Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pushing the River

While on my power walk down the Roaring Fork bike path in Glenwood last week, I sat on a bench, winded, watching the snowmelt flood by, and thought, once again, “I’ve chosen a great place to live!” Since 1973, after a 15 year westward migration from New Jersey, I’ve called the High Country my home, and, in 1993, I fit Glenwood’s Sister City, Teote, Nicaragua, into that space as well. “Home” is as our hearts define it: mine now extends to all the Americas and out to the rest of the world. It’s made me a bigger person.

A young Hispanic man sat down on the bench. “I recognize your face, Sr. Evans Betanco,” he said, “from your Post Independent articles, and I have some questions. My name is Noë.” He spoke in heavily-accented English. I jumped at the chance to practice my Spanish, and he, his second language, so we jabbered away bilingually, a global delight. Then, he asked me if war still raged in Nicaragua, a question I’m asked often, with a complex answer.

“No,” I said, “there’s no war, not with mortars and guns. The Contra War’s been over since 1989. But yes, even so, there’s economic war between the rich and poor worlds, a vast tension from in- and outside Nicaragua, with no real middle: as a result, Nica’s ruined in all but spirit, perhaps irreversibly.”

“It’s the same in Chihuahua for most of my family: not many dreams for campesinos, except to move north,” the young man remarked. “If there were hope for the poor within Mexico, I probably wouldn’t be in this fragrant valley,” he said, smelling the coldness of snow in the river, the sweet rocket blooming. “I love it here, too, but I’d live where that hummingbird’s been, at the house of my grandfather. I’d be helping him plant corn on the hillsides, running with his horses.”

“Ah, yes,” I nodded. “Many forces converge to keep the poor in hopeless poverty, south of Texas. The Sandinistas triumphed in 1979, but their freedoms were stolen away, again, by external economic pressure and an illegal travesty of an American-sponsored war.”

“That’s sad.” His eyes followed a stick of driftwood carried on the surface of the water.

“The global economy needs the entrenched rural poor to do its agricultural handwork for slave wages, to keep prices down in the north,” said the college professor in me. “There’s no opportunity allowed. So, rather than revolution, which no one wants now, a third of Teote’s youth have come up the rivers for hope, fighting against the world’s current. They work here to purchase freedom down there for their families, with money they can’t earn in the calculated exploitation of Nicaragua’s poor.”

“It is the same in the mountain valleys of Chihuahua.” Relentlessly, the river rushed to dwindle in California.

“It’s the same all over the Southern Hemisphere. Humanity's witnessing the greatest migration of peoples ever, from Africa and Asia, from Central and South America, moving north to countries with work and money, not just here in the States.”

“And sending much of their earnings back south,” said Noë, “to feed grandparents, to buy land for a better future. My job after high school has bought me an acre in Mexico. I’m a landowner now; in a few years, it’ll be in my name. If I’d stayed in Chihuahua, I’d own just the second-hand clothes on my back.”

“We’re freedom fighters, you and I, each in his way. If you’re any indication, mi amigo, I’d say the Hispanics are winning the war, this time.”

We smiled at each other. He straightened with pride, glowed with the prescience of youth, and whispered, “Both sides will win in the end, over time, you’ll see, my friend. It’s not a war. We want only to live, to breathe free, to contribute.” He bowed his head as a breeze whiffed across the Roaring Fork, cooling our faces.

I felt like a very young man for a moment.

The river pushed past. The rocks in its channel tumbled, grinding, clicking beneath the swish of its waters.

Gracias, CenterDoug

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I Do Love My Ducks: Do You?

I do love my ducks, living ones in Teote, art ones here, and metaphysical ones all over, joying-up existence. I raise them in Nicaragua for fun, for food, for feathers; I collect Duck-Art; I've even been gifting special friends up here with membership to our "Brother/Sisterhood of Ducks," a club of graceful survivors: I love how all these ducks ride waves, weather storms, firmly waddle on land and fly transcendently above it, all in line. I'm a Duck, and darn proud to be. I've earned it.

Not that ducks are always noble: when 4, I climbed then fell into a pen fluttering with big black menacing ducks that didn't like me at all. I came close to losing an eye. "A punishment for being too curious," it was said. Yikes! It was the late 40's. Still, I've understood "pecked-to-death-by-ducks," most of my conscious life. We all have Critics pecking deep inside us, as well. Without? We live in a fractious, judgmental worldliness here: it's much easier to criticize others than to be self-responsible and grow. Good Lordy, I've done my share of pecking! Now, mostly, I’ve given it up as twisty, useless ego projection, and I forgive myself.

Too, my sweet ducks poop day and night, conspicuously. It is great fertilizer, but they tell every other duck about it, every time they do it. Sometimes, in addition, they gobble garden plants to the stems, forcing duck segregation on my Nica land, "Tierra Mia." But, man, I love to see them waddle past my feet with yellow ducklings close behind, so I let a pair of large whites wander, gorging on swarms of hoppers and leaf-cutting ants. "Pato" and "Pata," the duck king and queen of Nicaragua, are Cool Insecticides, with charming and delicious offspring.

On my first trip to Teote, in 1993, there were many synchronicities between the Betancos and me beyond our mutual reverence for the Archangel Michael, a biggie. Similarly "big," mi padre don Ramon raises special ducks out on his farm at Quacamaya [Would an Englishman pronounce this Quack-a-maya? Ha. Kingdom of the Ducks!] "Quack-quack" sings to me: then, it helped the bonding process; now, we eat the best Cumin Duckling, whenever I'm there. Add that Teote's a northern gardener's idea of Paradise, where you push a flowering branch into wet soil, to grow a new tree. Do you get the picture? From the first minute to now, I've been one happy Duck in Nicaragua, even when times were hard, as in 2000, when a machete slasher stalked the town at night, or after Hurricane Mitch killed all livestock on the farm except the ducks. Go, Quackers!

I've about 100 in my Art-Duck Collection plus a few loons since I'm crazy as one, as we all know, or, at least, "way out of the box," as one local businesswoman exclaimed, praising me highly. An odd duck, es cierto. I've got carved wood antiques, usuable decoys, pewter and glass ones, cheap Duck ceramics, rubber duckies and many soapstone quakers from Nicaragua. There's also a red metal windup duck on a tricycle and a cute metal-duckie train, a drake and three ducklings that bobble. One of the best bargain-hunters in Colorado, also a Sister Duck, keeps her eye out for more of Dougie's Duckies.

A while ago, as well, I inherited a major collection of stuffed-animal ducks, covered in every kind of colorful cloth, but I distributed them to the kid Betancos this year, feeling a 63 year-old man with a house full of "Teddy Ducks" was just too eccentric. Characteristically, the kids’ mothers stuffed them pronto into clear plastic bags to protect them from the dust of Teote. “Don’t let the pato de don Douglas get dirty!” they admonished. I’m hoping, though, the kids sneak them out in their hammocks and snuggle tight, calming the terrors of dark Nicaragua, where “wild things” really are. That thought brings a whiff of rosy peace to my own nights, up here.

I've often wondered why I have this obsession, especially given my close call as a child. I could have developed a phobia. Instead, I love them. Go figure. Perhaps it's just the similarity 'twixt "Doug" and "Duck" which grabs me? But, as with all, there must be something deeper. Years ago, a Southern Ute shaman-friend of mine declared the duck my spirit guide, my totem: he gave me a quartz duckling to hold, along with a cross, for protected inspiring while diving in the well of the Creative Unconscious: I’ve found my pearl-diving magnified, as I’m willing to stay down there longer, breathing from within. I carry them as well in my pocket with my cell phone when I venture into bloody Nicaragua. Between my duckling, my Buddha-Belly-Stone and my crucifix, I’ve become a braver soul, more authentic, even here in the heights of Colorado. A mighty "Quack!" can work wonders. [Check out a part of my collection at the top of the photo queue!]

Gracias, CenterDoug


I've been in Colorado now for 6 weeks, after 3 months in Nicaragua. I've spent most of that time gardening with a frenzy, writing with a purpose, and playing, playing, playing, like a boy freed from school for the summer. Perhaps retirement is second childhood, but the creaks of age, when I bend over to lift a plant, remind me to stay in the Now. The price of gas here, 4 bucks a gallon, astounds the cheapskate part of me, though I know it's almost ten in Europe. I'm spending far less time in my car, walking far more often. My garret has been transformed to a monk's cell of simplicity (compare accompanying foto with the same view in January, before my trip, at the bottom of the foto column). I had to get to clarity of vision in my own living space, so my guest room has become a storage room of glitzy stuff, art, and process center for a Porch Sale at Palmer House in late July or early August. Check the fotos of my garden in Spring!

Gracias, CenterDoug

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

This Particular Kindness, Part 5

Cuento 5: “Mañanita”

4:25am [Typing, ecstatic]: Marta and Cesar can’t sleep, hear my pacing, and whisper, “Douglas, café?” over the inside wall.

“Agua,” I answer, blow out my light, lock la puerta. My stomach churns from all the café and bile. Flashlight and cup en mi manos, I cross the darkened solar. No luna. I click my foco on.

“Cuento 1” will have to do for the Internet this morning. The rest? Too politically incorrect. I just can’t face the terror. Or bring myself to pray for OHG.

Kíler, the family perro, growls, snorts, starts wagging, his tail thump-thumping my leg. He’s stationed where I used to pee, before mi pichinga. “This dog knows who butters his tortilla,” I snort. Most do, in Nicaragua and in the States, but here, with a difference: understanding “gracias,” they’re grateful for butter, since they almost never get it.

I wait outside the kitchen door, click off the foco, my shoulders slumped with metaphysical defeat. I can’t see a foot in front of me. There’s not a streetlight for miles. Slasher territory, es cierto. On goes the foco. Cesar’s removing la barricada within, their night’s further caution: a lock’s too expensive, since it’d need attaching to a brand new puerta.

I hear Marta light a candela. Her door finally opens. I enter, sit. The barricade goes back up.
"You're sad again, mi hermano." Cesar knows me inside-out. So does Marta. "It's true, es verdad, but I'm happy to be with you, familia." We loll, wiped but smiling, in red plastic sillas, drink each other’s salud, one more time, in the Nica candle’s glow.

"And, to my haunted government, peace, por favor, gracias por todo," I whisper. We nod, wryly, grin, clink our cups.

“Douglas, have you used "Pichinguita," yet?” Cesar laughs at his new coinage.

“She's full,” I reply, on the beat, and once again, los trés are muchachos, giggling under hands, not to wake the niños. Or, sleeping in la sala, just over the wall, my Betanco parents, sighing in the Nicaraguan noche. I gulp mi agua. "Ay, Pichinguita!"

Don Moncho talks in his sleep. “Mi amor,” he murmurs, at almost 80. What a macho!

Palomas coo, flutter in the rafters.

We’re startled by a bolo, roaring out his drunkenness too near, outside on the road: this sets off Kíler, ferocious Chow from Hell en la noche, and dainty vicious Pinta, black and white whippet, who, in eternal round, spark the roosters’ crowing, early, before even a blip of a promising glimmer, yet, in the eastern sky. Marta asks if Cesar’s got his machete. He checks his bota.

She listens quietly. “So many voices, in here, out there.” She sips her café. “Can you hear them en la vienta, Douglas, in the wind? Oh, they cause us no harm, gliding east and west, south and north, a country of whispers. En noche, they sing. Douglas, can you hear?”

“Only the breeze, mi hermana.”

“Douglas,” says Cesar, “they’re the spirits of sleeping campesinos, whispering as we do here, but from their dreams. Common as pichingas, they sing so bravo from their hearts, so hushed now, from pobre to pobrecito.”

“Cesar, mi hermano, what do they say, amigo?”

“Listen, hombre. Just listen.”

A macaw screeches in the kapoks down by the rio Limon.

Palm trees rustle in the dawning swell.

I hear it, though not in the wind, as Marta’d said. Rather, in my breath, the loudest stillness:

"Estoy libre! Estoy libre! Si, si, I am free!”

It leads me to a certain rapture. For one-sweet-endless minuto, everything is right.

"Por favor, la barricada, y gracias, hermanos. I need to get back to my writing." Then, comes a distant ángelus, the bells of welcome to the sun. Ay, Chihuahua, this miracle place! Dawn breaks in Teote, lights the restless heartland of a freer Nicaragua.

This Particular Kindness, Part 4

Cuento 4: “Breathlessly-Deranged Heresy!” (841 words)

12:10pm [Typing] Cesar heads for su cama, with a yawn and a “Buenas noches.” I bolt la puerta, smiling, with a crowd of thoughts and mi pichinga. There’s much to do. My fingers peck and hunt, seeking jewels from the dust of Teote.

Cicadas chant, low in the trees.

I’ve lit a candela. Though it brings insectas to my writing table, it appeals to my sense of the romantica, and I need it. I can't get Noam Chomsky's 9/11 writings out of my head. I just reread them, earlier this week. What a truthteller when America needs to hear it most!

1:22am [Typing] The plight of peasantry keeps coming back, a gusano worming into invective against this outhouse hole of peasant decimation and politico chicanery, brought home to where I live with the Sandinista peasants.

It’s hard to write fiction when my intellect is so piqued, and too didactic for a story; yet, unfortunately, I’m a part of this overflowing pichinga! I’m also an active global citizen from the ground up, since I first saw a photo of the Earth from the Moon in the 60’s and fell mystically in love; I resent what modern terrorist states have done, completely beyond my understanding, to my planet and its people. I clearly need to find a way to shake this outrage out!

Ah, mi amigos, forgive me, urina jokes have been cosmically huge here today, with all the locos trying to cheer me up. I must have a big “Triste” sign on my forehead. I’m un viejito with a heart condition and life’s a tragi-cosmic joke, I remember, to keep from charging Arriba on Triunfo, demanding the candidates stifle this breathlessly-deranged heresy of hypocrisy, this “War on Terror,” when the enemy, to the rest of the world, unfortunately, is us.

We’re not supposed to know that in America, though millions do, so keep it fairly hush-hush, por favor.

As an American of conscience, I’m finding it difficult to face my reflection in the mirror in the morning: Todo el mundo thinks we’ve lost our hearts, minds and, even worse, our moral credibility as a nation.

What a wild goose chase we’ve been led on since the atrocity gigantica of 9-ll, when the peasantry here were first to their knees, praying for the victims, in solidarity with the American pobrecitos during their days of peasant terror. Here, there were special prayer services in all the pequenos--small Catholic prayer groups--in town. The padre from Jalapa couldn’t get here for un misa, because, he said, all Jalapa was en la Iglesia, crying and praying in solidarity with the American people. The world became us, for a day, and many days thereafter.

However, it was soon business-as-usual in the Bubble, with a couple hundred thousand Afghani peasants decimated, the rest left neglectfully to starve; then Iraq, mass decimation, while we re-focused our terrified people on chasing down a hateful dingbat like Osama or a filth of a Saddam Hussein, both our former creatures, nonetheless. All that scapegoat behavior, to keep us from looking primero in our own haunted mirror. We demand this of other countries, by international law we ignore when the judgement’s not in our favor.

Loco, total.

If a student came into my office exhibiting OHG’s past behavior, I’d be counseling him to curb his sociopathic tendencies, to balance his checkbook with respect for human dignity. I’d ask him what he really fears and I’d suggest he handle his terrors very lightly. If he felt violent, I’d tell him to hightail it back to my office pronto, for further training in mutual compassion, which needs to be learned and practiced.

I’d tell him to act like a campesino, praying for all victims of terror, despite his own bitter wounds.

Ah, that’s it! Gracias a Diós! My writing’s led me to a peasant’s way out of my heart’s dilemma: on 9-11, the campesinos prayed for America. Can I do less? It will, es cierto, enlighten my vigil. Ah, sí, I'm warming to this task already. Ay, Chihuahua, though, do I have to raise up OHG?

3:30am [Typing whatever comes to mind]: I’m tired, muy consado. I’ve almost decided to throw most of my night’s writing away. Too didactic for a story. Mostly, I can’t find a way to take it farther, lift it higher. The subject’s too heavy, the tone, pubescent-choir-camp-sniggering: the “pee” stuff seems shameful, the “terrorista” plea for prayer, perhaps, even dangerously forthright, though both are completely nicaragüense and “me,” totalmente.

The fact of the matter is—Dammit!—I’m afraid, like the rest of the cringing world, of “Spin and Terror,” the rampaging two-headed dragon, so fine-pointedly expert at silencing Truth, worldwide. Dammit-all-to-hell! Dínamo del Diablo!

So, nothing’s worked for quite a while. I’m stalking an ending, to ground and send us flying, not only in the blasted work, but, also, in me. In the past, I’d have walked the block a couple times, una meditación caminando, but not now. Urina total!

Ayúdeme, Diós, por favor! Help the American people!

Ah, there we go. some release, there, gracias.

Gratefully, I hear a whisper, at 3:35am, in mi candlelit cuarto, in darkened Nicaragua.

This Particular Kindness, Part 3

Cuento 3: “Poetry Reading” (805 words)

11:25pm [Typing, with one finger] Cesar’s patient, expectant rocking, his pichinga-tossing, light up when he finally sees me smile.

Ay, mi hermano,” I say. “We hombres have done some very pissy things to each other. Perhaps, we need pichingas nuevas.” We chuckle, but he feels my pain, still written on my face, I guess.

“You’re sad. Lo siento, Douglas. I’ll recite your pichinga poem.” I try to bury a billion corpses with a laugh. It’s hard, but I’ll manage, with help from my friend who knows me.

My poem’s about the Pichinga Dream. All Nicaraguans are poetas, or, at least, love poesía, one more thing we have in common. It’s a ludicrous poema. I wrote it en ingles in ten minutes, for laughs, though I translated it pronto, so my family could share the joke. It flew across their dryness like a fresh wind full of rain. Cesar proudly memorized the English, adding to his machismo that he speaks the tricky language now. We worked for a week on la pronunciación, the delivery, so he deserves his pride.

Cesar, rising, begins:

“The Chalice of Milagros”
by Doug Evans Betanco

Come to me, little safeguard, pichinga,
Friend of darkness, heaven-sent in Cesar’s
Dream. Plastic miracle, pichinga, mi diamante:
Bright as oro at night, then changing--yellow
chameleon!--to Arcángelico blanco, oy,
At daylight’s pouring. No more fear have I,
No more terroristas; no machetes at my eyes,
No more bolos en la noche. Ay, Gracias!
Mi pichinga, brother’s gift de Diós,
Little peepot, cross mi cama en paz!
Then I will, es cierto, sleep more wholly,
Libre, seguramente, in all seven directions.

“I love this poema,” he says, sitting en triunfo, tapping his corazón.

“I, too, mi hermano. Fits the occasion, but it could be better poetry.”

Es bonita, hermano.” We finger-tap the tops of our shoulders, feeling the frisson of angel wings. It’s a holy Betanco momento.

“I’ll give you my “Fluff,” about planting seeds as a poet. It’s in English, too. I give you the 'Quiet Voice of the New Millennium.'" I stand, face the rocker. I love to share poemas, here, especialmente.

“Fluff” (2008)

Look! That cottonwood seed in genuflect
Might know where it’s going, what breeze
Lifts it to frames around windows, to gutters,
To tapestries woven in hair. I’ve seen cotton
Rise to the clouds, or plummet to rivers, or stop,
Stuck in midair, tacked to a veil of handkerchief linen
No seed could sail through, held, almost too long for breath,
Waiting for some gust to snatch it, or some hungry wren,
To swallow, then shitcast it, where it might settle, white
In a crackle of granite. There, sunwarm, with wet dust
Down just for it, even airy fluff can set a potent root.

Poetry reciting and story-telling, mentirijillas—make-believe--embroidered with saints and angels, are family treats at palomas, part of an oral tradition that stretches to the misty mythologies of creation, on one end, and to a more just future, on the other.

11:48pm [Typing, drinking café. On a roll] Nicaragüense must be the world masters of irony, of paradox, given their history, their God-awful presento, their economia ruined, probably forever, by our thumbs-down back in the 80’s. Unfortunately, according to our haunted government (OHG), terroristas still hang from every mango on “Mi Tierra.” Good Grief! The only ones here have Yalie accents. Some gardens simply will not grow, poisoned by their pasts and malo spin, despite the world’s most heartful, high-powered praying.

Both poems appeal, tonight. Cesar feels the twists, despite the foreign language. My family finds libertád in chains, fights death while alive, makes feasts out of famina, every day. It’s still little better than survival mode here. They know the U. tricks us for our good; creating rich salvación from a pichinga is a necesidád for them, and, now, for me.

“I’m proud of you, hermano. Me gusta “Fluff,” es cierto.” My brother loves my poem even though he knows little of the English. He pronounces it "Floof."

“I love it here 'cause everybody gets my jokes.” We laugh, mi hermano y yo. He’s honored by my presence in his life, verdad! I’m honored he's got “Pichinga” by heart, and, as well, that mi amigo thinks so kindly of my needs, he even dreams soluciones plasticos for me.

Ay, Chihuahua, those roosters again! Up in my mangos, their nightly roosts. It's a good thing I'm covered in kindness and protection: I’ve been trying to coax those OHG terroristas down from my trees all trip, as I'm sure at dawn they're covered with chicken caca, pocked with red mosquito bites. Very unhealthy. They also jangle my pollos. It’s “Cock-a-Doodle-Dandy-Doo,” all night long, plus lousy egg production in the morning, in downright terrorista Nicaragua. Ah, well.

This Particular Kindness, Part 2

Cuento 2: “Venting Journal” (591 words)

10:37pm [Typing, yawning]: Cesar drinks café silently, smiles from across mi cuarto. His face is Castilian in structure. He might’ve been a model for Velasquez: pale, elongated, otherworldly, de Europa. He’s heir to an antique rape.

Most Nicaraguans are genetically related to 17th century sex between Indios and Spanish soldiers. Pure-blooded Indios, coffee brown, were decimated later by the importation of European diseases—smallpox, typhoid, cholera, plague, measles—which swept through the hemisphere, an inescapable flood of death, carrying off most not born with the “gift” of Spanish antibodies in their Indio-Españo blood.

It’s been downhill ever since for the remaining peasants of Central America. Tonight, it just depresses, this historia of total exploitation, for profit, for 400 years. I’ve been mildly down for days, unusual for me.

11:02pm [Typing] Cesar is playing catch with mi pichinga. I know he wants to talk, to help me find some happiness. I guess it shows in my face, this sadness, but, here, my masks are down. I put him off ‘til later with a frown of concentration, a smile of gratitude next in my eyes, for the pichinga, bouncing in the terrorized midair.

It could have been otherwise, this particular kindness, even for my urinary needs. A few Brigadistas, en años pasados, sprayed Teote with their disrespect, marking territory not their own—only Diós knows why. I have, I know, done the same en los Estados, when I’ve felt disempowered. Oh, yes, my aim can be straight and vile, es verdad. I’ve learned from major experts in trajectory, distance and spin, by keeping abreast of both college and current affairs.

But not ever, in Teote. Here, I’m more careful---“Más cuidado!”—when I need to vent, not to splash on anybody’s botas. My respect for these honorable people assures like behavior in me: I become my “glory self” here, writing and living from my heart--mi corazón--at the peak of my powers.

Perhaps, my care developed primero in Colorado, before I even knew los Betancos. The peasants of the world-—pobrecitos—have endured a golden shower from the johns of Babylon who’ve run it, for profit only, since earliest recorded time and, surely, before. I refuse to perpetuate this denigration of the human spirit—exploiting the poor—here in Teote.

We’re equal, as we’re meant to be, brothers, sisters, solid, within and without La Familia. We give to each other, knowing it’ll be returned. We feel each other’s pain. Theirs, at the bottom of the beanstalk, results from gigantic prideful greed, the deadliest combination of vices. Everyone up the Great Chain of Payout makes a decent living off their sweat but them.

Few in Arriba--in the States--want to face our reliance on their work, but it’s true, nonetheless, right down to our very staples. Their faces should appear on the dollar, though I suppose it's ironic that old George is there, one Terroristo máximo to the Redcoats, always shooting from the trees, a Cuban guerrilla in side-buttoned breeches. Ha! He picked up his tactics from Red-coated “Indian” scouts in earlier British wars.

Colonial blowback, I guess.

When peasants get angry at this setup, now, we just decimate a few for the sake of the tobacco or the sugar, the cocaine or the oil. It urinates on us all, like a monumental, hemispheric whiz, against a steadily mounting, very righteous wind.

Our track shoes are already muddy.
Our government is haunted by its past.

“Ay, yes! It pisses me off!” I whisper into la silencio. “Si!” I’ve learned to restrain it, to even transform it, from past mistakes: when I’m angry, projecting, I write, I pray, I tell another gringo joke, just another happy fool in Teotecacinte, Nicaragua.

This Particular Kindness, Part 1

“This Particular Kindness”
©Doug Evans Betanco 2008
(3672 words, in 5 Cuentos)

Cuento 1: “La Pichinga Dream” (881 words)

La Casa de Palomas

9:57pm [Typing]: My brother-in-law, Cesar Urrutia de Talavera, sits in my rocking chair, watching me, his face a sunrise of laughter, while I write. It’s past his bedtime, and Marta’s left the planet, already, I’d say, from her snores over the wall, or maybe that’s don Moncho, staying the night with doña Eva: I’m only beginning, an Internet deadline to meet en la mañana.

I’m writing columns this trip, while living with my bonded familyof campesinos at la casa de palomas, here in Northern Nicaragua. I’ve been having luck typing these stories from the presento, as they happen, in and out of me; since everything here is loco when seen from Arriba--up there in the States--I let Time, notoriously loco, be my planner, even if it brings “crazy” to my keyboard. I can always take it out, later, or make it crazier.

10:03pm [Typing]: In his lap rests my clean, 2-liter juice jug, mi pichinga, with, like all things Nicaraguan, a bittersweet historia. He reminds me with a smile so fond it must ache, una sonrisa, that, soon after my arrival in Teote, two months late because of necessary heart work, he’d caught a terrible sueño, a nightmare. In it, he sees me attacked at midnight in the front yard of palomas, jumped by a drunk with a machete.

Mysteriously, he hands me a pichinga instead of fighting my dream assailant, and smiles. The bolo, clearly befuddled, his knife no longer at my throat, turns instead and stumbles off into the dark. I hold the plastic pitcher tight to my chest, while mi hermano, Nicaraguan to the core, grabs my flashlight and, clicking his tongue, clapping his hand on my foco, leaps into a formal, solitary dance of honor, machísimo. My powerful beam, a sword of light, cuts the black skin de la noche.

“Lucky, that night of the pichinga,” he says to me now. “What a dream, gracias a Dios!”

10:09pm [Typing]: Esta sueño, he tells me, in between my typing, woke him up in fright. He remembered it. Early that morning, he told it eerily, eyes bugging, for we had just felt the shock of young Lito’s recent slashing, here in Teote, by a bolo, while escorting his girlfriend home from a teenage dance. I can now report, my nephew’s on the mend, can see, his fading scars, somehow, enhancing his looks. Lucky kid—por gracia de Diós.

But, back then, bolos had taken up permanent residencia in the whispers round my sister Marta’s kitchen mesa, along with a continuous and kindly concern for mi salud, so this dream was electric with synchronicity for us all.

Especially for me. Since Lito’s attack, my walks en las calles had been curtailed at my family’s insistence, unless Cesar-guarded, a stiletto tucked in his black leather bota. As he usually retires at 9 pm, I’d spent too many late nights this trip pacing in my locked-tight cuarto, mi noche haunted by a lurking paranoia, previously not much un parte de mi vida Nica. Probably, I’m too trusting or oblivious a soul, more concerned with the flash of ideas than of glinting machetes.

In this black fear, however, unlocking mi puerta, heading to el servicio in the backyard, even with my heavy foco, had become a perilous gauntlet. I’m not a machete-kind of guy, and feel protected, here, in any case, most of the time. Yet, I’d taken—Forgive me!—to peeing out mi puerta into the noisy dark of the dirt corte, rather than facing my fear of knives and blindness, every time I had to piddle.

En la mañana, however, shameful mud had greeted Marta’s broom, sweeping mi patio. If she minded, she didn’t say, but I felt this copious evidencia of my nocturnal panic, however justifiable, a fouling of her cave. On the night of Cesar’s dream, I’d even thought to do it in a plastic bolsa, but I feared it might burst. Clearly, a dilemma in amarillo.

Thus, when Cesar shared his dream that morning over café, I was amazed, and when he plonked a jug with campesino force on the kitchen table, astonished. When he said—of course, I translate—“Here’s your Pichinga, a jug for su cuarto, for urina en la noche,” I was once more grateful, both to him and to the U., nudging me towards seguridád in the simplest, most miraculous maneras. Filled with delighted relief, I thanked him. Then, of course, we all dissolved to sniggering, imagining mi noches en la futura, and I became, por un momento, the center of a Nicaraguan piss joke.

Urina is very big here, as well as caca, sexa and politicos pasados--most of whom end up in the outhouse having lunch with Somoza Segundo, their imaginary caca-eating parrot--for relief from the drudgery of living at survival. I love mi pichinga, my salvación from the honed blades of wildness, the loco-Jack-the-Rippers sneaking into my asylum, even here, in Nicaragua.