Chapter 37

A guy over at the little marina waves at us, and my friend waves back. I think I recognize him. He was at the bonfire too. “Su hermano?” I ask, temporarily forgetting how to say cousin in Spanish, and using brother instead.

“Si, Si.” He gets up and motions for me to follow him. I grab my bag of fruit and hurry to catch up. When I get to the dock, the two of them are already having a conversation, and his brother keeps looking over at me. I feel like I’m being talked about, in front of my back. It looks like my friend is doing most of the talking. He sounds like he’s pleading. I’m suddenly very uncomfortable.

Finally his brother agrees with whatever he was saying and he turns to me and tells me his brother works on that fishing boat and I can go with him. That’s nice, but how do I say I need to stay here and wait for the next bus?  He says a bunch of stuff rapidly in Spanish so I don’t get a word in edgewise. “California” jumps out a couple of times. California works.

The brother walks over to a crate, picks it up, and then walks over and hands it to me. He picks up another one. I think it has food or bait or both, and he motions for me to follow.

We put the crates on his boat. I keep hearing “Bahia De Los Flores,” among other incomprehensible stuff.  That will be cool if he gets me close to home. They look at me oddly, as if apologizing for something. I smile.

It’s a fairly old fishing boat, the kind that you steer from a control center up high on a second story. Below it is a cabin, and behind it all the way to the back of the boat is a big, open area where people fish. There are several places to put fishing poles all around the back area.

Jose, introduces me as Pancho and the other guy as his brother Ernesto, even though I saw him at the bonfire too. We both nod at the same time. I wonder how much longer I can keep up this Spanish thing before I get outed. They both look at each other with knowing looks. What is that about? I guess they know I’m stranded here. I hear “Maroon” a couple of times, very softly and almost without moving their lips.

I follow Ernesto back to the store where I had that wonderful conversation with the man stocking cigarettes. Maybe if I straighten my hair and shirt a bit before I get there, he won’t recognize me. I make sure there is no trace of the tropical-sand facial-mask I had on earlier.

We get inside, and the old man behind the counter has finished stocking the cigarettes. When he sees me he opens his mouth, but Ernesto is quicker. He tells the man that I am marooned here and they are helping me. The old man nods slowly, turns to me, smiles really big, and gives me a couple of slow and exaggerated nods.

I follow Ernesto into the back room and he grabs a plastic bag from a dispenser, then opens an ice machine. He grabs a scoop out of the ice and rapidly fills the bag. He does this twice and then hands me the cold, wet, aluminum scoop. I’ve done this many times at Taco Bell, so I rapidly fill my bags too, and trudge on right after him, holding one of the ice bags on my shoulder to avoid the overly understanding eyes of the cigarette man.

When everything is loaded, we get on the boat and I am introduced to Pablo. He owns the boat, or co-owns the boat, or something like that. He is told, like all the others, that I am marooned and need help. That must be the word for stranded, but they say it so oddly, but then again, most Spanish words that sound like their English counterparts are pronounced a little different. I shake Jose’s hand and thank him for the help. I don’t really know what else to do.

He apologizes for telling everyone I am marooned. I don’t know why—I am. “Yo soy” I tell him. He looks at me then laughs his butt off.

He sees my confusion. Something about last night. He points to me, then mimes something. He keeps pointing to me and miming a boat, and eating, and he points back to where the bonfire was. “Tu, tu” he keeps saying. “Mira” which means look, and I hear a couple of more Maroons.

I say, “Maroon, Maroon.” to show that I understand what he is saying, and I nod to let him know I agree. Suddenly my Spanish isn’t working any more.

“No, Moron.”




Wait a minute . . . “Moron?”

He smiles, “Si, Si, Moron!”

Holy Shit! They think I’m a moron. I must have gotten drunker than I thought last night. And I don’t speak Spanish very well, so I guess, yep, there he goes, miming stuff again—Oh, I was miming—I  was miming a conversation—drunk. They think I’m a moron. That’s why they’re helping me. I’m some mentally disabled guy—mentally disabled Mexican guy—trying to get to California where my family is.

Great! Just Great! Now those special looks they gave each other make total sense now. I have never felt so embarrassed—retroactively—in my whole life. Oh, and the cigarette man too, with that exaggerated nod and goofy smile. I don’t think I’ll ever feel this embarrassed again—ever!

Ernesto starts the engines and they rumble beneath the water, creating a mini Jacuzzi for whatever fish are behind the boat. As the engines warm up, we finish putting the stuff away, making sure it won’t roll around. Then we cast off and leave the shore behind. Rodrigo and Ernesto pretty much talk to themselves for a while. I don’t know what they’re saying, but I strain to listen for the word moron to see if they’re talking about me.

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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