Beyond The Bend In The River
The Arizona wind was howling around the corners of the big ranch house. A sudden gust from the north rattled the windows. The vicious storm had left a foot of snow on the ground and there was more to come.
Alfred Mackey was alone in the big living room seated at his father’s desk, looking down at the stack of unpaid bills in front of him. There were bills from the undertaker, the florist, the doctor and many more.
The sudden death of his father had come as a great shock to him, also to his many friends. Many had come for hundreds of miles to attend the funeral. The old man had been cutting wood for the fireplace when a dead limb from the tree he had been cutting broke off and came crashing down, killing him instantly.
A great feeling of loneliness came over young Al. Left alone in this world with only the housekeeper for company left a lot to be desired. He thought he had better busy himself and do something about it.
The sound of a car motor outside attracted his attention. A quick look out the window told him it was the mail carrier. As usual, Sarah, the housekeeper was there to meet the postman. Minutes later, she handed Al a letter and retreated to the kitchen, closing the door behind her.
He looked down at the object in his hand; it was addressed to his father and bore a Nicaraguan stamp. In the upper left hand corner was the address, P.O. Box I99 Managua Nicaragua C.A.
Al’s fingers trembled as he tore open the envelope. For as long as he could remember these letters had been coming from down there. His father would read them and then tear them to bits.
Several times Al had asked about those letters and who sent them. The old Gent had smiled and told him; ‘some day I will tell you all about them.’ That day had never come.
Al removed the single page from the envelope and glanced down at the shaky handwriting. The short note read; “Dear Al, can’t last much longer. Would love to see you before I pass. Hope you can come down for a visit. If you can’t come, please write.” At the bottom of the sheet there was a signature and a post office box number. The name in the signature was John Kirkland.
“Just who is this John Kirkland,” Al wondered? They were very likely old friends. His father had spent approximately ten years of his life in that far away country. He had joined the Marines when he was eighteen. They had been assigned to kill or capture the famous revolutionary Sandino.
Two years later this wily Sandino character was lured into the Presidential Palace on the pretense that the army was surrendering to him. That night he was shot by a firing squad.
After this incident, the Marines were free to go home, and most of them did. But not Al Mackey. He stayed for another eight years! Just what he was doing down there was still a mystery. Whatever it was, one thing was for sure, it paid well. He came back from there with a bundle of money.
He had also brought back with him a beautiful bride. Her name was Maria. They had bought this land and built this big house. A hundred head of white-faced cows and a dozen bulls grazed the land. New cars, trucks and tractors were purchased. They paid cash for everything! Just what the old man did down there to acquire all that money was still unknown. The secret had now died with him.
Al got up from the desk and walked over to the fireplace. Just above the mantle hung a picture of his mother. She was indeed a beautiful woman. She had big brown eyes and dark, curly hair, with full red lips and dimples in her cheeks.
She seemed to be smiling down at him. He vaguely remembered her. He was only three years old when she passed away. The housekeeper, Sarah Blatz, had taken over the chores and had been doing them ever since.
Al reached up and took the picture off the wall. He held it close and studied the smooth features. He thought, “Just who was this lovely lady?”
The kitchen door opened, and in walked Sarah. For a moment she stood staring at Al and the picture in his hand. A faint smile came to her face. As she spoke her voice was soft and gentle; “She was a beautiful woman Al, and a good woman! I guess I can understand why your father never remarried. No one could ever take her place.”
All nodded, “He worshipped the very ground on which she walked.” “He sure did,” Sarah answered, “and by the way, young man, when are you going to get yourself a wife and start raising a family? The next thing you know, you will be old like me, and then it will be too late. A big handsome man like you could take your pick of the crop. You are the last of the Mackeys. Are you going to let the line run out? If you were to pass on now, there wouldn’t be even one single heir to inherit all of this.”
“Hold on,” Al laughed. “Not so fast, remember I was married once and it didn’t work out?” “This time get yourself a good woman! Not someone that likes to spend all her time in a beer joint!”
Al walked over and put an arm around her chubby shoulders. “Listen Sarah,” he told her, “one of these days I will probably do just that. When the right one comes along, I will grab a hold of her quickly.” His big arm gave her a gentle squeeze. “I won’t make that mistake again!” Sarah wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “Take your time boy, I was only trying to help.”
“Listen Sarah,” his voice low, “I have something to tell you. For a long time I have planned to take an extended trip. Now I think that time has come.” He nodded up to the painting on the wall. “My mother was Nicaraguan. I was so young when she passed away; she never had a chance to tell me anything about her past life, or her family.” Tears formed in Al’s eyes. “She very likely had brothers and sisters. She at least had a mother and father!”
He hesitated a moment. “Many a time I have asked my father these questions. He always evaded answering me. He would say; ‘some day I will tell you all about our life down there.’ But he never did. Now it’s too late.”
Al got to his feet and walked over to the desk. He picked up the letter that had come in the mail. “Have you noticed them?” Sarah Nodded. “Yes, I certainly have. He would read them, then lean back in his chair. Every once in a while, a smile would cross his face. Then he would tear it to bits or burn it.”
Al nodded. “I wonder why he was so secretive about them. Open it and read it Sarah. Maybe it will make some sense to you.” Sarah pulled out the thin piece of paper and studied it for a moment.
“From the looks of this handwriting, I would say that this man Kirkland is a very sick man. Maybe he and your father were very good friends. Either that or he was a relative. He could possibly be a relative of your mother’s.”
Al nodded. He took the letter from Sarah and studied it for a moment. “This letter is the only thing I have that can lead me to someone that can answer these questions. So before this John Kirkland dies, I am going to make a trip down there and have a talk with the gentleman. I could have a whole flock of relatives down there, uncles, aunts, cousins, not to mention in-laws.”
Sarah nodded. “I think you should go. I know what it’s like being left all alone.” She wiped her eyes with the dirty apron. “I know you can well afford it as your father was a wealthy man.”
Al nodded. “He made a pile of money down there. He would never say what he was doing, or what kind of business he involved himself. He always gave me the same answer; ‘someday I will tell you all about it.’ But ‘someday’ never came.”
“When will you be leaving?”
“As soon as I can get away. The handwriting in this letter looks mighty shaky. I might not have very much time.”
“Right you are, but if you go down there, you had better be mighty careful. That is not the safest place in the world to be in right now. Another revolution could start up any day.”
“I know you’re right, I don’t intend to get mixed up in any of their troubles. I will be going down as a private citizen of this country. I shouldn’t have any trouble.”
“I wish you a lot of luck… I don’t blame you for going.”
“Thanks Sarah! As soon as this weather clears, I will go to town and see about getting a passport.”