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The enchanted hammock

Dawn broke one more clammy jungle time. Roosters and howler monkeys told the tale.

Across the peninsula campesinos sang their way to work perched happily on rickety bicycles, their machetes held tightly in leather sheaths against the handlebars or strung over their shoulders like prison chains. Accompanying them were small helpings of gallo pinto and tepid tea which would serve as the daily luncheon special. Memories of an early breakfast among the mango trees consoled them, and thoughts of dinner…more beans and rice and maybe a can of Imperial Beer. On Sunday there would be chicken. They could still live off the land, at least for the time being.

Why be sad? Why worry? Nothing was going to change and besides, each had his family to hold onto, his village and at least a small garden to tend while the evening sun dipped over the Golfo Dulce.

Marcelo Ramirez woke up early too. At 89 he still had chores to do. His lazy son Juan refused to help with the farm preferring to lounge in his hammock all day. After feeding his livestock and raking his front yard the old man washed, drank coffee and saddled up his aging bay mare, Carmen. It was now time for his daily pilgrimage to the village of Amarantha, three miles down the dirt road that connected LaPalma to Puerto Jimenez. There he would visit with the friends he had known for almost a century.

Passing children in navy and white school uniforms, sweating palm oil workers, a stray horse, a few citrus farmers and an occasional air-conditioned Gringo on the way to the eco-jungle lodges of Corcovado, he choked from the dust. Dry season was hell on the lungs but at least the corps of engineer bridges would not be flooded as they were in rainy season. Marcelo waved and chatted, as he and Carmen surveyed the edges of his farm. He reflected on his good luck since in all of his years he had not been forced into the dirty, dangerous work of palm oil extraction.

Today many of his neighbors spent the day in the palm forests, engaged in back-breaking labor. The fortunes they had been paid for their homes had quickly disappeared and they were once again destitute only this time landless as well. Now Nortes perched on their former property, building large houses, driving SUVs and cultivating gentlemanly banana crops.

As Marcelo wandered into town on the back of Carmen he was quite the sight to behold. Carmen, his mare of almost two decades was definitely slowing down but the slow stroll seemed to perk her up this morning. The pair had become as familiar a sight as banana trucks, scarlet macaws and the tour buses that had just began to reach to Osa Peninsula, bringing with them monetary salvation as perceived by the impoverished locals.Thet’d all be rich. It was just a matter of time.

He was a tough old vaquero with a heart of gold and a smile for everyone…except perhaps his off-spring. Juan, was a worthless bum and his daughter-in-law was no better. He saw himself as the local ladies’ man while Penelope regarded herself as a definite femme fatale, despite her extra 40 pounds.

Some thought Marcelo better off for having even questionable company out on his place, but he would have preferred solitude. His two grandsons, Mario and Alberto, still had potential but that diminished as they watched their parents sleep away the afternoons while Marcelo did all the work. They might have become closer but the parents discouraged it. Some day their grandfather would be dead and they would inherit the land. That’s what Juan had told them.

Across the washboard road the local brujo, Bernardo Espinozo, watched the daily parade. Hidden from view by thick fig trees, banana leaves and bougainvillea he peered out at the world crowded with inferior mortals.

Espinozo desperately sought respect from those around him. His continued witch status required displays of dark power and the casting of mighty spells. He could not comprehend how or why Marcelo would allow these parasite relatives to live off him. Clearly, after having served six months in prison for polygamy and car theft, Espinozo had many unresolved issues with mankind.

When Marcelo returned from the village he saw his son asleep in his hammock. The dishes from breakfast were piled high in the sink while his daughter-in-law, cracked open her first beer of the day. The two grandchildren were playing in an derelict pickup parked in the driveway. His son had promised to repair the old truck’s transmission three years ago. He passed the snoring Juan and the sipping Penelope without comment. He went out to the garden intent on doing battle with tropical weeds and grasshoppers. bu soon he was on the patio napping away the humid January afternoon.

That’s when Carmen died.

The grandsons found her and ran to tell Marcelo who rushed to the side of his longtime companion. Old age had taken its toll. Marcelo loved the horse. He stared down at her, a tear rolling down his tan, weathered cheek. Now she must be buried. The hired hand from the next farm got wind of the situation and showed up with a shovel, as did the neighbor and the owner of a small pulperia nearby. Juan lingered on the hammock refusing to lift a finger to help his father. He mocked the grave diggers, suggesting they join the animal in the hole.

The brujo, eager to regain his tenure and rejoin the celebrated ranks of sorcery, watched from across the road as the drama played out. Marcelo ignored his son while the neighbors openly glared at him swinging on the hammock. The story would be told in town that very afternoon of an evil son too lazy to help his father bury his beloved horse.

Espinozo conjured up a plot to rid Amarantha of Juan and his wife for good. He would need a charm, a hex, a pinch of voodoo and a vehicle through which to channel his power. He must have an instrument, something linked to Juan. He’s in that hammock almost all the time. It’s almost like a spider web but first he must lure the lazy couple away while he applied  the finishing touches. This called for serious incantation—witchery of the highest degree.

Chanting ancient words, he mixed the bellies of kinkajous with the eyebrows of a bulldog bat and the tongue of a tayra. He added the dust of a moonless night with the course fur of a peccary and the toxins from a poison-arrow frog. He concentrated some more, adding Tamarind seed and volcano ash, adjusting his brew, when, as if on call, along came the bait, the beautiful Maria Mendoza.

Every man in town had yearnings for Maria. She was 23 years old and a lovely creature. About a year ago her husband Hector had been crushed by a palm oil press and she was left alone with three children. She survived on money from her family in Cartago and gifts from her gringo dates. Her mere arrival in LaPalma at the Friendly Bar on the Corner caused guaro-chugging patrons to go mad. Fist fights and even a knifing or two were chalked up to her account.

Now she was swinging down the road within view of Juan’s hammock. He opened one eye and saw her. Peering around for his wife, Penelope, Juan slid out of the hammock and sneaked outside. Maria had already passed the farm and was headed toward one of the newly built tourist restaurants above the river. He followed her unaware that he was shadowed by Penelope.

The brujo watched the three figures disappear into the jungle. He saw that Marcelo was still asleep and that the two boys had gone to swim in the Rio Rincon. Bernardo Espinozo let himself in., quietly letting the dilapidated screen door close behind him

The first order of business was to employ personal articles, possibly articles of clothing, belonging to his potential victims in the spell casting. Then he knew he must touch the hammock with a pinch of his concoction so as to give it life. He found one of Juan’s many combs and stared at the hammock waving the comb back and forth, whispering the simple words “eat him-eat every bit of him” over and over. He did the same thing with one of Penelope’s sandals and the scarf, encouraging what he hoped was now an enchanted hammock’s appetite. Then he scurried back to his shack to await the return of his prey.

Maria had reached a group of customers at the restaurant before Juan could catch up to her. Penelope, however, had caught up to him. By the time the two returned to the farm they were in a heated argument but Juan, enticed by the thought of Maria, was in the mood for love. In less than an hour he had apologized for his conduct and had invited his wife to join him in the hammock. He kept inviting. What else was there to do that evening? He persisted and she resisted. Then a smile crossed her fleshy face. They were both in the little cottage alone for a change. After all, he was her husband. The hammock looked inviting.  Unaware of the danger she joined him.

That’s when the now enchanted hammock took over, quickly swallowing both of them without further adieu. It was business as usual at first but then Juan noticed his arms had turned to noodles. Then his neck seemed limp. Penelope’s smile had turned to fear as gravity came to play. Juan’s hair stood on end. His very veins became a target to the hammock’s aggression. His brain turned to mush. Penelope screamed as her ankles became embroiled with the netting. Soon Juan could not move. His entire torso glued to the lowest points of bodily contact with the web. He was gasping for breath as Penelope looked to him for some ungodly answer. Moments before death they both made a sort of contrition, hoping that this was not really the end. The hammock showed no such emotion.      

“We have so much to live for,” they both wailed. “The children…Marcelo…If only we could be given a second chance…We could make good…”

 It was all very clean, very complete. There was no blood, no broken bones, no residue of a struggle. The brujo had done his homework and the mission was accomplished in just short of five minutes.

Espinozo watched proudly while the hammock sucked them both into the abode of the condemned. The hungry hammock performed beautifully, leaving not so much as a crumb. As the short struggle subsided the brujo thought for sure he heard the smacking of hammock lips and even a slight burp.

“Good,” he said.

Hours later when the boys returned from the river and Marcelo had awakened from his nap there was no sign of Juan or Penelope. The hammock, however, swung back and forth contentedly, as if still occupied. Later that day a neighbor told Marcelo that he had seen the two walking in the jungle near where a prowling jaguars had been spotted only the night before. Somebody else claimed to have smelled a witches’ brew. No one went out to look for them. No one, even the family, cared. After week Marcelo discarded Juan’s  hammock and bought a three horses in LaPalma. The grandchildren, who had miraculously taken to working the farm, had accompanied him on the trek. His neighbors smiled as they approached. They were quite the sight to behold.

Espinozo, who openly claimed responsibility for the disappearance of Juan and Penelope, was soon after arrested for transporting a stolen vehicle across the Panamanian border at Rio Sereno. After countless escape attempts he remains incarcerated at a maximum security prison near David, where he enjoys telling this story.

Meanwhile Marcelo’s farm has flourished. With the help of his two grandsons it now boasts dairy cattle, sugar cane, corn, beans, rice, abaca, hemp and tobacco. It was now a peaceful, thriving farm and Marcelo does little of the work. The neighbors say they have never seen him looking better and that he will be sure to reach 100. His grandsons and he named two of the horses after Juan and Penelope and they named the third one after the jailbird, Bernardo.

– Kevin Haley

WAL-MART MOVING TO CHINA

Bentonville to Beijing

( Montrose) Wal-Mart Corporation is relocating its entire executive complex to Mainland China. The move, announced this morning, is seen as an attempt to get closer to the source of consumer goods sold in the mega stores all over the world.

A vast majority of the products sold by Wal-Mart are made in China.

“We will still wave American flags and greet our customers in English, at least in the US for the time being.,” said a Wal-Mart executive who linked trade deficits with global warming and devil worship.

Controlled jubilation dominated the skyline in the Chinese capital this morning as the news became public. Despite the fact that only a handful of active consumers exist in China the embrace of Wal-Mart was seen as a matter of national pride.

“We don’t intend to go retail right now since our Chinese allies don’t want to see a lot of empty noodle shop storefronts in downtown areas, continued the executive. “We will move in slowly at first gaining the trust of the Chinese consumer, then we will pull the carpet out from under them just like we did in the good ol’ USA.”

The Wal-Mart headquarters will be located in Tiananmen Square next to the 3000-foot high statue of Sam Walton erected by the Chinese after viewing the firm’s sales figures from 2016. Twenty-thousand Chinese serfs are currently constructing the offices. Each floor will feature a McDonalds outlet, which accepts only US dollars.     

Meanwhile back in the USA hungry shoppers still flood Wal-Mart parking lots while their communities fall deeper into despair. Offers to sell US goods in the prospective Wal-Mart retail stores in China were not taken seriously since manufacturing has been shipped off to Latin America.

“For an American the one most unpatriotic act, short of offering aid and comfort to al Qaeda, is shopping at Wal-Mart,” said one consumer advocate. “This is not buying local…even if you live next door. Yet the same idiots that scream about the loss of American ideals and the weak economy shop there. They show up every day of the year wagging their crippled credit cards behind them.”

Economists are baffled by the move saying that burgeoning Hong Kong is a far better fit than is stoic Beijing.

“It sure can’t be the clean air,” said one embassy official. “We have no official position on the matter for fear of offending the Chinese.”

Unreliable sources over at the US State Department say lower level US Wal-Mart employees will be forced into reeducation camps or executed. 

– Kashmir Horseshoe

POSTAL WORKERS ON SABBATICAL

(Washington) After a flurry of activity over the summer some 40,000 postal workers will journey to Peru for a much needed rest. While relaxing in the South American country the workers will study the behavior of Peruvian postal workers, a group which rarely succumbs to stress.

In many remote Peruvian mountain areas the mail is often weeks late and some packages never arrive at all, but no one seems to mind. In fact, most of the natives there deliver their own mail.

“People in the United States are spoiled,” said one organizer of the trip. “We could learn a lot by observing postal practices in South America.”

Feds apologize for illegal raid

(Tuba City, AZ) Treasury agents say they’re “awfully sorry” about a mindless raid on the Knights of Columbus Bingo Pavilion here. After arresting several hundred bingo enthusiasts, the intruders finally determined that no laws had been broken, released all prisoners and vacated the premises.

“What if something illegal had been going on?” spouted Special Agent Wanda Wanna. “One can never be sure with wide open reservation gambling running amuck.”

The feds had apparently mistaken Tuba City for Mesquite, Nevada from the air. According to the architects of the assault Mesquite had been the original target since it is located closer to a four-lane highway.

“I had one little combination to go and I would have won over fifteen bucks,” said Evelyn “Grandma” Sumpump, of nearby Cow Springs. “I plan to sue the government for that figure plus gas money for emotional duress.”

The feds plan a surprise raid on Mesquite and the diluted “sin city” of Las Vegas next Friday, unless it rains.                          

-Mel Toole

KNYK Radio on Air

A Real Slap in the Face

(Pea Green) KNYK FM Radio “24 Hours of Three Stooges” hit the airwaves this morning with a bang, presenting vocal productions of both The Woman Haters (1934) and Half Wits’ Holiday (1947), backed by a rogue format with snippets of news and commentary. The station name (pronounced nyuk or nayuck running the n and the y together) comes from a familiar one-syllable expression common to the character Curly (of the Stooges) who nailed down countless  classic performances over his short-lived career.

Supported on stage by Larry and Moe, Curly’s antics covered the gamut from the curly shuffle to the popular pliers to the nose/fingers deep to the eye sockets routine. Although graphic in presentation the station’s operators feel that there is enough crazy audio in the films to pull off the project.

“We soitenly intend to make a profit and think there are enough people out there with nothing better to do than listen to the sounds of the Three Stooges,” said Shep Sheperdson, sales director. “Although the Stooges were never popular as a radio program, like Amos and Andy or Jack Benny we feel that their appeal reaches across medium lines as well as generational lines. Besides, commercial radio programming is far more annoying than round-the-clock Stooges episodes. If you don’t agree, smack me in the face with a pipe wrench or bop me on side of the head with a sledge hammer.”

Businesses wishing to advertise on KNYK will find a staff with a wealth of knowledge on not only the Stooges themselves, but on such often elusive subjects as gonzo hair styles for men, comedic violence and the trendy fashion common to the trio.

“Our presentations will not be canned or recreated,” said Sheperdson. “They will be exclusive pieces from the films themselves along with jingles, background music and of course the sound effects that made the movies so well loved. Hey Moe…Hey Moe…stick a claw hammer up my nose.”

Sheperdson thinks the station will have immediate benefits for younger listeners in that the adventures of the Stooges might show them a different way to view life.

“You don’t see these boys messing with drugs or questioning our government, do you?” asked Sheperdson. “They just go about the business of drilling each other with jackhammers as in My Sister Eileen (1942) and surviving in a harsh world that may not always understand them. What’s important is that they get up every day and embrace it all…the good…the bad…the ridiculous.”

We would now like to take ten seconds so that our readers can identify themselves. THIS IS KNYK RADIO – 24 HOURS OF THREE STOOGES!

– Melvin Toole

      

NEWS FROM 100 YEARS AGO

COWPUNCHER SIGNS FOR $95

Atrocious salary sends shock waves through the pasture

(Gunnison 1890) Brackey Toate started working on his father’s tiny ranch near Parlin in 1878. Little did he know he would be a wealthy man in less than ten years. Today he signed a lucrative multi-year contract for what amounts to $95 per month.

The free agent jumped ship in Baldwin last September to try his luck in the burgeoning market. The expansion of ranch land has left the industry with a diluted wrangler pool and seriously short of cowboys familiar with the round-up. Some ranchers have turned to other countries for manpower while the larger ones simply tighten their belts and pay the higher wages.

“This is outrageous!” said one pot-bellied rancher from Quartz Creek. Wild Bill Hickock only makes $150! This kind of money sets a dangerous precedent! Who will pay for these kinds of salaries? It’s the consumer.”

Beef prices have skyrocketed over the past year partly due to the competition for cowboys.

“We have to compete,” said Crystal Alripe, matriarch of the Yellow Tail Ranch near White Pine. “The boys and I can’t run the place on our own so we have to hire seasonal help at least. The cost has become prohibitive. I remember when a cowhand was happy to get a dollar a day and board,” she quipped. “Now they’re looking for the big dollars! Where will it all end?”

Toate’s contract includes incentives, health benefits, horse expenses, a clothing allowance and his own bunkhouse entrance. In addition he gets first crack at the dinner table and holidays off.

“This marks a new day in agriculture,” said Alripe. “The next thing you know the cows will want a piece of the action.”

Besides his daily chores on the ranch, Toate will train to compete in the National Western Stock Show Rodeo which opens in Denver in January. Fiscal wizards say that his performance there will determine future bonuses.

“This scandalous salary is only the beginning,” explains banker Tom Watchitt of Gunplay Bank and Trust in Vulcan. “Besides the income Toate is looking at endorsements, perks from special interests and investment opportunities that would choke a bull. If he plays it right he could be quite wealthy and look forward to an early retirement.”

Already Toate has been groomed as a spokesman for Cheeky Chew, a popular brand of chewing tobacco and may be featured on advertisements for the Million Dollar Boot Company of Ironton. According to close friends he plans to buy a spread near Ohio City and raise Herefords.

“It’s a whole new world that we live in,” continued Alripe, “one where a simple cowpuncher can make his fortune overnight and where others don’t seem to grasp the value of a dollar.”

Toate is expected to report to spring training in February after completing a conditioning program here. If all goes well he will start against the Longhorns on Opening Day.

– Slim “Fats” McGovern

      

     

WAL-MART TO EXECUTE DISLOYAL EMPLOYEES

(Montrose) The Wal-Mart Corporation announced today that it will get tough with insubordinate, mutinous employees who do not live and breathe the company’s philosophy. Starting in 2019 a slew public of executions have been slated for the store’s massive parking lot, located south of here.

The move, called radical by even the staunchest of Wal-Mart supporters, will take on an experimental flare and may lead to the adoption of similar measures at other locales. Employees in jeopardy are said to be those who resist tried and true corporate brain washing techniques and flirt with heresy concerning the divine rights of the discount giant.

“We don’t expect management personnel to be affected by these developments,” said a regional executive who once washed Sam Walton’s feet during a trip to South Korea in 1985. “The people are simply not team players.”

Others in line for the end include persons who hesitated when instructed to give part of their meager wages to charity.

“We love those pictures in the local papers where our employees make donations to good causes,” said the executive. “It makes us look good without costing us any money. I for one can’ believe people are so quick to buy this crap but that’s what makes this country what it is.”

The concept of public executions emerged with the proposed Wal-Mart Super Store, slated for construction next to the massive Mormon Church south of town. Company heads are concerned that negative publicity as to the construction will prevent the mass retailer from securing 100% of the trade in the region.

“We don’t want a fair market share,” smiled the executive. “We want it all. We want to turn the traditional downtown into a slum and ship all the profits out of town and our customers are helping us do just that. It’s really quite simple.”

Many residents of the area do not comprehend the damage done to a community when leeches like Wal-Mart latch on. Some even defend the noxious corporation since it creates jobs and convenience. They do not address the cost of to the quality of life and the impact on the social structure here.

The first executions, scheduled for dawn on January 15, will skirt the jurisdiction of several law enforcement agencies since they will be held on private property. Condemned persons will have their choice of firing squad, lethal injection or guillotine. Family members will be admitted free and commemorative photographs of the event will be available (at 20% off with charge card) in the store’s camera department. Accrued retirement benefits will revert back to the corporation’s stockholders at the time of passing. Everyone is invited!

“Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

– H.L. Menoken