UNITED STATES—President Saavedra was in thrall to the article of truth, the wizards of warcraft held close to their chests, that La Ceiba was impregnable to attack. Why should Joe Holly’s expedition be any different? Geography had placed the town almost in a bowl, backed by staggeringly high grooved mountains with impassable trails, on the other side surrounded by water, so that any vessels approach would be observed.
Except that nobody could detect because they didn’t see it coming and couldn’t imagine it. That Joe Holly’s forces landed on the dock and taken the rocky trail to the deteriorating fort sent out a shockwave, it was the crack in the armor that lay naked the powerful myth that the colonial porteño city was unattackable. That it was impossible to fall, and yet had been violated, was being violated now by foreigners and a group of pay soldiers picked up off the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans, unthinkable. Rather like walking on a moonlit night, magnolia trees wreathed in Spanish moss and there’s a beauty of a moon in the sky, shiny as a brand-new Liberty dollar, and then its suddenly shatters into a dozen pieces and leave a black-blue void.
The message from Holly about the coming reinforcements of insurgents was a poker lie, completely bogus, and it also revealed him as a deft strategist. They sure found out quickly the kind of man Saavedra was. He yelped for help, immediately sought the American charge-d’affairs in the landlocked capital of Tegucigalpa, tendering his resignation and willingness to abide be whosoever the Yanks should finger for El Presidente, then spoke to his country’s senate to unveil his decision, to the gentleman financier from Wall Street who’d so generous offered to let their lowly republic put more money on Uncle Sam’s credit card and have money to continue the mirages of a highway from the turquoise blue sea all the way to the dingy blue Pacific, and the schools and hospitals and do something at last with the 3000 miles of railroad tracks that went precisely nowhere.
The president wasn’t booed or shouted at, accused of being treasonous, no, but he was sweating when he was done speaking and left the chambers a lone man had to mop of water that pooled on the dais where President Miguel Padilla Ortiz had spoken his heart, Love comes, love goes, even when sanctified by the church, flesh rots and turns to jelly, a vein on gold runs out, colosseums crumble—land alone lasts, and you can put a seed in it and watch it grow—one mango tree and there are mangos more than five families will ever be able to eat, and President Saavedra thus reaffirmed his humble vow to keep giving unoccupied lands to the poor.
Then there was dead silence, mausoleum calm that devoured this man desperate for a response. Saavedra fled the country and lived a ridiculously long life that took him to New Orleans and France and Spain. A government official about whom little was known, René Del Valle, dogged by the suspicion that Del Valle was a derivation of the French surname, Debayle, Spanishfied to give the common touch, he did the one thing promised an election to rubber-stamp the new president and it worked because he later got to be president—several times.
The main thing was that after all the plotting and skullduggery, at long last finally in that that titanic year of 1912, General Miguel Padilla Ortiz got installed in the presidency with an overwhelming vote and he was hailed as a “hero” of the Revolution.
One of the very first things the newly elected president did was have Congress award Sam Delaney concessions covering the next thirty years. An $800,000 loan to cover all expenses incurred by Operation Banana, and additional 23,875 hectares on the Costa Norte, no taxes levied or fees involved, and permission to build and all trains, import any and all equipment duty-free, to build any and all roads, all other features foreseen and unforeseeable as they might not have been yet invented and, yes, even the right to build any and necessary sewers. Indeed, since time immemorial homo sapiens have been full that which is best out of sight and smell.
General President Miguel Padilla Ortiz remained loyal to Sam Delaney, after putting on the presidential sash in the Honduran province for the second time. He granted the concession of 100 years to his friend Sam Delaney. He achieved his dream of a third presidential term and was seen as a hero of the revolution, which was really a coup disguised as a revolution. Now president Padilla felt fatigue, at first, in the tropic’s embrace, he shivered where he should have sweat, the joints in his body ached and he wasn’t half the man he used to be. Nor a third.
Joe Holly’s great ally decided to give speeches and told the story of the National Debt over a series of balcony talks, which indeed attracted great crowds and reinvigorated President Padilla Ortiz’ waning stamina, but the desire for sleep –beyond desire, lust—overcame all. His mind became a luminous blank mirage, his limbs withered. Power had no charm over President Padilla Ortiz, he’d rather succumb to sleep and advance the discovery that heavy blankets made him feel like a baby again, and he could go soon to the river of dreams and inky blackness.
There would be good days and the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Europeland restored his waning forces like a transfusion of fresh blood. Hopes were raised and ultimately dashed. As he perished, the recipient of the power and direct circuit to clout denied in his native land held his leader’s hand and alternately cheered him on and shed copious tears. When his leader’s breathing faltered, and Holly held his breath, his own force and power sputtered like a light bulb during a hurricane. When El Presidente died, Joe Holly instantly became a ghost. Suddenly the celebrity soldier was nobody.
The President’s prophetic last words reverberated. They could have been Joe’s epitaph, as well, “No one is a prophet in their own land.” They reverberated.
To be continued…
Grady is the Wizard of Fiction.