UNITED STATES—It mattered not that those who sweat and toiled at the plantation had hygienic bunks to sleep in at the plantation. It mattered not that they still got coupons after the strike was quashed and bought things in the overpriced company store. Juana and Antonio had had enough of the jungle, and so it was they who went on foot and on burro to get to the ocean, and to reach the ocean and stow away on a rusty freighter to New Orleans.

They planned to join some distant kin who were living quite well on a rhubarb farm in Selma, Alabama, but somehow got settled in New Orleans. Juana met another Honduran woman who told fortunes in the French Quarter. Now and again a tall aging man—Juana could not call him an old man—a dynamism lurked in his tall lanky body that always kept him from behaving his age.

It seemed like he just wanted to talk and shoot the breeze. Well, that was everyone in New Orleans. But he was different, he was a foreigner, I mean, Juana all knew we were foreigners, but this man bore a thick accent that was from outside America. Even she could detect that.

He would stop by late when the dusk set in and the air under the stone arches of the French Quarter was humid and soft. She never told his fortune since he always said, with a hint of mockery, “I don’t need a fortune.”

“Why is that?” she asked.

“I already have one.”

Then one night she was compelled to tell his fortune. Her finely tapered fingers caress the orb of glass.

“I Don’t hesitate to tell what I see. It is always better than repressing it,” said Juana. “I see a great catastrophe befalling you. It will be terrible, it will test the moorings of your existence. From this great capacity will come the character to do that great deeds you must do.”

Trouble was lurking around on the next calendar pages. War on a global scale, and beyond, even the watery spaces between Bogota and Boston. The oceans were infested by U-boats, and it was a hell of a bad thing for the banana trade. Bananas had no local market, and no home region. It took a hemorrhage of manpower and fuel oil, saddled by great risk to ship and crew. In 1939, the British government, seeking to save money and materials declared the banana a luxury. When it had been in its beginnings, it rode to success on the aura of its cachet that served to popularize it, and now its past as exotic and tropical came back to bite it among the oafish Brits.

All banana imports to Britain and its colonies were banned. History went in a circle.

The New War put a crimp in everyone’s plans. The New War blighted the life of the Jews. It blighted the ideal of Europe and tarnished the banana trade. Just as one man made a difference, Adolph Hitler as much as Sam Delaney. That was clear, it got people out of a rut, that’s for sure. There was Hitler and his Nazi party, the one prospective that Bernard Lukasey had turned down at his Public Relations Bureau. He would be the man to save Allied Fruit, the mannerly Bernard Lukasey.

While in the New York office, Sam Delaney met with Lukasey, and chided him. “You take credit for being the man who got America to eat banana slices with cornflakes.”

“A little good publicity never hurt any one,” Bernie retorted.

It was the first time they had met and Lukasey was tossing around some publicity ideas he had, aimed at expanding sales, one of them was the banana diet, which Sam himself had tried years earlier.

“And it didn’t work very well, I got flabby.”

“Don’t worry, Sam, I like the diet angle. We could always get a survey of doctors to back up the results. The health and diet angle is a good one.”

So Lukasey and Delaney were getting to know each other, and the Adman Wiz, had him in a chair about six feet from his desk. Where Lukasey could observe the client and look for signs that someone with a less spacious observation would have. He could tell what the potential client sought and piece together revolutionary campaigns. Delaney was well-mannered and lean, snazzy dresser. The man inside was not snazzy, he was a peasant, then again he was something else.

During their preliminary meeting, three times entered and handed Mr. Delaney a note. He glanced at it and, they continued their brainstorm session for AFCO campaigns. Mr. Delaney and he continued uninterrupted. The secretary came again and passed a second note. Sam gave it a passing glance, and they continued with the matter at hand. Then a third note came and Sam didn’t even bother to look. Certainly the matter of and appointment or another phone call.

Their meeting ended, Delaney and Lukasey rose to shake hands.

“That diet book isn’t a bad idea.”

“I’m sure I can get traction in the women’s magazines. Women are responsible for 86 percent of the purchases in American household,” Bernie said. Mr. Delaney took it all in behind his tortoise-shell glasses, which gave him a bookish air though he didn’t read much beyond the Times Picayune and sales reports. The black gems of his eyes maintained a mischievous sparkle.

After Mr. Delaney left the office, he glanced at the notes Sam had left behind. Each one reporting the sinking of one of his banana boats. That day German subs torpedoed and sank three of Mr. Delaney’s White Fleet.

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)