UNITED STATES—The landowners in Bananaland, who had sold out and then made a bonanza, they too would be on a train, not immune to the allure and magnet of the camps. The American scribbler and embezzler (alias) O. Henry slapped the name Banana Republic. No wonder he was an embezzler when you are in the United States of Dollars (the Dollar Tree, yes it grows on trees) of course you’re going to play a little of that guitarra, we call it a lots of things in Bananaland, feria, cushqui, plata, pasta, lana. Aaaaalll aboard!

The twin ribbons stretched into the far distance, people were handing from the train, spitting steam and cinder, hanging from the outside. I cannot tell you how excited it was, the buzzing energy emanated, and the Company CIA, its acronym in English, Arauca, the name alone of Costa Norte stirred restive stirring, made people cross their legs and tap their feet with restless energy, like a sun’s shine gone out of whack, intensified to a solar opiate. And those he couldn’t make it aboard the followed the parallel of the tracks, now and again a glint of sun blinded us. It got stuck in the popular soul ambitions and legends irremediably around the despotic Dance of Dollars that came out in a flurry of a leaf storm.

Wherever you tread, you’d step on money, except for some sharp turn on the railway that we’d miss you’d see a curlew pecking the hole where the eyeball had been of some poor soul could up in the hysteria of the journey. The gringos poured money into it to make it almost paradise. And it was possible, yes, to earn more than in any neighboring country, the poor neighbors to the south of Bananaland, where it had not yet arrive were poor stepchildren, in haughty countries like Chile, that bacon strip of a national along the Pacific coast that saw birth of The Poet.

Honduras had the cash, baby, the telephone poles went on infinitely alongside the silver ribbons, punctuated by iron bridges passed over by the trains with steam and cinder and sound of dragging chains, beset by birds of prey and charlatans, o Dios mio, the farther we went, the deeper and denser became the smell of the banana, which in tie became unbreathable, caused one to retch, Dios. On felt one’s hat squeeze around one’s head and made one dizzy and light-headed.

“Do you have a family, Ochoa.”

“My first wife left me, the second died in childbirth. He left with the grandparents. After I sold my plot to the Company. Misgiving I had about that but the opportunity beckoned.”

“I did the same thing. Lost it all in a poker game—too much guaro. Sold the Pachamama, bro. I was a barefoot kid. And very few times I have pulled myself away from the banana plantations. I keep coming back. God, what is it.” Money’s not the life, but they give us a little bit, and we’re hooked.”

Now we were OK before, contented enough and then the legend of the fast money. Being rich overnight. My brother couldn’t escape the itch for adventure, something to tell the grandkids about. I’m a lucky fella. In Tegucigalpa I once found five lempiras on the cobbled street, but in Bananaland not a centavito. After selling too cheap the little we had we started on foot. Through ravines and mountains. Brother joined the refugee flow of men and families to the famed Costa Norte. Noe Carbajal was among them, waiting to trip on the emeralds and diamonds, you know, and kiss the dirt.

The former owner of Las Animas stifled his doubts and renewed his determination to hold out. Nothing would make him sell to the Company and betray the other men of the region. They too would be embolden to say no. He turned and walked away. The slowly whirring paddles on the ceiled chilled the sweat accumulated on his cheeks and brow. It was a refreshing sensation. He turned his scuffed boot on its heel.

“My roots run deep into this black earth,” he said more for himself. If you uproot me, I am lost. If I wait longer I may die. I have always said that I will only leave Las Ánimas in a box.”

Nash was faltering, the dewlaps convulsing as a cow with its cub. It emboldened Ochoa.

“I won’t sell. The plot is doing fine. It gives me all I need. The soil is my home. (He cleared his throat.) This land has been in my father’s family and his grandfather’s family going back generations, all the way back to when the world was invented.”

“Do you have proof of it?” asked the licenciado. The question of proof posed by Nash threw Ochoa just long enough for Nash to raise the offer. Ochoa couldn’t believe his ears.

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)