Chapter 5

This entry is part 06 of 44 in the series Smile

Chapter Five — The Texans

Three days later I was looking out the window of a big passenger plane. Down below the great layers of fleecy, white clouds was the Gulf of Mexico. Above us the sun was shining brightly, and in the distance were pyramids of clouds turning from white to gray, their mushroom-like formations looking like atomic blasts.

I put the lens of my camera against the window and snapped the shutter, hoping the picture would be a good one. It was beautiful.

A pretty blond stewardess came by and asked if I would care for a drink. I had a first-class passage and was in the front compartment.

“Sure,” I grinned at her, “bring a bottle of Old Hickory and some water and I’ll pour my own.” She smiled, wheeled around and disappeared. Soon she reappeared with a full bottle of Old Hickory with ice, water, and a glass. What more could I ask for?

When buying my ticket, I, being the conservative type, priced the second-class fare, but Bill had said, “Joe, go first-class. If you go to hell, go first class!” That’s my brother Bill. If he ever goes to hell, it will be on a first-class ticket.

I poured myself a drink, settled back and closed my eyes. If anyone had told me a week ago that I’d be here in the clouds, I would have told them that they were crazy; but here I was. I tried to recall exactly what had happened.

Bill had gone to Dallas, met the two Texans, read the story from the old history book, given them a big sales talk, and they had taken a plane to Managua, Nicaragua. It was the latter part of August when they arrived there, and winter was just about over. Bill had explained that in Nicaragua they don’t really have cold weather; and, that it’s hot there the year round. The average temperature is usually about eighty-three degrees, and the rainy season starts in June, lasting through September or October. This was their winter now, and the rains would be easing off. So this was the best time of year to arrive, for there would be a completely dry season ahead.

Bill’s story of his trip to Texas was extremely interesting. He had given the old boys a sales pitch using the old history book. They went for it. They all boarded a plane and flew to Managua.

Managua is a city of about one hundred and fifty thousand people and quite modern. Their intentions were to go prospecting for gold, but Bill couldn’t get the old boys out of the city.

“Why?” I asked.

He grinned and went on. “Managua is a very fascinating city. There are about ten or twelve women to every man and are those females lookers!”

“How come so many women?” I asked.

“In the tropics there are many more girls born that boys. Besides, kids between the ages of one and five get the fever, and they die off like flies. More boys die than girls. The girls seem to be stronger and can stand a lot more fever. Also, the Army takes many of the boys. Nicaragua has quite an Army — about seven thousand soldiers — and only the boys from the city are taken. The Army doesn’t want the Indians from the bush country, so this leaves all the beautiful seƱoritas and damn few men. Also, when a man smiles at a girl down there and she smiles back, that means she will go with him. You could have a ball down there, Joe.”

“Cut it out, Bill, you know how it is with Maria and me.”

“I know,” he said, “but a little ‘strange stuff’ wouldn’t hurt you a bit. Anyhow, it seemed to agree with the two boys from Texas. I couldn’t get them out of town, but they did agree on one thing: they think they should have a gold mine in Nicaragua. Then they can have an excuse to fly dawn every so often to look over their holdings.”

“Well, the damned old goats!” I remarked. “Do they want a gold mine, or do they just want to fly down there to play?”

“What difference does it make, Joe? They are putting up the money for you to go down to look the country over, and they will back anything that looks good. We will end up with fifty percent. How can you beat that?”

Yes, how could we beat it? I was out of a job and my money was running out.

The last few nights my dreams had been of Maria wearing golden slippers, a golden gown, and I was riding a golden palomino with horseshoes made of gold. I guess I had the gold fever all right.

Maria drove me to the airport. As I sat in the airplane by a window, I saw her standing by the station waving me good-bye. Tears were running down her cheeks, but she managed a smile as we took off.

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