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.