Chapter 31

This entry is part 32 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Thirty-One — Welcome Home

We drove uptown to the Gran Hotel. As we approached the hotel, I said to Chuck, “The Palace is all yours. Better park it in the lot across the street. I’m going to get a room and have a long night’s sleep. That damned snoring of yours has just about worn me out.”

Frank grinned and said, “I know what you mean. I will get a room too. The Palace is all yours, Chuck.”

Chuck took the ribbing good naturedly enough.

I climbed into the Palace, packed a small bag and checked in at the hotel. A bellhop took me to my room. As I sat on the edge of the bed wondering whether to call Bill tonight or wait until morning, there came a knock on the door. When I opened it I saw that same little golden skinned beauty who had come to turn down my bed the last time I was here. She walked past me to the bed, parted the sheets, smoothed the pillows, then gave me a smile.

I hesitated, then smiled back. Why not? “When you are in Nicaragua, do as the. . . .”

The ringing bells awakened me early. After I had shaved, showered and dressed, I stepped out to the hallway and found Jock waiting. He broke into his infectious grin and said, “Welcome back to Nicaragua. It is good to see you again.”

“How did you know I was here?”

“Your driver, Chuck, told me. I met him last night.”

I was hungry and suggested that we go up to Fermin’s and have breakfast. As we went out into the bright sunlight I saw the seven barbers playing spiritedly with their yo-yos. We walked on across the street to the Palace but we didn’t go inside to disturb Chuck. We knew he was still sleeping — we could hear him!

Fermin seemed happy to see me. I asked, “How goes everything?”

“Not so good,” he said.

“What’s the trouble?”

“Every time I get a good waitress who is pretty and can speak Spanish and English, someone runs off with her. I have a girl now that no one would run off with because she is so homely. But my best customers have quit coming and are going up the street to another place.”

Fermin had a problem that I couldn’t help him with it.

After breakfast I put in a call for Bill. The telephone here goes by tropical radio to Miami, Florida, and by regular line to its destination. So it takes quite some time to complete the connection, but at last I had Bill on the phone.

He told me the machinery had not been shipped yet; that things were okay, but moving a bit slow. I told him about the tractor.

“Look it over, Joe,” he said. “If you can get a decent deal on it, go ahead and buy it. You will need a tractor.”

“Okay Bill, give my best to Nell.” With this, I hung up.

I took out the card Ricky had given me and gave it to Jock.

“Go find this fellow and tell him we will look at the tractor any time he’s ready.”

After Jock took off, I went back to the hotel, put on a pair of trunks and went swimming in the pool. I spent most of the day there. Chuck joined me in the afternoon. His eyes were swollen and puffy, and he looked like hell, but he was grinning all over.

“How’s the King of Sports? I asked.

“It amazes me,” he said, with a vacant look, “how fast girls here can shed their laundry!”

That evening Chuck, Jock and I were up at Fermin’s drinking Flor de Caña and enjoying ham sandwiches, when Jock said to Fermin. “How about listening to the radio? There should be some news about now.”

It was just eight o’clock. Fermin turned on the radio, Jock mixed another round of drinks, and we sat there prepared to listen.

Suddenly the announcer was saying, “And now we present Pedro Max Romero and his band!”

I looked accusingly at Jock, but he was the picture of innocence.

I straightened abruptly as the announcer was saying, “And now for Señor Joe Parker from the United States of America, the beautiful Connie Oro will sing, ‘Sabor a Mí.'”

Again, I looked accusingly at Jock, but still he was the picture of innocence. “You rat,” I said.

He only grinned.

“She is a beautiful girl, Señor Joe. She has been waiting for you. We sat there and listened to the song as my mind drifted back to Siuna, the dance, the swimming pool. Connie had said, “it is written in the stars that some day we will be married. We will have one blue-eyed baby girl.” And she had put a curse on my foot! Connie was a witch all right.

When the song ended, Jock suggested. “It is only a few blocks from here to the studio. Would you like to see the rest of the show?”

Chuck was eager to go. I had made up my mind to stay away from that girl, but I was outnumbered, so we went.

The studio was packed. There was hardly standing room. Somehow Jock managed to get us seats right in the front row. Connie was nowhere in sight. Pedro was giving out with a love song in Spanish that I couldn’t understand. But he sang with such emotion tears came to my eyes. When the song was over, the whole audience cheered. Then Connie came dancing across the stage.

“You call that a witch? She’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen!”

I looked up at Connie. I had almost forgotten how beautiful, and how charming she was. No words could really describe such beauty.

When the broadcast was over she stepped down from the stage and came up to me. She sat down beside me and laid her head on my shoulder. Very softly she said, “Welcome home, Joe.”

I squeezed her slender waist. “It’s good to be back, Connie.” I didn’t know what else to say.

She looked up. There were tears in those marvelous eyes.

“I knew you would come back, Joe. Mama Morales told me you would be back.”

“Yes, I’m here,” I said quickly. I drew her to her feet. “We’d better leave now.”

We all went to Fermin’s. Jock, Chuck, Connie and I; also along with us came Pedro Max Romero and the rest of the band. We put on a celebration. It took many bottles of Flor de Caña, and indeed it was a happy reunion. When the party was over I put Connie in a taxi, paid the driver and walked back to the hotel. For some reason this beautiful Connie — the sweetheart of Nicaragua — I was afraid of her. I knew she was a witch. I thought of Maria. I had been in love with Maria. I wouldn’t let myself fall in love with Connie.

If life is a game, then I am going to be the dealer!

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