Fiction: Todos Santos

December 13, 2017 Fiction , Literature , POETRY / FICTION

 

By

W<J>P Newnham

 

 

 

ex-speedy-wha?

 

      She had wanted to catch the bus from San-Jose-Cabos International Airport the 100 odd clicks or so to Todos Santos; it was only 8 dollars and we would get to see some local colour on the way. I argued against it at home but conceded that it was probably ok even though I did have some reserves regarding the potential for kid-knapping or robbery. I knew that as with all travel plans there had to be a certain degree of fluidity and that regardless of all and any plans that things could be changed at the last moment to accommodate. I wasn’t worried at all.

 

      But on arrival [after a 14 hour flight from Brisbane to LAX and then clearing ingress and exit American customs and then waiting a coupla 2 3 hours for the flight to San-Jose and then arriving and clearing Mexican customs] the idea of catching a bus from the airport to the local bus station, the waiting, the stops, the inherent difficulties of travelling local all seemed too much for me; I needed to be on the road, with a beer [preferably Modelo or Tecate] in hand and the hotel room for a lie down. I checked with the taxi drivers and negotiated a good price to take us there directly [via an OXO [Mexican 7/11] for refreshments and cigarettes and beers].

 

      She agreed that to be conveyed directly to our hotel, and especially since I had haggled such a good deal, for $100 was a good deal. We stopped for beers and smokes and snacks and kicked it in the back of the van as our erstwhile driver navigated his way in and out of San-Jose and onto the toll road leading to Todos. He acted as a tour guide pointing out all manner of destruction still evident from the hurricane; houses and hotels being reroofed, street signs twisted and sculptured; shattered lives: cratered roads.

 

      The toll road wound around the coastline hugging its hips and dips and the landscape and seascape blurred by on either side as we sped north. There were stops for more beers at yet another OXO and further stops where the army or Federales had set up road-blocks.

 

I asked our driver:

‘Mira Por Droguistas? [looking for druggies?]’

which he confirmed;

‘Si mira por las droguista!’

 

      On arrival at our digs for the next week we tipped our drivers 5 bucks [equal to the minimum daily wage in Mexico] and entered the ‘Casa Bentley’ to take up our rooms and shower, etc.

 

We were greeted by a lady with a Swiss accent who whilst solicitous and friendly had no idea who we were or why we had arrived at the hotel when it was fully booked out. Lisa showed her the print out of the Ex-Ped-I-A Print-Out confirming our booking to which the Swiss-miss declared;

 

‘We are not registered with Ex-Ped-I-A; and with our bookings being full it cannot be this thing, nor that thing, and definitely not this other thing: there is one room for this evening and then nothing- not here and not having anywhere else having rooms in town at all. With festival is always full occupancy!’

 

      She sorts us out, ringing around first to all her friends and colleagues in town looking for a room as we drink beers by the pools and talk of sleeping on the banana lounges or camping on the beach. she comes up empty but says:

 

‘ok we clean store room out for you!’

 

workers toil a 10-hour day to make a room for us

we tip them well in recognition of their labours

our room is ready.

 

Drive By Truckers: Mutha-Fukkaz!

 

       We had flown a long way to see them; 14 hours’ ex Brisbane Australia to LAX and then hours in and out of American Customs and Security followed by a three-hour flight to Cabo d’ San Hose International Airport and in through Mexican Customs and Security, though admittedly less stringent, and we have arrived: on route to Todos Santos to see one of my favourite bands: DBT – Drive_By_Truckers Ladies And Gentlemen playing three consecutive nights:

 

We had tickets to all three;

two shows at “The” Hotel California

and then the Town Square Fiesta Finale’.

 

I had a wish list:

a personal set list;

songs that I would call out for:

that I had to hear played!

 

and album covers

with CD s removed

for signing:

 

I wanted merchandise

T-Shirts

Posters

and to dance;

calling out in-between

songs

 

Drive-By-Truckers: Mutha-Fukkaz!

 

I am an obvious fan;

with expectations to be

met and quantified in terms

both quantitative and qualitative

in equal measure.

 

 

The Only Spot in The Joint

[ Your Mamma Can’t Stand the Way

I Lay Around All Day: Drive by Truckers]

 

       It had been 5 months since the hurricane that had devastated the Baha peninsular laying waste to the tourist enclaves of Cabo san Lucas, La Paz, Todos Santos et al. Services and amenities had finally been restored to most of the outlying districts but there remained evidence of the destruction in poorer districts where houses remained unroofed with locals camping under tarpaulins like gypsies in the fields.

 

        As with all hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones it had been awarded the feminine sobriquet of Odile, a gentle name, refined and old world; completely at odds with the power that she had wielded with the enraged authority of a crazed banshee howling her warrior cry in winds of force 9 on the Beaufort scale. She wielded her power like a sword with trees and roofs and amenities decapitated with a mere flick of her wrist. She had raged across the peninsular as a pre-menstrual tyrantess, an imbalance of hormonal distress that had blindly lashed at and destroyed everything that was in her path. If it stood up to her she smashed it down and if it lay down she trampled its face into the mud and misery: grinding and blinding, mashing and smashing; replete in orgiastic destruction.

 

       It had hardly made the news at all in Australia save a passing mention on SBS and only because 2 Australians had been evacuated from Cabo amongst the 30 thousand strong repatriations of American tourists, mainly snowbirds, retired and invalid.

 

       Such a pretty name, but ain’t it just the truth Ruth that bitches seem to be named so prettily whilst the good girls who swallow down their rage and sublimate their nature are named more ordinarily, less pretty: plain like Jane or Sue. But Odile, ahhhhhhh Odile you were a mother-fucker; proud in destruction and devastation like Boadicea on the battlefield holding aloft severed heads as trophies with the blood running down her arms in rivers.

 

Rivers of Blood,

Sangre de Christos

 

      Christ had wept tears of blood and sweated it through his skin but even He in infinite power and majesty stayed clear of Odile knowing her anger and appetites to be more than a match for the meagre gift of compassion that he had as a stock in trade.

 

He cried

ABBA, ABBA

WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME

 

as tourists huddled in their hotel rooms like caves in the sky with the window smashed in; huddled in the safety of the bathrooms crying their own tears of blood. No atheists in these fox holes. They prayed like penitents of mortal sins and in those moments promised acts of devotion and self-sacrifice contingent on survival.

 

      We flew in four months later on one of our usual jaunts with the intention to lay in the sun, drunk by lunchtime, a music festival as our excuse for excess; not that we had ever really needed an excuse, it just made it easier for people to understand where there was a clear intention justifying bacchanalia. The previous evening, we had sat from sundown to stumps in the Hotel California drinking and eating in the reserved area with the gringos as bands played on stage and tourists danced with the uninhibited spastication of drunkenness; no timely twosteps, no salsa or waltzing just a festival frenzy of uncoordinated gyrations.

 

      Locals line the walls as waiters and busboys and security, elbowing each other in the ribs and pointing out the more hilarious example of white mans’ lack of rhythm to each other with their chins as they stifle guffaws; a merriment of mirth and amusement.

 

      We had maintained our dignity and as per our custom over tipped early to ensure prompt service; our drinks came thick and fast and by the time we left we were reeling like drunken tars out on a rip: nothing new here- sama-sama and as per.

 

      The following morning, though closer to afternoon than dawn, we sojourned to the cafe that we had nominated as our place for coffee and breakfast: huevos rancheros and cafe con leche as per. We smoke cigarettes as we wait and an American woman of African descent introduces herself to us with the intent of bumming a cigarette. We hand them over easy having been on the bum numerous times ourselves; cognizant of the need to pay it forward on the front end to get it back in the end.

 

     She is garrulous and whilst she works her cell phone and laptop in unison hustling deals for tourists and in her words ‘scaring up a coupla’ dollars to match the day’ she chatted amicably with us about her life, what bought her to Todos Santos, how she did, what she did; the whole who what when and how.

 

     She arranged meetings with clients in the cafe describing herself for identification as:

 

“The Only Spot in The Joint”

 

      We made the assumption that she meant negro but and again as per were too polite to reveal our ignorance by asking.

 

       She had lived here for 9 years and had suffered through Odile, describing her as a complete and utter mother-fucker. Post hurricane she had been marooned on her property for over a week, unable to get out, living in a shipping container as her house had been completely destroyed. She said that she had risen every day and cried until she could sleep from emotional exhaustion and when that didn’t work she took sleeping pills for the same effect.

 

      She said that she had been alone for 9 years, no permanent lover or companion, that she was happy that way, but Odile had awakened in her the need for companionship. We suggested trawling online for a partner and she laughed and suggested some of the ways in which the online advertisement might read:

 

Man Wanted for 3 Months of The Year

Must Be Either a Plumber or Electrician [Preferably Both]

No Alcoholics or Wife-Beaters Please as I Live On a Large Isolated Property Where Bodies Can Be Buried and Disappeared at Whim.

 

     We suggested that perhaps the wording could do with a little fine tuning but she disagreed and told us there ‘weren’t no point in not giving it to them straight’.

 

     She suggested that I looked like I might fit the bill and that she liked my look describing it as ‘my mamma always told me that if you look like you can really bite you only have to bark for effect and the mother-fuckers all set to running!’. I thanked her for the compliment but suggested that I ain’t the one cause if you think Odile was a motherfucker you should see this one [indicating my partner] with a head fulla steam.

 

     She laughed and suggested a two-fer deal which we graciously declined.

 

      Fast broken, coffees drunk and cigarettes smoked we paid our bill and left wishing her all the best and good luck- she waved us off as she was back on the phone hustling for dollars, describing herself again as “the only spot in the joint”.

 

Drunk Again

 

     Modus-Operandum for holidays and mixing with holiday makers: must drink to enable the faux friendly conversations that other vacationers seem to be ever so willing to impose on English speaking travellers- tales of their homes and families and lives in boring bum-fuck-nowhere.

 

      I maintain the Visage of Mean hoping that it will shield me from the more garrulous conversational interventions. 8 or 9 beers in I relax and start looking for conversations other than with my partner- we communicate in a short hand where a look, a gesture, a word can convey like pictures a plethora of words and concepts: conversations tapped out like telegraphs, spare, mechanical-efficient.

 

       I meet the boys from Alabama; these 6 foot 5 behemoths that tower over every and all: protein feed footballers and basket ballers; sportsmen all. They too are here for the festival and more particularly for Drive-By-Truckers as they are fellow Alabamans. These boys have grown up watching THE TRUCKERS regular like at county fairs and shows and have travelled En’-Mass in a convey like Dead-Heads to catch the shows in Todos Santos.

 

     Big as they are they as children; Babes in Toyland. They watch as groups of American women, on holidays and free from the usual social restraints, dance with abandon.

 

      I point this out. I suggest that this one that one the other one are gagging for it one and all. The Boys from Alabama look at me like I am some kind of divine pussy whisperer.

 

‘REALLY….HOW CAN YOU TELL?’

they ask

incredulous that I

should somehow be

the repository of such

intimate knowledge

 

     I tap my finger to the side of my head and nod with a confident smirk. The Boys from Alabama take this a gospel and the braver amongst them approach the gringitas indicated and are soon dancing

we see them at all the gigs

kissing

canoodling

 

        I have engaged and achieved something:

even if it is only shooting fish in a barrel!

 

 

 

 

 

W<J>P Newnham

W<J>P Newnham hitchhiked around Australia working as barman, bum and waiter; slaughter hand, deckhand and master spending 25 years working in the Northern Prawn Fishery. He has travelled extensively in south-east Asia, the Americas and Japan and speaks market-place Indonesian with some fluency.

W<J>P Newnham is the winner of the 2016 The Lifted Brow experimental non-fiction prize with numerous short stories published in ‘Nocturnal Submissions’, ‘Overland’, ‘The Lifted Brow’, ‘Meanjin’, Westerly and Horror Sleaze Trash [to name but a few].

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