Monday, July 12, 2010
The Coop Keeper, FFF #35
**Author's Note** Flannery won this week's poll for the starter sentence with her wonderful contribution of, "I don't disagree with you, but you have to admit, this puts me in a delicate position." With a sentence like that, how can we go wrong? I'd like to extend a personal welcome to my closest buddy, Err, who joins us for the first time this week. I guess he had heard me rattle on about what a good time this was for so long that I finally got to him. Besides, after reading a few of my entries, I'm certain that I convinced him that he could do a better job than I. Welcome old friends and new, & know that I look forward to reading your tales.**
"I don't disagree with you, but you have to admit, this puts me in a delicate position," said Father Medina as he set his drink aside and turned to level his gaze at me full on. He ran his fingers through his grey hair and gave a tired sigh as he looked me over. I adjusted my shirt so that it wouldn't cling to my sweaty armpits and waived my straw hat to shoo away the ever present cloud of mosquitoes from my face. The village's only grocery store/cantina filled with what could only be described as the "evening crowd". The old priest cleared his throat in preparation to speak.
"What would you have me do Mr. Smith? You, a stranger to me, would want me to betray my vows and reveal something that was entrusted to me in the holy sanctuary of confession by a man who now lies dead in my churchyard? And to gain my trust, you warn of some vague catastrophe that will befall myself and those in my flock, but when pressed, you cannot specify what or by whom? Why should I give you the location of the President's papers? I don't know where you come from but I sure someone in Washington bought your ticket here. Perhaps you are the catastrophe that will befall me?" Then he reached behind his wicker chair and produced a half empty bottle of rum and cut his lemonade liberally with it. He had a long pull, smacked his lips, dabbed his mouth and wiped his brow.
"And you, General Flores, a good Catholic, would ask of me to do the same thing as Mr. Smith asks and give you the President's papers." Father Medina turned his attention to the tall, pock-faced military man next to me and pointed a bony finger at him. "You ask me to remember my loyalty to my country and 'do the right thing' and protect El Presidente from having these very, very sensitive and damning papers revealed to the Americans, the U.N., or the world at large." Father Medina snorted and shoved that claw of a finger a little closer to towards the General's face. "How dare you question my loyalties, you insolent prick! You ask for my silence in covering up your dear leader's oppression of a people that he daily robs and provides almost nothing that the people would want a government for? Bah!" The Father's face set in a cruel sneer revealing his gnarled green teeth.
"Then you give me some trumped-up story about having known the man who died. A passing child wouldn't believe such a lie. It isn't very likely that the President's head military advisor would be all that familiar with a very, very junior aid from the backwaters of the most remote state. You wouldn't run in the same circles. You probably only knew the man by sight and never bothered to learn his name until a few files of 'For Your Eyes Only' documents disappeared from the wrong office. I'd bet the price of a case of rum that you couldn't even tell me his mother's name!"
The flustered General fumbled for a moment before he blurted out, "Maria!".
"A lucky guess, you little toad." Father Medina finished his lemonade and sat back in his chair. He laced his fingers over his chest and let his eyes roam over the last guest at our table. He grinned. She was a woman in her early thirties with long black hair. She was small but very curvy, and her ample breasts seemed to rest on the edge of the table as if they were some sort of advertisement. When she smiled, her perfect, whiter-than-white teeth would have assured her a lucrative career in toothpaste commercials back in the States. Her teeth stood in such sharp contrast to her smooth, olive skin, but even it's tint couldn't conceal the jaundice just beneath the surface. She was piss yellow underneath, yellow like a school bus.
"And you, Miss Benitez, you are as bad as the other two! You would have me give you the papers so that you can publish them in your newspaper and make the world understand that we are a nation with a machete permanently held to our collective throats. You argue and use words like freedom, truth, and justice, but you don't really seem to understand what those words mean. You try to sell me your revolution wrapped in the guise of optimistic fervor. You want to do this to aid the rebels that haunt these jungles and occasionally raid my village for food, supplies, and to drag away our young men like Jesus here," he casually patted the boyish waiter on the ass while Jesus was swapping his empty glass with a full one and pulling the cord on the overhead fan to coax it into stirring the humid air.
"Then, after you realize that you haven't convinced me to see things your way, you make a none too subtle hint that you would be more than willing to warm my bed in exchange for these now valuable papers, and I would have the dual pleasure of servicing you and your grand cause as well. No, if I haven't succumb to the wiles of a woman by my age, I don't think a wide-eyed, idealistic tart like you is going to change my mind now. No, Jesus sees to my needs and I want little of carnal desires now." He winked at Jesus who blushed and turned away quickly to start the generator so the juke box would work. "No, you preach the language of the rebels and the communists, but it is the accolades and prestige that you lust after and you would lie and whore to get it."
The General and the reporter both tried to shout their objections into his face at once but he dismissed them with a waive. The old man was slow in coming to his point but he was getting there. I would let him talk and see if I couldn't pick out an angle in what he said. I could always make my play later after the other two were out of the running.
"Silence! I will hear no more!" He bellowed, "You have had your say and if you want those papers, shut up! You three are like a hound, a fox, and a chicken. All of you are in the same coop and there is one egg somewhere. Mr. Smith, you are the chicken and you want the egg to trade it for whatever you can get later. General Flores, you are the fox who wants the egg to quietly disappear so you can make your master happy. And finally you, Miss Benitez, are the hound. You want the egg so you can blow the whistle on the other two and the world will look at you and say, 'now there's a good dog!' Me, I am the one who has the egg and I control the door to the coop!"
He pulled three envelopes from his pocket and gave us each one. These were his demands and the one who could supply the most in the shortest amount of time got the papers. He said he could always be found at the cantina, except on Sunday morning. I went to the stable that passed for a hotel and made some calls. The next morning, I handed him back the list with every item checked off. He got a new church, a new road to the highway, a new 4X4 for the mailman, a state of the art water system for the village, a school, and instantly created jobs for every man, woman, and child for sixty miles in every direction. There was also a large sum of cash. I checked over the papers and caught the first plane out on Monday.
It turns out that Father Medina was quite adept with his pen, because all three of us got a copy saying exactly what he thought we wanted to hear. Then he and Jesus took all three large sums of money and settled in Wisconsin where they do a lot of fishing.
The wily old bastard sends me a fuckin' Christmas card every year.