Among My Souvenirs
An Anthonogy of National
John Walter Jr.
Among My Souvenirs
An Anthology of Ten Local Short Stories
-JOHN WATER JR.
Compiled for the reading pleasure of fellow-citizens, for the use
of students at school, for lovers of stories abroad, and as a
contribution to local literature.
THE LEADERS AND ORDINARY CITIZENS
OF OUR EMERGING NATION
WITH THE SINCERE HOPE THAT THESE STORIES
-provide reading pleasure
-stimulate local writing
-repose in the treasury of an
expanding local literature
-and fall in with the thoughts of the
national poem below
"I love books, yes I do,
For books hold pleasure-treasure rare;
In books I find great truths revealed
To quench my intellectual need."
J. L. BLACKETr, M.A.(LoND.,) L.C.P.
Principal Education Officer
If anyone were to ask you, "Have you read the Anthology of Local Short Stories by
National Authors?" You should be able to reply. "Yes, it is among my souveniers." Because
there is where it belongs.
My colleagues and I have concerted our efforts to bring to our countrymen in every walks
of ife, wholesome and enjoyable stories for their reading pleasure. But the objective foremost
in our minds as we write these stories and in producing this booklet, is that they will serve as a
stimulator, to pique the minds of dormant talents, to awake them to our urgent need to establish
a literary heritage.
We are a people moving rapidly towards nationhood, and it is my strong conviction that a
lteraryfoundation must be conjuncted with a sound economy, a fine democratic form of Govern-
ment, a good foreign policy and all other aspects which are essential to any emerging nation,
if we are to be a truly great country. Literary interest must be vitalized if we are to gain our
objectives, and to that end, we hope, our efforts in this booklet will emerge.
The conception of the laymen of writers as stuffed shirts genius, queer characters who go
about with wild imaginations dandying in fantasy, is wrong. Writers are ordinary people. The
mercantile clerk, the housewife, the labourer, the watchman, the carpenter-anybody can
wmite. Each of us has a story to tell. Some diversion from our everyday system of life which
excited, frightened or exhilarated us, which we feel compelled to relate to our friends or neigh-
bours. Try putting down your experiences in writing-watch the result. Your stories may never
be seen by anyone (Fifty percent of the stories I have written have not been seen by anyone and
probably never will be) but the important thing is that it is there in writing and will stay there
mndestr.yed by time for generations to come.
My huible advice to the young writers (trusting that it is not the proverbial case of the
blind leading the blind) is this: A plot has developed in your head-think about it, twist it and
turn it, dream about it-be sure it makes sense, then write it.
On behalf of my fellow co-authors, I would like to express here our sincere gratitude to
the following persons, without whose selfless co-operation, the publication of this booklet
wald not have been possible: The Government Printer, Mr. W. A. (Sir) Hoare O.B.E., and
his able assistant Mr. W. T. Middleton, The Chief Information Officer, Mr. Rudy Castillo, The7
Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr. Hugh Fuller M.B.E., Mr. J. L. Blackett, M.A., L.C.P., and
Miss S. Banner, and to those who in any way have encouraged and assisted us.
John A. Watler. Jr.
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AMONG MY SOUVENIRS
Out from the small window through which she looked, Marion Rogers could see the'
cdhnsky washed neat from the hour's rain that had just ended. The murky clouds were gone,
ad in their place was the clean blue of the heaven with but tiny specks of far-away clouds.
'te last beams of the sunset were still interfering with the tapestry of the horizon. But al-
atwdynight was on its way, and just by the solemn tower of St. John's Cathedral she could
=sthe faint twinkle of the first star.
At this time, when the cares of the day's chores seem ended, and even a tiny touch of
rWelistarts stealing over one's tired brain, there comes on the tendency to rcminesce, to senti-
Iantalize, even to forget the cold, hard facts of life and venture into the supposition. First
Opes the past with its tremendous galaxy of events. Then the present with its realistic hard-
aes. And the future with its vast unknowingness will surely follow in one's mind.
Downstairs, the children were chatting away during the inevitable intermission between
their studies. Marion was left alone upstairs on this fifth August night of 1956.
And now the memories started stealing relievingly into her tired brain. First, what day
was it? Oh, yes, the fifth August. That rang a bell. And like an intermingling of telepathy
and hypnotism, she turned unconsciously towards the photograph on the table and met
Qem's wide smile.
Clem always smiled. Really, she could not recall anytime or any single occasion when
that smile was not there on his face. He woke with it, worked with it, went to bed with it.
In fact he married her with it, and greeted their newly born with it.
And now she was completely among the souvenirs.of Jer memory, and the house was
so border-line and its walls were the skies and.the wind, and the noise of the children down-
gairs was the put-putting of the motor boat riding the choppy swells near the Bogue, and
that photograph was Clem himself sitting on the bow and looking directly into her heart-
It was then, on that picnic to St. George's Cayc, that they first met. Never before had
she seen such a smile. Was it the background of his features that ennobled it? No. Neither
was it the faint dimples that gently contorted when he flashed his smile. No, it must be, she
thought, because it flashed every conceivable virtue that one could desire- honesty, sincerity,
understanding, patience, sympathy, love. Yes, love. Because she loved him undyingly from
that first smile. All through the bathing and frolicking at the Caye, all through the days of
their marriage, today; and she would love him, she knew, even through eternity.
Oh, but how the mind can wander once started!
Now it was the week-end at Manatee when they first danced together in a sagging dance-
hall. Now it was the lone, quiet walks up the avenues of the Fort. Now it was the number of
parties and functions they attended together. And once she found her reminiscences go into
that treasured crevice of her souvenirs to the time When, coming late from a party while the
sinking moon bathed gloriously the deserted street, he saw her to her gate, stole a kiss and
said soul-searchingly: "I love you, Mar-terribly." And even then the smile was there.
That was twenty years ago. The same year they got married. And even during the in-
evitable misunderstandings, the smile remained. Perhaps it was that which made her love
Clem more ardently as days went by.
Take the time he went away. It was his first trip abroad, and they had been married only
five years. Junior and Mary were youngsters. She was energetic and unconcerned about
everything but his love. It was something.that burned piercingly into her thoughts for many
aday after he made his decision. "Please dear, it's my type of work. And they need us badly.
Local Short Stories
Won't you understand?" And when these words were punctuated with the smile, who could
with-hold understanding and acquiescence? She couldn't. On one side burned the selfish,
deep-enveloping human feeling of possession; on the other was the pure understanding any
person would perforce award to a fellow like Clem. She agreed, but yet she seemed sad.
What a hectic week that was! Marches and movements, speeches and photographs,
and such things that while they keep one on the move and out of earshot of sad thoughts, yet
they build you up to the sentiment of the occasion. With the young children she followed
those processions. And with strained head she peered through the crowds to see Clem in his
ordinary clothes among them. Yes, the smile was still there.
And now the fumes of reminiscence were beginning to settle, and the stark reality of con-
sciousness was returning. The room was in darkness except for the mellow shaft of the moon-
beam which came directly from the ascending ball of the night and settled on that smile on
Marion Rogers felt the tired bulkiness of her form of forty years. Gone was her petite,
physical appearance of earlier days. Rough and honest were her hands, and on her brow
had appeared already the wrinkles which come from worry and work. Now she recalled
the nearer past. The hard work. The many vicissitudes. The children going to school and
needing things. But ever, ever with the same freshness and conviviality that smile was there
-urging her, reminding her, embellishing her work, making her succeed. And while she
grew older and rounded and wrinkled, that smile on the photograph kept its youth like the
Dorian Grey of the novel. And her smile remained young, fascinating, refreshing.
It was not hard for her to make the sacrifices. His smile made it a pleasure. Even more
so when she noticed that Junior was developing one similar to that of Clem. Many thoughts
had drowned her and stifled her energy after the event crippled her work of her dreams of
Then gradually the smile did its work.
Things took on the pattern of determination. They began to run normally. Now that
the kids were nearing the end of school, things were normal. She had all she longed for. There
were friends, money, stability; even a growing tendency to forget it. But the smile could
never, never be erased.
Yet now and then at times like this, the memory would return. And then she would
feel a tinge of sadness and loss. But only until the image of that smile blotted out every-
This evening, fifth August, 1956, the memory had returned. Alone in her room she had
been wafted into the land of yesterday to search among the treasured album of her past and
sample once more the great glory of this incident and that. And naturally she paused at the
smile. Now she wondered why that smile remained so fresh and living.
Perhaps she could explain it one way. Because it was the broad, unimpeded smaile of the
the Belizean. It was the smile that sang the glory of the tropical heavens by the Fort, the rain
beating unabated onto virgin forests, the eastern breeze playing flippantly among the palm
branches of sandy cayes, the searing sun watching warmly the Maya Indian in his milpa, the
.many rivers and streams like great veins of nourishment flowing across the land.
Vast land, wide open spaces, few people, friendly character. It was the smile that sang
4the song of that freshness that typified his people born in an empty country, with people of
big hearts and honest brain. It was the smile that sang the courage and majesty of the myraid
.cayes, the Maya ruins and the Cockscomb peaks, and the huge mahogany and pine trees.
The mahogany and pine trees.
'They had prompted that smile to be immortalized. To be elevated from one of flesh
and blood to one attaining the dignity of undefiled memory and unendingness. And now she
recalled again why the thoughts came to her today. Fifteen years ago today he had gone with
the human smile in the first Forestry Unit to Scotland. A few months later a huge tree in a
Scottish pine forest crushed him fatally, killing the humanity of that smile. But today the
smile lived on unending, glorious, real, in her memory-among her souvenirs. Even more
so than that photograph which had sat on the same table for fifteen years.
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"Look, papa! There is a big piece! There! LookI"
The words were shouted with joyous flavour, and the cranky dorey almost overturned
as the excited boy of fifteen pointed frantically at the crooked clump of mangrove bush
trapping the dark bulk. The sharp but tired eyes of the aged fisherman turned with the
agility that sprang from experience of the sea. They rested tensely on the bulk that lay in
be path of the pointing fingers. And the ropy muscles of his hairy, salt-encrusted face
.palpitated. Sure enough it was rubber!
"Paddle fast, son. It is the stuff! It is rubber!
Anxious strokes sent the tired dorey softly through the glossy green water, onto the
mangrove shore. Quickly, anticipatingly, even before the dorey rammed its bow into the
tendrils of the mangrove, the paddle of Max Flowers stretched out and prod the mass, and
tested successfully its resilience. The rubber bulk trembled gently on the sandy bottom in
two feet of water. Gosh! It was rubber, all right!
The excitement was heightened to fever pitch as not ten feet away, further among the
crawling mangroves, hidden in debris of bits of weed and what not, was another mass,
equally big, equally resilient.
"This is our day, Sonny! By Jove, this is our day!"
And the brawny arms of the tall fisherman, accustomed to haul in fish and raise sails,
and fight weather, clasped the young shoulders of his son in the glee of satisfaction and
Of course they then looked right and left along the crazy curves of the mangrove shoe.
But there were no more rubber bulks. But two was enough. And the experienced brain d
Max Flowers, accustomed to assess quickly the weight of a big Jew Fish or the income
accuing from a six-foot barracuda, worked quickly on the rubber. Yes, they were about
two hundred pounds each in weight. At twenty cents a pound, that would fetch about
Eighty Dollars. All this swam warmly in his mind as they secured the two masses of rubber
and towed them to the little fishing boat balloting in the light swells near to the caye.
It was in early 1944, and the stretching coastline of Turneffe Caye lay bright and clear
in the March sunrise, disappearing into little bits of land as it went its thirty-six miles down
the emerald strip of sea that bordered it for a few yards off-shore. At the end of this green
ribbon of water showed the brown and grey rocks of the reef almost in line with the inter-
mittent sandy islets that ran down the coast. Then the blue, angry carpet of the Caribbean
took over, spreading eastwards past the horizon. Its flowing swells shipped up by a strong
south-easter wind ran rushing onto the islets and lost force gradually until they were mere
ripples when they touched the mangrove roots of the mainland.
But out across the "blue", past Half Moon Caye and way out into the bolder breakers
of the mid-Caribbean, German submarines were playing havoc at thie time with American
tipping that travelled from Latin America, bringing into their hatches the raw materials
of war. How often had wrecked life-boats and floating bodies, and broken bits of spars
and masts that found their way on the Belizean coast told the tale of midnight sinkings in
the orgy of vicious warfare! And now the ships that bore the big bulks of rubber, perhaps
coming direct from the virgin forests of the Amazon, vomited them unwillingly into the sea
as torpedoes found their mark again and again. These masses of rubber floated among the
flotsam and jetsam to lie finally among the mangroves of Turneffe Caye and several other
islands. An agent in Belize City was paying twenty cents per pound for any bulk of rubber
found and delivered. The recovered rubber was then sent to the United States for the great
factories of war to make weapons to wage more war. Then it was that many a fisherman
on the Belizean coast lay off the job of fishing and turned to this elastic gold that fetched
such a price. There was scarcely any hardship involved. One only had to search and search
among the mangroves, find the stuff, deliver it safely in Belize City, and collect a cheque.
Local Short Stories
Why, some fishermen got rich within a week. Or nearly rich, bearing in mind their inter-
pretation of the word.
Max Flowers was not among the fortunate ones. His fifty years told on him severely.
Many a night, after combing the Turneffe coast, he sat in the bow of his boat after a supper
of fried fish; and while Sonny slept after a hard day's hunting, he thought disappointedly
of how elated he would be to find one bulk-just one bulk of rubber! But for four weeks
now he had to return to Belize City after a relief catch of fish to cover expenses and leave
some money home. And every time ao the market wharf, sitting by the dancing fishing boats,
he heard tales of great finds. Why, some fishermen found the bulks among the mangroves
just near to the City! And he would travel so far with no bit of luck at this elastic gold. Even
the tale of a strange black boat from south chasing others and taking away the bulks of
rubber found no fear with him. If that boat caught up with him, he would scarcely find
a fish, much less a bulkof rubber! But he would not give up. No, he wouldn't. His
little home by Racecourse Street needed strengthening. Even fifty dollars would do the
.job. That must come from rubber. He must try again and again.
And now, as the little craft lay quietly behind the tiny caye, and the flooding moonlight
poured its silver beams snakily along the transparent water, Max Flowers passed his hand
satisfyingly along the cruffy surface of the rubber bulks safely stowed in the boat. Sonny
lay sleeping. But Max could not sleep. The cool breeze that raised the roar of the surf by
the reef and sang melodies in the nearby coco-nut trees also played on his weather-beaten
face that was not cringed with worries tonight, but calm with satisfaction. Eighty dollars.
Imagine, eighty dollars earned in ten minutes! Now the house could be strengthened and
Sonny could start his savings bank account. No, none of the many nights when he had had
his boat heavy with bony fish or snapper could measure up to the exhilaration of this night.
And when his light thoughts tapered off into sleep, it was one of no dreams, no worries,
just a long night-time of sweet nothingness.
The pale silver of the retreating moonlight gave way to the pursuing purple clouds
scratching the sky in the East, and the faint light which ushered in the royal pageantry of
tropic sunrise. Molten yellow sprinkled right and left and above in long rays as the great
ball of gold appeared regally in a chariot of multi-coloured clouds, and threw its glory far
afield. It brightened the dull green of the mangroves and accentuated the motion of the sea.
It danced amidst the coco-nut branches and threw soft shadows by the yellow crabs basking
on the white beach. It generated new energy in Max Flowers as he stretched and awoke to
the life of a new day. No, no fishing for him and Sonny today! It was Belize City right
away-right after a quick breakfast.
The little craft crept slowly out to sea and accelerated its path through the waves as
the puffs of wind filled the belly of its sail. Round the mangrove points it went-through
the broad lagoon of Turneffe-further and further west towards Belize City and Eighty
It was Sonny who saw it, and watched it follow continuously.
"There is a black boat following us."
'Max turned sidewards a little faster than usual. Sure enough, just edging the mangrove
*shore, a black boat about twice the length of his was just beginning to lay its course straight
"Where did it come from! Did you see!"
"It was anchored by that patch of bush to the South, dad. Then a little time ago it
hoisted sail. Papa could it be.... ?"
"Shut up, son, I don't know!"
But if he didn't know, he certainly suspected what was also running through Sonny's
mind. When he looked again it seemed as if the black craft dipping in the waves had gained
half of the mile which had separated them. It was coming with a dead fair wind-and directly
at them too!
"No", thought Max Flowers; "no crook will take away these pieces of rubber. No,
,it's not fair. If I have to die they will not have them!"
And now his great experience of sailing %elled up at this hour of suspense. Give the
boat full sail. Throw overboard the two bags of sand 1 was taking to fill our yard. Sonny,
haul in the jib more closely. Sit over that side so as not to slow up the boat. By Jove, they
won't catch us-not today!
And with that firm determination the little craft seemed to answer royally. It struggled
atop the oncoming waves, darting forward with renewed force. Sonny Flowers held eyes
glued on the black vessel. Now he could see two men in it. She was not gaining any longer.
But not being left behind either. But Max Flowers had no inclination to look backward.
His mind and heart and eye were on his boat, begging every bit of wind in his sail and jib,
maneuvering the helm to gain distance by every trick of mathematics and navigation.
Soon the two boats sailed slowly through the quiet Grand Bogue Creek, some distance
apart, and then out of the western mangroves of Turneffe. The green shore water once more
turned to blue with the long, lingering swells. And now Max pointed the bow of his obedient
craft straight for Sergeant's Caye, which lifted its leafy head above the twelve miles of sea
in a straight line with English and Goff's Cayes.
And on and on came the black boat, like something sinister and sinful. For once Max
Flowers wondered, however, if it was really chasing them for rubber. Perhaps someone
was sick aboard her. Yet she would not have come so far-so persistently.
The mid-day sun was now high overhead, colouring the water a brilliant blue that
burned the eyes. At its bow the craft felt the repeated bursts of spray that sprang saltly
into the eyes of Max and his son. At times it seemed the boat was going under water, but
Max Flowers held it at bay, not retreating one inch from his feverish bid for every bit of
agility in it. And the wind answered to his determination. It gave him the same power
that filled the sail of the black boat. Only he added his experience of sail-craft, and if he
could not get away, at least the pursuer could not get closer either.
Soon they passed through the channel by Sergeant's Caye, and at the same distance
back the black craft came through also.
"Papa, why do they keep coming? They are not gaining."
"They hope to catch us near to the Bogue, son. The currents are tricky there."
The stretch of low-lying islands some seven miles from Belize City had several openings
or little channels through which the fish-boats passed. The currents, complicated by the
normal channel currents, plus the swells coming from across the "blue" plus the reaction
of the far flow-out of the Belize River all combined to speed or slow the sailing of a boat.
The mariners of the black boat probably knew all this, and knew the correct opening to
take. If they did so, they could easily catch up on Max Flowers.
But Max Flowers knew all this too. He was not taking the normal openings. He
pointed the bow of his boat towards the southern point of Water Caye which stretched by
the Bogue. The black craft could not alter to this direction, as its sailors were already
heading for the opening they judged the best. It appeared as if Max would take the long
"Daddy, they will catch up on us this way. Daddy, are you sure you know what you
"Take it easy, son, this time I shall fool them."
Neither of the two spoke, and Max still worked at straining every bit of expertise from
his little craft. Now and then he touched the big bales of rubber for courage.
6 Local Short Stories
Then when he was just by the narrow opening of a little channel towards the direction
he was going, he suddenly altered course, and sailed quickly through this opening. At that
time the black boat was also sailing through an opening further north. But this was the
trick. For when Max sailed his little craft through on the other side and could see Belize
City several miles away, he was now in a position where he got the full force of a fair wind,
while the black boat had to sail on a quarter.
N"ow with this big advantage the little craft slowly but consistently left the black boat
behind. Sonny could not believe his eyes. He could only watch up at his dad silently, while
he had a smile of conquest on his lips. And as the buildings of Belize City got bigger over
the waters, so did the black craft get smaller behind them, until all of a sudden, the black
boat altered course and turned back, most likely to lay await for some other fisherman.
It was two o'clock when the boat entered the estuary of the Belize River and tied up
by the customs wharf. The red-topped buildings and blazing crimson bouganvilleas by the
Fort seemed to join in the joy of the two victors. Wet and tired, they bore the heavy bulks
to the warehouse. And when they returned to their craft to sail her across the river to its
Yarborough mooring, it was not with speed nor anxiety. It was with the cool feeling of a
job well accomplished. A green cheque marked Eighty Dollars reposed comfortably in the
tattered but firmly-buttoned pocket of the fisherman's shirt.
7o J J, .f,7Jo,.s o
'Among My Souvenirs'
( nO FY!
C A e
THE SEA AND THE OLD MAN
Pedro cupped his wrinkled hands over his filmy eyes to see if, while the leaking boat
poised at the top of a wave, he could make out the line of mangrove bush. They touched a
brow deformed by contours of wrinkles, a brow burnt dry by the salt of the sea. He leaned
on the mast of the little boat for support, and the skin hung limp on his bony hands, yet they
could produce muscles which are scarcely visible in a man of sixty. The patched shirt he
wore was soaked from salt spray, and his rough trousers ended where the broad toes of his
lire feet gripped for balance on the slippery deck.
He looked. He tried again. But no land was in sight. The only land Pedro could
discern was the mainland to the left, and the savage land wind was punching the waves and
bearing his boat further and further away from this land. Not only that. The lead and
tway mixture of low clouds over the land told him that the wind would soon shift to the
north-west. Already be could feel the change of wind-puffs, and he knew from his fifty
years at sea on the Belizean coast that he must seek land quickly if he were to survive.
If he were to survive! Ha! It was almost a joke to him here out in the open sea alone,
inhis tiny, ten-foot dorey, riddled with holes and with a sail that could have served for a
fish net. He ran back and guided the rudder, trying to steady the boat as the swells came in
tows, lifted his boat, and then ran under it. Only expert hands could steady the craft in this
sea. In this sea that looked livid in its wide, frothy expanse all around. In this sea which
roared in laughter with the wind, and looked horrid as it ran past the edge of his dorey with
Sgrmesome swirl. In this sea which had been his life. In this sea which was his enemy now,
and which might mean his death.
Yes, the sea had been his life, thought aged Pedro Lopez as he manipulated his rudder
ropes and wiped the stinging spray from his grizzly face and chin. He was born by the sea,
almost in the sea, for the little family hut on Caye Corker had stood but a few yards from
the edge of the water. He grew up by the sea, bathing and wading and washing in the sea.
ladeed, except because of occasional illness, never in his sixty years had he passed a day well
without seeing the sea. Without watching its broad expanse as it touched here and there on
sme land. Taking in the yellow gold sunrises and purple red sunsets which rose and dipped
ateither end of the sea brink. Watching the crystal green waters reveal the coral kingdom
below, or the burning blue of the deep sear the eyes at mid-day. First it had been mere
Iaying with the other schoolboys by the sea. But soon, fairly soon, he had commenced
fishing with his father, accompanying him across the reef to the banks on the "blue" where
snappers were plentiful, or plying down to Cayo Gloria fifty miles away to meet the great
influx of groupers, or engaging in the annual lucrative catch of the spiny lobster.
Then came the time when he owned his own boat and made his living from the sea.
Fishing was his obsession. For that reason he held the reign of being the best fisherman from
the Caye for many years. He controlled the sea somehow. Yes, it could be beautiful and
heavenly most of the time. But when the angry waves whipped up from sudden squalls,
then the sea could be cruel, vindictive, straining against man to vanquish him, to swamp his
craft and kill him. Pedro had known this. He had sensed this many years ago when the sea
took his father by Long Caye. It was such a sudden squall which swamped his boat. Next
day his lifeless body was found floating-a mockery to manhood and a victory for the sea.
It was then he had declared war. It was then that Pedro had vowed that forever he would
master the sea. Forever he would mock this wide, flowing expanse. Forever he would show
the sea that man was his master. Oh, yes, he knew of shipwrecks and sinkings, of cruel
happenings to ships, and of the sinister doings of the oceans, but not to Pedro Lopez! No,
Pedro Lopez would never succumb to the sea!
8 Local Short Stories
Since then he had sailed the local seas for over thirty years. In that period when he built
up a tremendous experience against Mr. Sea, he had found this expanse in all moods. He
had sailed in calm on full-moon nights when the sea area looked like a pool of shimmering
silver. He had sailed it when the March winds threw steady waves from the East. And he
had sailed it in September when the mad hurricane winds made it growl with fury. And when
the northerss' blew in November and December, or when the mauger season of August left
him stranded in mid-sea without a breath of wind, Pedro had reigned supreme over Mr. Sea-
sailing on her back to catch his fish and travel about, mocking her when she became angry,
or making peace with her when she was sedately quiet. At times they almost seemed friends-
only Pedro, in all his era of growing and maturing, and evolving from youth to married man
with family, then to grandfather, never dropped his guard with Mr. Sea. Never for once did
he underestimate its quick change of face. Never for once did he feel completely secure. And
that is why he had been winning. That is why the obvious tricks of Mr. Sea never caught him
napping. Now as he sat at the tiller and battled Mr. Sea anew, he could recall a score of times
when he had nearly had it, when he could hear the racuous roaring laughter of Mr. Sea
mocking him as if he were already doomed. But he always had the last laugh. Up and down
the Belizean coast, he had won everytime. The sea was his slave, ha, ha; was his slave. But
with time the battle had got harder. The sea had won a friend to help him.
It was old age.
Pedro felt the sap in his sinews dry up as he advanced in years. He had felt his hands
grow limp as he pulled a rope or steadied the rudder. He had felt the burning gaze of his
eagle eyes flicker as the birthdays passed. The great store of energy brought from his con-
stant fish food and his industry burned out with time. And now only effort kept him going.
Only effort delayed his retirement from the tiller. It was in his blood, coursing through his
thinning blood-stream, living with him constantly. He could not rest until life rested with
him. He could not live without sailing the sea. His blood was not as bright as yesteryear,
but he loved sailing. That is why even today he had gone fishing. And when only a mile
from the Caye he felt the land wind roar with the twist of the eye, and he could not restrain
the boat from running with the wind and out into the nothingness of the raging sea. His
only hope was to reach the mangroves before the north-wester bore down. And in his
growing weakness, he realized that he could not see the mangroves which extended some
miles from the Caye. He feared he might be blown through some channel between the man-
groves and carried out to the blue ocean beyond the reef. These things swam in his mind
as he struggled by the tiller, and in the twilight of his life, he tried almost in vain to rise
to one more big battle with his life-long enemy-Mr. Sea!
Pedro strained every bit of wind and agility that the tottering craft could possibly take
in order to reach land before the north-waster really set in. But the waves washed beside
his boat and threw big bulges of spray and water into it, so that Pedro had to guide the rudder
with one hand and bale out water with the other. Just now he saw the sea surge on every
side of the boat, just one second away from swamping it completely. He saw it mount by
him in mockery and wash his face with spray, blinding the failing eyes. He heard its mad
remarks as it hit at the boat. He felt the presumption of the sea as it thought, "This is the
time, Pedro Lopez. This is the time!"
And Pedro tried hard not to make it this time. He could not stand up to look for the
mangrove bushes any more. He would not dare to leave the tiller. Because the sea was
making one tremendous, all-out effort to win. Because the north-wester wind had now
caught him out there and thrown up the sea in an even more frightful orgy. Because the
craft now seemed powerless against the sea. He knew it He sensed it. His experience told
him the craft would not stand up to it. It was only a matter of time, Pedro. It was only a
matter of time.
He tried hard, but the sea rose higher and harder. First it knocked huge holes into the
sail, then broke the mast in two, making the boat a speck of flotsam on top its crests. Then
it pulled out the rudder as its roar against the boat shouted loudly its threat. ."This is it,
Pedro. This is it. This is my revenge for those thirty years when you scorned me, when you
eluded me, when you laughed at me. This is it, Pedro. Now you cannot avoid my tons of
water. Now you must go under, Pedro. Now you are going, Pedro! "
The Sea And The Old Man
But in the dim recesses of the agile mind of Pedro Lopez thoughts were pouring, and
reacted quickly. He realized that if the boat was swamped in its condition it would quickly
Sto the bottom. So he would fore-stall this. He ran round the little area of the craft and
deftly threw out the various bits of rion which served as ballast. Obviously the agile little
bit of wood cascaded on top of the water and turned over. But Pedro grabbed on to it and
it served as something to float on. He laughed at his trick. But he knew the fight was far
Now the sea turned to the task of washing him off the boat which was drifting in the
cmad sea. Now it threw its crazy water all over him to pull him off. But Pedro held on with
a'grin as the seas washed over him.
Then the sea turned to another operation. It started working on the boat, ripping piece
off with e% ery wave, hoping that by this process of elimination it would leave Pedro without
a portion of board to hold on. Then he would be dragged under.
And so the craft slowly disintegrated in the sea, while Pedro tried to hold on. But at
flst he held onto merely one beam of his faithful boat which could not help much. Leaving
ii, he started sirmnming, heading cast to where he calculated the mangrove bushes were. And
the sea towered over him, using its voice and force to dishearten him, attempting to drown
him in its huge billows of power. Things really seemed dark for poor Pedro Lopez.
Then he saw them! The mangroves! They were near, and laughed with determination.
'Now he struck out with all his swimming ability left in his weakened body. He moved with
every sinew of strength which he could muster. The oncoming arthritis he suffered from
hurt his bones, and he felt the pull of his weak heart, but here was a fight he had to win. His
great strokes pulled him through the melee of water towards the sandy area of the mangroves.
The sea threw every force and fury into the fray, but the port in view exhilirated the
gngth of Pedro Lopez. He did not slacken his pace of swimming, and ignoring his feelings
and pains, he punched himself on, until with the joy of winning, he felt the sea bottom, and
he stood up to run onto the little patch of shore between the twisting mangrove trees. Leaving
the main pull of the sea he let out a joyous cry of scorn on the sea. "I have won again, Mr.
'Sea, he ganado! You will never get me, never, nunca, you hear!"
And then the massive heart attack sent him sprawling to the watery shore. As the pain
made him grip his fingers deeply into the wet sand, and his face contorted from the gigantic
tull around his throat, his head dropped and he was still-his hands as if holding firmly to
fi earth in death, while the little, spent waves, the last forces from the huge billows outside,
washed meekly up hi; feet. His head and heart and hand were on land in death, but the feet
still felt the touch of Mr. Sea.
THE THIRD WISH
L G. VERNON
The old man turned the dark green, almost opaque stone over and over in his hand
then looked questionably up at his son.
"What is it, Jim?"
"That's jade, dad." Jim Hilton answered. "It's a common enough stone, but this one
is extra special. See those carvings on it?"
Old Mr. Hilton looked at the stone, which was flat and round about the size of a half
dollar. There was a hole bored on one edge as if it was meant to be worn like a medallion.
He pushed his glasses a little higher on his nose and looked carefully at the stone again. He
did make out some lines cut into it, and as be followed the outlines with the finger of one
hand a very grinning and grotesque face took form. It apparently was not meant to be
either man or animal, but rather some being not yet created, or some hideous thing seen
only in the minds of the mad and the evil.
"What is it, son?" the old man asked again, passing it to his wife, Sarah, in the nearby
chair. "I have never seen a stone like that before, and that picture on it......."
"It's supposed to be a magic stone." Jim was standing near to his mother looking at
the stone with her. He had just come down for the weekend from a site some American
archaeologists were excavating a few miles out of the city. Just under thirty, Jim was the
governments expert on excavating old Mayan sites. "I have seen a picture of it before,"
he continued. "In a book one of the men loaned me. Apparently they had found a similar
one four years ago in a ruin in Guatemala. You see, the old Mayas built up an amazing
civilization during the 9th century or so. They didn't know of any metals so they had to
use stone tools to shape their buildings. After a while this great civilization just faded. There
are many theories why this happened, but we won't go into that. These Mayas were very
ceremonial and superstitious in their beliefs, and this book I had tells of a strange legend
about that stone you have there."
Jim then related a story which could have been something from a fairy tale. Only three
of the jade stones were known to have been cut by an old Maya priest who practised sorcery.
He imbued these stones with the power of granting three wishes to the owner. The book
only recorded what happened to the owner of one of the stones. He seems to have used
his power to kill his enemies, so the priest punished him. He suffered so much that he used
his last wish in asking for death. The stone passed through several generations and all its
owners died violently. At last someone buried it to get rid of it and its evil powers, and it
must have been only Jim's hand that held it since then. The book had even gone so far as
to say that any person who found it would be granted the usual three wishes, and mentioned
what they were.
"What are they ?" asked his father.
"I would never use those three wishes dad, and I will never tell anyone. I should have
left the stone where it was or buried it again. If the legend is true, which I have no way of
knowing, it is an evil stone, and if not, well, why take chances."
"But you kept it. You brought it home."
"Yes, because I thought I might show a few friends, but I reconsidered on my way
home and decided to get rid of it. I am not afraid to tell you now that I am afraid of it."
His father took back the stone and looked at it, rubbing his thumb gently over the
smooth surface. If he could wish he would ask for money. They would all be rich, and the
mortgage on the house could be paid. But Jim would not consent.
The Third Wish
Jim's voice cut into his thoughts. "Well, I'm pretty tired and it's late. Better take a
i4t." He extended his hand for the stone, dropped it into a small paper bag and went to
his room after saying goodnight to his parents.
The old man lay awake long that night, thinking that there would certainly be no harm
in keeping the stone, making just one wish, then getting rid of it. But Jim was too cautious,
almost a coward. Now if the was Jim and had found the stone..... The temptation was too
teat and he couldn't stand the thought of having the stone re-buried, of losing something
He got out of bed silently, went to his drawer and searched until he found a silver medal
ie had earned in the first World War. He removed the ribbon, and holding the medal
lightly in his hands, crept silently out of his room into Jim's. Jim was always a sound sleeper,
so it was no problem to locate the paper bag on his table, remove the jade stone and replace
it with the medaL There was hardly any fear of Jim opening the bag again after the way he
spoke last night.
Sunday passed and Jim had gone back to work on Monday morning, when Mr. Hilton
got the stone from his room, showed it to his wife, and told her what he had done. It was
quite natural to tell her, because they had shared so much together, and this was a little thing.
She was taken back, almost scared at first, but he spoke to her and reasoned with her until
she cculd practically see the mortgage on their house being paid. They didn't want more
than that. They were fairly comfortable, and if the mortgage could be taken from over their
heads they could live out the rest of their lives in security.
Two hours passed, how ever, before Mr. Hilton gathered the courage to make his wish.
It seemed so stupid of him to be making wishes like in fairy tales. Those things were only
of the imagination. He locked himself in his room so that no one could observe him, took
the piece of jade in his hand and wished. He wished, to what or to who, he didn't know, for
four thousand dollars. He didn't know what to do after that Would the money suddenly
appear on the bed. Or would a voice whisper to him where to find it?
' Five minutes passed and he began to have second thoughts over this stupidness. A
grown man, past sixty, making wishes to a stone. He looked at it in his palm, and the face
tered back at him as if in mockery. He threw it on the bed in disgust and stalked from the
room, not so much in anger as frustration.
That night he couldn't sleep well again, and lay thinking a long time. Maya legends
were as they were called, he concluded-legends. No one really believed them, but he
supposed he had clutched at the straw Jim had flung before him like any ordinary man
wouldd have. He had made himself believe that he could get money, that he could give a lie
The next morning he was miserable from lack of sleep, and blaming the jade for his
discomfort and childish belief, made a mental note to get rid of it later in the day. By this
time Jim would have missed it anyhow, and might be coming back. The knock on the front
door came as he was pulling out his chair for breakfast, and he looked at his wife across the
table. Jim must have come back already. It was quite early for visitors, and the old man's
mind raced wildly trying to figure his next move.
His hands released the chair and he walked to the door as the knocking sounded again.
A stranger confronted him. A foreigner from his looks. He asked for Mr. Hilton, and
declined the old man's invitation to enter. He got to the point of his visit right away, and
from the table where she was seated Mrs. Hilton could hear most of what he was saying.
An accident had occurred at the excavation site where Jim was working. Jim had been
crushed to death by rocks which had worked loose from a partly unearthed pryamid. They
were trying to dig him out now, but he was buried rather deeply, and they were not sure
how long it would take. They regretted the accident, and would like to offer Jim's parents
a modest sum of money, which the company knew could not commensurate for the loss of
their son's life, but which might help the old couple in some small way.
Local Short Stories
Mr. Hilton did not say anything as the man handed him a cheque and left. He stared
at it blankly, turned into the room and went over to comfort his wife who was weeping
loudly. The old man was wondering how money could take the place of their son. How
could four thousand dollars ever.....
Four thousand dollars! The same amount he had wished for. Exactly four thousand
dollars! Was it simply by coincidence it had happened that way, or was it a morbid way
of answering his wish? No, he did not want it that way. Jim was too good to go so cheaply.
The thought knawed at the old man's conscience for two weeks, while his wife mourned
and fretted. She had hardly spoken until a few days ago when she seemed to have developed
an idea. She had thought of a way of using the stone again, but her husband would not
agree. She had pleaded with him to wish their son alive again. Had he not got his first wish?
One of the things she loved most in life was gone forever. Now there was the possibility of
bringing it back. It surely could hurt nobody to try.
But the old man kept silent. The idea awed him. That a piece of green stone could be
used to restore life to a dead body. Impossible. He had become more and more convinced
over the days though that the stone, that evil face on the stone, had something to do with
the death of their boy. He could not understand and his aged mind could not reason with
itself anymore. All he knew was that he had wished for money and his boy had died. The
most he could do was to let him lie in peace.
His wife slowly pined away day by day, and eventually he feared that she might die also.
He would make the wish to please her, and hope that the stone was in reality a farce. He
might be able to prove to her that it could not possibly have any effect on their lives.
That day he made the wish. It was near on to midnight, and they were sleeping soundly
when a knocking on the front door awoke them. Mr. Hilton sat up in bed as the knocking
continued, and even in his half-sleeping condition he detected a familiarity in the knocking.
It was a guarded rap-rapping as if the person did not want to knock very loudly to distrub
the neighbours. The way Jim always knocked when he came down from work late.
His wife had detected the same thing and was busy getting out of bed. He turned on
the light as her emaciated body moved swiftly out of the bedroom towards the front door
where the knocking was getting more persistent. He heard her saying, "It's my boy, it's my
boy." And he did not move. If the magic stone had granted his wish again and brought
back Jim, or his ghost, he was not sure what condition the body would be in. They were
not allowed to see what was left of Jim after they dug him out, and he was sure his wife
could not stand the sight of her once fine son, perhaps crushed beyond recognition. After
all he had not wished for his son as he was in life. He had only wished him alive. No. He
could not let his wife see beyond that door.
He hurriedly reached in his drawer, and his fingers felt the cold stone of the jade just
as he heard the key turn loudly in the lock of the front door. His lips moved frantically as
he uttered the third and final wish.
The knocking stopped immediately and he stood still for a few seconds, listening.
Wondering if he was in time. Then he walked from the room into the parlour and saw his
wife holding the door wide open, looking from side to side. As he reached the open door
he saw that the light from the lamp-post across the street showed a quiet and deserted street.
He locked the door and gently led his wife back inside, pleased that his third wish had
THE BELIZE BILLBOARD
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Read by One In Every 5 British Hondurans
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is like your Family Doctor
Call him for your
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Do join us now
We take this opportunity to congratulate the
Authors of 'Among My Souvenirs' on their
pal~puu Ji ualmrnusu..iwm Hu3UUiSiUlI~uniauUSUE HI H uUi 5UUiSi H Uini UlI UUUll i i U i
AS SACROSANCT AS MOTHERHOOD
The sheet of paper he removed from between the pages of the Bible was yellowed and
brittle with age. It could no longer be folded as it once was or it would remain broken in
,he creases, and the precious, although somewhat piteous words penned on its lines almost
fifty .ears ago, would be lost forever in time. They were words that would naturally not
have much meaning or tenderness to anyone else but Alexander Harris, who held it in his
aged hand arnd gently placed it on top the Bible, out of his trembling hands so that he could
red it once again. To Alexander, eighty years old, this bit of worn paper was involiable,
even sacred, and although he knew the words by heart the small, cursive penmanship on the
paper never failed to provoke the fondness bit of memory lingering like an almost burnt-out
candle in his brain.
He fumbled for his reading glasses, which he used only to read the Bible now, placed it
onhis nose and focused his weak eyes on the single page resting on his lap. It was addressed
simply: "Dear Alex." And his eyes read again the familiar words:
"I am longing today for someone who possessed me
before anyone else, before you, before I was a woman.
I long for my land that I have abandoned.
"Come Alex, put your hand in mine and let us follow
in my native land a little road I know so well, edged with
flowers of sunshine yellow and blushing pink. You would
think you were climbing that delightful way which leads out
of life. The song of birds carry you along, right into the
forest, where the world comes to an end.
"We are now in an ancient forest that men have worked
and forgotten. It is similar to Paradise. No words, no
colours will paint for you the sky of my beloved land as it
glowed for me.
"I long for my home, Alex, and you with it."
There were no endearments at the end. It was signed simply: "Martha."
Alex sighed as he carefully placed the parchment within the pages of the Bible again, and
rested his head on the back of the chair to th ink over the words as he always did. It was not
alove-letter, although it should have been. Instead it had the blend of a sustaining lyricism
which transfigured the memory of sensual enjoyment into a poetic praise. Even love had
been put in second place.
She was always wandering far afield in her thoughts, and was forced to break off because
she could not call forth the secrets-the hidden secrets-she knew were there. As she had
grown older and as she emerged from the complications of love, she would return to the
challenge of attempting to convey the magic of her secret world.
Alex knew that she had died still trying, and he could picture her now, wherever she
was, leaning with closed eyes over the miraculous cup of the past
Martha was a simple girl, not flamboyant, and he had loved her because of that. He was a
town-boy and she was a country-girl, and he had seen her quite by accident when he had been
out to her father's farm to get vegetables for his store. Joe Hardy and himself had only
six months ago opened a small supermarket in the city, and already their success was the
topic of much local comment and praise. Good for two young men to be doing so well. He
was thirty then.
Local Shwrt Stories
On the Thursday he had driven the truck into the Bevans farm-yard and the
girl had come into the yard to him, holding a hand over her eyes as a shield from the sun.
It was not love at first sight, because there is no such thing, but some mutual affection and
feeling seemed to have blossomed, so that Alex found himself looking forward to his weekly
trips out to the farm.
Then a wall grew between them as Mr. Bevans, her father, with that a-imal intuition
fathers seem to have about an only daughter when he has become the sole guardian, saw the
budding romance and made efforts to discourage it. To this day Alex was not sure why he
took this attitude. Maybe Alex was too popular with the rich and sophisticated and success-
ful set, and Mr. Bevans did not want his daughter to become 'corrupted' with modern society.
Alex could see that she was enshrined by her father, and although comparatively poor
farmers, there seemed to be a pride of place and birth. In the brief exchanges Martha and
himself had had she had mentioned more than once how she loved the farm and the land and
the country and all it stood for.
All future efforts on Alex's part to call at any other time except on business were
thwarted by Martha's father. Moreover she was always busy elsewhere when he made his
weekly visit, and Mr. Bevans would attend to him. Other boys in the neighbourhood dated
her, and he saw her occasionally in town, but never alone. Always with her father or her
After a year Martha became twenty-one, and it must have been the feeling of indepen-
dence one gets at achieving that age that made her act as she did subsequently.
Alex had not missed her from the farm. Then he received a letter postmarked from the
United States. It was from Martha. She had asked her father to let her visit his sister who
was living there, and he had been happy to get her away from that rich Mr. Harris. And
most likely all the other boys he had tolerated to discourage Alex. She thought she knew
how he felt about her, asked him to suggest the next step for them.
He felt that the only solution was to get to her, perhaps persuade her to either get married
there, or come home with him, brave the wrath of her father and get married in their own
It seemed, however, as if old Mr. Bevans had got to his sister before Alex, and again he
found it difficult to see Martha when he got there. After two weeks he finally got her to go
back with him, and once at home put her in a hotel where he thought she would be safe from
SThe wedding was planned for Friday. Two days before this Alex met with an accident
on the road. Most people said that Mr. Bevans boasted of it afterwards, regretting only that
Alex had not died instead of merely fracturing his skull
The injury was graver than imagined, and three months had passed before Alex was well
enough to leave the hospital Martha, he heard afterward, had stayed at the hotel for a few
days, coming in to see him occasionally, then had gone out to the farm for a week, then
off to somewhere. Probably to the United States again. She left a note for him, saying that
she would never forgive her father for what he had done. She thought that it was best for
both of them if they kept apart for a while; her father might try to harm him again. It seemed
as if they were not destined to be together while he was alive.
Alex did not stop loving her, but he tired of the game and decided not to go after her
again. His livelihood was here, and if she wanted to be with him she would come eventual-
Over the years she wrote to him regularly, and even after her father died she still stayed
away. Up to now he didn't know why. She might have met someone whom she loved more,
because after a while she told him she was getting married. Although her letters never lost
their fresh, friendly, affectionate flavour, Alex could detect a trace of sadness, perhaps loss
in them. She never told him why she didn't want to come home.
As Sacrosanct As Motherhood 15
All through her five children she never stopped writing to him, and it was not until he
was past his fiftieth year that the letters suddenly ceased to come. She would not stop writ-
ing without warning him, and two months later Alex found out, through discreet inquiries,
that she had died in childbirth with her sixth child.
Alex had never married. His was a personal loss, because over the years he had uncon-
sciously made himself believe that Martha was his wife. All the children were his, from the
first born which she told him bad been baptised Alexander. They had been married in letters
and although they never spoke of love much, he knew that something far greater than love
bad existed between them. Something that reached beyond the earth, something she was
always searching for when she wrote, but was forced to change the subject when she could
not evoke the secrets she felt were there.
But to Martha the loss was for the place she loved and longed for. Alex would never
presume that she loved him. She might have been writing to him merely as a mediator be-
tween herself and her land.
The smallest trace of a tear fell down the wrinkles on his left cheek as he leaned forward
again and looked down at the Bible in his hand which contained the last letter she ever wrote
him. It would forever evoke a memory that would remain to him as sacrosanct as mother-
A PRESENT FOR HIS MOTHER
In the biting chill of that fateful December morning, Monty rose trembling from his
creaky bed. He had awakened from about five o'clock, but had just decided to crawl from
beneath his blanket as the saw-mill cherrily blasted forth seven o'clock.
He had lain beneath the worn-out blanket, and his thoughts were racing madly. His
mind travelled back to the better days when he had been prosperous. Last Christmas, for
instance, which he had spent like no other. He had money then -money which he had
obtained through the prosperous contract cutting logs for piling.
He saw it all before him now. The collecting of his 'generous' pay, resulting in the
happy greetings at home. The Christmas shopping. The robust turkey on the table on
These thoughts made him sad. His heart became full, and he felt like swearing at the
wicked gods who had made such poverty beset him so that he had to go begging this Christ-
mas. Begging like a common tramp about the streets.
But no.._. He would not beg. His pride told him so. He had not the courage or direct
approach to affront somebody and ask for a coin. No..... Definitely not...... That was far
above his morality.
His family had been a respectable and up-to-date family. But now his father-the one
who had been responsible for their prosperity-had died three years ago. Everyone had
heard of Robert Trask; richest mahogany contractor along the Belize River. Always well-
dressed, respected and kind.
No, he argued, That was not the way. There had to be a better and less disgraceful
way than begging.
Borrowing? No. He would take a lifetime to repay that debt-a lifetime of worry
beset by the constant fear that he would not be able to pay.
As he pulled on his tennis-shoe his mind was turning like a crazy wind-mill-trying to
think of a possible solution. He laced the tennis to the top and straightened up.
It hit him like a whip-lash, and he looked around to see who had said it. No one was
in sight. His conscience was at work trying to make up his mind for him.
But-steal....- Not that. Just the simple thought brought a bitter taste to his mouth and
a shudder through his body. Was that a bigger disgrace than begging. Well, at least no one
would see him when he was stealing. But suppose he was caught?
That was something else to think about-suppose he was caught? The utter disgrace
made him shudder again. The police, the police-van, the cold cell, the trial. Disgrace of
plodding the streets every day in a blue-striped uniform.
No, that was much worse than begging. Much worse for the simple fact that capture
was possible and disgrace would follow. If he begged he would be looked upon as a common
tramp prowling the streets like a starving dog and preying upon the pockets of respectable
Why was he like this-so poverty-stricken? And all those other people joyful and pros-
perous. Had he done anything to deserve it? No.... He could recall nothing. He had not
,done anything wrong before. And yet....
Again his troubled conscience came to his aid. But what was fate, he thought. Fate
meant nothing to him. He had not thought of fate .He hardly knew the meaning of the
word. How could fate put him where he was today?
Was it something alive-some disease? He didn't know. But if his conscience said it
was fate, then it must be right. His conscience was himself. Only because it was silent and
never spoke beyond his imagination.
A Present For His Mother 17
Oh, well. Fate had brought him to what he was, and that was that. But what good
:was that to him-his conscience kept telling him things and he having to decipher it in his
So what! What if fate had brought him to his present state? What about it now?
What could he do to help himself?
Again his conscience. He could well see why it returned again and again to the same
solution. It knew that his pride forbade him to beg, jobs at this time were almost nil, and
-since it was his fate to be so destitute, well, the only alternative was to steal.
Stealing did not appeal to him, but begging was beyond him, and nothing could change
his fate. So stealing it would be.
Now that he was beset by the thought he had to make a plan. What would he steal?
RFrom whom would he steal? How would he steal it?
Three questions, and he could answer none.
He arose lazily from the bed and stretched himself. Thus relieved, he shuffled across
the rough planking which served as a floor towards a huge box set in one corner of the room.
It usually served as a dining table, but for the last two days no food had been placed on it.
He realized that if he didn't do something very quickly, he would soon starve. And
nothing was forth-coming unless he stole it. And he must get a present for his mother for
Christmas! Even that came before starving.
He strolled over to the rickety door and unlatched it. It creaked a little as it swung
inward accompanied by a cold rush of breeze. He shrank back inside, but realized that he
*bad no time to waste. Cold or no cold he had to go.
SHe stepped outside fumblingly, padlocked the door, and shuffled away, hands in pockets.
He felt the cold, piercing wind through his thin shirt, and the cold ground against his almost
bare feet made him feel miserable. He felt that even death would be more welcome than this.
Why was he so concerned about Christmas anyhow? Just a stupid tradition handed
down through countless generations, and he had to be included. What a stupid thing-Christ-
mas. People decorating their homes, buying expensive presents, eating their best on that day.
&ut Monty realized that he was only being bitter and pessimistic about the whole affair.
He had made the exact preparations last year, but just because it was different this year
he adopted a bitter attitude towards Christmas.
Everything was changed this year. Last Christmas his mother was well and could
*appreciate the beautiful gift he had given her. This year she had to spend Christmas in a
dismal hospital room with not even a small present to cheer her up. And he was not able to
do a thing about it.
-. Fate. Wicked fate.
He turned from Barracks Road into Queen Street. Every store he passed made his sad
and troubled brain even sadder. He hardly wanted to glance in them for fear that the sight
night prompt him to tears, which because of the great self-pity he felt, was not far away.
, He reached-the end of the street and found some cold comfort by leaning against the huge
,building which adorned the left corer of the street. Already people could be seen hustling
by with huge parcels tucked under their arms. Some hustled in and out of the Post Office
hoping that by some vauge trace of luck a present had been sent for them from abroad. This
was Christmas Eve, and therefore their last chance of receiving a present before Christmas
A few carts rolled past with coloured linoleums for the late shoppers. Men and women
alike strolled past with meagre fowls and robust turkeys which by tomorrow would be sizzl-
'feg in their pots.
All this, and more, Monty saw being enacted before his pensive eyes.
He wearily pushed himself from the wall he was leaning on, and picked his way through
busyuy traffic towards the Swing Bridge across the street. At this time the street was filled
with Christmas shoppers, and he just let himself be pushed along by the crowd. He stared
libvi'into dark water and envied its steady outward flow. It had nothing to worry about.
No present to give at Christmas time.
Local Short Stories
The bridge sloped a little and he slouched disconsolately down. He reached the street
once again, passed the Market, and continued walking up the street. He didn't even know
where he was going-how he was going to get what he wanted. He didn't even know what
he really wanted.
He continued past the Court House and found himself in front of the huge store which
occupied almost the entire block. This should have what he wanted. Surely it must. These
big stores had everything. There must be something he could find for his mother in there.
He crossed the street, anxious now, that he had reached a spot which showed promise of
satisfying his want. He stood uncertainly by the door watching the swift last-minute trans-
actions taking place inside. The store was literally filled. Surely no one would notice him
among all those other people.
So he entered.
The first step was reached. Now for the most difficult part. Having never even attempted
to steal before, he knew that this, the first attempt, would be hard and painful. It would
involve many miserable and possibly embarrassing moments. Nothing had been planned. He
had to carry it out to the best of his ability, and his vague knowledge of such things.
Now inside the store he mixed with the other shoppers. He saw many beautiful gifts,
but his common intuition told him that those fellows slouching around the store were not
there for decoration. He decided he must wait for an opportune moment when nobody was
But try as he could Monty could not find a way to lift a single article. The fear of being
caught dominated his desire for stealing anything then.
He saw a step presumably leading to an upper storey. His curiosity overcome him and
he ascended them- Possibly he may even have better luck up there. When he reached the
top he was surprised at the retinue of people and children lined off before the counters. A
closer look revealed to him that a huge collection of toys was the attraction.
He strolled along the counters for a while, then decided to go downstairs. He might
have better luck this time.
He descended the stairs and walked up to a counter where he noticed people waiting for
their articles to be wrapped. Perhaps he could snatch one of those. More people left with
parcels and Monty still had not made a move. As a matter of fact, he couldn't do anything.
As soon as a parcel was placed on the counter it was claimed.
Couldn't he claim one in the same way. He thought not. The owners would naturally
be looking out for their parcels, and so the chance of Monty's picking up one of them was
Then the chance came.
A bustling clerk appeared from some other part of the store with a large parcel in her
hand. She placed the package carelessly on the counter about a foot away from Monty. Then
she turned away and approached a nearby counter.
This was his chance, he thought. This was it. There it was A huge parcel. Surely it
contained something good. All ready to be taken. All he had to do was stretch his right hand
about a foot and the parcel would be in his hand. He would then hurry through the door
just like any other shopper.
That was all.
He noticed with satisfaction that the clerk was still occupied elsewhere.
He put out his right hand and touched the parcel.
He pulled it to him. He picked it up and turned away from the counter.
His spine felt like pin-pricks as he anticipated the shout he knew was inevitable.
But was it really inevitable. He was but five feet from the door and was already con-
gratulating himself when from behind,....
"Hey You there! Just a minute "
Monty stiffened involuntarily as if he had been shot. He had been caught! This was the
end. Anyhow he had tried. That was enough. He wouldn't even try to run.
He turned slowly and looked guiltily in the direction of the voice. It was the same derk.
And now she was beckoning to him to come back.
A Present For His Mother
He stood a moment longer, then strode slowly back to the counter; the eyes of everyone
burning into him-hating him and condemning him for the low thing which he had done.
Look, he thought. It's the worse thing that could happen anyhow, and he deserved it.
He reached the counter, and the next thing he knew he was shocked because the girl was
handing him some money, along with a slip of paper which he recognized as a receipt.
He couldn't understand. And then the girl was speaking again.
"I suppose you are the fellow who Mrs. Johnson said she would send for her curtains."
Monty nodded in dazed affirmation, not even knowing why he nodded.
"Well, you went off without the change, man. Here you are. Two dollars and thirty-
four cents. Thank you." And she hurriedly went off to attend to another customer.
Monty took fully one minute to recover from the shock. He just couldn't believe it. He
picked up the parcel and retraced his steps to the door once more. He was not even thinking
dearly anymore. It was all a dream.
He couldn't believe that this had really happened to him. He felt so overjoyed that he
felt as if he wasn't even walking. IHe moved but his reflexes were dead. He went through the
door and turned right. His first impulse was to go home and open the parcel But a greater
urge told him that that would be wrong. He had taken the package, and a queer act of prov-
idence had shielded him from being caught. He had now to repay what he thought was fate.
It had been his fate to be destitute; so he had had to steal. In stealing he had been redeemed
by a queer turn of fate.
He would not desert that fate. He would deliver the parcel.
Southern Foreshore was the address on the package, and quickening his pace a little, he
As he approached the house he remembered the change the clerk had given him. Should
he deliver that too? Yes. He would deliver everything. The receipt too.
The huge, two-storeyed building corresponded to the address on the package. Monty
rang the bell he saw attached to the gate, moving backward a little as angry growls sounded
friom beneath the house.
Two minutes later, a greying woman appeared at the door of the lower flat. In her
inquiry as to his presence, he informed her about the parcel. She came to the gate, taking the
"Oh, yes. My curtains. I thought they would never have got here. Thank you kindly,
And then her change.
"Oh, yes, my change. Thank you so very much."
And with countless forms of thanks ringing in his ears, Monty said goodbye and moved
off down the street.
Then for the second time that day he was being called back. What could she be wanting
now, he thought. Is her change short?
"Sorry to have to bother you young man. But I can see your present state, and you seem
to be so honest, that I wondered if you wouldn't accept a small job. Just a few hours around
the yard, you know."
About eight o'clock that night Monty left Mrs. Johnson's house. He was much happier
now that he had worked honestly to acquire the six dollars which now lay comfortably in
And he still had enough time to buy that present for his mother.
ENCOUNTER WITH A RENEGADE
JOHN A. WATER
Mountain Pine Ridge is the most beautiful part of this country--anybody who has
been around the country would confirm that. Anybody who climbs one of the accessible
hills where the Forest Department fire. look-outs are located is engrossed by a closeness of
nature as he views the panaromic spectacle of Guacamallo country spreading before him
in vastness and splendour. Indeed, nature was painstaking in creating this country-it
is so beautiful.
I live in Guacamallo country, in a small village known as Millionerio. There is not
much to the village: a few weather-beaten adobe huts, a tatched-roof school-church and a
delapidated trading post-yet, I would not change it for a permanent suite in the Bucking-
ham palace. I am a simple man, you see; simple and peaceful. The things I am interes-
ted in are my family and my milpas and slightly in the civic affairs of our almost primitive.
village They have a word-passive, I think it is-which describes my mode of life. But I
am not ashamed to live passively because as I have said before, I am a simple peace
loving campesino. To the gregarious my life might appear to be monotonous-but that
is not so, I assure you. Monotony, boredom and ennuie I never suffer.
I cultivate my milpas from December until June, then from July to November I work
as a chiclero. When I am away from home I miss my family very much-my wife Lupita, my
daughters Chula who is fourteen and Juana, ten. (Next year we are going to miss Chula for
a long time because she is going to attend St. Cathrine's Academy in Belize City. Everybody
in the village is very proud of her because she is the first one among us to go to the Academy.)
Nevertheless, we are always jovial at camp. We work like mules dragging and bleeding chicle
during the day, to be sure, but when night comes there are always the camp fire stories which
we listen to with keen interest if we are not over exhausted. Our experienced story-tellers
always manage to somehow hold our interest even if the story is one we had heard over and
over. When I return to the village I would sit up many nights with my family telling them
stories and experiences of the chicleros' camp. My family love to listen and they must
be good listeners indeed, because I am such a poor story-teller.
Most of the villagers follow my pattern of life. But we are a happy people because we do
not ask much of life. We have nothing against civilization-please don't get me wrong. It
is just that the crimes, mulcting the hustling and bustling etcetera, which are synonymous
with civilizations are contrary to our temperaments: hence our voluntary recluse.
As I sit by my window now, contemplating the chronicling of my encounter with the
renega, Mena (whose body now ferment-but may God bless his soul) I can smell the fresh-
ness of the pine needles, can see the huge pine tree which was struck by a lightning
a few weeks ago when we had such a terrible thunder storm that my Lupita clung to me and
shivered with fear. Maybe you have seen a sapadillo tree worked over by a chiclero to ex-
tract the sop: that is the way the lightning left the pine tree. To the East there is the rock
beded stream with clear cool water where we swim if the weather is fair and beyond
the stream, far, far away through a thin perpetual mist there is the landscape of the cocks-
comb Mountains. Guacamallo is a beautiful country.
Two weeks ago I left the village for San Luis, Augustine Forest Station and San Ignacio
with farm produce. I had a very successful trip and was returning home with my saddle bag
containing dresses, shoes and other household stuff for my family. I had bought a very
nice school bag for Chula and now was sorry that I did not bought one for Juana too because
her little eyes will shine with envy. I made a mental note to buy one the very next time I make
another trip. I had bought several items for other villagers too-every time you are making
a trip to Town everybody remembers that something is urgently needed.
Encounter With A Renegade 21
Entermg the village I noted that strangely people were not laying about under trees or
on porches catching their siesta as is the predominant custom of my people. I saw no
one Then I looked up towards my home expecting to ses my daughters looking out for my
arrival only to see a large crowd gathered before my house.
Something was wrong with a member of my family. What could it be? I had left every-
one in good health. Maybe it was sickness-or probably, death? Dear God, I prayed, please
don't let it be anything serious. I love my family so much. You have taken care of
them while I was away, have you not? I spurred my horse and hasten on with mounting ap-
Pancho Silva, the Alcalde of the village moved out of the crowd when he saw me and
came forward to meet me.
Pancho is big and wades along when he walks. He always perspires profusely and uses
a large red bandana, inevitable dirty. He runs a small trading post in the village and
was elected alcalde because no matter what, he never leaves the village. He always says that
when he leaves Millionerio it will be in a coffin.
"Pulin," he said, mopping his forehead nervously, "I do not know how to explain.I .. L...
"Don't try to explain anything, Pancho,just tell me what is the matter."
An expression of mortification came over his face, "It's your daughter, Palin, she was
raped. She is dead."
I felt something torn from inside me, leaving me with an emptiness. "Dead! My little
Chula dead? Who done it, Pulin, who done it?" "Mena." he whispered, "Mana done it,
"Mena.....came here....killed my little Chula.n.."
I did not wait to speak anymore. I ran up the steps of my house through the crowd of
people. My little Chula was lying there, pale in death, dressed in her white confirmation dress
which she had outgrown. My daughter dead. She was to go to St. Catherine's Academy
next year. Her little sister Juana was kneeling beside her, holding her cold hand, weeping.
"Papa!" She exclaimed when she saw me.
"Hija!" I called out and was kneeling hugging her and tears came to my eyes. I felt a
hand on my shoulder and looked up into red-rimmed eyes of my wife. I stretched out a hand
to her and she came to me and we three were kneeling, crying over our lost loved one. After
a while we disengaged and became aware of the other people in the house. They too were
I sat on a vacant stool and buried my face in my hands. Mean, Mena, you barbarina
I wish I had my hands around your dirty neck. Oh I wish I could have you within my reach.
How much joy I would have in squeezing the life out of you. But I am going to kill you for
this, Mena I am going to kill you for this.
"Lupita," I said to my wife, "tell me how this happened."
"Si Paulin" she spoke with a heavy voice, "It was such a lovely day and Chula asked
me if she might go to the stream and swim. I told her yes. Juana could'nt bathe because
she had a cold. She caught it the night after you left but she still went along to keep her
sister's company. A half an hour later I heard Juana screaming that someone was hurting
Chula so I ran dowm to the stream and there was this bearded man standing over Chula with
horrible grin on his face..._Oh Pulin, it was so horrible. Chula in blood, her bathing dress
all torn up. I became hysteric and rushed the man and he laughed and pushed me away
so that I fell and almost broke my back. I was so...so....helpless. After a while he went
into the village and demanded Pancho to give him food and money then he left. I asked
Jose and Pablo to help me bring Chula up to the house. Before we reached her she was
She began to cry.
22 Local Short Stories
"Do not cry, mamacita," I tried to comfort her.
"You must return to San Ignacio at once and inform the Police. Maybe you can ring
them from San Luis."
"No, Lupita, I will not do it. How many times our police have tried to capture Mena
and failed. How many times the Guatemalan soldados have tried to capture him and failed
too?. And the Mexican and the Honduraneans? No, Mamacita, I will not do it."
"But you can't let him go unpunished. You can't let him get away." "Pancho Silva
will report to the police and they will come but I am going after him myself. I will find him
and I will kill him. "No, no, Pulin, don't do that Don't go after him. He will kill you."
Just then the door opened and Pancho Silva entered. "I have sent a man off to make a
call to the police in San Ignacio. In the meantime there is nothing I can do.....Pulin..... am
sorry....-there was nothing we could do."
.'Nothing you could do." I repeated hotly. "Fifteen men in this village and there was noth-
ing you could do. Everyone of them has a gun and there was 'nothing you could do.
Cowards! All of you are cowards." I was angry.
"You know Mena, Pulin, you know hundreds of police and soldados have tried to cap-
ture him and failed. No bullets can harm him, he is the deviL Tell me, what good would
it have done to have some of us wounded or maybe killed."
"You could have tried something. You let him rode in kill my daughter and rode off
and all of you were hiding behind the women frocks.__but I will kill him. He is a human be-
ing and bullets can kill any human being."
"You are a fool who is throwing his life away, Pulin Campos. Mena is not a human
being. He is a deviL"
"I am going after him," I said with finality.
"It is your neck.think it over and you will change your mind when you are cooled
"I will never be cooled down. Take a look on that bed, Silva, that is my daughter Chula
lying there dead. She was going to St. Catherine's Academy next year. She was the pride
of our whole village. How can I cool down when she is dead....dead!" I screamed the last
No argument on earth could have dissuaded me from going after Mena. The following
day after we buried my Chula, I packed my shot-bag and left. Pancho Silva hailed after me
as [ was leaving the village and I waited impatiently as he waded his big self towards me. "I
do not come to try to persuade you not to go after Mena, Pulin," he said, "I only come to tell
you that there are great rewards for the man who kills him. The Mexican and Guatemalan
Governments have out rewards on his head and also our Government. If by any chance you
succeed in killing him, just remember those rewards are yours." "I am not interested in any
reward, Pancho, all I want is to see him dead for what he did my Chula".
"I understand your feelings, my friend. Good luck."
He looked directly in my eyes and for the first time in his life, I thought, Pancho Silva
was sincere about something "Thank you," I said and rode off.
Mena-that is the only name by which he is known. Crimes he had committed are large
and small. There are many horrible tales of his many hedious doings in five countries. A
lone wolf, he sometimes joined up with revolutionaries and leftist movements in several coun-
tries for the excitement and monetary purposes but, unlike many others, he quits when he
likes, any time he chooses. Police from four Latin American countries would like to lay hands
on him. He would be shot or jailed for life for any number of crimes including murder, theft,
rape, communist activities, terrorism, to mention just a few. He knows the mountains like
the palm of his hands and had always been able to elude police and saldados who sought to
What chances would I, a peace loving man, one who in all his life had never lifted his
hands in a fight nor aim his gun at any human being, have against such seasoned outlaw? I
had boasted foolishly in my anger of capturing and killing him? Could I make good my
boast? It seemed almost impossible now.
Encounter With A Renegade 23
That night as I sat before my campfire eating a lonely meal not from hunger but for the
sole purpose of replacing some of the energies which I had exhausted during the past four
days, I thought of what a fool was. The urge to pack my bag and return home to my Lupita
and daughter was strong. But I remember my daughter Chula lying there in death, my pride,
she who was to go to St. Catherine's Academy in Belize City next year, and the hatred rushed
up into my head. I needed that hatred. I wanted it to by me talisman.
I thought of the many tales-the many fantastic tales of Mena's notority. It is a strong
belief in these parts that Mena possesses some sort of magic charm which protects him from
bullets and warns him of impending dangers. To substanciate this belief there is the tale of
the time he was betrayed by his compare and was surrounded by soldados at a well. The
soldiers opened fire without warning, but when the shooting was over and the atmosphere
was cleared of gunsmoke, there was no Mena and five soldiers lay dead with seven
more wounded. That was the man I wanted to kill-just imagine!
But all the soldiers who hunted him were mercenaries, paid by the state to capture a man
they wanted to get rid of. None of them had any strong hatred against him as I. None of
them were as thirsty for revenge as I. That was the quality I had which they did not. Maybe
that was the quality which I needed to see me through.
In side my shot bag was a little.22 which I had taken off a Guatemalan soldier some two
years ago. A gang of twelve of us had ventured across the Guatemalan Border one year to
bleed chicle and was sleeping one night when four soldiers surrounded our camp and wake
us up. They were a meager half-starving lot who wanted something to eat more than any.
thing else. They order us to make them some "Comida" and we had no alternative but to
While eating raveneously we noted the odds in our favour: three to one. So we jumped
them and before they knew what was happening they were our prisoners. We let them finish
eating then set them off in the night. As soon as darkness enveloped them we hurried off and
back to our side of the border. I had kept a .22 which I had taken off one of the soldiers. At
the time I had thought it peculiar for a soldier to carry such a weapon but now I knew that
it was because of its smallness and easyness to conceal.
It had only one bullet left in it and was a bit rusty. I cleaned it properly. In my shot
bag I always carry a snake-bite kit. From the kit I extracted a piece of plaster which I used
in sticking the .22 firmly on my back between my shoulder blades where it would be less pro-
truding. I threw a Zaga-T shirt over this and my ordinary shirt sleeve over the Zaga. I wore
a wind-breaker over them all.
Being a Chiclero for more than fifteen years gave me some knowledge of this country.
Especially this part of the country which I had been through so many times that I am sure I
knew it even better than Mena.
By midday the following day I picked up Mena's trail. My heart beat with excitement
for they were fresh trails and had to be Mena's because nobody without specific business in
these parts of the country would likely to be around.
During the better part of the morning I had travelled through a vast pine ridge with only
intermittent broken ridges offering any shelter from the scorching sun. Shortly after the
sun took its westward slant I entered vergin land with dense vegetation. It was a hilly
country. I estimated myself to be somewhere behind San Antonio in the Toledo District and
not too far from the Guatemalan border.
I was half-way up a small hill when a heavy voice halted me, "Halt there, Compadre "
I stopped abruptly, my hand travelling stealthily towards the .16 guage shot gun in its saddle
holster. "Do not attempt it, Piasano, or you will be dead."
I let my hand remain where it was. He came from behind a rock, stood before me hold-
ing a winchester carelessly, and grinned. This was Mena.
He was no more than five and a half feet tall inhis riding boots. Heworea blood
stained boggy sleeve shirt and a shapeless trousers. His hair was long. growing wildly over
his shoulders like a pirate's, his moustache thick and his beard overgrown. His nose was a
small mound on bis broad face and his eyes looked out coldly from thick bushy lashes in deep
set sockets. When he laughed he showed a missing tooth.
Local Short Stories
He walked up to my horse, looked directly in my eyes and said, "you will dismount, si?"
He pulled the .16 guage shot gun from the saddle holster, broke it open and extracted
the cartridge. He threw it away in the bush. Then he went through my saddle bag discover-
ing the other cartridges and my hunting knife. He threw away the cartridges and kept the
"You will walk ahead of me, si?"
I walked ahead of him.
He jabbed me in the back with the butt of his winchester just below the plastered .22.
I walked up the hill following a narrow trail until I came suddenly to his camp. Up to this
minute I had not spoken a word. Perhaps it was because I was cursing myself for being the
fool I was to walk right into his trap.
"Take off your clothes and be very careful, for my fingers are very nervous today."
I obeyed, taking off my boots and trousers, feeling a bit frightened over the possibility
of his discovering the consealed weapon on my back, It was my only hope and ifI lost it I was
"Your jacket, now". He commanded.
I took off the jacket now, feeling certain he would discover the .22. I began to take off
my shirt too, but unbottened it, showing him the Zaga underneath. "All right", he said
suddenly, "put them on back." A thorough man, Mena, but just a bit not thorough
"What you say we have a little talk now, eh Compadre? What is your name"? "Pulin
Campos, "I replied.
"What is your business here? What are you looking for?"
I kept silent. You are the deducer, carry on with the gambit. "All right, my friend.
I will tell you exactly. You are hunting, si, but your game is a human being and that human
being is me. You are the father of the little girl I had some fun with at Millionerio and now
you come to kill me_..aha, ha. I was expecting you. He stopped speaking and looked at
me with a queer expression. "You know, some people needs dope to live on, other need
booze, but me, I need excitement.
"At present there are no excitement around here. Everything calm. No revolution
stirring and the Guats are sort of cool down. All the little soldados around here are afraid
of me. There is no pleasure in living. You became my target. Not particularly you. It
could have been any one else. I got bored. I looked for excitement. I find you." He grin-
ned broadly. I thought he was a mentally sick man.
"We eat something, si?"
"All right, I replied.
"Good. Nothing like a full belly before we discuss business. Get some wood. There
is a piece of qualm left over from one I shot this morning. Qualms are nice birds, don't you
I made no reply but set about building the fire. While I roasted the qualm my mind
was clicking overtime. After eating we settled down to drink a cup of coffee.
Mena said, "I am going to give you until noon tomorrow to try something. I know you
are going to try something, Compadre, because you have to. You know I am going to kill
you but you don't know when so you have to think of something. Let it be good. Compa-
dre, or if you fail you might not even know it. You will be that dead. This is going to be
exciting, no? More fun than I have had in months."
Looking around the camp I saw an ants nest. A very large nest with big red ants. I
walked around the site with his quick eyes following every move I made.
I sat directly on the ants nest!
I held the tin cup with coffee casually over my knees. I watched Mena. He was sit-
ting about twelve feet away and beside him lay his winchester in readiness. It would
be suicidal to try and jump him. I had another plan.
The ants began to crawl over my body. First it was just a few then by the hundreds. I
lept up suddenly. But before I was halfway up Mena had his gun pointed right at my guts.
I paid him no attention but began killing ants and brushing them off my clothes.
Encounter With A Renegale
I was dancing frantically killing an ants here and one there, they were biting me all over
my body. My movements must have been commical because Mena began a hysterical laugh-
ing, slapping his side. He sat down and laughed. An ant bit me behind my neck andI made
a sudden gesture of killing it. Mena was still laughing. But he stopped adruptly because
when I brought my hand from behind my neck he was looking into the barrel of the .22
"Not one movement, Compadre, "I told him. "Not the slightest movement. Just one
and you are dead."
His mouth fell open. He regain assurance quickly and grinned at me. Ants were bit-
ing all over my body but there was no time to pay them any attention.
"Ah," he said, "I knew this would be interested."
"Get up, Mena. Very, very slowly....easy does it.....ah, careful, keep your hands very
high. Yes. Now, begin moving slowly to your right,"
I circled him and grabbed the winchester. I stuck the .22 in my waisteband and
held the winchester directly on him cocked. Now, all I had to do was pull the trigger. Just
one pull. Mena would be dead. I held the gun aimed at his forehead, my finger on the trig-
ger. He was perspiring, but so was I.
I looked at the centre of his forehead where my aim was fixed. I wanted to see there
the picture of my Chula, she who was to go to St. Cathrine's Academy laying dead, robbed
of her blessed virtue by this barbarian. I tried to bring the picture clearly to my mind of my
family. Of what Mena had done to the family I love so much. The picture refused to come.
I summoned the hatred. My finger pressing on the trigger but it needed one millioneth
fraction of an inch more pressure to let the firing pin release and slam on the head of the
bullet that would eject and kill Mena. But my pulse was weak. I summoned the anger once
more. Where are you now, my talisman? Where are you?
I looked at Mena and noted an expression not of terror, but of mild curiosity.
"It takes a man to kill a man," I heard him saying.
"Don't misunderstand me Mena, I would kill you like a beast, because you are a beast.
Only I would have no satisfaction of seeing you gone with such a slight punishment. Take
off your clothes."
"Off. Strip. Every stich of clothes and your boots as well."
I had no intentions of making the same mistakes he made. I was going to be thorough.
When he was nude I commanded him to step away, then went through his clothing finding
three knives in secret pocket.
"All right, put them on."
Then I did something unmistakable idiotic. I smashed the winchester against a tree
and turned to face Mena. He was grinning happily. This was what he wanted. We circled
each other like a pair of professional pugelists waiting for the right moment to move in for
I rushed him. We clenched, his small strong hands circling my back like steel clamps.
My two hands were free and I brought them down chopping on his shoulders. It did not
shake him. I had no alternative but to throw myself backwards least he snapped my vertebrae.
He landed on top of me, but losing his hold in the process. We were up on our feet again.
Now that I had felt his strength I had no desire to be clamped by his hands again. This
time i told myself, no rushing with blind fury. From now on you are going to fight a calm
and calculating battle, because it was the only type offighting which offered-me chance. I
took advantage of my reach over him and lashed him with some stinging blows. He took
all I gave and landed some very hard ones himself.
Once again we clenched and rolled over and over, knocking down everything within
reach. Very soon the camp space was too small for us and soon we were in the bush.
SThen it began to rain. A hard stinging rain.
And we continued fighting:
26 Local Short Stories
The battle was a nightmare. He lent me a stinging blow which sent me sprawling,
hitting me head on the trunk of a tree. For a fraction of a moment I lay there, too dazed to
get up. I saw his body sailing towards me and was able to manuever just in time to sent him
crashing headlong. He got up and rushed me again. This time we began rolling down the
Mena was a sorry sight and I must have been worse. Both of us were wearing out but
I had a nasty suspicion that I was farther gone than he for already breathing was a difficult
process and I could just but see through my swollen eyes. Now we were on the other side of
the hill with the rain beating down on us.
I hit Mena with a Sunday-punch and watched him went reeling some thirty feet down
the bill. But alas! I fell from sheer exhaustion. Somehow I managed to pick myself up, brea-
thing in short heavy gusts. Mena was picking himself up some where below me. I leaned on
a tree, waiting for him, planning to greet him with a kick in the stomach in an effort to finish
him off. One of us must die, in this battle. One of us must live. It was Mena or I.
I saw Mena stopped abruptly, a look of horror on his beaten face. I looked carefully
down on him, uncertain. Then I saw it. A deadly fer-de-lance stood up six feet like a man,
its jaws a rusty yellow. There was nothing Mena could do. The snake was too close up to
him. He had no weapon. There was nothing I could do.
Mena threw his hands over his face, a feebly gesture to protect himself. The tommy-
goff, as it is known in this country, the most deadly of snakes, lashed out at him with incr-
edible rapedity, its huge tusks knashing venom into his hands. Mena let out a nondes-
cript scream of horror and fell backwards, foaming.
I ran back to the camp for some weapon with which to kill the snake. But all I found was a
smashed up winchester, a .16 guage shot gun with no cartridges. Then I remembered my
little 22 It had save my life before and it might save it now. But I could place no trust in
its precision. I found it with its nose in a pool of water. I rushed back to the scene.
Mena was where he had fallen, moaning. The snake was crawling towards me.
My hands were clammy, swollen and uncertain. The rain beat down on my face. It
began to thunder.
I stood watching the horrible serpent wiggling its way up to me and I felt a slight
tremor overcame my body. It was just ten feet away now, its head on a large flat rock, its
small eyes looking up at me malevolently. I steadied myself as much as I could and took
aim. I was not much good in shooting this type of weapon. And I had one bullet only. I
missed and I had better began to run. You aim long, you aim long, I told myself and pulled
the trigger. The bullet registered its mark
Directly centre of the flat head off the fer-de-lance it landed. Wiggling, lashing out
in death, the serpent was finished.
I rushed down the hill to where Mena was laying. I lifted his body into my arms and
began a slow slippery climb up the hill. At the camp I lay him down on his saddle and began
to open the bites with one of his knives.
"No....no._don't bother._Compadre..it is no use.._nothing will save me... it is getting
....very..dark...si?-..I would like....some water....d-don't be..._be afraid....I am dying...it is so
"Take it easy for a while, Mena, don't try to speak." said I, moved with pity. I hurried
off and located his canteen and let him drink to his satisfaction.
Encounter With A Renegade 27
"My tongue.....is......so,.._heavy......It is very dark...so dark....Pulin.....Pulia Campos.....you
are.._a...brave man, si.......The bravest...man I ever.....met. I....Is-hall remember you....until
L..die .... He tried to smile his usual smile but grimaced. "The pain.,oh.....the pain..._you
know.. .Compadre ,..I would....like to.....to.._..scream.._ cannot scream....my body is burning
-like.. like.....fire.....maybe this is hell....,eh Compadre. Maybe this is hell....let...me speak_..
my time is running out I must speak rapidly. "His voice was just audible now. "I am sorry
....ulina....sorry about your daughter......you know this is the first time in my life I am saying
those words.,., am sorry.....strange words to my lips..._forgive me...Jorgive me......Pulin
"Yes.....yes, I forgive you, Mena, I am praying for you."
"L...can't see a thing.....it is so dark....3 don't worth it.....don't pray...,.Jn......my saddle bag
.. there is money.....gold....it is yours all of it..,..if you forgive me.....take it....it is all yours.....
adios..... adios Compadre Pulin Campos....."
Then he died.
He was foaming from his mouth and nostrils and every visible grain of hair on his body
was sending forth blood and corruption. I knelt beside him and said a silent prayer for his
soul. Then I wrapped him in his blanket, loaded him on his horse and headed for home.
"THE REINCARNATED INKEEPER"
A CHRISTMAS STORY
JonN A. WATER, JR.
Josef Aben al-Salaam was born in Bethlehem at the turn of last century, the fifth and
youngest son of Jacob and Miriam al-Salaam. When he was twenty-one his three brothers
and his sister departed from Bethlehem to Germany where their uncle, who had accumu-
lated some wealth, resided. He had invited all of them to come over to seek their
fortunes, but Josef, being too young, had to stay behind to take care of his aging
parents. At twenty nine his mother died and his father, heavily burdened with grief by
the death of his wife, offered no resistance to death when it came a few short months
afterwards. Upon receiving this news of their parents' death, hisbrothers immediately
sent for him. So it was, thatat the age of thirty, Josef Aben al-Salaam entered Germany.
He had a special flaire for success, and soon it was evident that he would emulate his
uncle, and would have probably done so had not the war intervened. Yes, the war came
and with it came Hitler's fantastic programme for the extermination of the Jewish race.
Not being one with any deep political concern, Josef did not realize the seriousness
of the situation around him. When he did it was almost too late. His sister was fortunate
in somehow managing to escape the torture, humiliation and certain death of the concen-
tration camp, and his other two brothers, not so fortunate, had escaped the death camps
only to be killed trying to flee from Germany. Horror seized Josef. He gathered all his
wealth, and as fate and his wealth willed it, he managed to escape what had seemed in-
evitable, through the intricate back-doors exits of Germany into Belgium. He then travelled
unto Lisbon, incognito, thence to Brazil and northwards through Venezuela, Colombia
into Panama. He kept travelling northwards, always. He went through Costa Rica and
Nicaragua and into Guatemala. From a small Guatemalan port named Puerto Barrios,
he caught a mail boat which would have taken him to the capital of a British Protectorate,
Belize, from whence he had planned to travel to the United States of America, via Mexico,
to await the end of the war when he might be able to return to his home land.
But fate put in an interference. The mail boat got stuck on a shoal just outside a small
town one night and when he awoke next morning, he saw the sun like a big daisy cheese
above the horizon, looming down into the sea, like a mixture of ink and honey. Leewards,
he saw small white-wash timber houses, mingled amongst tall coconut trees, and an inward
voice kept saying to him, "go ashore, go ashore." He inquired from one of the sailors how
long they might stay there and the boatman replied that he did not know but what he did
know was that a tug-boat had been sent for to pull them off the shoal. Maybe in the next
ten hours, may be three days, no one knows in particular. He then asked if he might go
ashore and was told to do as he pleased so he went ashore.
And there destiny played a trick on him. From the time he set foot on the land he was
enchanted. The premonition came to him from nowhere that here it was that he, Josef Aben
al-Salaam must lay his bones, beneath the tall palm trees, in the morning sun and the after-
noon shades. He fell in love with the little place. And so it was that he sent aboard for his
belongings and made arrangements for boarding.
That is bow Josef Aben al-Salaam came to be a permanent residence of the small town
in British Honduras called Clarksdale. In a few days time he had managed to negotiate the
purchase of a dwelling house at a reasonable price. This he altered and shortly afterwards
opened a saloon. He employed a woman of forty to work for him named Anna Cano. He
later fell in love with her and married her and although their union was not blessed with
any children, they were happily married.
The Reincarnated Inn Keeper 29
Thus begins this story. It was the eve of Christmas in the year of our Lord nineteen
hundred and sixty. The year before of our Bleak "Hattie" Christmas. The weather was
very unfavourable and so was business. It was closing time. Josef looked through the back
door and saw his wife feeding some dogs. "Anna! Anna! For why you \ aste the food? For
always I tell you, I say "Anna, whenever there is any food left over put it in the ice box".
For why you think I paid forty dollars for this icebox? For an ornament?" Oh do, Josef,"
Anna replied, "that food is stale. It is not worthy for the dogs."
"But still you feed it to them. If you continue to beso extravagant, I will surely die a pauper."
"Tomorrow is Christmas. Josef. Nobody buys anything on Christmas. Everybody goes
to his friend's house and he is fed. Good food. People give people things on Christmas.
"Give, give, give. Always it is give. Never receive. If your Christmas comes two times
every year I would die a pauper."
"Bah, Josef, you never give nothing."
"No?" Asked Josef.
"No. Emphatic no. You can stay here with your stale food, I am going upstairs to get some
rest. Tomorrow I go to Mass early in the morning. Maybe you should come too, eh, Josef?"
"To your mass? Never. Never."
Anna carried her fat self up the stairs lazily. Josef remained downstairs closing the
windows. A sudden weariness came over him. He sat down on a chair and almost im-
mediately he heard a knocking on the door. He got up and went to answer it. When he
opened the door a chi'ly draft came into his warm place. He saw a young man, face as pale
as a flour sack. clothes ragged and damp. Hair unruly and wet, sticking to his head like a
wet fowl. Josef looked at him with a suspicious eye.
"Yes? What do you want? He inquiried.
"For myself, nothing," replied the stranger. "But for my wife, it is very necessary that I
find shelter for her tonight."
"I cannot help you," Josef said. Wishing the man would move-away so he could close his
door and be warm. He added, "I don't run a boardinghouse." "I know. I know., But you
see, I have tried everywhere and can't get a place to stay. My wife is expecting a baby at
any moment and she is not feeling so welL"
"I cannot help," Josef insisted. "For I have only one bedroom and it is for me and Anna,
"I have some money............ I will pay you."
"How much money you have?" Josef inquired eagerly.
.The stranger pushed his hand into his pocket and brought out three crumbled one dollar
bills which he placed delicately into Josefs outstretched palm.
"This is all? It is not enough".
"It is all I have," the stranger replied sadly.
Josef looked at him for a very long time, saw the sadness in the lines of his face, sia
his pitious condition and imagined the poor woman must be ever more wretched.
"All right. I will give you my storeroom."
The man looked at him gratefully and went to fetch his wife.
"I can give you no bedding, but you can use a few empty crocos sacks you may find in there.
Tomorrow you must find somewhere else to stay, understand?" "Oh, thank you. Thank
you very much. God bless you." The woman wailed. After his unwelcomned guests had
reclused to their simple quarters, Josef resumed his seat in the easy chair by the fire. His
thoughts reflexed on his past. Suddenly he fo'nd himself in a strange place-yet not strange
for the people, the atmosphere, and all, were familiar to him. It was a place he had known,
but a place buried so deep in his memory that recollection of its identity was obscured.
It was an inn. The night was cold, but inside was warm and so was the spirit of the partons
who drank wine freely and feasted on fowls and bread. The voices were boisterous and sing-
ing was gay-but soon it was allfading, fading. Then he was alone, in a place made grotesque
by discarded crumbs of bread and wine pouches and other nondescript pieces of waste.
He walked cautiously over the floor, moving towards the main door. Just as he was about
to close it he saw a man standing there, about to knock. He almost allowed himself to
close his door in the strangers face, taking him for some bum of disrepute. But he refrained
from doing so.
Local Short Stories
"What is it you want?" he asked, impatiently.
"We have travelled a long way, my wife and I, for the censor. But we are unfortunate in
that we cannot find any place to stay. My wife is bearing a child which she might give birth
any time now. Would you be good enough to shelter us for the night?"
"I am filled up too, my good man. Sorry I cannot help you."
The stranger looked around, filled with discouragement. Then his eyes caught a stable at
the end of the inn.
'That's my stable," he told the stranger as if reading his thoughts. "If you are not too
proud, you may find shelter amongst my oxen and donkey." "We are not too proud............
if there is no where else_.......... "
"But you must pay for its use. After all every thing these days cost money to run. Even a
stable, besides, you will be inconveniencing my animals." "We asked for nothing free,"
the stranger replied, paid the charges, and went forth towards the stable. He closed the
door and went upstairs.
But tried as he could he could not sleep. And when around midnight he chanced to
look through his window, he saw an extraordinary bright light coming from the stable-he
saw an angel! Then the voice-GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH
PEACE TO MEN OF GOOD WILL-the wise men-the Gold!
But before he could see anymore he awoke. He sat upright in his chair. He looked
around the inn. He got up and hurried to the storeroom. The stranger was sleeping peace-
fully beside his wife. A pathetic feeling assailed him. He looked down on them for a long
while, then went forward and shook the stranger. The young man looked up at him in-
"My friend.......... have.........I have a spare room upstairs .........if you want-......"
"I am sorry.....we don't have any more money."
"I know, I know. Here," he returned the three dollars the stranger had paid him for the
use of the storeroom, "take back your money. Wake your wife and come upstairs. The
bed is very warm and this storeroom leaks-really, if it begins to rain good and hard you
will be soaked before morning."
"Dont bother, come on upstairs with me."
Soon his boarders were comfortable in a nice large bed which had never been used
since the time it was placed there. Josef, feeling a sudden relief overcoming him, went to
his room. He stood in the darkness a long time, recalling the many tales he had heard of
the Christian's King who was born in a stable. How a hard-hearted inkeeper had turned
them away from his house. Yes, the stories told of a time long ago when a man and a woman
came to an inn, the woman was to bring forth a child into this world-a child who was
actually the Son of God. And now, this dream. Could it mean that he, Josef Aben al-Salaam,
was that inkeeper of so long ago, born again into this world so that he might repent?
He turned up the bedside lamp until he could see the peaceful look of contentment on
the contenance of his wife. He looked down on her and a smile played at the corner of
his mouth. He shook her gently.
She opened her eyes drowsily and sm led at him.
-"Anna, I had a dream-a strange dream. I dreamt...........I dreamt.-....oh, never mind."
"Anna, tomorrow-tomorrow, maybe I go to your mass with you, yes?"
"Fine, Josef," Anna smiled.
He felt cold and feeble, but soon he was comfortable for he had retired to his bed and
the warmth the ample body of his wife provided.
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THE THIRD DREAM
JOHN ALEXANDER WATER JR.
Max Lynch woke with a start, his thoughts disorientated, his mind drowsy and unfunc-
tional, trying to grasp at reality. Reality came slowly and began to take shape and the horri-
ble memory of his dream's revelation began to cement itself in his mind. Yes, reality came
with a sickening impact. Thick beads of perspiration began to ooze from his forehead, his
body experiencing a sudden tremor and his hands became as pale as the linen they clenched.
He :ot up, jumped off his bed, holding his loose pajama to prevent it from falling down
his feet and went downstairs. He went directly o his sideboard and extracted a fifth of brandy
from which he took a large swig. He followed it almost immediately with a similar size one
Then he stood up to face reality: He, Max Lynch, was going to die. He dreamt he was
going to die and he knew he was going to die.
Dreams are mere reproductions of incomplete thoughts-thoughts which linger on the
brink of the subconscious refusing to take any definite shape until the victims is asleep then
it comes on in fantasy. Now-a-days a dream is just one of those things which most people
use to extract hunches for numbers in the lotteries. Others merely disregard them upon a-
So why should our Mr. Max Lynch, a man of moderate educational background, with
Christian teachings and beliefs, place so much credence in a mere dream? Reflect upon these
past two dreams of Mr. Lynch, observe the accuracy of their revelations, and you will be en-
To begin with, Max Lynch was no dreamer. As a matter of fact, until the time of the
dream which prophesized his wife's death, all his dreams were incongruous and forgotten
before he awoke, even.
Born on Freetown road near Northside Town clock in Belize City, Max attended Holy
Redeemer Primary School and later went to St. John's College. During the early part of his
second year his father died and left his family in such an acute financial position that he was
forced to discontinue his schooling in order to earn something to help maintain his family.
Jobs were hard to come by but with a Priest's assistance he found a job as a messenger and
earned a few dollars to help his mother.
Seven months after his father's death, his mother died. One of his Aunts came down
from the United States to attend the funeral and when she was returning offered to take Max
back with her but he refused. She took Max's young brother.
Max Lynch prospered with the firm for whom he worked and was liked for his kindness
and good humor. When he was promoted to a travelling salesman andhis salary plus his
commission offered him enough money to maintain a family, Max married Hazel Mullins,
a very lovely young lady he had had as a girl friend for several years. They lived happily for
almost three years without their union being blessed with an offspring, but they both knew
that nothing was wrong with either of them, and that it was only a matter of time before their
first child made its appearance.
One sultry afternoon in the month of May, Max Lynch kissed his wife goodbye and left
for Punta Gorda to carry out his regular assignment in the Southern District. That night as
he lay on his bunk sleeping peacefully, Max had his first dream. In it a man appeared to him
and told him his wife was going to die on Friday, 31st May, at 12 o'clock. Unlike his other
dreams, Max Lynch remembered this one very clearly, but put it aside as ridiculous
Local Short Stories
He arrived safely at Punta Gorda and carried out his work with the same efficiency with
which he did everything. During the first week he thought nothing of his dream-as a matter
of fact, he did not even remember it. Then suddenly, two days before the prophesied date
of his wife's death, the memory of his dream came back to him. It was during his hour re-
spite, when he would take time off to relax and think about his Hazel and how much he
missed her, that the memory of the dream came back. He thought it was nostalgia which
brought it on, yet for the next twenty-four hours he could not despense with the thought of
On the night of May 30th, Max Lynch was unable to sleep. By morning he had come
to the definite conclusion that he must go to Belize. By 10:30 a.m. on the 31st he was on the
little single engine plane as it taxied off the Aviation field and raised its nose towards Belize
like a giant bird.
Relaxed against the cushions inside the plane, apprehension mounted in him. However,
he managed to catch a small nap for he was over exhausted and weary from a sleepless night.
At twenty minutes to twelve the plane landed at the Belize City municipal Air Post. He
hurried inside the office and rang for a taxi, then went outside and waited impatiently for
it to arrive. The taxi did not arrive until seven minutes to twelve.
"Step on the gas," Max said, "for I have an important appointment for twelve."
"Yes sah", replied the driver and the taxi was bolting ahead as if kicked by a giant foot.
Soon they were in the City and on Max's street. He paid off the driver and began to run to-
wards his gate. Then he saw his wife coming along chatting with another woman, holding a
handbag carelessly in her hand. His wife and her companion parted company, yet lingering
to get off a last word. Max saw the car coming from the Barracks at a deadly speed, ignor-
ing the large sign painted on the street which said STOP. He saw the car swaying, its driver
losing control. He looked at his wife approaching him, smiling, unaware of the impending
danger behind her.
"Hazel, look out! Behind you!"
But it was too late. The car was already upon her. She swung around and threw her
hands over her face to protect herself but the car caught her squarely in the midsection lift-
ing her like a rag doll, tossing her somefive feet in the air. Then she fell, her head in the dirty
drain and her feet on the street Max Lynch ran to his wife, knelt down and lifted her dis-
torted head into his lap. He sat, rocking her, calling her name. He couldn't cry, for a hard
lump. was at. his throat. Hazel was dead. Then he heard it. The town clock striking twelve.
That was.his first dream.
Forover a.year he lived in a stupor. He was sacked from his job with much reluctance
because he had taken up to drinking very hard. They promised to give him the same job
as soon as he recovered from the aftermath of his wife's death.
.Then one day as if everything had been erased from his memory, by a divine hand, Max
Lynch gave up, his drinking, took hold of his old self and returned to work where he was re-
ceived with great joy.
But two weeks after he started to work he dreamt again. Again the man in his first
dream came back to him, this time telling him the numbers to buy in the Sunday Lottery.
He did so and was only mildly surprised when he heard that his numbers played and that he
won a most considerable amount of money.
Tbit ws hiis second dream.
And now, his third dream. This time the very same man appeared to him and told him
that he, Max Lynch was going to die!
In this world with its billions of inhabitants, fate oftentimes visit upon some individuals
sufferings and .distresses unknown to others, and most often those poor unfortunate ones
ask: 'Why n.? What have I done to deserve suchfate?' But no one could answer those
questions. So 'when Max asked himself: 'What hade I done? Whj me? Why must I suffer
thus? .He could, have no answerfoir those are unanswered questions since time begun.
He looked at his watch, it was twenty four minutes past seven. The man had told him
he would die this very day at seven-thirty. Sunday, October 6th at seven-thirty, the man had
said. He had only six minutes to live. He walked to the centre of his house and looked a-
round. Could it be that some culprit, knowing that he had won so much money was about
The Third Dream
to try to rob him and will kill him in the process? He searched his house hurridly but saw no
one. One thing he knew, if death was coming to him, it must come to him in his own house
because he was not going to make a step outside. Not one step. He was going to stay right
in there, free from all dangers of the outside world. Suddenly he had a strong claustropho-
bia and had a strong urge to run outside in the open, bu t he stayed right there. Now, he
had only four minutes.
He knew death was coming. He could feel it in the atmosphere, smell it in the air. But
in what manner he could not tell. But he knew it must be in the room with him.
Three and a half more minutes to live. Not a very long time.
What he needed, he assured himself, was a drink. He must pick up his bearings, keep
calm. Let death come and he would fight it to the end. But who ever won over death? No-
body. Yes, he needed a drink, some soporific which will recluse him temporary from death
until, tired of waiting, death must eventually go away. But he knew death never postponed
its mission, not ever. He went to the sideboard and poured himself a four-finger and sent
it down the hatch with one gulp.
Three minutes more.
The spirit burnt a stream down his stomach. He felt his spirits being revitalized. But
death was three minutes away around the corner. IHe went to his door and made sure the
bolt was secured. Maybe the thief was dodging him this minute, waiting for his opportunity
to strike. He stood in the centre of his living room, feet apart, eyes wide with fear. He looked
up at the ceiling: would it come crashing down on me? The beams looked strong. Whence
shall death come?
Two minutes to live.
His throat was dry-vitriolic. His tongue heavy. Maybe he should take another drink.
But he was afraid to move for his knees felt weak and wobblish. He tried to feel his pulse
but could not locate it. This made him frantic. He began to move about like a crazy man
now, in a macabre fashion.
He had only one minute more.
He thought he felt the house shaking. He swayed drunkenly towards the sideboard,
stL.1.yi;ng himself. His knees might buckle under him any minute now. Trying to pour the
liquid in the glass was a difficult job and he spilled a lot of the spirit in the process. Then he
brought the glass up to his mouth with both hands, hearing it tingling against his knashing
teeth. He was leaning on the sideboard for total support. He began a violent spasmodic
Then he realized his mistake. He should never had taken the stuff. It was drowning
him. He had taken too large a mouthful and now he was choking, the brandy running
through his nose, down his cheeks and mingling with his saliva again. He was a pitiful
Fifteen more seconds.
The old grandfather clock over the mantlepiece was ticking away with haste and rather
noisily. Too noisily. He felt as if the whole building was being vibrated by its ticking. He
kept coughing. Now he was suffocating. He grasped at the collar of his pajama shirt,
binding it tightly around his neck choking himself in the process. He fell to the floor,
fighting,cowering, crouching, struggling violently with himself.
Five more seconds..........four .........three ..........two ...........
That was the hour.
The struggling was over. H-e lay still on the floor, faintly breathing. Then his ears caught
it-the striking of the town clock. He counted the strokes: One, two, three, four, five, six,
seven, eight'. Eight o'clock! He lept to his feet. Then it came to him: last night they had
advanced the town clock by half an hour and he had forgotten to advance his watch and
clock. It was not seven thirty but eight o'clock. Eight o'clock and he was alive. He had
cheated death. He had won over death.
Not this time, Mr. death, not this time. He began to laugh. Then he was crying. But
Ihis tears of joy. The joy of still being alive.
JOHN A. WATER JR.
He was the biggest man I have seen-Ripford Harper was.
He stood six feet seven, the feet of his trousers rolled up just below the knees, wearing
shirt-sleeves and a small chef's barret at right angle on his semi-triangular head from under
which thick, short cropped hair protruded. His hands, incredibly long and hairy dangled
awkwardly at his side. He was a perfect picture of a shaved ape, duded up for the late late
Jack, my brother and I had just arrived in Dovehead and had hurried to the annual
post hunting contest barbeque to meet Dad. He had written us so much about the expecta-
tions of the villagers of a most wonderful time on this occasion, and had made it sound so
interesting, that we just couldn't wait to get there.
Rip Harper, as he was called by everyone, was the hero of the day as be had been on
such occasions for over a decade. He had carried away most of the hunting prizes and when
Dad took us to his camp, we found him among his souvenirs. Boar's teeth, deer horns,
tiger hides and relics of other beast which had fallen by his hands made up the collections of
his "souveniers". There were several camps, each for a hunter. It was an honour to be the
invited guest of Rip Harper.
Rip Harper boasted of the finest roast on the whole grounds. He was roasting a large
buck over a huge fire, filling the atmosphere with an aroma tantalizing to the nostrils.
"Rip, I want you to meet my boys, Jack and Bernard. They couldn't make it for the hunting
contest but here they are for the barbeque." "Fine pair of boys you have Sam. Sorry they
missed the hunting fun. Sorry Ma didn't give me two fine bucks instead of those two girls,
ha." I took his extended hand and felt a steel clamp clasp my feeble hand. For a while I
thought my hand was going to crumble in his. Never was I so glad to end a hand shake.
"I am glad to meet you, Mr. Harper", I said shakily. Jack followed suit and I watched his
face changed about three shades of completion before Rip Harper released his grip.
Our host rubbed the palms of his hands together frequently as if excited by something.
This, and his regular use of the word "ha" were peculiar characteristics I could not help to
observe. "Why don't you boys take a look around my place? But remember don't touch
anything. I will let you in on a little secret of this trade, one touch-the slightest touch of
rough hands take years off a deer horn. Go on, look around, ha."
We accepted his invitation and moved inside his tent, looking at his souveniers. We
compared deer horns, boars' teeth and other relics to try to determine which was the most
unique. We concluded that a set of boars' teeth about four or five inches long were the best.
"A King-Kong even," remarked Jack. "And where are the two girls he sired to his dismay?
I bet they look like Annabella, the old hog that does our laundry at the campus."
"Four bits say you are wrong," I challenged.
"A bet, dear brother."
"See those two pert chics approaching from the rostrum, another two bits say they are Rip
"What! You lack imagination, dear brother Slim," (My brother always calls me Slim caus-
ing others to do likewise. I am not slim but he says I remind him of Slim Pickings-ha), he
said in his flowery language. "An I hate like the dickings to relieve you of your petty allow-
ances so effortlessly, but because of your numbskullity, I have no alternative but to accept
your additional bet."
Bitter-Sweet Revenge 35
The two girls came towards the tent, then went towards Dad who was watching Rip
Harper barbequing his deer. Jack and I followed them.
"You girls having a wonderful time, ha?" inquired Rip Harper.
"Oh yes, Pa," they replied together.
"Hey fellas," called Rip Harper looking up seeing us, "come over here and meet my daughters
Joanie and Sylvia. These here are Sam Madison's two boys, Jack and Bernard."
The hand shaking was a contrast to those with their father. Later I collected six bits from
Jack. vhich he paid ruefully.
Sylvia was the younger of the two girls, about my age. She was also the more lovlier. Her
body was perfect. A masterpiece sculpture, moulded by the hands of an infinite a rtist. A
masterpiece indeed! Her hazel brown hair was facinatingly illuminated by the low glow of
the barbeque's fire. Her smile which was disarming, went directly where she sent it to your
heart and places beyond. Her eyes, oh what lovely eyes!--How much more they added to
I talked with her, small talk, and after many awkward tries and suggestions, I finally
came out with an invitation to dance, which she readily accepted. I could not help to steal
glances at her lovely profile as we danced. She was a superb dancer. The first few steps were
most uncomfortable for me. Our nearness, the coziness of the lights, the suggestion of
romance in the atmosphere, and the lovely music did nothing to improve my awkward state,
I felt a hard lump forming in my throat and thought I would sound hoarse if ever I attempted
to speak. But gradually, as we danced I became more at ease and before a set was through
I was really ha, ing a wonderful time.
I was very sad when time came for her t go i ome. All she left me with was a faint
promise that we might see each other again. The memories of i er loveliness, her charms,
her intelligence, were imbedded in my mind. I had to face the fact I was in love with
tylvia Har, er.
Several days : d passed and I did not see her. I was nct ,enjr: mg myself in Dovehead
the way I had anticipated, all because of my lovesickness. Then one day, while I was brood-
ing over my lost love, Jack came up to me and said.
"Why the gloomy contenance, dear brother?"
"Do I look gloomy? And if so, what is it to you?", I asked hotly, not being in any mood for
any of his wisecracks.
"Your gloominess protrudes like a sick toe: Boy-ibus see-ibus pretty girl-orum, boy-ibus
love-ibus pretty girl-orum, but boy-ibus can't-ibus see-ibus pretty girl-orum."
I kept silent.
"Reticent, eh? And the answer is Sylvia. I am wise, dear brother, so worry no more. Soon
you shall see your Sylvia, and thanks to me."
He had something up his sleeves I knew. He always grins like a cheshire cat whenever
he had something up his sleeves.
"'Okay, okay, let's hear it," I said.
He said, "I have news for you, dear brother....."
"Well, spill it and for heaven sake, cut out the "dear brother" bit."
"As you wish, dear brother-you go for the Sylvia kid, right?."
"What is it to you?"
"I go for Joanie too, but in a big way, I must confess."
"Gee, good. So now we know."
"Don't be sarcastic, dear Slim. Tonight you see your Sylvia and thanks to me."
He is a born braggart, I thought.
"Gee thanks a million, dear brother. What do we do, kidnap Rip Harper?"
"Nothing so melodramatic, Slim, I have a simple plan."
"Please don't tell me, Jack." I pleaded.
"Huh?" He asked in surprise.
Local Short Stories
I kept remembering the countless times Jack had gotten me into scraps. And the funny
thing about him is that he himself is never caught. I am always the one left holding the bag.
A bagaboo. He reminded me of that mythical character of wittism known as brear Arnancy,
who is famous for his tricks of every conceivable sorts played on other characters and he is
never hurt. His motto is two troubles are better than one and what is the use of getting into
trouble without being able to get out. And he always gets himself into the most impossible-
to-get-out-of spots and invariable gets out smiling-like Mohamed Ali Clay.
I could never forget the time Jack and I tied an ear of corn to Old Esau's goat horn. The
poor beast tried and tried to get the corn which was dangling just above its nose. After
discovering it could not reach the corn, the goat went frantic, fell over a bank side and broke
its neck. I was terribly frightened but Jack was calm. Just then we saw Old Esau coming
along and Jack adopted an atmosphere of vexation.
"Mr. Esau; Sir, Slim and I were just passing through your pasture and look what we found.
One of your goats brutally murdered by some sadist. But don't you worry none, Sir, because
I am going to find him and when I do I will give him a licking he will never forget." A drop
of tear fell from Jack's eye and had I not seen him and actually aided him in his mischievous
act, I would have pushed my hands to fire for him.
"Don't worry, son," Old Esau said. "Whoever done it will get his punishment from up yon-
der." He pointed towards the sky.
Jack was like that!
"Humiliation I can stand," I said.
"Don't you trust me, Slim?"
"Sure I do. Like I trust a practical joker at a gag-party. Only less."
"There is no harm in hearing out my plan, is there?"
"I.... I guess not."
"Good. I did a bit of sleuting around while you were brooding over the fact that you could
not see your dame. Both you and I know that Old Rip don't cater to young bucks go fooling
around his girls. There is hell to pay to whosoever he catches. There are several stories
about what he did to different boys he caught around his place. Like the Mayor's son he
caught necking with Joanie in the garden. Gave him a good walloping, he did. And there
was not a thing the Mayor could do about it. Peeved he was, but nothing he could do. But
then, nobody does anything to Rip Harper in this man's town--just nobody.
"But you and I are city guys. We are smart. Listen, Slim, tonight at eight Rip goes to
Cash Burns place to play stud poker. He goes every Wednesday night, and sometimes
doesn't return until midnight. So while he is gone we move in. Simple, isn't it?"
"It sounds simple, but suppose he returns suddenly-what then?"
"Suppose Mr. Compose never had any nose.....we got to take the chance, boy. Life is made
up of chances, or didn't you know?"
"Yeah, I know, but your type of chances usually take a man to his grave."
"Okay, okay. Let's dispense with the palabras and come to a conclusion: are you going or
are you not going?"
A man knows when he is trapped. I was. I knew. I agreed to go along. Apprehension
mounted as we waited behind a clump ofhibuscus waiting for Rip Harper's departure. He
left home at exactly eight o'clock. I was beginning to believe that for once Jack might not
get me in any trouble.
We gave him five minutes grace then crossed the street and went into Rip Harper's yard.
We climbed the step-Jack moving ahead bravely and me lagging behind, my apprehensions
now replaced by a sweet anticipation of seeing Sylvia.
Jack knocked, on the door politely. We waited. Presently Joanie opened the door.
"Oh!" she gasped, putting her hand over her mouth.
"Goodnight, my lovely," said Jack. "You are indeed a sight to sour eyes."
"Who is it?" came a voice from within. Sylvia's melodious voice.
"Come see for yourself.....Jack, what are you doing here? If Dad should catch you....."
"Have no fear my sweet. But tell me, are you glad to see us?"
"Of course we are," came the simultaneous reply as Sylvia came out a bedroom.
"Good. Aren't you going to invite us within your humble threshold?"
"Yes, do come in." Said Sylvia.
We went inside.
The four of us stood looking at each other awkwardly for a few moments not knowing
what to say. Then Jack broke the spell.
"Are you girls glad to see us?"
"Of course we are," they replied simultaneously once more.
"Why don't you and Sylvia take a walk in the garden, Slim?" he suggested.
"A good idea," I agreed.
"Suits me," said Sylvia.
I took her hands and we walked through the rear door into the garden. The night air
was fresh, and a faint scent of chrysanthemums came to my nostrils. The garden was dark,
with only the faint glow from the house aiding visibility. We sat on a small bench and talked.
Sylvia's mother died when she was born and her father played the part of father and
mother. He had never thought of marrying anyone again, for he loved his daughters too
much to trust their care to any other woman who might not treat them the right way.
Maybe half an hour had elapsed and when I held her she came willingly into my arms,
our lips met hungrily, sending a thousand thrills into my being beyond imagination. Our
embrace lingered when_"Ha, what I have here?" Rip Harper asked.
His hand, like a twenty pound mall rested on my shoulder, its grip gradually tightening.
I stood in rigid immobility, not knowing whether to scream or keep silent. I wished the
ground would have opened and swallowed me.
"Go to the house, Sylvia. I am gonna teach this brat a lesson he'll never forget."
Sylvia went into the house.
"Sam Madison's boy, ha. Now why in the world would you want to sneek into my premises
trying to see my daughter?"
"I..._.I was only...........
"Was only what? I saw you, boy, and when I saw you I could read your thoughts and they
were not at all good thoughts."
I wondered about Jack, and felt a tinge of relief knowing that Sylvia would warn him.
"I could give you a good wallop, boy, but I have a better plan." He grinned. A nasty grin.
I thought something, some screw had faltered in Mr. Rip Harper's structure.
"Come with me, boy."
I followed him through a narrow path leading into the rear of the garden. He led me to
a small house where he kept a huge bulldog of incredible ugliness. My spirit fell. What was
he going to do with me?
"Now boy, I am going to count to ten and you are going to climb up that mango tree. Then
Iam going to left Lizzie here keep vigil over you. If you try to escape she is going to tear
you to bits, ha"
"But_" I tried to protest, but he interrupted.
"One_...two.....three...." I was already up the tree.
He went off without saying anything else. I think I cried a bit. The night was pitch dark
now. Below I was just able to discerne the form of the horrible monster. Then a swarm of
mosquitoes came along and made life so miserable that I wished Rip Harper had given me a
good walloping and sent me home. It was there in the darkness, that 1 decided that I was
going to do something to Rip Harper. Something that would hurt him as much as he was
A moon had come up and maybe I had drowsed off a bit between those branches because
I had lost track of time when I heard a voice below calling. "All right, come down, boy."
I climbed down.
"Maybe I am getting a bit soft here," he touched his chest above his heart. "I am going to
give you a chance, boy, ha. But let me warn you that if you loose your foolish head and come
back here again I am going to skin your hide, understand?"
38 Local Short Stories
I was far too angry with Rip Harper to make any reply. Ijust walked out of his garden.
At the gate he told me that I could have climbed down that tree and walked out of the
garden and Lizzie wouldn't have done a thing, except maybe lick my hands.
I walked away that morning with deep bitterness, filled with a feeling of revenge so
strong that I could almost taste it in my mouth. If there were any possibility of obtaining a
gun, I would have returned, called out Mr. Harper and killed him.
At home my brother was very apologetic, saying that he had just had time to escape
himself and had he made any attempt to warn me, both of us would have been caught. Ches
Burns had fallen ill suddenly and the weekly poker game was postponed. Thus the reason
for Rip Harper's unexpected return home.
It could be detrimental to both man's mental and physical status if his pride is injured.
More so, if his pride is in himself, his ability and his notority. The plan which I had conceived
to even my score with Rip Harper was one that could injure his pride deeply. He might
never be the same man again if I succeeded. But, 1 rationalized, "Tit for tat". So, having
come to the appointed time and place, I hid myself and waited for our Mr. Harper.
He came to the pond at five o'clock as usual, stripped off every stitch of his clothing and
plunged himself into the cold black water. When he had swam out into the centre of the pond,
I came out and took up all his clothes, with the exception of his boots and shouted after him.
"How'd you like to walk through Dove Head naked, Mr. Harper?"
"Hey I Put down those clothes at once," he bellowed after me.
"Why don't you come and get them," I replied.
He began to swim towards me. For a moment I thought of putting down his clothes and
run to save my skin, then I remembered myself between those branches tortured by mos-
quitoes, his horrible monster keeping vigil under me, and his laughter at my discomfiture and
those inseparable thoughts drove me onwards with his clothes, thinking not of the conse-
quences which might have resulted from my actions, but of my satisfaction in seeing him hurt.
Getting into town otherwise than through the one narrow dirty street was impossible,
more so in one's nakedness, since the whole area was infested with sickening thorn wisp
known as 'tear-my-coat.' The people of Dove Head seldom visited that area and nobody
save Rip Harper was ever known to swim in the pond which looked as if it were the home of
horrible monsters. The water is very cold even at noon when the sun is hottest. The colour
of the water is blackish brown. He was definitely not able to linger in there for a very long
while. He would have to stay by the creek side and wait for me or walk through the town
nude.Either way I would have my revenge. I went home and had supper.
Night came to Dove Head, and with it a swarm of mosquitoes as per usual. I relished
the thought of Rip Harper's misery as he was being tortured in his nakedness by those dis-
gusting little insects. I felt no pity. I returned to the spot, where I had hidden his clothes, at
eight o'clock, intending to give him one more hour, just to even the score some more, then
give him his clothes. But only half an hour had past when I heard approaching noises, From
my rendezvous I could see several lighted torches. That meant it was a search party, which
made my plans work out even better than I had anticipated. They passed me and when the
last person went by I followed.
"Here are his shoes!" some one shouted.
"Rip Harper! Rip Harper! Yahooooo." Everybody shouted and shouted.
"I see no clothes," a police officer remarked.
*"Maybe he caught a sudden heart attack and fell into the pond," another suggested.
They searched the entire area and found no sign of Mr. Rip Harper. Joan and Sylvia
-were weeping mornfully. I felt sorry for them. If their father had really drown I was the one
responsible. Suppose the police would find out I was the one who hid his clothes, forcing
him to remain in the cold water, thereby catching a cramp which resulted in his death? Surely
I would be the one who would be arrested and charged with his murder. They searched
along the creek side almost from one corner to the other.
Bitter-Sweet Revenge 39
They took sticks and pushed it into the water where it was assumed he would have fallen
from and got no result. Two hours the search continued fruitlessly.
"It's hopeless," the police officer said mopping his head with a damp handkerchief. "If he
is down there, there is very little we can do. We must return tomorrow with a dory and
some divers to get him up...........Okay you boys over there, call it off for the night".
Sylvia and Joanie became hysterical. Someone from the crowd came forward and
assisted. They were led away crying hysterically. I wanted to go and help Sylvia, but I felt
unclean to touch her, being her father's murder.
"Rip Harper was a good man," someone from the crowd remarked.
The word "was" sent around and a shiver of fear and realization went through me.
Realization that Rip Harper was dead and that I, Bernard Madison, was his murderer. Why
did I do such a foolish thing?
In misery and anguish I followed the crowd. 1 kept calling myself a murderer. I mur-
dered the father of the girl I loved. I thought the best course I could take would be to go and
make a clean confession. Then I told myself that no one had seen me go to the pond. No
one had seen me remove Rip Harper's clothes while he was bathing. Would there be a
possibility that no one might suspect that I was in any way connected with his death? There
were all possibilities.
In town I followed the crowd to Rip Harper's house where some women were waiting.
Amongst them was my mother. I did not want to see her neither did I want to talk to anyone.
I was in a confused state of mind and my tongue might make a slip and give myself away.
So I kept at a distance. Then I decided to go back to the pond. Why, I did not know, but
I guess that there is a truth in the saying that all criminals must return to the scene of their
crime. On my way I stopped and picked up his clothes. Was he a criminal? If so what
really was his motive for causing the death of Harper. Was it not merely an unfortunate
circumstance? I sat at the edge of the pond crying silently. I looked down at his oversize
shirt and trousers and my fears and anguish increased. I wanted to jump into the chilled
water then and drown myself. I got up slowly, cupped my mouth and called out his name.
"Rip Harper! Rip Harper! Rip Harper! "
No reply. So I tried again.
Still no reply.
I could feel the wet tear drops making an avenue towards my mouth. They tasted salt.
What was I to do? How could I ever face Sylvia again, being her father's murderer? Oh
my sweet Sylvia, never shall I taste your sweet lips, never shall I feel the nearness of your
soft enticing body. Never again shall your smile fill my soul with joy. O foolish me.
I stayed by the side of the pond for a long time. Somewhere in the forests a whip-o-will
called for its mate and got a reply. Everywhere there was the buzz of crickets. I was alone
with spirit of a deadman. I began to shiver and became frightened. Then I made up my
mind to return to town, and go at once to my father. I would confess to him and he must
be able to advise me what to do. I knew he would tell me to go to the police. I will do his
Then out of the darkness a large hand rested on my shoulder. I almost fainted.
"Ha, a murderer returning to the scene of his crime." he said.
"Oh Mr. Harper I exclaimed. Never being so happy to see any one in my life.
"I should kill you boy. I should kill you for what you done me tonight," he said.
I could not see his expression in the darkness. I wish I could.
"But I won't harm you," he continued. "I am going to take you to the police." Now that
he was alive, the superficial joy of seeing him was gone and I began to think about what
would happen to me for my crime. I would be charged for mischevious act and could go
to jail for sixty days. Sixty days and I would not be able to return to school.
Local Short Stories
He took up his clothes and began to put them on. His bigness did not make him clumsy.
His movements were graceful and swift. When he bent to put on his trousers, his face came
near mine and I caught a glimpse of the expression of his face. His brows were tightly
knitted, his eyes wild and his teeth clenched. He was struggling. A battle with himself to
restrain from doing me something violent.
"Come", he said when he was clothed.
I followed him into town in silence. I was tempted to make a dash and run away from
him. But knowing his reputation as a hunter and the knowledge of the type of forests I
would have to penetrate, I considered otherwise. At the edge of town he stopped.
"Sam Madison would lick you for this and the police would jail you. What made you do it
I remained silent.
"'Mad at me for what I did to you the other night, eh?" He asked. Still I made no reply.
We remained silently for a while, then he burst out into laughter. I thought he was going
mad. The vibration of his laughter seemed to shake the very ground on which I stood.
"Go home, Slim," he said. He called me Slim.
"B ut .................... B ut............... Sir .........."
"Go home my boy," he said. He continued laughing. "Never have I seen such a neat one
performed. Even in my anger you have won my respect, boy. You always even your score,
"I am sorry I did that to you, Sir,"
"There is nothing to be sorry about, son. I did you a mean trick and you did one back to me,
so we are even, ha,"
,'WelL..........s.....ir, I guess we are," I replied.
"Shake." He offered me his hands. That steel clamp of a hand. I took it. "No hard feelings.
But mention nothing to anybody about what happened tonight. I will cook up a story
and you can come and visit my Sylvia anytime you want".
Rip Harper is dead now and I am married to Sylvia. He did not die from my act. I
feel free to tell this story.
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