Chapter 10

This entry is part 11 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Ten — The Judge Of Quilali

The next morning we met the Judge of Quilalí.

He was a little guy about the size of Jock, had a mouthful of shiny gold teeth, and he could speak English. I gave him the letter from Jones.

After he had read it he said, “I will help you all I can. You are welcome to our country. Ten years ago if you had come here to mine our gold, we would have killed you. Since the new highway has come through we realize that we need machinery and equipment to mine our gold. If you can supply this, it will put many of our people to work. It will help us, so we will try to help you.”

The Judge tried, and tried very hard.

For several days we prospected, but I could see that the job was much the same as it would be at Ocotal on the Coco. Gold in every pan but not enough. It poured down rain. We worked in the rain and slept in the rain. We were exhausted, very wet, and very discouraged.

For several days Chase had been moody and not his usual good-natured self. Jock and I were having dinner one evening with Nigger Woman. Chase had stayed at the hotel saying that he was not hungry. I asked Jock what was the matter and added that Chase looked sick, and did he think that Chase was home sick.

Jock shook his head, “I don’t think so.”

“Well, you find out what’s bothering him because I know something is wrong.”

After dinner we went to see the Judge again.

“There is one more place I would like to show you,” he said. “It is about a two-day trip. We will go there. Maybe we can find what you are looking for.”

The next morning Jock said to me, “Señor Joe, I have found out what is the matter with Chase.”

“What is it, Jock?”

Jock had a guilty look on his face. “Señor Joe, I must tell you, the night before we left Managua you gave me the money to buy the provisions, also an advance to Chase for a tire, and also a cash advance to Chase for wages.”

“Sure,” I said, “what about it?”

“That night Chase and I had a celebration. It felt so good to have money.” He gazed hard at the ground. “There are many Señoritas in Managua, and we had a contest to see who was the best man.”

I was amazed. I didn’t know what to say but I asked who won.

“Chase did. I hate to admit it but he only beat me by one. I think he cheated the last time.”

“Holy cow!” I didn’t know what else to say. “You lost the bet but you wore him out. Is that his trouble?”

“No, he is very worried. He is swollen up very bad. He thinks one of the Señoritas has given him a bad disease.”

“Well, I’ll be damned!”

“What makes it so bad,” Jock went on, “is that years ago Chase’s father had a very bad disease and he died from it. Now Chase thinks he has the disease and is going to die.”

“Don’t they have penicillin here?” I asked.

“No, there is none closer than Managua.”

I thought, “Well, the darn fool! Why hadn’t he mentioned it sooner?”

“Years ago,” said Jock, “there was much disease here, but since penicillin, it is very rare.”

“Are you sure he isn’t just tick-bitten? Those little black rascals make you swell up wherever they bite you.”

“I know,” said Jock, scratching himself.

“I think that’s what is the matter with Chase. A tick bite in the right place and a guilty conscience would scare a guy all right.”

So we went to see the Judge.

When you have trouble here you always see the Judge. He will know what to do.

Jock explained everything. The Judge was very solemn and nodded very wisely. He told us there was a doctor at “Five Points,” and that he would send for him.

Jock told Chase that the doctor was coming. Chase was very grateful.

That afternoon the doctor came riding in on a mule. He didn’t have a little black satchel. He just had himself. The Doc couldn’t speak English. I think he was a Mosquito Indian. There was always a crowd gathered around wherever we went, so the Judge suggested that we load Chase into the Jeep and drive down the river on the ox cart road. It would be more private there. We came into a little clearing that had to be the doctor’s office.

Chase’s trousers were dropped and he was given a short-arm inspection. The Doc nodded very thoughtfully. It was a bad case Indeed, but he would do his best. When Jock had bought supplies he had put in a good stock of Flor de Caña and there were several bottles left. The Doc had a sharp eye and had spotted these in the back of the Jeep . The treatment began. Doc opened a bottle, sniffed, then took a big swig — I guess to make sure it was the real thing. Then he handed the bottle to Chase and told him to drink. I didn’t know who was doctoring whom, but in a short time the bottle was empty. The Doc said that penicillin would be best, but as there was none he would use whatever was available. If it was the real thing or even a tick bite, I couldn’t see how the two of them drinking a bottle of Flor de Caña would help.

I was wrong.

I found out later that the good doctor was also a mechanic, and that he had made a study of the gasoline engine.

About twice a week, and if it is not raining too hard, there is a bus that runs from Ocotal to Quilalí. On several occasions the bus had failed to start, so they had called the doctor and he had made it run again. Indeed he was a learned man. I had underestimated the guy.

In the back of the Jeep was a tool box. There are no garages here so almost everyone carries his own tools. In the box was a battery hydrometer for testing the battery. The Doctor’s eyes lit up when he spotted this.

“I can cure him,” he said, “but it will be very painful.”

Being well fortified with Flor de Caña and in mortal terror of the disease, Chase said he didn’t care how much pain it caused if only he could be cured. In the next few minutes I witnessed one of the damnedest things that I ever hope to see. The Doc opened another bottle of Flor de Caña, took a gulp and looked around. In the center of the clearing was a pine tree about four inches in diameter and probably forty feet high. He nodded, this would do.

The Judge was head nurse and it was his project, so he started helping first with the Flor de Caña. Chase was backed up to the tree and his hands were tied behind him and to the tree. If he was going anywhere, the tree would go with him.

In the Jeep we also had our cooking utensils. The Doc selected a measuring glass. Very scientifically he poured in some Flor de Caña, then he picked up the battery tester. It had just begun to dawn on me what the rascal was up to.

I looked at Jock. “Jock!” I exclaimed, “For God’s sake, not that!”

“Señor Joe, we have asked for help. If we interfere now we will be in grave trouble.”

The Doc and the Judge were going ahead in a very professional manner. They raised the hood of the Jeep and the Doc sucked up the sulfuric acid from the battery until the little bulb was afloat and poured it into the glass. Some chicken feathers were in the Jeep and he picked one up. I glanced at Chase as he was standing bound to the tree with his pants down and his eyes closed. I believe he is the bravest man I have ever known.

I said to Jock, “Let’s go. Let’s walk to town. I can’t bear to watch.”

Jock nodded.

Cold sweat was running down my back.

The treatment began.

When I was a kid I was a great fan of Johnny Weismuller’s in the “Tarzan of The Apes” series and I remembered his weird cry — the cry of the jungle. I had heard stories of how this cry had originated, including, “The vine Jane, the vine! The director shouted. It was indeed quite a yell, and it must have taken a lot of imagination to perfect it, but if Tarzan himself had been there with Chase that day, he would have retreated to the jungle.

I didn’t know that the human vocal cords were capable of the sounds that I heard coming from the little clearing. There is no way for me to describe the terrible yelling. I cannot do it justice. I knew the hair on the back of my neck surely must be sticking straight out.

A flock of brilliant colored parrots awakened from their siesta. Suddenly they started screaming too, as if trying to imitate the horrible sound. When a parrot finds something he cannot imitate, it frightens him — and those birds were scared! They took off screaming their terror. I knew it would be a long time before they would come back.

Then the monkeys joined in with frightened chatter. Somewhere in the jungle I heard a jaguar scream, and a big black one passed Jock and me on a high lope. He acted as if he didn’t even see us, so apparently it wasn’t the sight of us that motivated him — he was just getting the hell out of there!

I glanced over my shoulder. The top of the pine tree forty feet up was quivering; the needles were coming down. Suddenly the cries ceased and there was a low moan.

Thank God, Chase had passed out!

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