Patrick C. Crowell
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That evening while Pfeiffer and Cromwell sipped a third Chilean Merlot on the plane, and tried with marginal success to fend off the prowling stewardess, Miguel was home positioned on his makeshift couch with his love—a petite Costa Rican enchantress from Puntarenas.
Estoy en cielo, he thought—I’m in heaven.
The "couch" was nothing more than a rough-sawn plank on two stacks of concrete blocks in the middle of Miguel's small shack. The uninviting hovel was built of wood and rippled fiberglass-roofing sheets. Cardboard patchwork covered the holes. Located less than a half-mile from Boca Barranca, up river on the side of a hill laced with banana plants and shaded by giant ear trees, it was strategically placed where Miguel figured washouts and mudslides wouldn’t destroy his improvised construction. The thatched door was made from homegrown teak and palmetto fronds. Inside was a bed of palmetto and coarse cotton sheets, the “couch,” and a table Miguel had pilfered from another hut that had long since been abandoned.
“¿ Belita?” he asked, as they sat with his arm around her, overlooking the jungle through his paneless window, and hearing the rat a tat tat of raindrops on his fiberglass roof.
“ Si, Miguel,” she replied, moving her graceful hand in order to run it through her silky black hair, flipping it out of the way so that she could fix her eyes upon him. Isabella was her given name. She was elfin at five foot, but shaped so sweetly. Her brown skin was unblemished and fresh, and while with her he forgot about the surf entirely, only wanting to touch her in any manner that he could. She knew it, and mused at the wordless power that she possessed. A flutter of her curly eyelashes here, an enticing smile over her shoulder there, a simple tilt of her head or change in her serene expression, and he’d perform back flips.
“ Tu sabes que yo te amo mucho,”—you know I love you a lot—he whispered.
“ Si, Miguel, lo se.” She rejoiced at her good fortune. He could’ve had any girl in the village.
He untangled himself from her and moved to his store-bought chest of drawers. It was where he kept his clothing—two pairs of shorts and one pair of real Levis, underwear, boardshorts for surfing, and a few shirts and t-shirts. Aside from these, Miguel owned one and a half pairs of flip-flops, his expensive work boots, a bicycle, his surfboard, a machete, a hammer and a few other tools, some eating and cooking utensils, a cooler and two buckets for carrying water from the river. He had no bank account and cashed his paychecks at El Banco in town. From there, he’d make weekly trips to El Mini-Super Mercado to buy food and surfboard wax. As for the rest of his money, it stayed in his top drawer and accumulated.
Miguel surfed, worked, ate and slept, seeing Belita in between ... and he saved. He had saved for this moment. Lifting t-shirts, he extracted an object from his drawer, keeping it hidden from her curious eyes.
Moving to her and sitting back down, Miguel gazed into the Milky Way colored eyes of his nubile lover, and became lost. He didn't understand how or why he was hooked. In fact, he didn't even think of it. But just as the waves were his master in the ocean, so was she his mistress on land. He’d cogitated ways to earn enough money to build a real house, with real furniture and a real bed, hoping to achieve fame and fortune as a professional surfer. And he’d been planning something for some time, the first stage of which was going to occur this night. For he’d scrimped and saved, and done favors, and gone hungry; and this magical night on his Costa Rican squatter-land he would present her with the St. Christopher medallion, to be the symbol of their lasting amor y boda—love and marriage.
“¿ Belita?” the starry-eyed surfer asked, holding her before him.
“¿ Si, Miguel?”
“¿ Te casaras conmigo?”—will you marry me. He raised his eyebrows in nervous anticipation and smiled.
“¡ Oh si, Miguel, si!” The words burst from her mouth as she embraced him about the waist, reaching into the depths of his brown eyes with hers.
“¡ Gracias a Dios! ¡Belita! ¡Gracias a Dios! ¡Estoy muy feliz!” He thanked God and declared his happiness. He placed the St. Christopher about her neck with silent reverence, a symbol of their future together.
She gazed at it in wonderment, rejoicing at the beauty of the simple bronze pendant representing a culmination of her dreams.
They sat and hugged in their small tropical paradise, talking, planning and dreaming, as the rain on the roof drowned out all sounds but their romantic whispers. Miguel knew things would be tough, starting with virtually nothing but each other and their love. But he was proud and ready to take off on this new wave with total commitment; and thus they were a young Costa Rican couple filled with as much promise as any, about to begin a marvelous adventure together for life, like their ancestors, many times before. Miguel pondered these things as he sat enfolded with his cherished love in the dark.
Outside, the steady rain disguised the sounds of the night-feeders searching for food—iguanas, bats, snakes … and other creatures. Miguel couldn't hear the snapping noise when work-boots stepped through the remnants of a rotted log not twenty-five feet from his threshold. He couldn't even have heard the motor of the black van negotiating the potholed dirt road to his shack, nor could he have seen headlights, because they’d been switched off when the vehicle turned from the main road toward Miguel’s shack.
Three men had alighted from the van and were approaching with relative stealth. One of them was wiry and toothless on the bottom jaw, and his black eyes were intense and hostile. His vascular hand gripped a razor-sharp machete, as vicious as the tattooed teeth of the velociraptor embedded on his arm. The other two were larger and muscular, wielding modern semi-automatic handguns, and all three were clothed in green cotton cut-offs and the loose fitting shirts of Costa Rican cowboys.
Miguel began kissing Belita, and though still on his couch as their lips caressed, the two were in a place only lovers know. How wonderful, Miguel was thinking in Spanish as his lips experienced the softness of hers. How lucky I am.
Belita, on the other hand, had decided to please Miguel like never before. She pulled away from him, enabling her devoted gaze to catch his pining eyes as she undid his belt.
But the tenderness of their moment was interrupted.
Smash! came the sound of Miguel's thatched door as the largest intruder kicked it in, cracking Miguel's homemade hinges upon impact. The toothless man barged in, trampling the fallen door and waiving his machete, the others following with their handguns.
“ On your knees! Now!” Miguel heard the toothless man yell in Spanish.
“¿ Que?” Miguel uttered, still in a state of complete surprise as he and Belita unwrapped themselves.
“ On your knees! ¡Ahora! ¡Rapido!”
Recognition and comprehension swept over Miguel like whitewater as he paddled out to the break. It was then that he made an instinctive mistake, lunging at the intruder. But the quick invader anticipated this, and no sooner than Miguel was about to make contact, he felt the broadsided slap of cold steel against the side of his face and was suddenly plunging to the floor.
“¡ Aye!” Belita screamed in horror.
“¡ Callate!” the man yelled as he shook the machete. “On your knees!”
Belita did fall to her knees, but in order to attend Miguel, and this angered the man. Welts were spontaneous on her butt as he swatted her with the flat side of his jungle toothpick. “¡Dije! On your knees, puta!”
Belita could no longer hold her tears, and they burst forth as Miguel began to stir. When he started to push himself off the floor he didn’t know that he was feeling his last worldly sensations. The razor sharp steel was strategically situated on the back of his neck, and a very fast, forceful down-slicing motion commenced, severing the skin and the bone and the muscles, and the tendons and the nerves. Miguel’s head and neck dropped downward, dangling like a Costa Rican pineapple whacked from its stem.
“¡ Aye! ¡No! ¡Aye! !Miguel!” Belita screamed in consuming shock.
“¡ Pronto!” the toothless man yelled to his henchmen. “To the machine!” he commanded as the men began lifting Miguel’s limp body.
“ I fuck the whore. Then we kill her too. I teach you to protect those that take my wave, Ése!” he said, as the last vestiges of life left Miguel’s body. “Man . . . you were in the wrong place, at the wrong time.”

Copyright © Patrick C. Crowell 1995-2004.
All rights reserved. Rev. 3-2



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