Historical Romance

Coming-of-Age Romance and Environmental Saga
what love sees

Monkey Love - An Environmentalist's Coming-of-Age Romance

The Saga re-invents a Dian Fossey-like character in Costa Rica.
Consuela Oro defends the howler monkey from unrelenting development
and other unexpected onslaughts often to the detriment of her personal life.
A deep love, ignored but secretly nurtured since childhood blossoms late.

Romance & Environmentalist Historical Saga

Coming of age romance environmentalist historical saga

Coming of Age in Costa Rica - Soon-To-Be-Released Romance

Chapter Nine

Pedro didn’t have an off switch. Years of police work had instilled an autopilot that ratcheted through details in him. The school of hard knocks was advantageous at work, but it made him quick to judge in life. His nose twitched as his eyes adjusted to the soft glow of candles inside the screened in area. One of his hosts had rolled up the side coverings on their kitchen tent. Pedro had arrived early, another ingrained habit. He noted that the corners of the outer canvas sheets were rolled loosely, casting a downward shadow.  Must be him.  Consuela always thinks of details.

“You’re here. Do we, um, pass muster?” asked Consuela playfully, as she entered without a sound.

Pedro ran his right hand through his thinning hair briefly exposing a long-healed scar to the unusual light reflecting off of the slanted canvas roof of the tent. She looks younger than the last time I saw her. His eyes drank in Consuela; his mind absorbed her in a Bertolucci camera scan. When they embraced, he caught her scent. Cinnamon and clove? Did ‘she’ teach you that? Something else too. Pedro’s nose twitched again. Consuela eased herself away, feeling his muscles tense.

“That never used to offend you,” she said.

She pushed playfully on his shoulder with an outstretched hand. Why do I feel I have to tell him everything? How does he do that to me? It even happens in emails, thought Consuela as she looked at her oldest friend.

“Active radar,” added Pedro.

“It’s the monkeys, but then you know that. You’re doing it again Pedro. Just like the old days.”

“What’m I doing?”

“Maybe it’s me. Nothing.”

"No, really.”

“I guess a cop is a kind of confessor.”

“Confessor?”

“Maybe you should’ve been a Jesuit.”

“I’ve often thought that too. You know if I’d been born 10 or 15 years earlier I probably would’ve been in one of the orders.”

“Turn it off when Yurek arrives, will you? It works just like a guilt trip; makes everyone feel like a criminal. Me included.”

“I’ll do my best, but I’m not really aware of it. It’s sort of like your radar, just on.”

Years in the jungle had improved her skin. Her shoulders and cleavage peaked over the loose salt-stained, silk camisole, peeking out from under a thin cotton jacket that she unzipped as she entered.  Scuffed leather boots, a precaution against snakes, jutted out of military-style pants and pockets stuffed with the paraphernalia of her passion. All things that Pedro analyzed.

“That’s quite a drive in here.  Haven’t driven on a road like that in some time.”

“I’m so excited about this,” interjected Consuela.

“As you should be. It’s unprecedented. A National Reserve for your monkeys. How’d you do it?”

“Long story, but most of it you know. Are you here officially?”

Pedro cleared his throat and looked around. Not everyone’s going to be happy about this change.”

“So you’re working? You know, Pedro, sometimes you’re full of shit. And I thought you actually wanted to-”

“You know how close we are to that seat I made for us all from that fallen branch?”

Consuela assessed the man in front of her. He watched her plant her hands on her hips.

“Pipi, move on. That was a lifetime ago."

“No one’s called me that for I don’t know how long.”

“I heard Pipi, not Pedro when you spoke. I dunno. Sorry, it just slipped out.”

“No problem. Sort of reminded me of back then. Nice feeling.”

“You’ll never learn, will you? But that’s a bit better, it’s your heart speaking now, more the old friend I remember so fondly.”

Consuela stepped closer to him again and hugged him close to her. Then she pushed herself away from him, keeping grasp of his waist with both arms wrapped around him. He moved toward her. Pedro let his head roll down towards her hair. A hint of monkey turned his nostrils up again, but he held her close anyway. She couldn’t see his pinched expression.

“Like I never left,” he said when they separated.

Consuela moved away from him again.

“Why did you come back? You were a big shot in the capital, weren’t you?”

Time enough for details.

“I’m closing the circle. I got some information about those days and I’m hoping to put it all behind me. Hey, I wangled part of my jurisdiction to cover your new park. What’re you going to call it?”

“You really are full of shit. You can’t control diddly squat here. Should I be kicking you off my territory right now?”

“Don’t get me wrong. I just want to be sure you’re safe.”

“Why all the sudden interest? I’ve been doing this for years while you became super cop in the capital.”

“I kept tabs from a distance. When they asked me if it was feasible-”

“Don’t even go there. This, I got on the strength of my work, not on your say-so.”

Pedro realized he’d taken the wrong tack.  I thought she’d be happy I was always looking out for her.

“You’re right. I didn’t mean it that way.”

Disturbed by a curse in a strange language from outside the door, they both turned to see Yurek entering the tent. He blinked as he passed into the light from the darkness outside. His eyes took a few seconds to adjust. The air was thick with emotion. He stepped forward, his usually stiff East European upbringing having adopted some of the openness of Costa Rican relations, and thrust his hand out to Pedro. Consuela spoke up.

“Pedro, this is the man I’ve talked so much about in our emails, Yurek, meet my oldest friend, Pedro. Pedro, Yurek.”

Yurek bent slightly in an almost military fashion, but his attention didn’t linger on Pedro. Dismissed me pretty quick.

“Did you see ‘Cholo’ today?” Yurek asked Consuela.

“I noticed you’ve managed to get closer to him. It’s odd, the males usually find it easier to approach me, don’t they?”

“It’s amazing how they never cease to amaze me. They’re really like people sometimes. Affinity, for whatever reason?”

Yurek left the question hanging, but a glance of recognition passed between them; the fire of their shared passion bridging unspoken gaps in communication between them.

“You’re not going to try and prove that hypothesis with research, are you?”

“Why not? I’m living proof.”

Pedro went over to the dining area and opened one of the bottles of wine using a Swiss knife he’d brought with him.

“Real man,” said Consuela.

“Sailor without a knife,” bantered Pedro.

“Like a whore without a cunt,” answered Consuela.

Yurek stood behind them, his mouth agape, not used to the repartee of these two old friends.

“A what?” he asked, looking between Consuela and Pedro who had both broken into uproarious laughter. Pedro could feel Yurek’s re-assessment.

“Pedro, Pedro, Pipi, Pipi. Even though you’re a prick, it’s good to see you. Now we won’t have to wait for official visits like this. Pour me some ‘red’, will you? We obviously have some catching up to do.”

Strange energy between them, Pedro thought. He poured some wine for all three of them.

“Forgive us,” he offered to Yurek.

Yurek nodded and sniffed the top of the wine glass after he swirled it in the glass holding the stem in his hand.

“I didn’t know we had wine glasses here.”

“Compliments of the chef,” said Pedro.

“Chef?” asked Consuela, grinning now.

“I brought warm food and champagne to celebrate your achievement. I never would’ve believed it. To Consuela’s monkeys,” he said lifting his glass.

“Wonders never cease, but we have food here. Wine and champagne! Now I’m sure you’re after something.”

“Are you saying you won’t eat my tender, BBQ broiled ribs, lovingly marinated and slowly browned on my coal fire?”

“Not ‘the ribs’, you’re ribs?” asked Consuela.

“Big day monkey girl!”

Consuela put down her glass and sauntered over to Pedro and put her arms around his neck and squeezed him close to her again. Yurek turned away.

“Pleasure first,” he said, letting her know they had to talk later. “What about, Yurek and I go back to the van to get the food?” Pedro addressed Yurek’s back.

When the other monkey lover turned around he took a long look at Pedro. Consuela was usually such an introvert. I’ll have to go with the flow.

"Put this headlamp on. It'll make navigating out there easier," said Yurek.

“You forget I was born on this mountainside. The lamp’ll take away my peripheral vision and my sense of the jungle. Feel free though, but stay back. I’ll go first.”

Two marks against me. Yurek blanched. He waited for Pedro to get ahead of him and left the tent without his lamp. Pedro was facing him when he arrived at the parked vehicle.

“You needn’t have done that for me,” said Pedro.

“Just manners got the better of my judgment. I live in the jungle with the monkeys. Lights are distracting, as you know.”

“We go back a long way.”

“So I saw.”

Even in the dark, Pedro’s antennae made a mental note to figure out the source of Yurek’s tone.

“Take this duffel bag,” offered Pedro.

A loud clinking noise accompanied Yurek’s grasping hands. He looked straight into Pedro’s eyes.

“She needs to focus now. You’re a distraction. We’re on the verge of important milestones with the monkeys.”

Better not to bite.

“Gotcha. Now, take care there’s lots of sauce. Here hold it by the bottom like this.”

Yurek turned around with the bag full of warm food. Even through the thick material, he could smell the succulent odor of the ribs in Pedro’s sauce.

“Did you leave that jerry can near the entrance to the tent?” Yurek asked with his head turned as he made his way back up the track.

“What can?” Pedro demanded of the darkness.

Yurek didn’t stop.

“It was near the door of the tent.”

“Not me. I’ll bring the champagne.”

All the sparring dulled Pedro’s antennae, but something ticked in the back of his mind. Jerry can? Yurek was out of earshot. Mother hen. And I thought it was jealousy. It must be true what Leakey says about women and primates. At least, I’ll be able to play on that protective side in him to get her on side. Pedro opened the door of his vehicle and reached inside to take a Cuban cigar out of the glove compartment.  He sniffed it and savored the lingering sense of future pleasure that the smoke would give him, before dropping it back in its metal case. Knowing what he knew made him hesitate.  The words ‘Jerry can’ were bouncing around in his head. He decided to leave his weapon in its hip holster and locked the doors. A smaller pistol that he kept on his left ankle remained in place too.

Leaf rot steamed into his nostrils as he picked his way along the path back to the tent. Turning the last bend, a moving shadow distracted Pedro from his plans of how to make Consuela’s camp more secure. He stepped into the undergrowth and reached down. The steel handle comforted him. His senses shifted gear into hyper mode. Every unusual noise in the jungle caught his attention.

Fire licking up the side of the canvas tent lit a bright patch in the darkness. Consuela shouted: “Fire.” Pedro’s eyes could see the shadow of Yurek dousing it with a pot of water, but the fire climbed. By the sound of it, Pedro assumed one of them had grabbed an extinguisher. The fire dulled, sputtered. Pedro could hear the sounds of heavy cloth slapping on the canvas. The light cast by the fire dropped.

Pedro squinted, to help him focus in the darkness. He unholstered his weapon. He knew that the culprit would choose the path to make his getaway. A branch snapped in the area between where he was hiding and the tent. By the sound of their commotion, Yurek was struggling with the fire extinguisher and Consuela was unzipping the front entrance. A man the size of a broken tree trunk passed soundlessly along the path approaching Pedro. The cop thanked his lucky stars for the fire when he saw the man’s night sights snapped up. Must’ve flipped ‘em up because of the fire. Only the whites of the trespasser’s eyes showed as he made his escape. Noticing the glint of steel from the moon in the perp’s hand, Pedro aimed low at his legs. At this distance, he couldn’t miss.

“Drop it,” commanded Pedro as he came from out of his spot behind a large-rooted tree.

The bear-sized man turned his weapon and winced when the bullet struck his calf. Only his eyes glanced down. Cocky son of a bitch, thought Pedro. In the instant of repositioning his own pistol, Pedro could see the calculations passing across the man’s expression. Pedro hadn’t met many who could stifle the pain of a gunshot wound. Armor’s the only explanation. Training too. Like the bear he was, the arsonist sprinted up the path. The gunshot had brought Consuela running down the path, distracting Pedro. Yurek was following up fast.

“You two stay where you are,” shouted Pedro when a bright flash and a horrendous noise filled the jungle. Confusion reigned. Pedro looked at the astonishment on Consuela and Yurek’s faces. Stupid of me. I underestimated them. A second man and trained. Damn. Pedro went down on one knee. On the way down, he noticed the laser dot finding its fix on his weapon. His weapon flew out of his hand. A flash bang grenade exploded nearer the three of them this time. The air filled with noise and sounds.

Five seconds was enough time for the arsonists to escape to hidden dirt bikes and they sped off down the jungle track. Knowing what he was experiencing let Pedro recover quickly; he crawled over to his old friend, lying prone with tears streaming down her face. Yurek was in the same condition. Before Pedro urged Consuela and Yurek to get back to the tent, he talked to them about the flash bangs, but they couldn’t read his lips. He gestured for them to return to the tent and motioned that he would go to his vehicle.

Pedro ran unsteadily back to his vehicle. Signal help, he thought. He was fighting with his coordination, but the door-open button posed no problems.

He tried the radio and slammed his hand on the dash when it didn’t respond. A jamming device. Must be a jamming device. Unknown to Pedro an electronic apparatus, attached by a magnet to his rear bumper, prevented him from signaling out. He had just jumped into the driver’s side when a Taser left him writhing on the steering wheel. The sounds of another motor accelerating penetrated his semi-consciousness. He awoke up being dragged out of the vehicle by Yurek. Stumbling to gain his balance, Pedro broke free and returned to the cab of his vehicle. He clicked on the police radio again and again and pulled his cell phone out when the radio remained unresponsive. He shook his head as he rubbed his neck where the Taser hit him. Worse than I thoughtJamming devices. Pros. He turned to look at Consuela and Yurek. Both of them looked worried.

“It’s you they’re targeting. You should be worried about yourselves, not me,” said Pedro.

“What?” asked Consuela.

Yurek deferred to her.

 “You’re surprised you’re not welcome here,” replied Pedro.

“I’ve been working here for decades. No one ever cared before,” Consuela said.

“That was before you made it permanent.”

Pedro looked at his four flat tires and turned to face Consuela and Yurek.

“Let’s go back to the tent. I’d hoped to break it to you softly. We’ll talk over a glass of wine.”

“You knew about this beforehand,” piped in Yurek as they turned.

Consuela looked at him and she sucked her cheek between her teeth.

“Are they gone?” she asked.

“Probably. They just wanted to scare you off. I was a surprise they didn’t count on. Make no mistake though, they’ll be back and next time it might not be so easy to get rid of them. Wait a second! I’ve got a high-powered lamp in the back. I have to check on something,” said Pedro.

“Can’t it wait?”

Pedro was mumbling to himself and Consuela remembered that stubborn expression on his face from their childhood.

“If you’re sure they’re done, I guess, we’ll go ahead and set up the dinner,” she said, motioning to Yurek.

She and Yurek walked down the track towards the tent. Yurek turned his head back to speak.

“What’s he up to?”

“With the light? Haven’t the faintest idea.”

They let themselves into the tent and both their noses crinkled, smelling the odor of burned canvas. Consuela spoke first.

“Lucky for that fire extinguisher!”

Yurek took both of her forearms in his hands and looked into her eyes.

“I wasn’t talking about the light. I was talking about him. You don’t need the distraction right now.”

“Yurek. He’s my oldest and maybe my only friend. Where do you get off anyway? You’re no better than him. Trying to tell me how to run my life.”

“I never meant to-“

“Let’s just eat. We’re both hungry.”

They started fussing with the camp stove to warm up Pedro’s ribs. Consuela unwrapped a baked potato still piping hot in its aluminum paper and shook some salt on it when a 1000 candle power lamp flashed on pointing not directly at the tent but close enough to be blinding. The beam of the hand-held lamp shifted around until Pedro exclaimed aloud and shut it off. Then they heard the sound of a long cable spinning around on the jungle floor as he rolled it up while walking. Pedro returned a few minutes later.

“Smells even better re-heated, doesn’t it?” asked the police detective as he held a small misshapen metal object between his thumb and forefinger.

“That’s what you needed to find. What is it?” asked Consuela.

“It’s a-”

“Bullet,” answered Yurek, completing Pedro’s sentence.

“Bingo,” replied Pedro who continued: “Question is how’d you know that?”

“Not rocket science. I heard you shoot out there and the guy wasn’t slowed down by it, so I figured you’d missed him and you wanted to check for something you dropped out there. How’d you miss him at that range?”

“That’s just it. I didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?” interjected Consuela.

“He was wearing armor. By sheer luck, the bullet deflected downward into the mud. The area was still steaming a bit and in that powerful lamp I managed to dig up this. It’s proof he was wearing armor.”

“You already said that. What difference does that make?” asked his oldest friend.

“Military background, or at least, he was a ‘merc’.”

“You’re losing me,” she continued.

Yurek went back to serving and let the two of them quibble.

“You never answered me?” Pedro asked, turning his attention to Yurek.

Consuela replied for him with a silencing finger to her lips.

“Pedro. I won’t let you start on that tack. Yurek is beyond suspicion.”

“Who said anything about-“

“You don’t need to say anything. I know the way your mind works. Leave it be.”

“Alright, maybe I was going down that path. Anyway, how are-“

“Pedro,” blasted Consuela.

“Let’s sit down and have it out over food. We’re all exhausted. C’mon,” said Yurek as he handed each of them a plate of piping hot ribs with baked potato side orders.

The three of them ate fast until the adrenaline dissipated. Sounds that would have frightened anyone not familiar with the jungle at night added music to the candlelight meal. As they sipped their wine, Consuela spoke up first.

“Why’re you really here, Pedro?”

“You know who had first dibs on this piece of land?” asked Pedro.

“Sleeping dogs, Pedro. You’ve been trying to pin that day on the Don for years. There’s no evidence. You know it and I know it. Move on. I can’t believe it. Even after all these years, you’re still in love with her.”

“That’s not it. I made a promise to myself the day she died that I would defend people like her and I have. She never should have died.”

“Pedro, Pedro. She’s gone. We were all kids. Tomas’ foolishness and arrogance killed her, not the Don.”

“I’ve been trying to fry that prick for years now and I’m not about to stop.”

“There’s some things you oughta know about the Don.”

“Like?”

“If it wasn’t for him this camp wouldn’t exist,” said Consuela.

“What?”

“I compromised. This side of the volcano will be a monkey haven called New Virunga. On the other side, the developers can have a field day. Don't you see that having this was more important? I agreed."

“Why’re they trying to scare you off then? Answer me that.”

“Pedro, all your life you’ve been trying to pin shit on the Don. You never once succeeded. Give it a break. The Don made all this possible. People change. Age mellowed him.”

“Did you know that he’s one of the developers fighting to use this land for condos from here right down to the bay?”

Pedro looked at Consuela. He knew she was plotting something. She laughed at the absurdity of her idea. Her camp chair dropped over when she stood up. She laughed as a scene from one of her favorite American movies played out in her mind’s eye. Paul Newman and Robert Redford were at the end of their rope in Bolivia. Yurek interrupted her train of though.

“Why’re you laughing? He may be right.”

“So they’re trying to double-cross us. We’re smarter. They’ve chased us into a corner, just like Butch and Sundance. Remember that film playing in the church yard, Pedro?”

“Haven’t thought of that in a long time. That was our favorite, wasn’t it? How many times’d they play that one?”

Pedro replied with a question, forgetting their predicament for a minute. He welcomed the distraction because he was boiling over inside and he knew no good decisions ever came of that mood. He let Consuela follow her logic. Maybe she’s onto something.

“Remember Butch and Sundance needed a way out and they approached a Bolivian mine owner for a job guarding his gold shipments. The owner asked them to shoot a coin that he threw some distance away. Butch missed and the owner shook his head and turned to leave. Then Sundance asked if he could move while he shot. The owner shrugged and The Kid hit the coin six times.”

She stopped talking and looked at her partner and her oldest friend as if they could connect the dots in her head. Dumbfounded indifference dominated their silences.

“Well?” she asked.

“Don’t get the connection, Consuela. It’s not only the Don involved here. He’s in a consortium of investors. This place is just a ploy to buy time. We need a plan. That’s why I’m here.”

Consuela took a step back. Pedro’s information hit her like a sledge hammer. He really does care, she thought, but she bounced right back still following her movie example. Yurek stood by.

“You men really are dense. It’s true. Listen. They need us to have a camp that they can attack, so we become guerillas and they’re stymied. Oldest trick in the book. Should read more of those ‘Che’ books I lent you when we were kids, Pedro.”

“You mean no camp?”

"Exactly, we follow the monkeys and alternate groups. It'll take ‘em a while to catch on and we buy time. After all, it's only two of us, that is unless you're joining the camp too, Pedro."

Pedro raised his hand to stifle Yurek’s objections and calmed a potentially difficult situation down by saying he could be more useful to them in his role as the local police Captain.

"You're a genius, Consuela. They'll never be able to keep up with you away from any roads. In the jungle, no one's your match.”

Yurek piped in.

“In the bush we can upload research and video through the SAT phone link.”

“See Pedro, the Don bought the phone,” added Consuela.

 All three of them shook their heads and said: “The SAT phone.”

Consuela dug into a duffle bag in the back of the tent and came up with a laptop and small directional antenna. They had walked back to Pedro’s vehicle. The canopy was a bit thinner there at the end of the dirt track making a SAT link more likely without having to climb up into a tree.

“I’ll get the station. They’ll come out here pronto. Nice to be the boss,” said Pedro while dialing after Yurek completed the set up on the laptop.

An hour later Pedro’s next in command, Sergeant Castillo drove up. He walked up to Pedro and handed him a small black box, which Pedro clicked on. He turned towards his vehicle and Castillo returned to the trailer equipped with a winch. He went about both attaching his Captain’s SUV to the winch and laying a path of small logs that he had brought with him expressly for that purpose. They had spare tires for their vehicles at the station but only one per truck. It was safer to carry the vehicle back on a trailer than to leave it here to be destroyed. Meanwhile, Pedro found the small magnetic box attached to the inside of his back bumper. When Castillo announced that he was ready, he was turning the apparatus over in his hands.

“I recognize that one. Military. They showed us how to use them when that American Green Beret guy came to train us in the Capital. Remember him, Captain?”

"What I remember is that you can't buy these easily. It's possible, but it takes connections."

Pedro took out his cell phone, opened the back cover and popped out the battery and card. Sergeant Castillo (Check ranks in Costa Rican police.) raised his left eyebrow.

“Seems I brought this on myself,” Pedro said.

“Sir.”

“Consuela, take the battery out of every communication device you own. You too, Yurek. Anyone with a tracker that sophisticated has access to other forms of tracking too. Remember, only use the SAT link when absolutely necessary and keep the batteries out all the time, unless you want another visit like this one,” he said as he stepped into the cap of the Sergeant’s SUV.

The window was rolled down and the teeming sounds of bugs and birds of the jungle morning accompanied the day’s early brightness instants before sunrise. They waved to each other and Consuela and Yurek, already packed, got ready to trek into the jungle before the heat became unbearable. A howler called out just as they broke into the undergrowth.

“Cholo,” said Yurek.

“You may be right. Bodes well, wouldn’t you say?”

*****

“Castillo?”

“Sir?”

“You know a guy around here the size of a seven-foot tree stump. Christ, I don’t know if the guy could even get in this cab.”

“Only one guy around her fits that description. He’s a ‘merc’ who spends his holidays here when he’s not off slitting throats in some war in Africa. I do know where he fishes in the afternoon.”

“Where’s that?”

“You know those tidal pools all the way out on the right of the bay?”

“Fished there myself when I was a kid,” replied Pedro.

“Four thirty every afternoon you can find him there.”

“We’ll just have to see if he’s got a mean bruise on his right calf.”

“Sir?”

“I shot a walking tree trunk  last night who was wearing armor. I know I got ’em on the right calf. Son of a bitch barely flinched,” said Captain Nicoya.

He held up a flattened piece of metal for the Sergeant to see. Pride shone on the younger man’s face. Captain Nicoya was the first Chorotega native to climb so high in the police bureaucracy. Captain doesn’t know I’m Matambu too, thought the young sergeant with an immovable smile and warm eyes.

“Just have to catch our own dinner tomorrow, sir. We’ll get a good look at him that way.”

“I like you more every day Sergeant. You know where I live?”

“That clearing off volcano road.”

“Something tells me your name’s not Castillo. You from around here?”

“We went to the same school, sir. I just came 'a ways' after you.”

“My mother divorced and re-married when I was a baby.”

“You and are going to get on just fine, Castillo.”

They picked their way down the steep slope to the Pacific Ocean under a power line connected to a cell-phone tower that overlooked the whole bay. Passing feet had polished exposed rocks, roots and fallen fish scales periodically reflected the sun from the greenery. Pedro and Castillo shed their uniforms for long shorts and t-shirts. Each man carried a spear gun, mask, flippers, snorkel and catch bag. They had borrowed a beat-up pickup to carry their equipment to the top of the trail. A couple of young men passed them on the way up carrying fish by the gills and gear in the other hand. Smiles and greetings passed easily amongst the men, but no on stopped. They were all on the way home to families waiting for the fish, not everyone had a friend with a fishing boat. All the young men walking the trail gave off warm, self-reliant vibes behind their easy smiles.

The trail broke out of the jungle about five feet above the rush of the swells. Worn tree trunks and shiny rocks decorated the hand holds down to the sea. The two men rolled up their t-shirts and stuffed them in the crook of a tree. Pelicans floated just offshore in the hopes of a meal, though most of the men cleaned their fish at home. Dogs needed food too. From their slightly higher vantage, they saw a shadow lurking in the murky shallow water. Pedro paused. Shadow like a shark, thought Pedro. His experience in the jungle flashed in his mind. Castillo entered the water without a ripple changing the surface. The early evening sun approached the cliffs on the opposite side of the bay, getting set to cast a bright kaleidoscope of rich hues over the ridge in the clouds.

Pedro fiddled with his equipment and the large man barely displaced any water when his eyes surfaced. He disappeared just as fast as he surfaced, gone in a tiny whirlpool of water. Castillo tried to follow but he was no match and the man lost himself in the maze of anchored boats in the protected bay. Overconfident again. Pedro waited for Castillo to return. The ‘put, put, put’ echo of a fishing boat motor interrupted his train of thought as pelicans dove and cried out in its wake, not two-hundred feet away. The sun warmed Pedro’s back on the walk back up the trail. A nicotine urge brought his fingers to his mouth repeatedly. Why do I always want smokes when I fail or succeed?

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