UNITED STATES—The ersatz empire of Allied Fruit Co. fought back with quarantine, lockdown and testing. Each plantation was surrounded by a fence. This was misconstrued by their Colombian and Honduran neighbors as, “You’re shutting me out.” It stressed the sense that these are the outliers who come to buy up our lands, and we’re not allowed inside.

Every child who grew up in this era, got an earful of this from their elders, much as if they’d been sired by Karl Marx or Gramsci himself. All politics is local, and so is the sore that fosters rebellion, the more so if the nervous impulses originate in Boston and New York.

The children would not remember that they had been indoctrinated, it would take an Austrian Jew, Sigmund Freud to chart out the collective unconscious, where the Bananaland penchant for rebellion dwelled.

“The president is gone.”

“Long live this President.”

Sam knew well this propensity to damn the old and halo the new. It is why when he took over the company again with a fistful of proxies, giving him the vote of the shareholders. He eschewed the pretentious title of president in favor of Director of Managing Operations. Plain and to the point. One of the wiser things Sam said about his business was, “Sometimes you have to keep running just to stay in the same place.”

To handle the Fiji fungus he announced measures. Effective immediately. The banana fields were fenced off stake and wire fences, they could quickly unreel and encircle the lands rapidly and the cutters, the men with machetes, entered the gate and crossed over a toothed grating that scraped off the microbial spore-containing mud off their boots. Sam was running just to stay in the same place. Obliteration of the crop loomed.

Meanwhile, Allied recruited a whole team of chemists in jungle labs to come up with an alternative to the extinction of the banana lands. They concocted an endless array of potions and powders. It wouldn’t be till the middle of Roosevelt’s first term in office that the first promising poison spray was developed. It was a combination of copper sulfate and lime powder. When the initial test results arrived at the Allied’s northern headquarters, Mr. Delany said:

“You put the medicine on the leaves and that cures the disease.”

“It’s not that simple, Mr. Delaney,” said the scientist. “Fiji fungus is an airborne spore. We think the Bordeaux mixture—”

There spoke the scientist who had gone through dozens of color-coded cards, and names of different wines to hide the recipe for what was effective from possible industrial spies. There was a tad of paranoia involved when they had but one main competitor and formed a duopoly with the pineapple company.

“Please, Sport, don’t confuse me. You put the medicine on the leaves—”

“It’s only an experiment.”

“We’ll spray 3000 acres,” Delaney declared.

The lime and copper sulfate made it blue, commonly known as blue stone. It was hit or miss, nobody knew. In time, the Bordeaux mixture harmed fish and cattle bringing cancer and lethargy –due to copper build-up on the soil, the rich soil—earthworms suffered and farther up the evolutionary and food chain, human beings. Dogs and cats were found dead in the banana plantations. And even in the town of Watsonville, long after Sam Delaney had joined the dignitaries in Metairie Cemetery, a little girl found some on the family garage for use on apricot trees and roses, and her father thought it would be good to delouse her hair.

Of course, the poison spray with its overpowering smell that charmed the senses like a sweet, ripe French perfume, had poisoned the poor girl and had given Allied fruit a new lease on life. Perhaps an unholy reboot from Ecuador to the Philippine Isles. The fruit company was saved from all these forces of nature that had ganged up to vanquish the pulpo, the octopus.

Age was catching up with Sam, who for much of his life seemed free of gravity. And instead of seeing around a corner, he’d see around somebody else’s corner, by the founding of the Escuela Panamericana Agricola to educate the talents of the isthmus to be ready for the next wave of Mother Nature’s surprises always to threat the banana trade. As he approached the stage of his life when he underwent the great shift from rainmaker to philanthropist. He defied the notion of a philanthropist as a giver who wants to show off.

To be continued…

Graydon 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)