Cuento 1: “Enter: don Douglas” (894 words)
What power a dinky word like don has! I’ve been elevated in Teote to don Douglas, with nary a sword to my shoulders, I’m sorry to say, nor any swearing-in ritual, not even a bending of my now aristocratic knee, after a swirl of my Zorro cape around my soon-to-be-skinny frame. I’ve always loved costumes. A CMC Theatre star for many years, I played Sancho Panza in Man of la Mancha, so I understand eccentric dons and impossible dream fulfillment. I’ve also played Bottom, the blustering ass in Midsummer Night’s Dream, who wakes, enchanted by magic dust, with a donkey’s head on his shoulders and with Titania, Queen of the Faeries, wildly in love with him.
That part fits, too, especially en la mañanita, though I’m quieter, with tiny ears, and am acquainted, as we shall see, only through real estate deals with la Faerie Queen. I stole both shows, with raves. However, I’m a don not for my stage presence, but because I now own sufficient land in Teote to actualize dreams, my way, like that other don—Quixote de Quijana--and because the villandry here find me a wise viejito, also, a loco fool, a good balance for playing don Douglas Betanco to the cosmic hilt, on my own medieval fiefdom in bloody Nicaragua.
Yes, you may kiss my silver ring, if you insist, my child. And, por favor, my guests, bienvenidos a “Tierra Mia.” We blaze hospitalidád con gusto on our brightest white, starched and ironed Oxford-cloth shirtsleeves, here in the omnipresent dust of the Dry.
Don Douglas Betanco de Palomas y Quacamaya y Colorado! Quite a handle to live up to, though I’ve been that, really, for years, one loco knight errant for justice, a private global warrior, and, while wordy, un trovador seeking verdad y gracias, with sweep of sombrero, at your service. Don Douglas is eager, as a landed aristocrat de Nicaragua, to rescue dimpled damsels—old toothy dragons, for that matter—or peons, es cierto, at a handkerchief’s drop, a fetid snort of breath or a cry from mi hermanos. Just call me on mi cellular, and I’m rearing en caballo, my sword aloft like Old Zorro, 25 years imprisoned, raring to go por Libertad y campesinos, with Spanish-American-Colonial-Class--ah, well, just like me! May I be worthy of this noble though intensely-abusive tradition!
Let’s try again, what say you, without abuse this time?
Old Zorro, eh? Anthony Hopkins, with his crystalline eye? Not bad, don Douglas, CMC Profesor de Ingles, Emeritus, gracias a Diós, especially now I’ve dropped almost a hundred pounds of fat and a ton of student papers. Hoo-Hah! Old Zorro it will be, when I can fit into the skinny black Levis I brought down, for the Palomas Mascarada in April. Hah! I’d better start doing sit-ups, pronto!
Oh, of course, señorita, I love the movie. The Mask of Zorro’s the only DVD in English at la casa de palomas, so I watch it anytime I want an Ingles fix. I’m totally immersed in Spanish, a treat for the ear: I love the liquidambar flow of spoken Español, more harmonious by far than harsh American English. “Church” is hardly the sound to sing the soul of “Iglésia.”
Ah, si, señor. Zorro’s a personal hero. He was, after all, don Diego de la Vega, so we’ve mucho in common besides Spanish, including great charm. It comes, after all, with the don territory. I wish I had a cave under “Tierra Mia,” for my fencing lessons, but I’ll never be Antonio Banderas. We’ll have a walking maze in the jardin, though, and plenty of happy peasants, hats in hand, singing my noble praises. Please, mi señora, check out Martita’s impatiens by the entrance here. Rosada, sí, y blanca, y roja y coral! Marta plants them for happy welcome to palomas.
Now, about that rearing horse: Triunfo’s my sweet pensionado present. I bought this macho horse, a caballo pinto grande, more hands high than most here, for stud as well as genteel country living, as soon as I discovered my don-dom. Who could even think himself a gentleman without a horse? In Spanish, “horseman” and “gentleman” are the same, caballero, and, Diós sabe, I’m a “cosmic cowboy,” total. Sometimes, I even stay saddled, though it’s iffy, so I don’t really rear that often. Never, to be truthful. I’m definitely a “Keep-it-at-a-nice-slow-walk-for-now, Triunfo!” caballero.
I‘m getting lessons. Mi hijo Ramon, 23, born on un caballo, has taken me under his wing. He wants me bone-whole, as do I. A perfect Nica country squire’s macho younger son, he helps me by choice in my dotage here. He worries that Triunfo, spirited steed, will bolt, a whirlwind of lust, frothing, no doubt, while I, clung orangutan-tight, entangled in his whitewater mane, hurl deranged mea culpas to Cielo, “Vaya con Diós!” to cheering peasants and “Sit! Sientese, por favor!” to my horny horsy, all the bucking way to the volcanoes.
“Tio Mame” in Nicaragua! So much for knightly dignity. I pray I don’t lose my new sword.
This is not really that unlikely a scenario: not of the fox-hunting set, I’m hardly a horseman, yet. Ramon’s teaching me caballo control, primero. Even a don de Palomas y Quacamaya y Colorado should learn the ropes, first, with a devoted maestro de caballos, playing it seguro with his brand-new-brightly-painted-slightly-frisky toy, my celebration-season-Triunfo, here in “Tierra Mia," Nicaragua