Friday, November 9, 2012

The Senator from Lima

          The Cockfight, Lima, Peru

On the night of my birthday, October 7, the plane descended over Lima.  The spread of the lights below me went for miles; it was like looking at a twenty-mile power plant all lit up like a Christmas tree; Lima can be dazzling from the air.
       As we descended the lights came narrower—making everything more condensed against the dark background of the sky.
       Chick Evans closed his window slightly, leaving enough open to see some of the lights, then put his shoes back on, buttoned his belt around his waist, then opening up the shutter slightly, he seen the lit cross on the cliff out by Miraflores, it was just visible as the moonlight help him pin-point it.
       Mr. Evans was in the fall of his life, a little tired from all the traveling he had done, and seemingly wanted to get to his home in San Juan Miraflores. He was a freelance writer, who had several novels to his credit some, which had done well, and others not so well.  He was also noted for being a writer one might call, from: “The Road less Traveled,” as the papers called him, quoting Robert Frost. 
       He had met the previous president of Peru some years back while in the Amazon area at a hotel in Iquitos, and was friends with the Mayor of Miraflores, along with a Senator from Lima K.F. Matter of fact, he was to have lunch with the Senator if time permitted.  
       The Senator had called him, asking if he could stop by his office upon arrival within the city, and possibly consider a story assignment. In addition to the politicians Mr. Evans knew, he also was a friend with a few popular T.V. celebrities, one being of a spiritual nature.  Although his name was not a household word, it was recognized in the larger cities of Peru; and two of his seven books were translated into Spanish.
       For the most part, Mr. Evans was a vicarious and happy man, self-confident most of the time, with good direction, and could at times be opinionated.  He was an American War veteran, from the Vietnam era; with a doctorate degree from the National University of Central Peru.
       Mr. Evans always felt life was fair, inasmuch as if you ask for it, and got it, why complain. And he got what he asked for most of the time, to include no wife, children, dogs or cats. He had the biggest house on the block in St. Paul, Minnesota, and on his block in Juan Miraflores, in Lima.  He was contemplating retiring, he had saved quite a lot of money for the occasion, and this was on his mind.

       “Thank you misses,” he said as he disembarked the plane to the grown level of the airport in Lima, Peru. 
       The stewardesses were pretty, young and too wild looking for him, but he admired their youth and beauty, matter of fact, he liked the Peruvian look, their bronze Spanish Inca coloring; having thought that, he told himself he needed to simply get home and rest, jetlag was setting in.
       He had been covering a boxing match in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a championship fight between Marcelo Dominguez vs. Fabio Moli; Dominguez being the Champion of South America, and Moli being the Champion of Argentina.  Moli appeared to Evens as being close to seven feet tall. He had sat in the second row of chairs, close to the ring—both being heavy weights; it was bound to be a good fight.  Dominguez played a little of the Ali-shuffle, and played the ropes a lot, trying to get Moli tired, and so the skillful Dominguez did just that: Moli’s huge arms missing Dominguez’s head by inches a dozen times.  Now Evans was in the process of recording the fight for a short story.
        After the fight, Evans approached the ring where Dominguez was, and rightfully getting his congratulations his victorious applause which surrounded him.  Evans caught his eye, and shook his fist in a victory cry about five feet away from him, as Dominguez gave Evans a cheerful smile, thus, greeting him back in a like manner.  One of the onlookers knew the Novelist, Mr. Evans, and quickly took a picture of them both expressing that moment. 
       Evens told himself he needed to rush home and get ready for a dinner with a friend of his at the “Rosa Nautica.”  He enjoyed the food there, especially the fish and duck; the restaurant was situated on wooden platform that went out into the ocean.  The waves would hit the restaurant as you ate, making for a most spellbinding experience, tranquilizing the mind.   

The new president had been in office for a while now, had visited the United States and president Bush.  Matter of fact, he was welcomed with open arms instead of kept waiting like the previous presidents often did to the South American dignitary; a repulsive and disrespectful act Evans thought of his great countrymen.  President Toledo at times had a lot of controversy about him, and some of the people were having second thoughts about his capabilities, that is, him having more Inca blood than Spanish, helped him get elected, rather than sincerity for his countrymen; Evans thought that was a good asset, his girlfriend being half Inca; otherwise known as a Mestizo [Inca with Spanish blood]. 

       Abimael Guzman’s group known as “Sendero Luminoso,” were still in the mountainous area of Ayacucho, while he himself was behind bars; notwithstanding, Lopez, had taken over as the leader, and was trying to get recruits, and restructure the army they once had.  Lopez was one of Guzman’s lieutenants.

The phone rang at Evans’ house, he picked it up, and it was the Senator was on the other line. 
    “Sit down Evens,” he said whirly, “I have something to tell you.”
    “What’s up Senator?”  Evans asked him politely.
    “I’m not sure”, he hesitated, then went on to say: “I can’t meet you for dinner.”
    “Do you need to let me know something Senator,” Evans said.
    “What the hell,” he said with a cracked voice, “I might just as well tell you. A while back I made a deal with the ‘MRTA’ group, the main man, and I don’t want to tell you his name, because I don’t want you involved.  But anyway, he helped me secure my post as Senator, and I promised him something in return. Well, things have changed since Fujimori was President, and I did not fulfill my promise.  Actually the group sold my promise to the “Sendero Luminoso”, that is to Guzman’s lieutenants one by the name of Lopez.  I could buy my way out of the promise for five million, but who has that kind of money. And after the tragedy of 9/11 in the United States, I cannot get the passports and the positions they wanted in our government. They want to make a show of me.  You know, show the others what they do to people that do not keep their word.  I am not leaving this room Evans.  I’m just tired and want to lay down here in this hotel, and die.”
       “What hotel are you at,” asked Evans.  He looked at the clock; it said 7:15 p.m.
       Jose Antonio,” said the Senator, adding, “there are two cars with terrorists in them, out by my hotel; I see them from the 9th floor here.  They are waiting for me to come out, but I’m not going out, they will have to come up and get me,” said the Senator, checking the two men in suites with his binoculars standing by their Cadillac’s.
       “Hell with dinner Senator, just tell me what hotel you are at?” asked Evans again.
       “The Americana; that’s just the way it works Evans, nothing you can do.”
       “I’ll take a chance, I’m coming down to see you, and since they don’t know me, they don’t have any reason to hurt me, see you in a few minutes.”
       “Got anything to drink over there?” asked the Senator.
       “I’ll bring down some Scotch,’ said Evans.
       “You’re a good man Evans, thanks.”

“Mr. Evans”, said a voice as he started to walk up the steps to the hotel and visit the Senator with the bottle of Scotch in his right hand.  He turned about to look, two men were standing several feet from him, said one of the two:
     “The city’s full of do-gooders like you Mr. Evens, if you’re smart you’ll have the Senator come down and join us for a ride.  Matter of fact if he doesn’t we just may go visit his family, let him know that.”
       “Tell Mr. Lopez from me,” said Evens, “I hear he’s a betting man, and what would he bet for the Senator’s life?” 
       The fat man started laughing.
        “O.K.,  Mr. Evans, I’ll call Lopez, but now you’re in the middle of this; it might be wiser if you just move on while you can.” He looked at Evans like a shark looking at a small fish ready to be eaten.  Evans moved over to the side of the stairway, as the fat man pulled out his cell phone and made a quick call to his boss.
       Then said the fat man, somewhat surprised: “Hay, you got a deal!”
       Evans didn’t make a move, knowing the deal would not be as easy as it sounded.
       “What do you say?” asked the fat man.
       “Thanks, but I’m sure there is more to it.”  Again the fat man laughed, poked his buddy in the ribs, “Smart guy,” he said; Evens impatiently waiting for the punch line.
       “Here it is,” said the fat man, “you’re a betting man like you said, and so is my boss, as you said, he is going  to bet with you, do you want to take the bet or not?”
       “Tell me the bet,” questioned Evens.
       “I’ll tell you, but if you refuse to do it, the Senator is dead meat, and you’ll have to live with that, of course, he is dead meat if you don’t make the bet anyhow. And if you say anything, you’re dead meat, entendido?”  
       Said the fat man, adding: “See gringo, you’re not so smart; I may get to cut your throat”
       “Yes I understand, I entendido,” said Evans “now what is the bet?”
       “You and I, and Miss Rodrigo in the car, the boss’s girlfriend,” said the fat man, “and my friend here, slim,” a tall silent lean man, with a poker face, “will all go to this restaurant in old Lima; there will be cockfights tonight a total of six, we will bet on them.” 
       “I think I know which one you’re talking about,” replied Evans, having been there several times and betting.
       “Good, you know what I’m talking about then.  Anyway, you got to win three out of six to save the Senator’s life.  But if you lose, the Senator has to commit suicide. If he doesn’t you are a dead man, and so is he, and his family. On the other hand, if you win he wins, you are both free to go your way. Now if the Senator does not want to go along with this, we will simply wait for the final hour and quietly kill him, one way or the other.”

Evans knocked on room 912, the Senator’s room.
       “Yes,” a voice from behind the door said.
       “Senator it’s me Evans.”
       “Are you alone?”
       “Okay, wait.”
       Several latches behind the door were being unlocked.
       “Come in, I’ve been watching the car with the woman in it from the window here my binoculars, I see the two fellows followed you into the hotel.”  
       “Well, I’m not sure, but I tried to cut a deal with the boss man;   incidentally, your room is bugged.”
       “I guessed as much,” said the Senator, since you took so long in coming, “I am a dead man, right?”
       “No not quite,” said Evans, “I made a deal it’s the only one you’re going to get, and I’m not sure even if I want to go through with it.”
       “What kind of deal, any kind is better than none,” replied the Senator.
       “And they are only going to make this deal, no other deal,” said Evans.
       “Well, get it out, tell me,” said the Senator.
       “I suppose once into power it becomes addictive, that’s how you got yourself into this nightmare…” said Evens. 
       “You talk too damn much,” said the Senator shaking life a leaf on a branch in the wind, “…get on with it, what’s the deal.”
       “Well, they want me to go to a cock-fight tonight, matter-of-fact, in a few minutes.  I got to bet on six of the fights, and if I win three, you’re a free man, and if I do not, you got to commit suicide.  I guess it’s better they feel if you kill yourself than they do it.  Plus, they told me they had to make an example out of you. If we lose the bet, and you don’t commit suicide, I’m a dead man, and so are you and so is your family.”  
       “I’ll go along with it,” said the Senator.
       “Listen, I’m a dead man, and so is your family, if you don’t follow through,” said Evens.
       “At fifty-seven year old, I’ve lived a good and a long life, I’d like to live longer, but I don’t want to have to run or worry about it every minute. I’m tired; success has its judgments along the road.” 
       Having said all he cared to say, the Senator went back to his bed to lie down, looking out the window, dimming the lights. 
       “Go now, they‘re waiting for you by the car.”   

“Bright Gringo,” said the fat man at the restaurant, as they were sitting down waiting for the cockfight to start.
       “There is the man with the money in his hand if you want to make a side bet goes ahead” said the fat man to Evens, laughing.
       “Why the hell don’t you get a beer for yourself, you make me nervous,” said Slim to the fat man, who was nervous simply for showing his face in a public place, a wanted man.
       “Don’t want one; just want to get this over with.” 
       The lights dimmed, and two men come down the center isle to the small arena with a wild cock in their hands. The men walked inside caged in area, holding the cocks tight against their chests and combing their necks with their hands.
       The men were now in the coop, walking around, allowing the cocks to get the scent of the enemy.  Then they put knifes on their feet that would allow them to cut up each other as they fought.
       “You want to bet,” said the Peruvian banker [who took the bets], holding a handful of money.  The fat man said, “Yes, why not, a side bet!”
       “How much?” said the banker.
        “A straight bet double my money; fifty-soles!” about $15.00, handing him the bill.
        “Bien!” said the banker, and took the fifty-sole bill.

    One cock was taller than the other, stronger looking, and more body full, muscle toned, huskier.  But Evans picked out the smaller one.  The Fat man was unsure why, but said nothing.  Evans felt the smaller one was leaner and told both Slim and the Fat man, it was his choice, feeling in the long run, the lighter weight cock could out maneuver the heavier one.  Plus, the big one would slow down quicker, and had to reach more to get to an offensive. 
       As the fight started, the lean one just kept walking in circles.  Neither one making any big moves, then had the big one jumped on the other picking at its eyes and head, while cutting at the legs and wings of the lean one?  Somehow the lean one rolled itself around the big one, under the big one’s feathers and got back up on its feet and shoved its weight onto the big one’s neck. The big one trying to get away to get a rest couldn’t move, as the lean one on top was already resting.
       Then out of the blue, blood started coming from the constant picking at the big one’s neck by the lean one; then the eyes again.  And then the big one laid dead, a few impulsive movements, but he couldn’t move.
       “So you got one out of six, you still got two more to go,” said the fat man, smirking at the gringo. 
       Evans didn’t say anything, he knew no matter what, success or just trying to get ahead in life there is always one jerk wanting to put you down, put you in place, when you were already down—evil begets evil.  
    The fat man lost his bet with the banker the second time around, he had put up another fifty-sole bill, and the second of six fights had ended.         Again it seemed the cocks were mismatched, one being taller and heavier than the other, and again Evans bet on the lean one, and again won the bet, and the fat man got more agitated than he had been.
         And then the third fight started.  The Fat man watched with intensity,    it was fierce, and both were lean and fast.  And at times all they did was circle one another, and one of the men had to go in and push the cocks to towards one another to fight.  The crowd was getting angry, and the birds were looking everywhere as if they were lost.  This fight took so long many got up and got a beer, but at the end, Evans’ cock lost; and so did the fat man’s side bet.
       The fifth fight started, but this time the tall cock was lean, and the smaller one was lean.
       “Which one do you want…” asked the fat man?
       “The tall one,” commented Evans, and the fight started.  And the smaller one jumped on top of the big one like a shark.
       “No, no I changed my mind, the small one,” said Evans. The fat man looked, shook his head, as if to say—okay; and then said:
       “Okay Evans, but no more changing your mind, you got the small one.” And within the next two minutes the fight changed, and the tall one overpowered the small one.  Evans lost, and the fat man won for the first time, one-hundred soles: he was jubilant.
       “This is the last one Evans, you got to win or it is curtains for the Senator, and possibly you.”
       The fight started, and the cocks were pretty well matched, both husky looking, not fast, rather slow.  But when they started fighting they’d fight for a quick moment, and both got tired it seemed, and walk in circles again.  And again the owners of the birds had to go inside the cage and provoke then to continue the fight.  It was as though they did not want to entertain the guests. And then as the man walked outside of the cage, they started back fighting.  Evans’ cock lost.  All three looked at one another.  The fat man was a little surprised, mouth open, trying to clearing his windpipe having eaten a chicken sandwich.  Evans signed a big sigh.

Notes: written: 1-18-2003 Published in the book, “Death on Demand,” © 2003 (Reedited for republication, October, 2012).  Parts of the story are based on fact, the rest fiction, such as the boxing match, etc. The author was in Argentina for that match; as he was for the cockfight, etc. When the author wrote the Story, President Toledo was president of Peru at the time. In 1999, the author actually stayed at the ‘Jose Antonio Hotel.’  (1300-words have been cut from the story)