Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cancun Letters #9

Letter #9

Monday March 5, 2007

Dear Marissa,

Well, I honestly thought I’d be in Cancun by now. Hell, it’s just four little bullet holes and this is a fishing village. You’d have thought someone could have patched us up with bubble gum, or silly putty, or pitch from a boat-repairing-tree, or something like that. But no, everyone is off worshiping the god-of-small-fishing-villages, or some such.

There is a bit of good news from here. I managed to fix the bilge pump with a piece of bicycle inner tube and a coat hanger. How was I supposed to know it was a good bicycle tube? In fact, “good” is an understatement, because I had to give the headman’s son $6.48 for it.

Think about that. Do you remember when I bought Willie Webb’s old Schwinn for $ 5.00? Now I’m paying $6.48 for just a bicycle inner tube. That is highway robbery. Well, to be totally fair, Willie wanted a beer so bad the day I bought his bike, I could have probably got it for the price of a tall Budweiser.

Anyway, I paid for the tube and fixed the bilge pump. It’s not as good as new, but it wasn’t as good as new when I shot it. Now it is back to its previous worn-out state, which isn’t good enough to pump out all the water that will come in through four bullet holes. That means we are going to have to hang around here until the god-of-small-fishing-villages festival and pie eating contest is over. There are different versions of when that might be, but it seems that the majority is leaning toward the day after tomorrow.

In any case, if you aren’t using Manuel and his ox cart, could you find out if he is interested in coming here and taking me to Cancun. I’m not sure Win Win wants to leave. It seems the headman’s daughter, the sister of the bicycle inner tube tycoon, has taken a shine to him, and I suspect they’ve been shinning together out behind the community meeting pavilion. It’s either love or something that will keep their attention until love comes along.

OK, I’ve got to run. I see Pablo, the local mailman, at least I hope he’s a mailman, on the way over to get this letter and my $2.00 stamp fee.

Don’t give up Marissa. I’m still on the way to help you.



Cancun Letters #8

Letter #8

Saturday March 3, 2007

Dear Marissa,

First, let me say, I’m sorry. I know that I said I would be in Cancun by Friday, and now it’s Saturday, and I’m still not there. And, I want you to know it’s not my fault. How the hell was I suppose to know them snakes was his lunch? Well, the truth is, I didn’t think about much at all beyond shooting the damn things. Here’s the whole story. When you’ve read it, you’ll know this screw up wasn’t my fault.

Me and Win Win were half way between Bay Minette and Cancun. The weather was perfect. The engine, after a bit of initial hesitation, was doing great. I’d just finished two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and washed them down with a tall Budweiser. Win Win was running the boat, which by the way, is rather small for a shrimp boat. Win Win says it’s twenty feet long, but I’d guess it’s closer to sixteen feet.

Anyway, that doesn’t matter since the Gulf of Mexico was as smooth as glass. Win Win was singing Vietnamese love songs, at least he said they was love songs. I guess they could have been kill-all-the-Yankees-and-take-their- women songs. I was about to nod off to dreamland when I noticed a big basket, shaped like a light bulb, on the floor of the boat near my foot. It had a top that fit tightly. I guess that’s what caught my attention first. I ain’t ever seen a basket like that before. Well, I was staring at it when I heard something inside it move.

Without for a minute thinking about what I was doing, I sort of pushed the lid off with my bare foot. The next few things that happened all seemed to happen at one time. Four big snakes came bailing out of the basket. Win Win stopped singing, turned loose of the tiller, dove for the basket, and began screaming. I jumped up, almost went overboard, caught my balance, and went for my backpack. Just when I reached it, one of those damn snakes shot up my pant leg. I screamed and almost tore the top off the backpack. I hopped a couple of times and the snake came out of my pants and headed for the bow. That’s when I got my hands on Uncle Otis’ old World War II, United States Army issue, .45 Caliber, Colt Automatic Pistol.

As quick as lightning, I put four holes in the bottom of Win Win’s boat and one in his worn-out bilge pump. The snakes went overboard. And Win Win stopped screaming, for a minute.

The shots, followed by us settling lower and lower in the water, caught the attention of someone on board a German tramp freighter that was overtaking us. Well, to shorten this a bit so I can get it on this one sheet of paper, let me give you the bottom line.

Win Win and me are now in a tiny fishing village, about a hundred miles northwest of Cancun, negotiating for boat repairs and a replacement bilge pump. And, this really chaps me, I had to agree to buy Win Win’s next three meals to get him to stop screaming. All of that is going to take another chunk out of my summer school slush fund, but the important thing is getting to Cancun and helping you.

So hang on Marissa, I’m still on the way.



Monday, January 21, 2013

Cancun Letters #7

Tuesday Feb 27, 2007

Dear Marissa,

I’ll bet you don’t know that the most popular Vietnamese name is Nguyen. Now that you know that, you need to know there must be a shortage of names in Vietnam because Nguyen can be used as both a first name or a last name. And, for that matter, there is at least one Vietnamese who uses it for both. You’re so smart, I’ll bet you’ve already figured this out, his name is Nguyen Nguyen.

The greatest thing about the name Nguyen is it’s not pronounced the way it looks. In fact, the pronunciation isn’t even close to the way it looks. Now, to be totally honest, you have to be able to move your tongue in ways most guys (and girls, probably) only dream of to pronounce Nguyen right, but the word “win” is real close, and that works for me and Nguyen Nguyen. So, I told you all of that so you’d understand that my best new Vietnamese friend is Win Win. Now that has to be sign, and bigger than hell, I’m looking for a sign, since as you’re lying on the beach reading this letter, me and Win Win, are somewhere in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, between Bay Minette and Cancun. At least I hope that’s where we are.

Yep, I’m on the way Marissa. Win Win was Garvin’s friend Salamander’s, “$92.00 deal.” And, to be absolutely accurate here, the deal was a little more than $92.00. To be totally factual, it was $78.15 more than $92.00 which comes to a total of $170.15. That means that summer school will have to wait until fall, but that’s OK, because you mean a lot to me, and besides that, I have an idea that I’m not going to see Oxford, Mississippi this summer.

Maybe I can get some extra credit for going to the Forbidden-Because-Its-Enchanted Forest. Of course that probably means I’ll have to switch my major again. But on the other hand, I don’t remember what I switched it to last time, so that wouldn’t be a big deal. Wouldn’t it be a kick if I’m already an archaeology major. If that is true I could get extra credit for the expedition without switching again.

Well, I’ve got to go and help Win Win bail out his boat. Don’t worry, he says it’s mostly rain water. I do worry a little though, since it hasn’t rained since I got here three days ago.

Watch for me, and I’ll be hoping that you see me soon.



Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cancun Letters #6

Sunday Feb 25, 2007

Dear Marissa,

I’m in Bay Minette, Alabama, the number one shrimping town on the whole gulf coast. I’ve only been here an hour or so but I can tell you this for sure, not only did the Vietnamese kick us out of Vietnam, they bigger than hell kicked us out of Bay Minette, Alabama too.

It took all day to get here. Leon took me to the airport in Jackson, and I guess he must be on Homeland Security’s 10 Most Wanted List. Before I could even get out of Leon’s truck, we were surrounding by Federal Marshals. They searched me twice, and I lost count of how many times they searched Leon – especially this one woman, I don’t think she was a marshal at all, unless she was working under cover, because she had on a baggage handler’s uniform, and every time she patted Leon down, she would shake her head and say real low, “Amazing.” She did that over and over while Leon just stood there grinning.

Anyway, they took me to a little office and asked me over and over again how I knew Leon and what were doing at the airport?

I told them that me and Leon had grown up together, and I told ‘em we just liked to come to the airport on Sunday and watch the planes take off and land, and some times Leon would whistle at stewardesses and stuff like that.

Don’t worry, I didn’t tell them about you and the terrorist convention in Cancun or the evil forest or the lost pyramid or any of that. I don’t think Leon told them either, because I’m not sure he remembers it all, but I can’t be positive because he was driving off with that baggage handler woman when I came out of the terminal.

That’s right, I said when I came out of the terminal. Homeland Security must have believed me, so they let me go, but they said I couldn’t get on no plane today and maybe never again because I was a friend of Leon. That didn’t stop me though. I hitched hiked to the Greyhound station and caught the bus to Gulfport. I got off when it broke down on I10 just outside Bay St. Louis, and I caught ride with a trucker who was going to Bay Minette to pick up a load of shrimp.

I found Salamander Hawkins, Garvin Tootle’s friend. He was head-on-table passed out in the second bar I checked. I woke him up and got enough coffee in him to make him remember Garvin and, trust me, that was a lot of coffee.

I told him that Garvin said he might know a shrimper would take me to Cancun. He thought about it for a while, smiled, and said, “Was that the $92 deal?”

I said, “Yep, that’s the one.”

He jumped up, grabbed my arm, and screamed, “Why didn’t you say so? Come on!” And he dragged me out of the bar into the brightest sunlight I’ve seen in a long time. I was nearly blind for the next ten minutes.

I’d have never believed that Salamander could move that fast. After trying to keep up for at least two blocks, I thought of a way to slow him down.

I hollered as loud as I could, “Hey, is that your real name?”

He stopped dead in his tracks, turned around like John Wayne and stared at me. When I finally got to him, he looked right in my eyes and said, “Which one?”

I said, “Your first name. Salamander.”

He looked relieved, and a smile walked across his face, which by the way didn’t help his looks any. “What’s so funny?” I asked.

He said, “I thought you’d caught me when you asked about my name. You see Salamander is my real first name, but my mama just made up Hawkins, because she didn’t have a clue who my daddy was.”

He hushed for a few seconds and then said, “I thought maybe you was a government agent, and you were going to arrest me for using a made-up name.”

Right there, on the sidewalk, in the middle of town, I finally convinced him I wasn’t going to take away his name, and he said, “OK, let’s go.”

A few minutes later, I said, “Can we go a little slower?”

He didn’t say anything, but he did slow to a fast trot.

Well, as my old Auntie used to say, “News is out,” and, I’ve got to go buy some boating gear now, so I’ll write to you again as soon as I can.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cancun Letters #5

Saturday 2/24/07

Dear Marissa,

You may remember that I said if we didn’t hear from you, me and Leon was going to come down and see what was going on. Well, bigger than all hell we didn’t hear from you, but you already know that. And, if you’ve looked around, you know that me and Leon ain’t there. You see, a couple of things came up.

First, I asked Leon if he had a passport, and he said yes. Well, it turns out he thought I said do you have a Newport, and he has a whole carton of them. You know how bad his hearing is since he lit the cherry bomb in the pickup, then threw it forgetting the window was up.

It turns out the Department of Defense took Leon’s passport in the interest of national security. Well, I was going to come without him, but the airline said the miles I had amassed were mostly frequent bathroom miles not frequent flier miles.

The good news is, I can use the bathroom in any Delta Crown Room in any airport in the world as long as I can figure out how to get there. I have enough frequent flier miles to go from Jackson to Biloxi, and that’s what I’m go to do, because Garvin Tootle has a friend in Bay Minette, Alabama, who knows a Vietnamese shrimp boat captain who might take me to Cancun for the cost of fuel and $92. So in a couple of days or so, you can start looking for me.

Oh, I almost forgot, if you are lost, you are going to be found pretty soon. I called your hotel again this morning and talked to the same guy I talked to yesterday. He was in a better mood today, so I asked if he’d look for you. He asked why should he? You’re going to love this, Marissa – I told him you and Angelina Jolie grew up together and were best friends. And then I told him that she was with you, so when he found you he would find her too. Pretty smart, huh?

He said that he and all of his import-export friends would tear up the town to find Angelina. Well, got to go to the airport. You take care and I’ll see you soon.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cancun Letters # 4

Friday Feb 23, 2007

Dear Marissa,

I called earlier this morning than I called yesterday, but with the same result. Well, that isn’t quite true. Beyond the fact that you weren’t there to take the call, nothing else about it was the same.

This time a man answered the phone and there was no gender doubt. His voice came up from somewhere down around his ankles, and it made my cell phone reverberate like it was time to upgrade my service. And, he spoke English. That’s a gross understatement, like saying Dick Cheney isn’t an expert marksman. This man spoke perfect Oxford English, and I’m not talking about Oxford Mississippi English.

He said, “Good morning. Thank you for calling the Inn Near the Sea. If the Calgary Stampede and Democratic convention hadn’t still been raging in the background, I would have thought that I had reached a wrong number. However, they were still going strong. By the way, what is that noise and does it ever stop? You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to. Anyway, I asked for you and there was a long pause. Finally he asked, “What does she look like?”

I said, “Well, she’s brunette, very attractive, young, wears glasses…”

He interrupted me when I said, “She’s an American student from…”

He said, “Stop.”  Then there was total silence on the phone. I thought we had been disconnected. Finally he said, I should point out, rather rudely, “No, there are no chicken-shit Americans here, only delegates to the import-export convention.” Then he hung up. That’s right, he hung up. Now how’s that for rude?

What’s going on down there, Marissa. Is it time for me and Leon to come down? We have a lot of frequent flyer miles from the time the Sky Marshall handcuffed us in the bathroom of the 747, got drunk with the stewardesses then went home with a couple them, forgetting he’d left us on the plane in the bathroom with an Out of Order sign on the door.  We flew for two days before a clean up crew found us. We were in Tokyo.

Anyway, if you need us, all you have to do is say so.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Letters - # 3

Thursday Feb 22, 2007

Dear Marissa,

Early this morning, I called that place that you jokingly call a hotel. I didn't understand the name of the person who answered the phone, and I’m not even sure whether it was a man or a woman, but I’m leaning toward woman, so I’ll go with that.

She said, “Miss M,” which I assume is you, my dear, “Left with Manuel before sunup.” Then I think she said, “On Manuel’s ox cart, but that couldn't be right---could it?

By the way, that hotel sounds like a cross between the Calgary Stampede and the Democratic National Convention. I’m not complaining you understand. I’m just glad that you found a place to stay, what with the international import-export convention in town.

I once heard that more criminal organizations and subversive government activities operate under the cover, import-export business, than any other single disguise.

That woman at the hotel must have heard that too, or else she just has a hell of a sense of humor. She called the delegates to the convention “fucking terrorists.”

She also said the only way to the evil forest was by ox cart.

I said, “Evil forest? I thought it was the enchanted forest.”

Marissa, you’ll love this, she said, “Evil, enchanted, it’s the same thing. I have to go now, Senor, a group of terrorists are checking in.”

Then she hung up before I could say another word. That woman has quite a sense of humor.

Marissa, she is kidding, isn't she?”



Monday, January 14, 2013

The Cancun Letters #2

Wednesday Feb 21, 2007

Dear Marissa,

It has been at least 15 years since I was last in Cancun. I haven’t thought about it in a long time. However, now that I know you are there on “early spring break,” I've found myself once again thinking of the place. The emerald and cobalt water lapping gently on the white beach, you reclining in a deck chair gazing across the Gulf of Mexico, not even trying to pretend that you’re interested in that stack of books you brought along to hide your true purpose – finding and exploring the lost- pyramid-of-the-forbidden-because-it’s -enchanted jungle. I knew when you first heard the rumor of the pyramid from the drunk at the Be There Now Tavern, just off campus, that your heart would give you no peace until you found it and walked its ancient passageways.

It never crossed your mind that the old drunk just might have made up the story of the pyramid and the forbidden-because-it’s-enchanted jungle, FEEBI as it’s known to the natives. See, I've been doing some research myself and not by talking to the old drunk, at least not exclusively by talking to him.

Anyway, I hope you’re doing well, and I hope you find the pyramid, and I hope you remember to write and tell me about it.

Love, Jake 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Letters to Cancun - Number 1

Yesterday, I visited the Sand Mountain Flea Market, about forty miles from Huntsville, just south of Guntersville, Alabama.  I’m not a flea market person but on a whim I decided to check it out, hoping that I would find a small trunk to store manuscripts in. If you've priced a new trunk, you know why I thought it would be worth a little of my time to try to find one in a flea market.
To make a long story, and I do mean a long story, since I was in the flea market for almost two hours; I didn't find a trunk, but I did find an old Army footlocker. It was the first footlocker I've seen since I mustered out of the Army in 1968 and it brought back a lot of memories.
The footlocker was padlocked with a commercial grade combination lock. I asked the old woman who seemed to own it, along with a small, former, U-Haul Truck, full of other items (no two of which were the same) if she had the combination. 
 She looked at me like I had just asked for the key to her truck. “Hell, son, I don’t know the combination.”
I was flattered that she called me son, since I suspected that I was at least twenty years older than she was, though when the sun hit her full in the face, I began to reevaluate the possible age difference. She squinted her right eye half shut and focused her left eye, which seemed to be slightly out of control, somewhere between my right eye and the top of my head, and added, “That’s why I have it priced at $15.00.”
Noting that I was struggling to connect the two statements she explained, “There might be something real valuable in there.”
After wandering around the flea market for almost two hours, I think fatigue might have had something to do with what I did next. Staring as best I could, at her now totally out of control eye, I said, “I’ll take it.”
Two minutes later, with the footlocker on my shoulder, I found my Honda Element, now surrounded by a mass of pickup trucks that lined the highway for a mile in both directions. I unlocked it, dropped the tailgate and started to set the footlocker inside when, for some reason, I turned it on its side; something I hadn't done when I initially examined it.
A weathered piece of masking tape was stuck in the middle of the bottom panel. Something was written on it, but it was too faded to read. I leaned closer and closer, until finally my nose was almost touching it and I read – Combination 16-8-29.
I opened the lock on the first try.
The top tray was intact and empty. I lifted it out and sat it inside the vehicle. The box itself was full of clothes, lightweight, men’s clothes. There were pants, hiking shorts, short sleeve sport shirts and a few plain t-shirts. Everything was well used but clean and neatly folded. I took the garments out, one at time, looking for some clue to the identity of the owner. There was nothing, and I finally decided there wouldn't be anything. 
Then I pulled out the last pair of hiking shorts. They were khaki with large cargo pockets on each leg. There was a large bundle of letters in the right pocket and some worn maps in the left pocket.
I started to open the bundle of letters but thought better of it. There were a lot of people close by, and I felt like I might draw some unwanted attention if I began exploring what I already thought of as my treasure. 
I packed the letters, maps, and all the clothes back in the footlocker, closed the tailgate, and began working my way out of the minor traffic jam that I found myself part of.
An hour later I was back home. I put the footlocker in the middle of the living room floor and in short order I untied the string that held the bundle of letters together. Originally, I had thought there might be twenty or maybe thirty letters there. Being a Virgo, the first thing I did was count them. There were sixty-one of them. Some felt like they contained only a single sheet of paper, others two or three. The hand writing appeared to be the same, and they were all addressed to the same person, Marissa Winbush, c/o The Inn by the Sea, 420 Del Rio Way, Cancun, Mexico. The return address on each letter simply read, “Jake.” Though the writing instruments varied from a number 2 pencil to a wide tipped black marker, they were all neatly written and completely legible. I suppose Jake was on the move as he wrote the letters since they had been mailed from Mississippi, Alabama, and Mexico.
I was hesitant to read them, and it took a couple of hours before I actually read the first one. Now I've read the first ten of them, and in a way, I feel like I’m reading a private diary, but I can’t stop because the letters tell an amazing story – a story of love, adventure, and for lack of a better term, I’ll say a story of the supernatural.
In any case, I’m going to share them with you, and you can decide if they are as special as I’m beginning to think they are:

Letter #1

Tuesday Feb 20, 2007

Dear Marissa,

I just knew that today there would be a letter from you and you’d say, “Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.  I've been laying on the beach at Cancun for the past two weeks, and I haven’t been able to check my mail.”
There was no mail from you, so you must still be on the beach at Cancun.  Don't misunderstand.  I’m not envious; in fact, I think one of us should be there. I will point out though, that if it was me in Cancun, instead of you, I’d at least send you a postcard and maybe even one of those junky tourist t-shirts.