UNITED STATES—There had been a boiling point reached the day before when Yglesias was digging out a trench for a new irrigation canal with a steam shovel. They had been in the banana forest when they heard a huge explosion, it could have been one of the Americans dynamiting fish, and it could have just as easily been an earthquake. Soon a big pontifical cloud of smoke rose about the canopy of high banana leaves, wispy as the incense draped over parishioners at mass. Antonio put down his bunch of bananas hoisted on his shoulder, delicately in his haste to see what had happened.
The steam shovel had tipped over like an oversized toy. The workers at the plantation would never see a banana this color unless the harvest missed a bunch. They cut them down green so they would ripen and be an unblemished shade of bright banana green after being unloaded on docks in New Orleans and then sent on their ways through the true Bananaland, which was the territory that consumed the banana rather than grow it and had made the yellow crescent shaped fruit its favorite since 1877.
Yglesias, the driver, had steered too slowly and dug into giant boulders like prehistoric eggs. The embankment collapsed under its steel treads and he was catapulted out of the driver’s cabin and cracked the whole side of his face on the curve of one of the rocks. Teeth and blood were on the granite. One side of his face had caved in like a rotten pumpkin, the remaining side of his face was unscathed, and one green-blue eye was open. One never remained indifferent to these sights, but one must, above keep one’s eyes on the road. It is permitted to feel so much more than you let on.
“You son of a stinking hag,” Muñoz sweat and raved. “You abortion born of a thousand sluts,” and with that he kicked him in the rubs time and again. The good side of Yglesias seemed to be enjoying this punishment, and he was of course quite dead and impervious to the manager’s polished lace boots. “That steam shovel was worth 30,000 lempiras!”
Seeing the dead worker defiled by Muñoz’s kicks triggered something in Antonio. Instead of continuing to keep chopping down the banana bunches and hauling them over their shoulders to the waiting train. Antonio though, “We are hungry and you take somebody in chains and hold them in a camp jail just because they eat one of your stinking bananas, that are going to be thrown away. And you know a human being is sticking that yellow sticker on the green banana so some poor dupe thinks it was made in a factory. That it didn’t grow out of the good dirty earth. You are afraid, you are so afraid of giving the unused lands to the people, some who’d had it and some who’d never had it, to see for themselves the growth of the soil and the green engine that drives the sprouts. And see how one seed spawns one hundred, and be thus prodded to reflect about the contrast between that campo and the eyesores that haunt us at every turn in the cities.
So we can be observant about what we are so inobservant of: the here and now. We are so busy coveting this or that and running after this or that. Later, it is quickly discarded. It is left to rust or rot in the rain.
“Munoz profaned the dead,” Antonio talked to Valenzuela, the other poorly shaved boss in a room with a ceiling fan, didn’t seem to do any good, he used a hand fan. He was very quiet, taking it all in, even “They treat us like animals” with stony brown eyes. “We’d be better off dead.” Only to the white man was nature hostile infested with “wild” animals and “savage” people. To the native Garifuna the planet was tame, the earth was beautiful, smothered and heaped by the blessings of the great mystery. Not until the hairy man from the North came and with brutality ladled travesty upon travesty.
To be continued…
Grady is the Wizard of Fiction.