|The Man from Swift Current|
|© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved
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|Chapter 51: Adventures in Veracruz|
We were awakened by Felipe. He shook us awake and said, "It's time to get up boys. I'll meet you downstairs."
Rick rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and rolled out of bed. He came around to my side of the bed and helped me up, "Let's get a shower, lover boy."
"Sounds good to me," I said smiling at my beautiful lover and his morning woody.
We showered and got dressed and joined Felipe, Oscar and Gary at the kitchen table where Mrs. Martinez was serving breakfast.
"It looks like you guys had a great time in the shower," Felipe said grinning from ear to ear.
"Yeah, we did," Rick replied grinning back at Felipe.
Oscar and Gary looked at us and smiled as well.
"We know who had the most fun though," Gary said.
I looked at them in surprise, "How do you know that?"
"From the size of the bruise on the side of your neck," Oscar said laughing at my embarrassment.
"You've been marked, Glenn. I'd say Rick likes how you taste," Felipe said smiling at me.
Rick laughed as he sat down, "Yes, Glenn does taste good." Rick put his hand on the inside of my thigh and moved it back and forth, "And his neck is not the only place that tastes good!"
I was blushing more and more with each passing moment, "You guys are really embarrassing me this morning!"
"And you look so lovely when you blush," Rick said, brushing his hand against my cheek.
Thankfully, Mrs. Martinez returned with full plates for our breakfast at that moment, saving me from even more harassment.
We had just finished eating when Mrs. Gomez appeared in the kitchen. She sat down with us as Mrs. Martinez brought her a cup of coffee and a piece of sweet bread.
"Are you boys ready?" she asked looking around the table at us.
"Yes, we're ready," Felipe said. "You are going to give us a map and directions to the different places we are going today, aren't you, Mom?"
"Yes, dear, I have all the information you need written down right here," she responded as she handed a small note pad across the table to Felipe. "I have also annotated what kinds of medicine are to be delivered to which patient and the instructions you are to leave with them."
"Thanks, Mom. We are happy to be able to help you today," Felipe said smiling at his mother.
We all nodded our agreement. "When do we leave," Gary asked.
"As soon as you are finished eating your breakfast," Mrs. Gomez said.
I hurried to finish eating since everyone else was done and they were waiting for me.
We stood up from the table and cleared our dishes and put them in the sink. We walked out the front door and climbed into the Volkswagen bus and Felipe started the car. Felipe backed out of the driveway while Gary closed the gate after us and locked it. Gary jumped into the back of the bus and we were off for the day. We arrived at the Garibaldi Building just before 8 AM. We managed to find a parking spot not far from the building and walked back to the high rise. We entered the lobby and pushed the button for the elevator. We waited for what seemed forever before the old elevator finally arrived at the ground floor. The door opened and we saw that it was completely full. After the people exited, we climbed on board and pushed the button for the 16th floor. It seemed to take longer than forever to get to the 16th floor.
We exited the elevator into a long narrow hallway with bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling every 20 feet or so. There was black mold growing on the walls and the carpet was threadbare. We walked to the opposite end where we found number 1601 and knocked on the door.
It was opened by a wizened old woman. Felipe greeted her, "Hello, Mrs. Rivera. My mother sent us with some more medication for your son."
She smiled, showing a smile with only two bottom teeth which caused her to lisp when she said, "Come in Felipe. Your mother takes very good care of us. Who are these young men with you?"
We followed her into the front room. The apartment was completely bare of furniture except for two hammocks that were hung across the middle of the room. There were a couple of grass mats on the floor under the hammocks.
Felipe introduced us, "These are my twin brothers, Gary and Oscar. And these are my friends from the university, Rick and Glenn."
Mrs. Rivera smiled at the twins, "I know your brothers. I remember them from when they used to come with your mother to visit me. Welcome to my home." She looked at me and Rick, "I'm glad to meet you. Any friend of Felipe's is a friend of mine. Welcome. I'm sorry we don't have any chairs for you to sit on. I'm afraid all I have are a few grass mats. Please come and sit down. I will get Mauricio."
We all sat down on the mats on the floor and waited for her return. A few minutes later, I was totally shocked to see a young man about our age enter the room riding on a moving dolly that had been modified with a couple of boards so he could lay on his stomach and use his arms to propel himself forward. He wore a tight fitting red t-shirt that stretched over the well-defined muscles of his upper torso. I looked down to see two stumps instead of legs sticking out of the black shorts he wore.
He wheeled himself over to us and used his arms to push himself into a sitting position on the dolly. Mauricio had a very handsome face with deep set brown eyes and a brilliant smile.
Mauricio smiled at the shock written all over my face. Rick jabbed me in the ribs, "Stop staring," he whispered to me.
Mauricio looked me in the eyes and said, "Don't be embarrassed. I get the same reaction from every new person I meet. I'm used to it."
"Your English is perfect. Where did you learn to speak English," Rick asked.
"I learned from Felipe's mom. She is a wonderful person. She has tutored me in English for years now. She has arranged for private teachers to come and teach me here at the apartment. Mom could never afford to pay for the lessons let alone keep food on the table without the help of the Gomez family."
Felipe said, "Mauricio is one of Mom's favorite patients. She's tried to get him to use a regular wheelchair but he says he's more comfortable using the moving dolly. According to him, it's much more mobile than a wheelchair!"
I looked at the dolly a little more closely and asked, "Your dolly doesn't look like anything I have seen before."
"I modified a piano dolly by nailing on two planks of wood to cover the hole in the middle," Mauricio said, obviously pleased that I was interested in his handiwork. He hopped off of his dolly and flipped it over to show the original frame and the square hole in the center where I could see the two wooden planks. "I put a rubber mat on top and then covered the whole thing with a piece of old carpet I found on the street."
Rick smiled and said, "I was going to ask you where you found a piece of bright green shag carpet."
Mauricio laughed, "It was free for the taking so I didn't have much in the choice of colors!"
"I think you did a great job of making something serviceable out what you had available," I said. At this praise, Mauricio ducked his head and I could see that I had embarrassed him, "I am sorry if I have embarrassed you, Mauricio."
Mauricio looked at me and I could see his eyes were bright with unshed tears, "It's just that I am not used to anyone saying anything positive about what I do."
I leaned over and gave him a hug, "Mauricio, you are a wonderful human being."
Felipe said, "My mother thinks so, too. I remember when you first met her. She couldn't stop talking about you."
"I remember that day very well. She found me on the street corner begging for money to buy food. I was about 10 or 11 years old. She rescued me when someone pushed me really hard from behind and my dolly rolled out into the path of an oncoming bus. Mrs. Gomez grabbed me off of the dolly and saved my life. I'm very grateful to her for saving my life."
Felipe said, "I remember when she came home that day she was very upset about something. She and Dad called a family meeting and we talked about what had happened and that she wanted us to help Mauricio and his mother."
Mauricio continued, "But my mother is very proud and didn't want any help, especially from someone as rich as the Gomez family. Mrs. Gomez never gave up on me. She kept finding me on whatever street corner I was using as my begging spot. She would slip me money and sometimes she would take me to her office and treat the sores that I would get on my limbs."
Felipe smiled said, "It took Mom a couple of years to convince Mrs. Rivera to let us help her and her son."
While we talked with Mauricio, his mother had gone into the kitchen and returned with several glasses of water. "I'm sorry we don't have any juice or coffee to offer you. Is cold water okay?"
"Sure," Felipe said standing up to help her serve the water to the rest of us. "Thank you, Mrs. Rivera."
"You're welcome, my son," she said smiling at us. She turned and returned to the kitchen leaving us to talk to Mauricio.
"She is very old fashioned," Mauricio said. "She was taught that women don't sit down with the men of the house or their visitors. She's very conscious of her poverty and is embarrassed to be around those she considers to be of a higher station in life."
Mrs. Rivera returned with a plate of cookies which she quietly left on the floor in front of us and retired, again to the kitchen.
Gary asked, "How goes the new job?"
"It's going very well. I use the computer to work on translations of books into Spanish from English for the local book publisher. I send the completed translations back to them on CD's with the hardcopy book they have provided to me."
"That's great!" Oscar exclaimed. "How much are they paying you?"
Mauricio looked at the floor, "Barely enough to pay the rent on this apartment. I spend many long hours doing the translations but they don't pay very well."
Felipe said, "There's no need to be ashamed, Mauricio. You are doing the best that you can. You know that my parents would gladly give you job if you wanted it."
"I know. It's just that I don't want to take advantage of their kindness and generosity. They have already done so much for me," Mauricio said with tears in his eyes.
"Will you let us talk to Mom and Dad about finding you a better paying job?" Felipe asked.
At first Mauricio shook his head in the negative, "I really don't want to impose on your parents. As I said before, they have already done so much. I need to be able to do something on my own to prove that I can be independent and not be forever leaning on others to help me."
Rick spoke then, "It seems to me that you have already proven you are capable of providing for yourself. Why don't you let the Gomez family assist you in finding a better job? That way you could continue providing for yourself and your mother but have sufficient for your needs."
Mauricio looked at Rick, "I suppose I could talk with them about it. I still want to get the job on my own merits, not because they asked to have me hired." He looked at Felipe, "Do you think that you could ask your parents if they know of any job opening where I would be able to perform the required tasks?"
Felipe responded, "Sure. I know that Mom has many contacts all over the city and in the surrounding villages. I'm sure that if anyone knows of any job openings, she would."
"Go ahead and ask her then and let me know what you find out," Mauricio said
Oscar said, "You will be glad you let us ask her. You know that she will find you the best job that fits your abilities. She knows how smart you are and that you can do just about anything with numbers!"
Mauricio's face brightened at the praise, "Thank you, Oscar. You are being too kind. I'm not really all that smart. I'm just a poor crippled kid from the streets of Veracruz. I'm lucky to be alive and I'm grateful every day that I wake up and find that I'm still breathing!"
Felipe scolded him saying, "Mauricio, you know that you're so much more than just a poor crippled kid. Stop putting yourself down, especially when you are among your friends!" He paused to make sure that Mauricio heard him. Seeing Mauricio's eyes brighten with unshed tears, Felipe's voice softened, "I'm sorry I scolded you. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. It's just that we know that you're pretty good at many things, especially numbers. Maybe we should ask if you could do the books for some of the companies in town. There is always a need for someone to keep track of the accounting stuff."
Mauricio responded, "Thank you, Felipe. I could easily do that or anything I can do on a computer."
Felipe said, "I will let you know tomorrow, I promise. We need to get going. We have several more deliveries to make for my Mom this morning."
We shook hands with Mauricio before we stood up to go. "Mauricio, we'll see you tomorrow," I said.
Rick said, "Felipe plans to show us around the city. We would love to have you come with us."
A giant smile broke out on Mauricio's face, "I'd love to come with you. I don't get out of the apartment very often. It would be wonderful to see the city. Thank you for inviting me to join you."
Mrs. Rivera came out of the kitchen, "Good-bye, boys. Come back soon."
We chorused, "Good-bye, Mrs. Rivera."
We re-boarded the elevator which was still waiting on the 16th floor. We left the building and returned to the Volkswagen Bus.
We climbed in the car and Felipe took us to the next address on Mrs. Gomez' list of deliveries to be made this morning. The next one took us to a new subdivision being built on the outskirts of the city. As we entered the neighborhood, I noted that the roads hadn't been paved and were made of mounds of dirt. In addition, there were huge ditches dug in the middle of the road.
"Felipe, what are those ditches for that they left in the middle of the road?" I asked.
"This is a new subdivision and they haven't put all the utilities in, yet. They often dig those ditches and leave them uncovered until they get the money to put the utilities in place such as the sewer, water, etc. You'll notice that they are full of water now since we had a rain storm a couple of days ago. It makes driving around here very interesting!"
Rick said, "I'll bet they do! What happens if they are covered up with water and you don't see it?"
Felipe laughed, "Well, your car ends up stuck in the ditch. Sometimes the ditches are so wide your whole car can be swallowed up by one. I've seen cars go in and they couldn't get them out! During the rainy season, it's very dangerous to drive a car in new subdivisions like this one because the flood waters cover up all the ditches and you can't see them."
Felipe negotiated his way past a couple of utility ditches as he drove down the main street of the subdivision until he found the address he was looking for. He pulled in front of the house and stopped the motor.
"Why don't you guys wait here while I run in and drop the medicine off to Mrs. Rodriguez?" Felipe said. "I've been here before with Mom and it won't take long."
We all agreed and waited until Felipe returned. Gary said, "Our next stop is with the gypsies. I've never gone with Mom to see them. I know that they have come to her office in town once or twice."
"Yeah, I've never gone with her either. I'm not sure if Felipe has or not. Mom has a good relationship with them and has never had any problems with them," Oscar said.
I asked, "Why are people so afraid of them?"
Oscar replied, "It's not that we are afraid of them. It's because they steal everything in sight. Whenever they are around, things tend to disappear. They are a very secretive people. Not much is known about them except that they live a nomadic lifestyle."
Gary asked, "Don't you have gypsies in the United States or in Canada?"
Both Rick and I shook our heads in the negative, "I've never heard of gypsy bands in Canada. Have you heard of them in the United States?" I asked Rick.
"No, I haven't heard of them either. I wonder why they are here in Mexico. I thought they only lived in Europe," Rick said.
"Maybe we can ask Mrs. Zingri. She might know since she's a gypsy," Gary said.
Felipe returned and asked us, "Are you ready to visit the gypsies?"
Gary answered, "Yes, let's go." We all nodded our agreement.
Felipe took the main road south towards El Tejar. About half way between the outskirts of Veracruz and El Tejar, Felipe turned right off the highway onto a dirt road that led between groves of palm trees on either side. I looked up in the trees and saw that many of them had clusters of huge green fruit hanging from them.
"What are those giant-sized fruit hanging from those palm trees? They don't look like anything I've seen before," I said.
"Those are coconuts," Gary answered my question. "Haven't you seen them before? Our house is surrounded by palms trees and I thought Felipe had given you the tour of the place already."
"He did but I must have not seen so many coconuts on them. They are so big and they're green. The ones I've seen in the store are small and brown," I said.
"Unripe coconuts are green. When they ripen, they change color," Oscar explained.
Rick said, "I didn't know that. I always thought coconuts were brown, too. Are there a lot of coconut plantations here?"
"There are some. The biggest employer around these parts is PEMEX," Gary said.
"Who or what is PEMEX?" I asked.
Felipe responded, "PEMEX stands for Petróleos Mexicanos. It's the state owned petroleum company. They own the tallest building on the waterfront in Veracruz."
Felipe passed a couple of small huts and then turned onto another dirt road that led to what appeared to be a small encampment. The small huts were organized into rows with wide spaces between them. There were many children playing in the streets. Each hut was constructed out of the materials that came to hand. Some had corrugated tin roofs, others had thatched roofs, and still others appeared to be made of loose boards and canvas. I had never seen such poverty before. These homes looked like they would blow away with the first bad storm that passed through the area.
Felipe pulled up to the first hut on the right and stopped. Gary said, "Mom's instructions are to visit the gypsy elder first before going to see Mrs. Zingri. Remember, she warned us not to anger them by not respecting their customs."
Felipe, a little annoyed by his brother's warning, said, "I don't know why we need to do that. We are just dropping off some medicine. It won't take long anyway. Let's ask one of the children if they know which hut is Mrs. Zingri's."
Felipe got out of the car and stopped one of the children and asked, "Where does Mrs. Zingri live?"
The little girl pointed to the second hut on the left. "Thank you," Felipe said.
Felipe signaled for us to follow him. So we climbed out of the car and followed him to Mrs. Zingri's home. Felipe tapped on the makeshift door that had been tied into place between two poles.
A thin, reedy voice called out from inside, "Who is it?"
Felipe responded, "It's Felipe Gomez. Dr. Gomez' son. She asked me to deliver your medicine to you."
A few minutes later, a thin, emaciated hand untied the rope that held the door closed. Mrs. Zingri invited us to come in. She was a very small frail woman with long grey hair that was twisted into a braid that reached to the floor. Her sallow complexion added to the impression that she was very ill.
"Please sit down," Mrs. Zingri said. "I don't have any chairs only cushions. Thank you for bringing me my medication. Dr. Gomez has been very kind to me all of these years."
Felipe handed her the large bundle his mother had prepared for Mrs. Zingri. "We are happy we could help you today."
Mrs. Zingri asked, "Would you care for tea or juice?"
Felipe answered for us, "No, thank you, Mrs. Zingri. We have more deliveries to make and can't stay long. We did want to ask you a question if that is okay with you?"
Mrs. Zingri's eyes darted around the hut as if there were listening ears everywhere before she responded, "Yes, go ahead and ask your question."
"Do you know when the gypsies came to Mexico?" Felipe asked.
She hesitated for moment and then answered Felipe's question. "I don't know for sure. I know that my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all born here," Mrs. Zingri explained.
Just as she finished speaking, a little boy about 6 or 7 years of age burst into the hut. He ran over to Mrs. Zingri. He was very agitated about something and spoke rapidly to Mrs. Zingri in a language that none of us understood. She looked frightened at what she heard.
"You must go quickly. The Elders are angry that you disrespected them by not seeking their permission to visit me. You must leave now. They are on their way to kill you for interfering here. I don't want to see you hurt," Mrs. Zingri said as she stood. "Thank you for coming and please tell your mother I appreciate her kindness. Now, go as fast as you can. Don't return here, again. They will remember you and try to kill you. I will get a message to your mother some other way to let her know how to reach me."
Rick grabbed my hand and we followed Felipe as he led us out of the hut and we sprinted back to the Volkswagen bus. Felipe started the engine and threw the car into gear. As he turned the car around, we saw a band of about twenty men coming down the dirt road between the huts towards us. They looked extremely angry as they waved their wooden clubs and metal pipes at us. Many of them carried knives.
"Felipe, get us out of here!" shouted Gary. "Move this bus down the road!"
Felipe slammed on the gas and the bus hurtled back the way we had come. I started to relax from the scare when Oscar shouted, "We are being followed!"
Rick and I looked behind us and sure enough one of the men was on a motorcycle. As we watched, he aimed a pistol at us and started firing. We heard bullets hit the back of the car.
Felipe asked, "What was that?"
"That was the sound of bullets hitting the car. Can't you get more speed out of this thing?" Gary asked nervously.
The bus screamed around the corner as Felipe turned down the dirt road that led to the main highway. We were being bounced around pretty hard since the dirt road had big holes in it. I hit my head on the roof more than once. Felipe slammed on the breaks at the highway since there was a lot of traffic and he couldn't get on without getting us in an accident.
"Felipe, don't stop! He's still coming!" Oscar yelled.
"I can't get on the highway, Oscar. There's too much traffic," Felipe said desperately looking back and forth for a break in the traffic. He kept checking his rearview mirror as the motorcycle kept getting closer.
The rest of us turned around in our seats to watch the man on the motorcycle. I cringed as I saw the man raise his gun to fire at us, again. I grabbed Rick's hand in fear. I thought we were done for. To my complete and profound amazement, I watched as a huge green coconut fell from a palm tree as he rode under it. It was like everything went into slow motion. The coconut fell from the tree. It hit the guy on the head knocking him off the bike which continued riderless towards us. I couldn't believe what I had just seen! I rubbed my eyes and looked, again. There was the motorcycle still moving forward without its owner. As I watched, the front wheel hit a hole in the road and the bike went down with a crash.
I looked at the others in total astonishment. They were just as stunned by what we'd seen as I was. Who would have ever imagined that we'd be saved by a coconut? It took us a moment to gather our wits about us.
Gary spoke first, "Did I just see a coconut knock that guy off his motorcycle?"
"Yes, you did because I saw it, too," Oscar replied.
"Did you two see it as well?" Gary asked turning towards Rick and I, amazement still showing in his voice.
"Yes, we all saw it, Gary. It wasn't just your imagination," I said.
At that moment, the traffic finally cleared and Felipe gunned the engine and got us back on the highway headed back towards Veracruz.
As Felipe relaxed behind the wheel, he said, "Now, explain to me what happened. One moment you were all going ape because we were going to get shot up by that gypsy guy and then the next you are all acting like some kind of miracle happened."
Rick responded, "Well, that is what happened. I think we all witnessed a miracle because there is no way that a coconut would just happen to fall and knock that guy off his bike."
"I agree," I said. "It's too much of a coincidence to attribute it to just a random event. Oscar and Gary, what do you two think?"
Gary answered, "I think you're right. Someone was watching over us just now."
Oscar said, "Yeah, I agree with that assessment of the event. Mom has always said that there are angels that watch over her children. Maybe she's right!"
Felipe said, "I'm sorry guys. It's my fault we were put in danger because I didn't listen to you, Gary, when you reminded me to go and talk to the village elder first. Can you all forgive me?"
"Yes, we can but don't be so stubborn next time and listen to me," Gary said. We all nodded our agreement as Felipe glanced in the rearview mirror.
Oscar asked, "Felipe, where is the next delivery we have to make?"
"It's on the main highway headed towards Xalapa. We have to drive back into town and then head back out on Route 140," Felipe responded.
"How many more deliveries are there for today?" Rick asked.
"This is the last one and then we're done for today," Felipe replied.
"Good. I was hoping we would have some time to go down to the beach," Rick said.
"We'll have plenty of time to hit the beach!" Felipe laughed. "All you want to do is check out the guys in their swim suits!"
Rick laughed, "Not me! That's our friend here." Rick put his arm around my shoulders.
"Guilty as charged," I said laughing. "I can't help but admire the scenery and appreciate what nature has given to those around me."
"No touching! You only get to look!" Rick teased me. "You belong to me and no one else!"
"Is Rick always so possessive?" Gary asked smiling at Rick.
"Only when it comes to Glenn," Rick responded before I could answer Gary's question.
Gary laughed at Rick's quick answer to his question.
Felipe turned off the main highway onto another dirt road. "Not another dirt road," I complained. "The last one nearly got us killed! My head still hurts from hitting the ceiling from being bounced all over creation!"
"Sorry Glenn. This one's in a new subdivision that they haven't paved yet. Keep a watch out for those utility trenches for me," Felipe said.
We entered the subdivision and headed down the main thoroughfare. As Felipe negotiated his way around a couple of especially nasty looking holes in the street, a bus pulled out in front of us from off a side street headed in the same direction as we were. It looked like one of those old yellow school buses from the sixties. It was like a big oblong one with the front cut in half where the engine was and it was painted red. They must have found this old bus in the desert somewhere and resurrected it.
"Hey, guys, doesn't that bus look like it should be in a museum somewhere?" I asked.
Felipe answered me, "No, most of the buses here look like that one. Admittedly, they don't look anything like the buses I saw in Atlanta."
Felipe followed the old bus for a bit. Every once in a while the driver would hit a particularly big pot hole in the road and the whole bus would shake from side to side with the impact.
On both sides of the street there were little shops with a nice cement sidewalk in front of them but the street was still unpaved. The street was muddy from the recent rains. Up ahead, the street was covered with water from one sidewalk to the other. It looked like a giant mud puddle in the center of the street. It seemed as big as a swimming pool!
Felipe said, "I bet there's an open trench there. Let's watch and see what the bus driver does."
As we watched the bus move ahead, we saw it hit a big hole and the front wheels sink. We thought the bus was stuck for sure. The driver gunned the engine and the front wheels popped up out of the hole and the bus continued moving forward until the back wheels hit the same hole. Fortunately, the forward momentum of the bus kept the rear wheels from getting stuck so the bus kept going despite the obstacle in its path.
Felipe asked us, "Dare we try it?"
Gary said, "Sure, but try going around to the other side to see if we can get around the hole."
Felipe pushed on the accelerator and the car moved forward. He steered to the other side of the street and started crossing through the water. To our consternation, the car hit a trench. We felt rather than saw the front wheels sink into the trench followed by the rear ones. We watched in shock as the muddy water came up over the top of the roof.
We all looked at each other unable to verbalize what we were feeling.
A moment later Gary asked, "What do we do now?"
Felipe said, "Roll down the windows and let's get out of here. We can see if we can find a tow truck to come pull the Volkswagen out of the trench."
Felipe and Gary rolled down the windows and climbed out as the water poured into the car. The rest of us followed them out the same way. By the time we got out and climbed out of the trench, we looked like a bunch of drowned rats! Rick had muddy water running down his face! He looked like one of those advertisements for the Marine Corps where the guys are crawling through an obstacle course in the mud!
"What are we going to tell Dad?" Oscar asked Felipe.
"I don't know," Felipe responded. "We need to do first things first. Let's get the car out of the hole then we can worry about what we'll tell our parents."
Felipe approached one of the shop owners who had congregated on the sidewalk where our car had been submerged, "Do you know of anyone who has a tow truck?"
The lady answered, "Yes, I will send my son for him. He lives down the street from here. I'm sure he will be able to pull your car out."
She sent her boy of about 10 years of age running to fetch their friend. As we waited, we talked with the shop owner. "Has this happened before?" Felipe asked her.
"Yes, it happens at least once a week. We all know that the hole is there and avoid driving down this part of the street. It's only the bus drivers and strangers like yourself that drive through here that don't know about the hole in the street."
"Why doesn't someone put up a warning sign?" Felipe asked.
"We did but someone tore it down. I suspect it's the tow truck owner because he makes more money when people need him to pull them out of the hole," she responded with a smile.
The boy returned and said, "Mama, Toni is coming right away."
True to his word, Toni showed up a few minutes later with his tow truck. Toni approached us and asked, "Where is the car?"
Felipe pointed to the water in front of him, "It's down there."
Toni smiled, "Do you have money to pay me if I get it out of there for you?"
"Yes, we do," Felipe said in a not too friendly voice.
"Let's see your money first before I do any work," Toni responded in an equally unfriendly tone.
Felipe pulled out a wad of bills and flashed them in Toni's face, "Is that enough?"
"Yes, that will be enough," Toni said smiling.
Toni returned to his truck and backed it up to the edge of the water and then took a chain and cable and pulled them with him as he waded out into the water until he came to the edge of the hole.
"What kind of car is it?" he asked Felipe.
"It's a Volkswagen Bus," Felipe responded.
Toni stepped forward trying to put his foot on the roof of the car. He managed to find it and then climbed down into the hole and soon ducked under the water to hook the chain to the frame of the car. He surfaced a few minutes later with a big smile on his face, "Got it. I should have the car out in few minutes."
Toni returned to his truck and started the winch. As the cable was reeled in, we saw the Volkswagen begin to emerge from the muddy water. As he predicted, it wasn't more than five minutes before he had the car out of the hole and on solid ground.
Felipe walked over to the car and opened the door. A rush of muddy water escaped and rejoined the rest of the water in the mud puddle.
"Thank you for pulling the car out of the hole, Toni," Felipe said as he handed over the money he had shown Toni earlier.
"Pleasure doing business with you, sir," Toni said with an oily smile that made me want to knock his block off.
Felipe interrupted my thoughts, "Come on guys. Open up the doors and let the water out." We opened up the other doors to let the water escape. I glanced inside and saw mud everywhere.
Rick asked, "Felipe, are you going to see if the car still runs?"
Felipe gave Rick a puzzled look, "Do you think it will still run?"
"Sure. Go ahead and give it try."
Felipe climbed into the driver's seat and turned the key in the ignition. To my surprise, the engine roared to life.
Felipe looked just as surprised as I was, "Hey, you were right, Rick. Guys, get in and let's make our final delivery so we can take the car to the car wash and clean it up."
Felipe drove around the block and found the house we were looking for. Fortunately, the medicine wasn't ruined since it was stored in water-tight containers. Felipe left us in the car as he knocked on the door and handed the bundle of supplies to the woman who answered the door.
Gary asked, "Do you think we can get the car clean enough so Dad won't notice?"
"We can at least try," Felipe said in response to his brother's question.
Felipe drove us back to the main highway and headed towards Veracruz. He found the car wash and pulled into one of the stalls. He paid the attendant who turned on the water for us.
Felipe sprayed down the outside and managed to remove all traces of the mud from the vehicle. He looked over at Rick and asked, "Rick, what should we do to clean the inside?"
Rick answered, "I would wash the inside by hand with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge or two."
Felipe holstered the sprayer and walked over to the attendant. He must have asked about buckets and sponges because he walked over to a little shed and retrieved four buckets and four sponges. Felipe paid him some more money and he in turn gave us soap and some wash cloths to go with the sponges.
Felipe filled up the buckets with water and added soap to each one. "Okay, let's get to work."
About an hour later, we had finished washing down the inside of the car. Felipe examined our handiwork and declared, "I think we did it. It's cleaner than when we left home this morning. Let's head back home and get cleaned up. I think we deserve some time to relax on the beach!"
We all chorused our agreement and climbed back aboard the Volkswagen. Felipe drove us home and parked the car. We managed to get upstairs without Felipe's parents seeing us. We all took showers and changed into our swimming trunks, t-shirts and flip-flops.
Rick and I went downstairs to wait for the Felipe and his brothers. We hadn't been waiting long when they joined us.
Gary said, "I've had enough adventures for today. Can we just have a lazy afternoon at the beach?"
Oscar replied, "No, we can't because you are always chasing the girls!"
This elicited a jab in the ribs from Gary.
Oscar protested, "It's true Gary, you know it is."
"As if you aren't the same way, my dear twin brother," Gary responded with a broad grin.
Felipe interrupted their friendly banter, "Okay, you two, let's head to the beach and see who has the most luck chasing the women!"
With that, we all piled back into the Volkswagen and Felipe drove us to the beach. Once we were settled on the beach, I couldn't help but admire the masculinity of my companions. All of them were physically fit and wore their swim suits well!
Rick leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Look only!"
"I'm looking can't you see," I replied.
"Yes, I can see that you're getting rather excited, too. You are so predictable my love!" Rick exclaimed as he laughed as the color rose in my cheeks.
"Am I really that transparent to you?" I asked laughing with him.
"Yes, you are always checking out the guys wherever we go. In fact, you're so obvious about it most guys know you're gay before they even meet you! That's how I knew, remember? You didn't hide your admiration of my fantastic physique when we first met!" Rick continued to tease me.
"Well, you have to admit that I have very good taste when it comes to men!" I teased Rick right back.
"You've got me there because I'm still the best thing that's ever happened to you!" Rick grinned and reached over to tickle me.
I jumped away from him to avoid Rick's tickle torture. "No you don't! I'm not letting you tickle me here on the beach!" I took off down the beach and into the surf with Rick right behind me.
As I entered the water, Rick caught me and pulled me further out and slipped his arms around my waist and said, "You may have escaped my tickle torture for now but I WILL take advantage of you later!" He then proceeded to pick me up off my feet and dunk me under the water.
Felipe joined us in the waves. "Look at my brothers hitting on those two girls," Felipe said pointing back up on the beach where the twins were laughing and talking with two beautiful girls.
"Do you know who they are?" I asked Felipe.
"No, I've never seen them before. They showed up on the beach shortly after we did. The twins zeroed in on them as soon as they saw them setting up their beach stuff," Felipe said.
As we watched, the four of them walked back to the girls' car. They returned with what looked like a poles and a net.
Rick said, "It looks like the girls brought a volleyball set. The twins are putting it up for them."
We played around in the water for a while before returning to where the twins were playing volleyball.
We picked up our towels and dried off as we watched them play. "You're lusting after them, again, Glenn!" Rick said.
Rick was only too right in that regard. I guess I need to stop lusting after them and turn my attention to my sweetheart. Rick is very handsome and I'm lucky he's my lover as well as my sweetheart.
"You're right as always," I said with a sigh. "You can't say I've lost interest in having you around either." I reached over and caressed Rick's chest. "You know I need you so badly right now. Can't we find a sand dune to hide behind while you make love to me?"
Rick laughed, "No, there aren't any sand dunes here! You will just have to wait until tonight."
"You know how I hate waiting!" I exclaimed petulantly.
"Now, now, let's not start pouting, Glenn. I will make sure you're more than satisfied but you will have to be patient," Rick scolded me.
"Okay, but you have to keep your promise," I said smiling at my guy.
Felipe who had been listening to us said, "I wish I had someone to love me like you two love each other. You know, it didn't take my brothers very long to find two good looking girls did it?"
"No, it seems they have a talent for it," I responded laughing at Felipe's comment. "It's too bad you don't have the same talent for finding good looking guys!"
Felipe punched me in the shoulder, "The best looking guys on the beach are you two and you're both taken!"
"Felipe you are just as good looking as your brothers and you will find someone when the time is right. By the way, you already have a boyfriend. Are you telling us that you are dumping Greg?" I asked.
Felipe looked out over the ocean and then looked back at me before replying to my question. "Yes, Glenn. I think that Greg and I are over. We had a good time at Thanksgiving but his parents must have found out that he is gay because he has been acting really weird lately."
Rick asked, "What do you mean by weird?"
"He has stopped meeting me on campus and insists that we meet at the oddest places. We haven't had sex for nearly two weeks now. Then you were there when he called to say his grandmother had died. I think he was lying to us and just didn't want to own up to the fact that his parents are pressuring him to drop me."
"Well, Felipe, Rick and I have already scoped out some of the guys on campus that we think might be gay. We'll have to introduce you to some of them when we return to Atlanta," I said smiling at Felipe's discomfort with the idea that we were trying to set him up with a guy. We have had this same conversation several times before today.
"I don't want to be set up with just anyone who wants to have sex with me. That is all Greg wanted from me. I don't need someone like that. I want someone who loves me for me and wants to be my life partner," Felipe said with longing in his voice.
"You won't find Mr. Right if you never date anyone, Felipe! You need to let us screen out the bad ones for you and then you can be confident of not getting a real loser," I said.
"I want to date someone but I've heard so many horror stories, Glenn. I'm just really nervous about it. Maybe after we return to Atlanta I will feel better about it," Felipe said watching his twin brothers as they flirted with the two girls.
The game came to an end with the twins losing to the girls. The four of them came over to us and Gary introduced us, "Mari and Vanesa, this Glenn and Rick."
"Hi! We're glad to meet you," Rick said. "Do you girls live close to the beach?"
Vanesa answered, "No, we are visiting from Xalapa. Our aunt lives here in Veracruz."
"You speak English very well," I said smiling at Vanesa.
"Thank you. I learned English from our tutor. She is an English teacher at the University of Veracruz and tutors students to earn extra money."
Mari spoke up, "Yes, Mrs. Watson is a very good teacher. Where are you from?"
"I'm from Canada and Rick is from the United States," I replied.
"I could tell you weren't from the United States by your accent," Mari said. "Gary says that you're here for the holidays. Do you plan to stay here in Veracruz for your entire vacation?"
Felipe said, "I want to take them on a tour of some of the sights like Texolo Falls where the power plant is located. It's not far from Xalapa. We haven't really had time to plan out an itinerary, yet. You'll have to give us your address so we can come visit you."
Oscar grinned, "Maybe we could stay with your folks for a few days and see all the tourist sites. Do you think they would let us?"
Vanesa smiled, "I'm sure we could talk Dad into it if you bring Glenn and Rick with you. Dad loves to entertain foreigners. He teaches classes in archaeology at the university and loves to talk about his passion for it with anyone who will listen. Of course, that means you will have to take a personalized tour of the Museum of Archaeology at the university. He will insist upon it!"
Mari confirmed her sister's observations, "Yes, Papa, will definitely agree to letting you visit us and there will be the obligatory trip to the museum. We are going home this afternoon so you could call Dad later tonight."
"It sound like a plan to me," Gary said looking at his brothers. "We just need to convince our Mom and Dad to let us go. Felipe, do you think you could get Dad to agree to let you take the car?"
Felipe responded, "I'm not sure we'll get to drive the car after what happened today."
"How is Dad going to find out? We aren't going to tell him. Are you?" Gary asked.
Mari and Vanesa both looked at Gary, "What happened with the car?" Mari asked.
Gary related the events of our day to the two sisters. He embellished parts of the story a bit but the main facts were accurate. He had all of us laughing about our misfortune as he acted out what happened to us and our poor, unfortunate car!
When he finished, the girls wrote down their address and phone numbers and handed them to the twins. Gary and Oscar both made sure to call each girl's cell phone to confirm that the numbers were accurate.
Vanesa said, "If your parents won't let you drive the car, you could come by bus. We could pick you up from the bus station. The buses run several times a day between Xalapa and Veracruz."
"That sounds like a good plan B," Felipe said. "The last time we rode the bus is when we went to the Volkswagen factory in Puebla to pick up Dad's new car. He knows the foreman at the plant who got him a super discount on the price of the car."
As it was approaching sunset, we bid our new friends, good-bye, and returned to Felipe's home. The twins were very excited at the prospect of visiting the girls in Xalapa. We quickly showered and dressed for dinner with Felipe's parents.
We joined Mr. and Mrs. Gomez in the dining room where the table was set with quite a feast. We were all very hungry after the adventures of our day.
Mrs. Gomez asked, "How did the deliveries go today?"
Felipe responded, "Very well, Mom. Dad, is there a way we can help Mauricio get a job?"
Mom looked surprised by the question, "Did Mauricio ask you to help him or are you doing this on your own?"
Felipe said, "We asked Mauricio if it was okay for us to help him find a better job than the one has now. I know that you've tried to help him in the past and he hasn't been too keen on the idea."
"I just wanted to make sure we weren't wasting your Dad's time if Mauricio wasn't willing to let us help him," Mom said.
Dad said, "Yes, we can help Mauricio find a new job. In fact, we are looking for someone to do our books for us since I had to fire our bookkeeper last week. Your Mom has told me that Mauricio is good at numbers. Do you think he would be willing to work as our bookkeeper?"
Felipe smiled, "Yes, I think he would. I'm just not sure how he would get here though."
It was Dad's turn to smile, "I've already thought about that and I'm willing to offer him the position along with room and board. That way he won't have to travel to and from work. We will build him a small place next door to the shop just in case he wants his mother to come and live with him."
Gary said, "Thank you, Dad, for being willing to help Mauricio. We all wanted to find some way to help him that he would accept. I know we have tried to help him before and he won't accept what he feels is charity."
Mrs. Gomez said, "Yes, we have tried many times to help Mauricio and his mother but with limited success. We will see how things go this time"
"Can we tell him tomorrow?" Oscar asked.
"Yes, you can stop by his apartment to let him know of the offer tomorrow," Mr. Gomez said.
Felipe said, "We need to tell you about the rest of our day."
The rest of us looked at Felipe in surprise! We had supposed he wouldn't say anything.
Felipe, seeing our faces, said, "The guys weren't sure we should tell you but I think it's important that you know about what happened at with the gypsies today."
Felipe continued to narrate the events at the gypsy encampment. When he finished, Mrs. Gomez said, "Thank you for telling me. I'm sorry that you were attacked by them and I'm glad you're safe. Mrs. Zingri will contact me when she is able. This is not the first time her village leader has tried to stop her from getting the help she needs."
Felipe said, "And there's one more thing, I drove the car into a trench full of water."
Mr. Gomez looked at Felipe in surprise, "If that's the case, why is it still running?"
"We had a tow truck pull us out and when I put the key into the ignition, it started right up. We drove it to the car wash and cleaned it up and it seems to be running fine," Felipe explained.
"That doesn't surprise me," Mr. Gomez said. "Volkswagens are very good cars."
"We drove to the beach for the afternoon and we met a couple of girls at the beach. They have invited us to stay at their home in Xalapa. Their father is a professor of archaeology at the University of Veracruz. His name is Jacobo Zetina. Do you know him, Dad?" Felipe asked.
"Yes, I know of him. I've never met him personally but some of our friends have met him. Do you have his phone number? I would like to speak with him before we decide if you can go there or not."
"Yes, we have his number," Gary said as he passed a piece of paper across the table to his dad.
"Thank you, Gary. I'll make the call after we eat. What do you boys plan to do with the rest of your holiday?"
Felipe said, "We hadn't planned an itinerary, Dad. I'd thought to take them to Texolo Falls and now, with the invitation to stay in Xalapa, I thought we could spend some time in the Archaeology Museum there."
"That sounds like a good plan. May I suggest a few other things you could do?" Mr. Gomez asked.
Oscar said, "Sure, Dad."
"How would you like to go to Puebla and pick up a new car for me? You could take the bus from Xalapa to Puebla where my friend, Mr. Sanchez, will pick you up. After you pick up the car, you could tour the pyramids in Cholula and maybe take a drive up to the pass between the volcanos Ixtaccihuatl and Popocatepetl."
Felipe said, "That sounds good to me. What do you guys think?"
"We're okay with that," Rick responded for both of us.
Gary looked at his twin and responded, "It's okay with us as well."
"Good. I will make the arrangements tonight and you can take the bus to Xalapa in the morning after you have stopped by Mauricio's and told him of my job offer."
Felipe looked over at Rick and I, "You will really like going to Puebla. There is a lot to see and do there. Dad, do you think we can get a tour of the Volkswagen factory?"
"I'll ask Mr. Sanchez if he can arrange that for you boys," Mr. Gomez said smiling at the excitement he saw in our faces.
"I toured the BMW plant in South Carolina. It would really be cool if we could tour the Volkswagen plant," I said.
Mr. Gomez replied, "I will do my best for you."
We spent the rest of the meal discussing our plans for the next few days. I'm glad that the three Gomez boys are willing to be our tourist guides. They are very excited to share their favorite places with us. I guess I wasn't sure what to expect from our vacation here but I'm very happy we didn't try to hook up with some tourist group. This way we get to enjoy the company of three gorgeous guys, even if two of them are very straight, and have the opportunity to see things we wouldn't otherwise have seen.
After supper, Rick and I excused ourselves and returned to our room where Rick kept his promise he made at the beach!
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