Chapter Three

This entry is part 3 of 36 in the series Bend

Chapter Three

The Nicaraguan day was hot and sticky. Al Mackey was seated on the high stool in the bar of the Grand Hotel. “Better give me another bottle of Victoria,” he told the bartender. “I have been told not to drink the water down here, and the beer is good. Sure glad it’s not the other way around. I like beer, especially in this kind of weather.”

“Yes, Sir,” said the bartender; who was a handsome young black man. “Just as you say, Sir.” The man spoke perfect English, as well as Spanish. Al had noticed that most of the people here in public service were black and could speak both languages. He wondered about that.

He addressed the barman. “I noticed that most of the taxi drivers and barmen in this country are black and speak both Spanish and English. Is there any particular reason for this?”

The bartender grinned; “You mean you don’t know?”

“If I knew, I wouldn’t have asked.”

“And you would like to know?”

“I certainly would.”

The black man, whose name was Freddie, leaned on the bar and closed his eyes, “All right, I will tell you, Mr. Mackey. After the great civil war up in your country, hundreds of us niggers were left stranded at the town of Bluefield’s, which is a seaport town on the east coast of this country. The English slave traders used it as a base to teach us their language and how to obey orders. You see, Mr. Mackey, we brought in a lot more money after we were taught a few things.

Anyhow, after the war, there was no market for slaves in the United States. The slave traders had no more use for us, so they pulled out and left us there.”

Freddie picked up the bar towel and began polishing the bar. “So you see, Mr. Mackey, since then, we had to adapt and fend for ourselves. We learned to speak English, and we learned Spanish also. Anymore questions, Mr. Mackey?”

Al shook his head, “I guess not, Freddie. Thanks for the information.”

“Think nothing of it. By the way, have you located this man Kirkland about which you have been inquiring?”

Al shook his head, “Not yet, the only thing I have is a name and a box number. I went to the post office and tried to find out where the man lived, but they would not tell me any thing. I wrote a note to the man and told him to get in touch with me here. That was a couple of days ago. Maybe I’ll hear from him one of these days.”

“ I hope so. By the way, just before you came in, someone paged you in the main lobby. Did you get the message?”

Al set the empty beer bottle down and got to his feet. “I sure didn’t Freddie! Maybe that’s my man. See you later.” He went through the door into the main lobby and stopped at the desk. “Was someone paging me?” he asked the girl.

The clerk looked up and smiled, “Yes, Mr. Mackey,” she gestured with her pencil, “That man over there, behind the news paper; he was the one.”

Al took off in a hurry. He moved over to the side of the chair and looked down. “Mr. Kirkland?” He asked softly. The man laid the paper down and looked up.

“No I am not Kirkland, my name is Young, Walter Young.” The man was quite old, and bald on top with a fringe of gray around the edges. He had merry blue eyes and pink skin.

“I was looking for a John Kirkland.”

“I know. I got your note. Pardon me for not getting up.” Al could see the reason; the man had only one leg. A pair of crutches was lying on the floor. There was another chair nearby. Al dragged it over and sat down.

“Could you tell me where I can get in touch with Mr. Kirkland?”

The man shook his head, “No, not exactly. So, you’re Al Mackey?”

“Did you know my father?”

“I sure did.”

“Do you know Kirkland?”

“Yes, I know him.”

Al took from his pocket a small folded piece of paper. He handed it to Young. “This came through the mail a few weeks ago. Do you know anything about it?”

Young glanced at the paper and nodded, “Yes, it was sent to me by John Kirkland. He asked me to pass it on to your father.”

“Why didn’t he mail it to him directly?”

“ I don’t think Kirkland is close to any post office. I received this by another source. By the way how is your father?”

Al bowed his head. “He is dead, Mr. Young. He passed away a month ago.”

“I am sorry to hear that. I have kept hope that I would get to see him once more. By the way, what brings you down here?”

Al took the piece of paper from Young’s hand. “This, for one thing. It reads like he was very anxious to see my father. I would sure like to meet him. I hope to learn something about my mother. Maybe you could tell me. Did you know her?”

Young shook his head. “I never had the pleasure of meeting your mother. I knew your father very well.”

“Do you know who my mother was, before they were married? Mother died when I was very young. So, I didn’t learn much about her relatives from her.”

“Didn’t your father tell you who she was, and about the night they ran off together?”

“No, Mr. Young. Father was always very secretive about his life down here. Oh, he told a lot of wild stories about his time as a Marine, and all about the bandit Sandino. He told many stories, but whenever I would ask questions about what he did after he quit the Marines, he shut up like a clam. He never mentioned relatives. Surely my mother wasn’t an only child. She definitely had a father and mother!”

Young nodded. “You are right there, and they could still be alive. I sure don’t blame you for trying to find out. I will help you all I can.” A smile came over the old man’s face. “Also, I think I can tell you why your father kept his past life here a secret. So if you would like, I will tell you what I know. I can see no harm in telling you now.”

“Go right ahead, Mister Young. That is why I am down here!”

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