UNITED STATES—Puerto Cortés waved the white flag without a single shot fired. With the rebels in control of the territory, Joe Holly moved into the Hotel Lafebre. He drank bourbon in the bar and shared war stories, Joe Holly did, and struck up conversation with anybody who’d listen. “Mr. Reporter,” he said waxing loquacious, “The Revolution is Won…No more bloodshed. President Saavedra knows the sentiments of the people. The final stand will be in the capitol. We’ll win by starving out Tegucigalpa.”
I wasn’t a reporter, but I listened to Joe Holly anyway…I shore did. There are no second acts in American lives, and it’s true even for a fella like Sam Delaney, and sure as hell sure for Joe Holly, the soldier for hire. His moment where glory intersected truth. He had one more go around, the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand ultimately triggered for his soldier’s zest something akin to strength and a growing sense of purpose. He went to enlist for the War brewing in Europeland, and he was rejected because he was over 50 years old. Holly did not take this lying down, he appealed to General Pershing, and despite the general’s recommendation, the local board in New Orleans rejected the 50 year-old definitively.
Joe Holly bummed around Bananaland trying to recapture the glory of Sam’s revolution: if you’re gonna be a part of something, it’s better to be part of a revolution than a coup. With that shred of sophistry Joe Holly clung to redemption and did all the things others do at the start of their climb up the American ladder and that unreacheable, unprolongable pinnacle of American success: he became an inventor of a perpetual battery and blew a lot of money on patents and prototypes,
He dabbled at writing his own life story and never seemed to get very far, Joe Holly even went to Hollywood and did a screen test, and was deemed unbelievable as a cavalryman in an epic being then cranked away at a place called Agua Dulce. He could tell the Spaniards had been here, then something tugged at him, and drew him back to New Orleans and to seek out Sam Delaney, the employer who gave him his glory.
On the train somewhere after Amarillo Texas something overcame him, he had chills but he was burning inside, he coughed and sneezed. He made it far as Baton Rouge, on the train whose locomotive he’d once run between Memphis and New Orleans. He saw his wife and daughters. She accused him of gallivanting and being an overgrown boy who plays at war. Like only a loved one knows how, she poured lemon juice into an open wound. Joe then showed up at the doorstep of a son who sprang from a wild oat sown long ago in Memphis.
“My son. . .”
“Father?” he said.
“It’s me,” he declared. “Ya know, when I fella gets to be my age in the U. S. of A., he isn’t good for much more than being food for worms.”
This son put him on the train to New Orleans, having decided that Central America would be the best place for his debilitated dad. Bidding farewell, Joe Holly clicked together his mirror polished black boots—something he was fanatical about maintaining with saddle soap, shoe polish and the finest chamois.
To be continued…
Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction.