UNITED STATES—“You heard what I said,” said Nash. Ochoa compressed his lips and looked like a many in the heat about to collapse from heat stroke. Nash added:

“That’s way beyond what I am permitted to offer. But I like you, Ochoa. And I don’t want you to make a mistake. That offer will be void when you and I part ways. So you decide. It’s now or never.

Nash reached down into the pocket of his seersucker jacket, like somebody reaching for that final coin. Out pinched between two fingers a wooden match that was brough to a fat cigar. The spark of fire caught. “I need to keep the mosquitos away,” said Nash, waving on hand. “They’re eating me alive,” he said and continued: “Look at all the prosperity the Company is giving the Valle de Sula. When you sell your land to the United States Fruit Co. it yields benefits that trickle beyond you. These help your friends and neighbors, leading to trains and electricity. You see what the gringos have done, it’s amazing.”

A woman stood on the porch of the house, nursing a baby. She was swinging her wide hips gently, and held her head the gold color of grain. Adequate. The fungus traveling up and down the isthmus was nature’s way of saying that bananas were a Satanic abortion. If it wasn’t for bringing in new varieties and nasty poison spray that could render the sprayers over time, all the boatfuls of bananas headed to the Buck Republic was cease and have no reason to exist, and you join those other experiments in flora and fauna such as dinosaurs that mysteriously came to a sudden end.

Nash took a puff and blew smoke out again.

“I understand why you don’t want to change. It is to your advantage. You are accustomed to the old way. You must pick the fruit while it’s ripe. Or its rots. The only way for things to stay the same is for them to change. Wise me like Mr. Jones know that. You better get on the train. Or you will become one of these old men exiled to a place in the past, forever ago, because he did not jump when the time was ripe.”

“This is my legacy. It contains the sweat, mine and that of my ancestors. You expect me to go to town and go from being a man to being a customer. You are that man who comes with the glow of yellow metal in your eyes, green with greed for this material I have no use for. And you want to infect me with the need which I have no need of.”

“You are a reasonable man, Juan Manuel;” the licenciado grabbed a sheaf of papers from his little doctor’s bag, uncapped a fountain pen, keeping a green blotter at the ready.

“Sign it and you will be falling into a tub of mermaids. Imagine driving in the town with a fine Model T. You be part of the progress that’s coming our way.”

“Progress is a hollow word, mister. It’s not enough to keep me driving of the cliff that hides behind your words.”

The steam train jiggled down the tracks and the whistle tooted as it closed inevitably to the encampments. His resolve to keep the ranch drifted away with the smoke and steam. Brought him back to the plantations that held a mysterious attraction despite the abuse and exploitation he had suffered.

To be continued…

Grady is the Wizard of Fiction.

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)