La Presa, Issue 4, January 2018

Page 70


In case you’re losing interest because no one has been murdered or buried in the cutting garden; and no cars have collided, leaving someone inside broken; someone else in shock in the weeds, I’ll tell you a story that Once-on-a-times in the city of Barranquilla, on the Caribbean coast. Spike Jonze will never know his title gave rise to this, same as the title of the movie with Nick Cage, Meryl Streep— the one about theft, orchids, sex, and drugs. Picture Ted and me. We’re walking, noses in a Fodor’s South America, to catch a boat upriver. Raul appears, asks where we’re going. After some small talk, he suggests we fund our travels with five little ounces of cocaine—this is Colombia, 1971. At the Amazon port of Belem, four thousand miles away, his compadre Amos will get in touch, claim the cache, pay back the earnest money five to ten times over. I tell him straight, No way! Not a chance in hell! But Ted says, Sure! It’s about to get more complicated, difficult. Back in our hotel we wait to hear from Raul. He calls, sotto voce. He’ll meet us for lunch at a corner café. Names a barrio, a street too narrow for cars. No matter what you’ve heard, South Americans don’t take siestas. They hustle in heat rare in Ohio. Everyone works fast-forward, rápido, rápido. We saunter in and sit down to chat—a conflation of English, Spanish, and gestures. The young entrepreneur hands Ted a roll of brown paper. Says, Es bueno. Pruébalo. Ted is eager to try the good stuff. Raul opens a plastic baggie to a tiny spoon under the table. Ted tastes. He’s satisfied. The package (a pound, I’d bet), twice as heavy as agreed, should alarm us. Wake up, ‘stúpidos! But Ted figures he’s one up. And hands over some twenties.


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