Chapter Five

This entry is part 5 of 36 in the series Bend

Chapter Five

The town of Quilali, pronounced ‘Kee-La-Lee,’ is almost one hundred and fifty miles northeast of Managua or Manaua, as it is called there. The ‘G’ is silent; the same goes for the country, where again, we have a silent ‘G’. So instead of it being Managua, Nicaragua, it is called Manaua Nicaraua.

In Quilali, the ‘Qui’ is ‘Kee’, resulting in a pretty sounding name: Kee-La-Lee.

It lies on the south bank of the Jaciro River. This time the J sounds like an H. So as a result, it is the Haciro River. Well, not quite. There, River comes first. Of course, river is Rio. So, instead of it being the Jaciro River, it is the Rio Jaciro.

Al Mackey was sitting on the front porch of Hotel Quilali. In one hand was a bottle of warm beer, in the other, a Spanish-English Dictionary.

His mother had taught him to speak Spanish. He was four-years-old before he had spoken a word of English. Al had taken Spanish while in high school. Usually, there was a Mexican or two working at the ranch, and this kept him from forgetting the language entirely. Now he was trying to refresh his memory by using the translation dictionary.

A noise in the front attracted his attention. He looked up and stared at a huge, high, wheel ox cart, loaded with wood. Hitched to it was a team of oxen. Walking in front was a man; in his hand was a long sharp stick. This was what he used to guide the oxen.

There was a cross road at the corner of the Hotel. Evidently, the man wished to turn left. He turned around and poked the big beasts on the side of the neck with the sharp end of the stick. Obviously, they got the message and followed him around the corner.

The big cart had a long tongue like a wagon sticking out in front. Across the face of this, attached, was a strong piece of wood. This, with the aid of heavy pieces of leather, was tied securely to the horns of the oxen.

Al wondered if this was an improvement over the old ox yoke, as he had seen many pictures of them. On the other hand, maybe the yoke hadn’t been introduced here yet.

The hotel was about as modern as their means of transportation. It was built of stone and had a red tile roof. Across the front was a porch. There was no floor, only the earth below. However, it furnished shade for the several string hammocks that were stretched across the place.

The front part of the hotel was the General Store. There were groceries, hardware, and dry goods. The stock of groceries was very meager, as was the hardware. There were many huge pieces of cotton cloth in the dry goods department, in just about every color of the rainbow. The women here made clothes for everyone, and they loved bright colors.

The main lobby housed an old beat-up card table and several broken-down chairs. There was an old pool table and several cue sticks, each so worn down that the place greatly resembled a police Billy club. The green cloth had worn out long ago, and had been replaced with jaguar skins.

The lobby was almost forty square feet. This was also the bedroom. When it was bedtime, each guest was issued a small folding cot, a small sheet and a blanket. At night the hotel looked a lot like the public ward in a hospital.

In the back of this was one private room. This, on occasion, was also used as the jail. Or, if someone special came to town, it could be rented, provided he could pay the price.

Al felt he could afford this luxury. He had rented the room. The cost was ten Cordoba’s a day, about a dollar and a half in U.S. currency.

He took a sip from the bottle of beer. It was warm. Inside the hotel was a well-stocked refrigerator. It was an old kerosene job, built in the States. ‘Probably the only one in town,’ he thought.

He glanced at his man, Pio. He was leaning against the wall, with his hat pulled over his eyes. He appeared to be sleeping. Pio’s feelings would be hurt if anyone so much as went after a bottle of beer. Al sure didn’t want to hurt this guy.

“Pio,” he whispered, “Are you asleep?”

The man was on his feet. “No, Señor. Only resting. What can I do for you?”

“My beer is warm, and almost empty.” Al handed Pio the bottle. “Have the innkeeper put it on my bill. Get two of them, one for yourself.”

‘A mighty good man,’ Al thought. Walter Young had made a good choice. The Jeep parked around the corner wasn’t much, but it had gotten them to Quilali. It was the only automobile in town.

They had been in town for three days. So far they hadn’t had any luck in locating John Kirkland. It looked like it was going to take more than a little luck to find him.

The Town of Quilali had a population of almost a couple thousand. No one knew or seemed to care. There were no newspapers, no televisions or radios. Not even a filling station. There was one big Catholic Church though.

Back in the States if you wanted to find someone there were many places to inquire, but not here! There was only one place to eat besides the hotel. It was a small café down close to the river. There was no sign out front, but everyone knew the place by name, “The Nigger Woman’s.”

They had eaten there a couple of times. The jolly black woman baked mighty fine bread in that big mud oven in back of her dwelling. There had been pigs, chickens and dogs wandering about the place hoping for a handout, but no one paid any attention to them.

Pio came out of the lobby with two cold bottles of Victoria, handed one to Al, and then sat down.

“Sure good beer,” Al murmured, and then took a big swig from the bottle. “I have been told that the water here is not good for a person from the United States? I don’t know whether or not that is correct, but this beer tastes mighty fine… so why take a chance?”

Pio grinned; “I don’t think it would be good for a poor boy like me either.” He took a big swallow, “you don’t want me to get sick either do you Mr. Mackey?”

Al Laughed. Here is one Nicaraguan with a sense of humor. Pio was a neat person. In the United States he would be considered a small man. Here he was average, about five foot six and weigh about one hundred forty pounds. He had black curly hair and brown eyes. His skin was a deep tan.

Except for their size they resembled each other quite a bit. Al thought they could pass for brothers if Pio was six feet tall and weighed closer to two hundred pounds.

Al had planned on doing some hunting while down here. He and the girl at the travel agency in Prescott had made a study of laws… Large caliber arms were not allowed, nothing bigger than a rim fire twenty-two. Both he and his father owned a pistol and an automatic rifle of this caliber. He had brought them along.

The larger guns were barred on account they might help start another revolution. Al had pulled a fast one. These guns were the right caliber, but they were the new magnums, a deadly little weapon.

Today he and Pio had decided to go hunting El Tigre, “The Tiger,” or the big cat known as the jaguar in the States. Down the river a few miles, one of them had been coming close to town and killing livestock. Everyone there wanted him dead.

They had taken the Jeep and drove down an ox cart road to where El Tigre had made his last kill. Al had shot a small deer. Pio had climbed a tree, and by using vines he had pulled it high in the air and tied the rope like vines to a branch, then crawled back down. This was bait for El Tigre.

Al took another swallow of beer; “What do you think Pio? Will we kill the tiger tomorrow?”

Pio shook his head, “No Señor Mackey, on the third day he will come. Then you will kill him. He will not come to feed off the carcass of the deer. He will choose his dinner from one of the ones that come to eat. He is a killer, Señor Mackey, he likes to kill!”

“Do you think the little gun will be big enough?”

Pio nodded. “That little gun in your hands will kill anything, Señor Mackey!”

On their way back, they had stopped at the river. There was a big gravel bar, and lots of river in front of them, a good safe place to do a little target practicing.

Today he had Pio pitch a bunch of rocks out over the water. None of them came down in one piece. Broken bits showered down like rain. Several of the local people were watching. Señor Mackey, would be the talk of the town. Yes, he was sure the little gun would kill the tiger.

Quilali was at the end of the trail, at least as far as the automobile was concerned. There was no bridge over the river, no more gas stations. This was really the end for a gasoline-powered vehicle.

But there were other ways. The big ox drawn carts crossed there almost every hour of the day. Men on horseback or mules would come and go, and they had been doing it for hundreds of years. Beyond the river, ox cart roads and trails took off in every direction. Lots of them, no doubt, were winding far into the jungle; back to places unknown even to people of this distant outpost.

From the porch where he was sitting, Al could see the river crossing. It was getting late in the afternoon, and there was quite a bit of traffic. Some of the big carts were loaded with sugar cane, some with bananas, and others with mixed loads.

Then came a single pony. On its back was a slim rider with long black hair flowing in the breeze. The pony hit the water on the run. The rider leaned forward, lying low on the animals back, urging it on. The pony was swimming hard. Then they were across and coming up the trail. The riders’ feet found the stirrups and kicked the pony in the ribs. He let out a yell. The pony broke into a run and headed straight toward the hotel. Then the pony came to a sliding halt, and, off from it’s back, slid about the most beautiful sight Al Mackey had ever seen.

The long black hair had a reddish cast. The flashing dark eyes, the olive skin and he would never forget those pearly white teeth. The most beautiful girl in the world!” he whispered.

The girl tied the pony to the hitch rail and headed for the hotel. She vanished inside the dry goods department. Several minutes later she came walking out, a small parcel in her hand. She untied her mount, and then with a single leap, she was on it’s back, galloping toward the river.

Al, who up to now had remained speechless, turned to Pio, “My friend, am I dreaming? Did you see what just went down the trail?”

Pio nodded; “Yes Señor, and you were not dreaming. She is indeed very beautiful!”

“She sure doesn’t look like any of the women I have seen ‘round here.”

Pio nodded, “She comes from the city. I could hear her talking. The natives up here have a different accent. Also, there were curls in her hair and her skin is much whiter.”

Al got to his feet. “Let’s go down to The Nigger Woman’s and drink some of that awful stuff she calls coffee. Maybe she can tell us something about that young lady. You know, Pio, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she turned out to be some kin of the fellow for whom I am looking.” A big grin came across his face. “Or, she might even be one of my own!”

Pio laughed, “We shall see.”

“I wish the Nigger Woman served beer, that damn coffee she brews leaves a lot to be desired. I wonder why she makes it so strong?”

Pio gave me the answer; “ Most everyone here, Señor, picks, dries, and roasts their own coffee. They even add different leaves and bulbs to give it more flavors.”

“It sure is strong enough”

“There is a flower and bulb that grows in the jungle. It is known as the Love Potion. When added to coffee or other drinks, it does strange things.”

Al laughed, “Enough of that B.S., let’s get going!”

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