Saturday, January 29, 2011

Aldebaran over the Amazon (a short story)

Aldebaran over the Amazon
((In the deep Amazon Jungles of Peru, 2000 AD) (Partly based on actual events))

It was just after dinner, late dinner and they were sitting at one of the lodge’s tables, talking, fiddling on a guitar that was kept in one of the corners of the recreational room and lounge, for those who wished to play, drinking as if everything was, and had been hunky-dory all day. An orange giant star was overhead—Aldebaran, it was twilight, and it was as if the star had waited for evening to come. The moon looked drowsy, but enchanting, shadows crossed the moon as if they were eagles; in the Amazon, it seems twilight hesitates, the sunset waits reluctantly, silently, and tonight, this very night was no different in that respect.

“Will you have a soda, beer or bottled water?” the kitchen boy asked.
“I’ll have a beer,” Christopher Wright told the mess boy.
“I’ll have a beer also,” Wright’s wife Delilah told him.
“Nothing else to do at nights around here but talk, look at the stars, listen to the sounds, drink,” Wright agreed.
“Go ahead; get one for all of us, including you,” Wright commented.
The kitchen boy, who was called Juan, grabbed four beers out of the small bar refrigerator.
“How much is it?” Wright asked Avelino, his guide.
“One dollar is plenty, “he remarked, “You get the beer free, that’s for a tip.”

Christopher Wright had been carried into the lodge area just an hour earlier by Avelino, and the mess boy, and his wife stuck to his side like white on rice, they had brought him straight to his room—he was hyperventilating, completely exhausted, and it would have appeared to an onlooker as if he was passing down some great corridors in his mind to some strange doom, he was trying to get his senses back—he didn’t look as if he was completely there.
He sat up on his bed, his wife had pulled back the mosquito net, and she thanked Avelino, she was happy with Avelino, her eyes appeared to have seen monoliths, when she looked at him, he who had stood like a monument and shot the puma dead with one shot, no armor, no council, just a lonely Titan. She then turned silent about the whole matter, she left for a moment to wash her face, the breeze from the Amazon River made her feel more comfortable.
“The puma almost got you,” Avelion said to Christopher Wright, “and he is a damn big one too!”
Mrs. Wright had come back, looked at Avileno, she was a cute and petite and smart woman, attractive, an accountant that had worked for the National Telephone Company of Peru, in Lima, she had a high position. She had been married to Christopher Wright for less than one year now (1999-2000).
“He is a big puma, isn’t he?” Wright said. His wife looking at him, then looked at both Avileno and Juan, as if they were responsible for her husband’s near death experience, although she knew different.
At first, Avelino, the Peruvian guide and hunter she had never truly trusted him, until now. He was too careless, to assured of himself, had told her: “I know this part of the jungle like the palms of my hands.” And he did.
He was a strange looking native, who spoke English as well as he did Spanish, and some other native tongues. He was of average height for his people. Short dark hair, clean shaven, a dark bronze face with a set of extremely dark pitted eyes; perhaps in his middle thirties, and seldom, if ever did he smile. The closest thing was a grin, or half-smile. Avelino, also was very fit, and very good at what he did, and had somewhat showed off today; he could be smug, and he liked being the hero.
He grinned at her now, and she pulled away from his side view of her. His big hands were clean but his fingernails were dirty, as was his slacks, and boots, he hadn’t had time to change, only wash his sweat-less face, and hands. She was some five years his senior and her husband, twelve years older than she.
For Christopher Wright’s age, he was well built, strong looking, medium bone structure, a Doctorate in Education, a licensed psychologist. A man who had been in a war, survived two heart attacks, one stroke, and now had a neurological disease. Hence, his wife watched him as nurse at a General Hospital would watch a patient in intensive care.

“Here’s to the puma,” he said, sitting with the beer Juan brought him in his hands.
“Yes,” said Delilah, “I can’t thank you enough for what you did, you saved my husband.” It was not what Christopher wanted to hear. And then they all hit each others glasses, in a toasting manner.
“Let’s not talk about the puma,” said Avelino, noticing Christopher was a little ill at ease about it all, perhaps resentful, “Let’s just drink and be merry tonight.” He grinned, trying to make it a half smile at Delilah, and she smiled back at him.
“It’s been an odd day,” said Christopher “hadn’t we out to go get some pictures of the puma?” (Although now it was 9:00 p.m.)
“Could do that,” responded Avileno.
“You know deer, you’re very tired, and you should get some sleep, you could get a spasm in your spine, because of the lack of it, and the stress.”
“Drink up,” said Avelino.
“I can’t finish my beer and my husband doesn’t drink much anymore, his heart you know.”
“Your face is really red,” Avelino told Christopher.
“Yes,” Delilah said, “he gets that way.”
“Perhaps too much sun,” said Christopher, adding, “I say, I’m not in for any beauty contest, so who cares anyhow!” and he finished his beer, “Get me another one Juan,” he ordered.
“Let’s call it a night,” said Delilah.
“I just started,” said Christopher, feeling a little upset, perhaps because Avileno had to come to his rescue, and ended up looking like the hero, to his wife.
“Trekking in the jungle tomorrow is going to be very difficult for you if you don’t get your sleep,” Delilah exclaimed.
“That’s so silly,” said her husband.
“Either way for me is fine.” Avileno commented, somewhat indifferent to the whole scene, actually he didn’t want to play marriage counselor.
Delilah gazed at all three faces, she was holding in her tears, had been, still was, they wanted to come out in a flood. Avileno sensed this, turned his head, it was all too much for him to see a woman cry. And Christopher just shook his head, hoping she’d not cry. Then he’d have to comfort her, or Avileno might. But she didn’t actually cry, she just sniffled and her body shook here and there, as if she had just come out of a snow storm. It was all that stress and strain, and tension pinned up wanting to escape.

So they all sat there in the recreational room under candlelight, the generators were turned off, shut down, at 10:30 p.m., and they all turned silent, listened to the sounds of the jungle, which is never quiet, even the darkness seems to stretch itself out, and seemingly in the process yawn. And the orange bright star was over the lodge—as they avoided one another’s eyes, as the boy went outside to light the gas lamps that lead to several cabins, along the wooden walkway. Somehow Aldebaran gave harmony to the night.

“Don’t feel embarrassed,” said Avileno, “just walking through the jungle for hours on end, is taking a beating; today was no different than all those other days.” Then he hesitated, furthermore saying: “Good Lord, had you not taken off by yourself, and spotted that puma, it would not have chased after you, you had stepped into its territory, startled it somewhat I believe, and he found himself like you did, in an awkward situation.”
“Yes,” said Delilah, smiling, “we all took a beating today, in the heat and jungle leafage slapping you here and there, and down the tributaries, and then…then that wild cat chasing Christopher!” still not making any eye contact.
“I’m awfully sorry, I made you have to kill the puma,” said Christopher. (It seemed to have bothered Avelino, and this was his way of getting it out, and not losing his gracious tip, he was expecting.)
“Well—let’s leave it at that. I mean, you don’t need to talk about it with anyone around here. The authorities don’t like such going on.”
Christopher felt like a coward, running back through the jungle for help, hollowing for help, when he spotted the puma, and in the process of taking a picture, trying to get close to it, arousing him to the point he startled him, perhaps made him chase him, unwillingly—in essence, it all might have been avoided. Now Avelino was looking the hero and he was jealous. Felt stupid.
“You can talk about it when you get back home, show them a picture or two, you can stand by the puma tomorrow and take that picture before we bury it; make up all the tales you want, but not around the lodge or in Iquitos please—even if I sound out of place to ask you, nonetheless, the natives would frown on the lodge, ask too many questions.”

And that was that, he would continue to be his guide throughout the rest of the week, on a very formal and controlled bases—and there was only a day and a half left anyhow; he’d not allow him to wander off like he had done before. And he did get that very generous tip, he had expected.

No: 718 (1-28-2011)