I have a treat for my followers! A fellow author of mine has a story to tell us . I'm sure you will enjoy it.
Here's the short I wrote, as you requested, Linda.
I hope you and the visitors to your blog enjoy it.
It's wild and wicked stuff, if I may say so.
Kristin Imogene Dirings was not the luckiest of women. More days than others she had come very close to having something extremely fortunate happen to her, without it actually happening. But she was nonetheless contented with her home careers—taxpayer, home-tender, errand-runner, and such things—as well as her real career, which was as a professor of Latin-American History at UMW; the University of Minnesota at Winona.
Her students didn’t always listen to her; it seemed, in fact, as though they never paid attention at all. And still, despite this, they got quite good grades. Kristin couldn’t figure out why this was. But she was grateful, indeed, that this teaching career was at least easier than her previous one, teaching grade school. Anything could've been easier than that.
And she knew it. Her life was going well now, and in fact it would get better in the near future, or so she hoped. In truth, one morning she was speaking to her supervisor in the History department, Harvey Roccaforte, in the faculty lounge over Styrofoam cups of semi-flat 7up, about a thing that she felt would bring more fancy to her life.
“I’d like to find out as much as I don’t already know about him, Harv,” she was saying. “I was told about him years ago by my parents, but I wasn't told much, for sure.”
“Who was this?” he said, sipping his 7up, which tasted slightly of chlorine.
“Thomas Samuel Dirings!” said Kristin in frustration. “My great-grandfather! He was a great cowboy and ranchman in his time —he had moved to Venezuela to pursue a cattle-tending career. ‘El Gaucho Gringo,’ the people there had called him. He did a lot for them. But that’s all I know!”
“Oh well…” said Harvey. “Don’t know if I can help you, Kris. To find out about this grandfather of yours, you'd have to fly toVenezuela. But where in it, I have no idea. And that puts you at a loss.”
She sighed. “Yeah…I suppose you’re right, Harv.”
“Well, anyway, it’'s time now to get back to class. The brunch break is just finishing up.”
Once back in her classroom, Kristin was giving a lengthy lecture on South American Indian tribes. She scribbled a word on the chalkboard for the class to see.
“Bororo,” she pronounced. “Owing to a Brazilian warrior tribe; these fierce hunters resisted the Portuguese slave movement largely. However, some did align themselves to the Europeans, be-coming, because of their realization of the Caucasians’ totalitarian force, ‘brave towards other heathens but humble with the whites.’ In the words of an anonymous tribe.”
One female student raised her hand. “Ms. Dirings, I have a question. If the Bororo were so…well, brave with their fellow tribes, then…how could they not stand up to the Portuguese and tell them to get their white asses off their land?” The class laughed a bit.
“Emily, that is not at all a fair question. As was everything else about the Westerners to the Indians alien, so were their ways of combat. They used gunpowder and bullets, mind you, not just spears and poisonous darts, like—”
She looked to the door. It was Harvey, bearing a small, Xer-oxed brochure with some kind of typed lettering on the open page. “The UMW director asked me to give this to you.”
Without speaking, she walked over to him. Taking the brochure, she read the page’s blurry type; it was in Spanish. But, knowing the language, she understood it perfectly.
It said, Come and see the authentically preserved historical village of Monte San Jorge, a throwback to old early-20th-Century Venezuelan life. And home to the ”Gaucho Gringo” himself, the North-American Thomas Samuel Dirings, greatest cowboy to ever make his name outside his homeland!
Kris’s face—needless to say—lit up with delight. This was it; this was just what she’d been hoping to find out about! It was a chance to find out the facts on her dear old great-granddad. “So,” she said to Harvey, “…when can I go?”
“The director said that in about a month, you may have a week’s leave to go to Venezuela and learn what you want to on your grandfather.”
“Of course. He lived and died longer ago than that.”
“Right. Anyway, right now I’ve got a class to tend to. Could you excuse me?”
And she got right back on that class. But while teaching the rest of that period, she secretly felt tingles of excitement and anticipation. As she would for the next three weeks, during which time she would make hotel reservations in Venezuela, and reserve plane tickets on Air of the Americas to fly there come her leave. Also she would—albeit very occasionally—ask to leave early to prepare, with Harvey’s permission. But this was rare.
Finally, the big day arrived. She was all ready to fly away to that South American heartland of her great-granddad’s, and at the Minneapolis International Airport, she was seen off by Harvey, Emily, and even the director himself. At the terminal for her flight to Caracas, Venezuela—Flight 717—she was about to go through the sky-way to board the plane, when Harvey called for her to hear something he had to say.
“I spoke with one of the people from that village—Monte San Jorge,” said Harvey, “and he said, quote, ‘We have remembered him for so long, it’s as though he were still with us today!’…Whatever that means.”
This puzzled Kristin a bit. “‘Bye, guys.”
On board the plane, she didn't say or do much at all, except maybe for a crossword puzzle, listening to Bill Cosby's “Froofie the Dog” routine, or reading the instructions for survival in case the captain announced everybody was going to die; those sorts of things. At one point, however, she recognized the cut of the clothes the man sit-ting next to her was wearing, and realized he could only have been Venezuelan. Obviously, she assumed, he was returning to his homeland from North America.
She struck up a conversation with this man. “So what's Venezuela truly like?” she asked at one point.
“Ooh, very bella.Lot o’ nice people. ‘Cept for the drug lords,claro.” He chuckled. “But overall, wonderful.”
“I was anticipating such.”
“Si. By ‘a way, me name Pablûs. Say…you goin’ to Monte San Jorge? Home a’ ‘Gaucho Gringo’ Direengs?”
“Dirings, yes…How’d you figure that out?”
“Oh, jus’ guessfortunatemente. Y’know, people enmi natión ‘ave remembeared him f’so long, ‘s as though he were still with us today.”
Kristin was surprised, confused. Maybe something was going on, here.
“Well, I’ll certainly enjoy it.”
“You will, señora.You will.”
The rest of the flight was so-so. Nothing much bad happened. The movie they showed was something of a misfire, however, and when the in-flight meal was served, Kristin took one look at the food and was immediately given a desperate desire to slash her own jugular vein with the plastic knife she was given. It was nothing very rash, however, because she could tell from the looks on the faces of other passengers that they felt the same way too.
Upon getting off the plane in Caracas, Kris looked around for someone who was supposed to pick her up. She knew the director of UMW would've arranged for a ride to the hotel in Monte San Jorge, but where was…?
Ah. Probably that gentleman in combat garb—beret, tank shirt, khaki pants, boots—with the sign that proclaimed:
She greeted him, and they boarded a Jeep with cream-and-brown camouflage paint, and set out on a winding road leading from the city. “So,” said the driver, “este ‘directór’ tells me you lookin’ to see your great-grandfather's history, a’ Monte San.”
“That's right. In fact, now that you mention it, I could even get material for a book here.”
“Probablemente. ‘S like, we've remembeared him for so long, ‘s as though ‘e were still with us today.”
Kristin was hesitant. “…I know. That’s what everybody seems to say.”
The rest of the way they didn't talk at all. Kris wanted it that way; she felt that talking while riding would make the way there seem like it lasted forever. And she didn’t want to waste even a second getting to the place she had her dreams set on—Monte San Jorge.
Finally, she arrived. Looking at the town when she got out of the Jeep, she fell in love with its exotic peoples walking around, its lush surrounding trees, and its stylish colonial-Iberian architecture. And the hotel where she was bound to stay, the San Jorge Real, was at first sight spellbinding, a breathtaking majesty of classic Latin-American design.
The porter who helped her with her bags, the desk clerk who gave her the room key, and the maid who said she'd clean up her room while she was going out were all extremely polite, even though such was a damn sight more than Kris had been expecting in such a troubled South American country as Venezuela. She got a good night’s sleep, and the next morning was up and ready for the day she'd been waiting almost literally her whole life for. She went down to Monte San Jorge's Old Town, where she had heard her great-grandfather once lived.
She was going to get the facts.
Thomas Samuel Dirings had been a hero to theMontesan-jorgeanos; so much so that they dedicated a large part of Old Town to his memory. She decided to take the tour, seeing the places of his life.
From what Kristin learned on the tour, she decided she really did have a book coming on it all. The guide, a Venezuelan lady, showed her and the other tourists his home, the ranch where he worked, even the place where he, so the guide said, “mysteriously disappeared” one day, and was never seen again. This came as a sort of depressing thing to Kris, but she took notes on everything anyway.
Whatever might sell the book.
At one point the guide said, “We have remembered him for so long—”
“It's as though he were still with you today!!” snapped Kris, in the compliant Spanish. “Iknow!!!”
With that outburst, all on the tour turned their heads in surprise toward her. The silence made Kris red with embarrassment. The guide scowled.
“Madam,” said the guide, “if you are going to be rude like this, I would ask you to leave.”
Kris left, all right. What the hell, she decided. She would just find out everything she had to on her own.
The first interesting thing she noticed, to check out by herself, was a large, auditorium-style building with its doors open invitingly. The sign overhead said:
She went inside.
Walking across the building’s vast floor, she encountered, there, against the back wall, a huge, wax likeness of Thomas Samuel Dirings himself, in a glass case. He was swashed in gaucho attire, holding his lariat high, and his mouth was open in a loud yell.
Pretty corny, she thought.
Yet, pretty lifelike. Right down to the last detail, a perfect, ul-tra-realistic approximation of him. The sculptor must’ve known every-thing about exactly what he looked like—
Wait a minute. This doesn't look like wax. It looked like some other fleshy substance, preserved in fluid like—
…Oh Christ God.
This was Thomas Samuel!!
…He’s been embalmed and positioned like a statue, and this is a dead body I’m looking at!!!
Half choking, Kristin repulsed away from this twisted discovery. Only then, out of the corner of her eye, did she notice another glass box, empty, right next to the one the statue was in.
Suddenly, she realized a whole group ofMontesanjorgeaños had materialized around her, including Pablûs from the plane, the Jeep driver, and the tour guide. The driver and the guide each held a jar of embalming fluid, and Pablûs held a hypodermic needle with some green fluid in it.
“We told you he was still with us,” said Pablûs gently. “And, oh—are we ever gladyou came here.”
Kristin Imogene Dirings let out a scream.
Somewhere in the trees above, a brilliantly striped Amazoni-an toucan flapped its wings and took flight.
Ross S. Simon, author of THE SNOW, Eternal Press, 2012, and RED DAHLIA, Damnation Books, 2013
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