25 Sep

Spoiler Alert: The Banana Truck

“Spoiler Alert” is a serialized short story, coming in 13 parts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. “The Banana Truck” is part seven. It’s best if you know the end first, so go to part one if you haven’t read it yet.

“You just mean the prison thing?” I asked.

He wouldn’t elaborate. “Trust me. This isn’t something you want to know.” Not an encouraging thought, to say the least.

Now, besides the fact that I was growing attached to the poor bastard, the sheer strength of my curiosity drove me to tag along with him. I had to know what predetermined fate we shared.

Part of that fate was to ride in the back of a banana truck. David quickly befriended a few vendors at a fruit stand, who were quite impressed with his Spanish. I stood there looking dumb while he arranged a ride for us on a camioneta headed for Ahuachapan, which was apparently closer to Guatemala. Good enough for me.

On the bumpy ride, David asked why I’d come to Central America.

“You’re clearly not a Spanish-speaker,” he remarked.

“Nope. That’s part of the reason I’m here, though.” It had happened to me once before on a trip to Quebec with my wife, I explained. “There were parts of town where they actually didn’t speak any English — or at least pretended not to, I’m not sure. My wife found it aggravating, but I found it completely liberating.”

David raised an eyebrow. “Liberating?”

“Yeah. It kind of lifts you out of yourself, you know what I’m saying?” I’m not gonna say that ignorance is bliss, but sometimes it’s nice to maintain illusions. And ignorance allows that. “When you don’t understand anything, you can believe that people are mostly friendly to each other and to you. You can assume that communication is sincere, that people mean what they say because why wouldn’t they?

“You can believe in benevolence and kind-heartedness and good intentions.”

“You and your wife were having problems, weren’t you?”

For a second, I was speechless. You’ll understand if I was quick to theorize that David was somewhat clairvoyant himself. I mean, who knew? Maybe the old man had touched him on the way out of the hospital room and transferred some magic ability. “How did you know that?”

He smiled at me, no doubt amused by the stunned expression on my face. “I’ve been there, remember?”

The Canadian girl. Leaving him. Right.

“So you came here because of her?” he asked.

I sighed. I didn’t like to think about it. The less I thought about it, the less likely it was that my wife had actually moved out. The less likely it was that she had told me she’d met someone else and that they “hadn’t done anything yet,” but that she felt a connection to him that she’d never felt with me. And so I’d been wandering Central America with a certain disregard for my own safety, getting lost, staying out late, drinking alcoholic beverages with names I couldn’t pronounce, trying exotic new foods. Because when you’re sick on parasites and the owner of the hotel you’re staying at is speaking gibberish, you can believe not only in her patient benevolence and concern (she doesn’t care about your vomiting in her carpeted room or your scaring off other tourists); you can also believe that your problems back home are relatively small and that they’re working themselves out right now. “Ignorance is comfortable. That’s what it is.”

David nodded at me, a silent affirmation. That’s how I saw it. Of course, the truck was so bumpy that it kind of looked like he was nodding all the time. And I’m sure I looked the same way to him. So for the next five minutes, we were content to just nod back and forth at each other. I think we both realized we shared something now. We were both men who’d been dumped. No doubt we both told ourselves we were men who’d been wronged by women, but the truth was we were both men who’d fucked it up ourselves.

And yet, it eased our self-loathing to have found a fellow failure. That’s my theory. ‘Cause at that moment, I felt like I had a brother.

That must have been why he felt comfortable enough to say what he said next.

“You’ve never killed a man, have you?” He looked at me like always, with those expectant eyes.

“No. Of course not.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

More nodding at each other.

“I tracked down that bastard who told me my personal prophecies.”

I coughed. This was big news. What the hell was I supposed to say?

“He’s in Ahuachapan. And I need your help.”

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