UNITED STATES—Overhead sprayers and airplanes spread the poison on all the banana fronds. In this crisis Sam could be said to’ve discovered now, after engineering the takeover against the Boston Fruit Co. brahmins, his third youth. Following the missions of the cropdusters Sam entertained however fleetingly, the dawn of a Great White airborne fleet.
A young man, Charles Lindberg, got the jump on Sam. If Sam had innovated left when he should have gone right, it’s one of those pivotal divots, and he knew better than to itch a scab that would never heal. He thrived in a crisis, G-d blessed him with an embarrassment of crises, and if only his exquisite instinct for navigating them had kicked in he might’ve had a shorter and happier life, rather then the long and vexing one that he acknowledged at the end, when Sam muttered:
“Somehow we would of found a way to do things differently. Our methods were not always the most beneficial for the countries that supported the activities of Allied Fruit.”
It seemed to come with a curse—that package—and Sam paid for that legacy many times over, assuming the sins for that entity, which had a life all its own. The first 3000 acres of application on cost was almost a third of a million dollars. It was a roll of the dice. It saved Allied. What nature permitted by unnatural means prevailed, it was a gift from the sky.
Quickly now, all the spraying of the Bordeaux mixture being sprayed on an industrial scale. The sprinklers went into action with a click and made a soothing sound of rain. The crop dusters appeared on the horizon. The wangy roar of the engines, the pilots’ faces, the copper sulfate chemistry had found by jove rained down. When the wind started to blow, the wind that Allied Fruit could not control, but was reputed to have much influence in, the white jackets of the company honchos turned blue and the whole sheebang, being the boys’ club that it was, there proliferated jokes about, blue balls, followed by hearty fraternal laughter.
They were regular Oscar Wildes. The dirt in the banana groves turned blue and so did the bananas. As a result of the victory of chemistry, Allied Bananas were rinsed in a chemical solution that turned the blue bananas green again. To ensure the best results, men were needed to inspect the groves while the mixture was being sprayed, and they breathed it in. It had a sweet treacly pungency, irresistible sensation all in itself, and they made sure that the spray was applied uniformly over the fronds. Pervasive the sweet-sour stench of decaying banana leaves and the aftermath of pesticide.
The workers in due time began to notice certain, shall we say, abnormalities. Their sense of smell was deafened, and finally lost altogether, and their hunger. Everything from oysters to fava beans tasted the same. Sopa de Caracol, chontaduro, borajo. Like glue. After one moon, the food wouldn’t stay down. The men wasted away, but kept volunteering for the hazard pay. You couldn’t turn down that good ‘ol hazard pay, and you were doing it for the kids, doing it for the missus. A man, if he’s a man, is just wired that way. The provider. After two moons, they started to turn color, they acquired a garish greenish tint. After the third month, they were flat-out blue. They were referred to, not without a sense of sardonic humor, the Parakeets, los Pericos.
“How cheaply you sold your sense of smell,” Juana said to Antonio in the steamy jungle.
It was the kind of slap that destroyed a man as he himself had been destroyed and made richer. Then Sam Delaney himself, then in the stage of drinking only buttermilk in the exercise of a mind drawn with magnetic attraction to the next novel idea to ensure youth and vigor. And standing on his head for five minutes every day was sure to reverse the effects of gravity and dislodge any clogs in his intestinal tract.
“Mr. Delaney,” his personal physician told him. “You have the intestinal tract of a man 20 years younger.”
Sam was nimble and fleet-footed in his own way to always keep a few steps ahead of the good starless night. That helped, and his daily dose of the Bhagavad Gita. He guided the plantation to plant disease-resistant banana varieties, such as “Nain” and “Valerie.”
To ce continued…
Graydon is the Wizard of Fiction.