shoes. He always dressed well and looked good!
Frankie was a dealer, since he finished high school and even before that. As some say, he was selling dope. He was a nice guy and that was why he did well. He never got into trouble. It was surprising that today, he was running away from someone who most likely, wanted to have more than a chat with him.
Frankie was a pretty good driver but in this part of the city he didn’t have much of a chance. After a few more blocks Frankie realized that he was going nowhere and decided to stop the car to talk to the guy who was chasing him. He stopped the car and jumped out leaving the door ajar. The red pickup stopped 100 feet behind, a big guy rolled out carrying a shotgun is his left hand. He must have been 5’9” and 300 lb. He was wearing a blue logging shirt with jeans and blue sneakers.
“Hands up,” he shouted while pointing the shotgun at Frankie, “come this way.” Frankie started slowly walking towards the hulking guy. Frankie had this funny way of walking like swinging the waist to the left. His blond hair was dancing in the wind while his face was frozen, not afraid but no signs of life, he was staring at the gunman straight in the eyes.
“Do you know who I am?” asked the gunman, when Frankie was 30 feet away.
“No idea, what do you want from me?” returned Frankie.
“I am Margaret’s brother, you punk!” he bellowed jumping on top of Frankie. He was too fast for Frankie. Before he knew it, there was a storm of punches. Soon Frankie’s legs gave way and he ended up on the ground, sore and bloodied from the punishment.
Facing the pavement, Frankie’s white suit was ripped and covered in the blood that was coming out of his mouth and cheeks.
“Call me Mark,” said the ogre as he pulled Frankie up by the back of his white jacket.
“I came to visit my little sister Margaret and I found an old address book and around your name there was a red circle. Somebody called Margaret’s line, the person on the other end said to me that you were the cause of Margaret’s sadness and if I loved my sister I should beat the crap out of you…and that is what I am doing. He told me where to find you,” explained Mark.
“What have you done to my sister asshole?” he demanded, still holding tight to Frankie’s jacket and giving him a good shake. Frankie’s face looked perplexed, he didn’t understand what was going on. Frankie moved gently and got loose from Mark. He sat on the curb, grabbing his face, trying to put all the parts where they belonged.
“You got it all wrong Mark, I don’t know who called you and for what reason. Margaret is my fiancée and we’re getting married in September. We haven’t had a fight. How come you didn’t ask her?” Frankie reasoned, holding his hurting face. Mark was standing right in front of him looking down at him. He passed his hand over his head, scratching his scalp for a moment.
“What are you saying?” he mumbled. He leaned over to Frankie, grabbed his arm and helped him up.
Frankie was dirty, bloody and beat up. He looked like a windy hot summer day!
“You don’t look like a bad guy,” said Mark as he helped Frankie walk to his car.
“I didn’t know…I’m taking you to Margaret to check the story. Follow me, I’ll buy flowers for you to give to Margaret.”
“She likes roses,” Frankie said while lowering himself into the car with difficulty.
“Red roses,” he added.
They drove slowly to where Margaret worked, she was a clerk at the hardwood store.
Mark got the roses.
“You wait for me here Frankie, I’m going to get Margaret, tidy up,” he said with a friendly look. He passed the roses and a bottle of water to Frankie, and then turned and walked towards the store. As soon as Mark entered the store, Frankie turned the ignition of the black Cadillac and pushed the throttle all the way. The tires started screaming, smoke trailed as the heavy Cadillac started rolling faster and faster with ease.
“Catch me if you can moron!” Frankie howled while flying away in his black Cadillac.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Jesse, Marion and I were wandering in the fields behind Mr. Robertson’s. The gentle slopes were perfect for a Sunday morning walk and enjoying the company of my best friends. The fields were covered in short green vegetation dancing with the breeze’s compass, scattered trees and a bunch of white cotton clouds in the blue sky. The soft wind whispering in our ears and the smell of a fresh day and the tweeting of the birds completed the symphony.
We were talking about school and other light subjects, we were in grade eight, my eyes were delighted when I saw a hot air balloon blown full up not too far from us. Before we knew it, we were running in that direction, screaming “Balloon!” We were running with our hands in the air, simulating wings and pretending to fly. It didn’t take long to get to where the balloon was.
Excitement was all over our faces when we arrived at the open field. The balloon was light blue with pink, purple and black vertical stripes shapes. My heart was beating quickly from running and from seeing the majestic balloon rising in the air. Three men were around the balloon, preparing themselves for the trip. They were wearing leather jackets and leather tuques, like old pilots. One of them was working the flame, starting and stopping it at regular intervals the others were working on arranging some boxes they had close by.
Slowly we got closer and closer, until they noticed us. “Hi” we said at the same time, “Where’s you going?” Jesse asked them. The man who was working the flame said “We are going for a raid today, we are going South, the wind will takes us South”. In my mind I was wondering how we could ask them to give us a ride. “How many people can the balloon carry?” I asked. We were getting close to the basket and we could smell the burned gas and the peculiar mix of hot air and the nylon fabric from the balloon. As we got even closer, we leaned over the wicker basket, its texture was smooth and hard and it had a woven texture that my fingers wanted to follow.
“How many?” I asked again. “Just three,” the man said in a deep voice. As the balloon was getting more and more hot air, it was wanting to climb. “Kids,” he said “would you like to help us?” we looked at each other smiling “yes” in a chorus. “OK. Climb in and help me keep the heat going while I help my friends finalize what they are doing, climb in. And you,” he said looking at me “you pull this rope every one minute”. Before he was even finished talking, we were rushing into the basket and taking our positions. The man smiled at us and walked over to help his friends.
Without thinking we untied the three ropes that were holding the balloon to the floor and the balloon jumped gently up. I pulled the rope and held it for a while and the balloon pulled us up even faster, the soft breeze was pushing us away slowly from the three men. We were flying.