UNITED STATES—“Oh, I understand. You’re a leaf in the wind…” The comforting sound of typewriter keys hitting the rubbed cylinder spread out from neighboring offices. The airy space, lit by milk glass globes, hanging from chains, was full of desks and blueprints for a bright and shining future.
“You’re stubborn. It’s cost you in the past, your stubbornness.”
“I know what’s mine and was paid for by sacrifice and toil.”
“I wouldn’t give a thousand lempiras for that place of yours,” said Cesar.
“You don’t know what it’s worth!”
“Bananas can’t grow there.”
“You’re wrong, Lucas Lucatero, you’re not being straight with me.”
Lucas Lucatero felt like somebody being interrogated by the police over and over until they finally become an accomplice in telling them what they want to hear. This accomplished by saying the same thing. Over and over. Laying in wait to trip him up. He couldn’t believe that they were being so hard-headed. They thought they were going to soften him, but no way. Couldn’t they understand Spanish?
“I am not selling. My answer is no,” he looked at the steadily, calmly.
“Well then let’s all go home. And back to our spouses.”
They started heading toward the door and put on their hats.
“Wait. Wait. Wait,” said the gringo.
Lucas gazed at him and said, “What is it that you don’t understand about the word no?”
The agent for Allied Fruit had no more patience, but you wouldn’t have known it by his voice. That’s the thing with the gringos, they cover it up so well. Even when you know what they’re thinking you can’t know what they’re thinking.
“Give me a moment,” the gringo spoke, his Spanish thickened by English pronunciation. “You’re not fooling anybody. Everybody knows you have good land. Even though part of it is too alkaline for growing bananas.”
“How do you know that? Do you have a soil chemist snooping around.”
“I’m just telling you what we know, Mr. Lucatero. The fact is we’re going to go the distance with you. We’re willing to pay you fifty thousand lempiras. That’s twenty-five thousand dollars. Villalpando explained, we’ll pay a good price for your livestock. The Company has use of lots of meat. I wonder how that sounds to you.”
“You have heard me. Do you not have ears,” said Lucas Lucatero. “I am not selling. Have your way.”
“We can raise our offer to seventy-thousand lempiras, out of respect to all the generations of your family, the sweat and toil that went into this. And this money we are offering you can be an inheritance for your children.”
He stood and left the room.
The face of Lucas Lucatero, revealed this man’s doubts and suddenly a hairline crack could be seen in his determination to not sell to the company was weakening. The gringo’s arguments were getting under his skin. Lucas Lucatero had nothing against advancing the fortunes of the nation. He did not see the connection between between selling his land to a foreign company and the fortunes of the nation. Quite the opposite. He looked like a deer is surrounded by wild dogs, and the prey kept at him he jabbed the horse, but the dogs wouldn’t let him go. And in the end they tore off all the flesh and trotted away dragged the deer’s intestine. Lucatero already seemed willing to cave in before the implacable persistence of these Company many to get him to sacrifice his inheritance.
The lawyer now, Villalpando, appealed to his reason: “Let’s be reasonable.”
“Reasonable…reasonable,” said Lucatero. “Tell me the truth. Or have you forgotten the truth. You are trapped, too, the Company is doing things to you, even if you don’t know it. The Company has a life of its own when all its activities fuse together and suddenly it exerts its imperviousness and autonomy. It is quite horrible and beautiful. So help me G-d.”
“I’ll give you a moment to calm down.”
He picked up a sheaf of papers and a gold-tipped fountain pen. “Sign here and we’ll move forward.”
Lucas Lucatero remained immaculately still. A tremendous battle waged within him. He looked at the sales documents, already prepared with his name, he looked at the pen and the deeply green eyes of the gringo. There were his friends present, too, but he refused to take the definitive step.
It was the same gauntlet that so many others before had endured.
Castillo, the other landowner, chimed in, “Sign it…Like we did.”
Then Galvez commented, “Remember you’re doing it for progress of the nation.”
“I’ve answered that, I’ve answered that before. I’m not going to answer that again.”
He raised his head high and proud, with nobility and rebellion. This signaled the death of indecision: Lucatero knew where he stood and exclaimed:
“I’m not selling. I wouldn’t sell for all rice In China, coffee in Colombia, all the dollars in Uncle Sam’s coffers.”
To be continued…
Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction. His latest story collection, “Watsonville Stories,” can be browsed on Amazon.