Beach Land is the name I give my little place on the coast
Oh, I don’t know, I tried to make it sound science fiction like, makes no sense. The Honduran north coast is a natural gem of empty beaches and crystal waters and warm people. This is where my muse runs free, rather tries to run free and when it does it's wonderful.
As writers we look for all the props available, we try this we try that, some things work, others don’t.
My stomach was churning but has settled down a little, probably giving me this ‘go’ window right now. To write, write anything at all. To write away the ghosts.
For I don’t know how long I have battled the demons, some center around my gut.
The dark muse eludes me just now, however. I find that when my dark friend comes to call is when I can produce some of those things which ring true, resonate with what’s going on. Reflect what’s happening…
Yeah, right now it’s just the soft surface guy sticking his head up. Rarely produces the kind of script that makes a reader wonder just what’s going on… I think that’s necessary, the ability to get a reader's nod, a readers’ heads up, a thing that makes him or her want to take a trip or a vacation.
A forgotten land somewhere. Perhaps an isolated, sleepy cove, smiling ladies in sundresses walking barefoot on the beach selling fresh-baked coconut rolls, a writing desk within the thatched walls, a slow-moving, barely creaking ceiling fan. A place on this planet not far from Tela, Honduras, Honduras’ north coast on the Caribbean.
Tropical breeze pours through my shack instilling a freshness impossible to describe. A night bird calls to a possible mate, mournful as hell, I have to wonder what will he or she ever attract with such a painful cry. If you let it, the bird cry can even scare, its otherworldly. The locals assure me that the ancient cemetery which is my neighbor to the south on the beach awakens at night with ghosts. They say the ghosts are of restless beings out to settle old scores, but that I shouldn’t worry. I’ve been asked often if I’ve seen the lights over the overgrown graves. I did one night. Another story.
Suddenly the feeling is there. As though being transported magically it happens. Suddenly I’m on a shiny surfboard riding silver crested waves lit up by a full moon. At night you can’t help but wonder what might be swimming under you, something big, something that puts no thought into eating you, just does it.
The gentle lapping of the waves as though a metronome to my soul. During the brilliantly sunny day, I sit and watch as the rainbows pass overhead in a constant, unscripted flow, each loaded with promise. Hurricane season passed, so no worries there. Mother Nature delivers, never fails. At night. The bugs are trying to get in, so I need to seal them out. Flys in the ointment never fails. There again, without the flys, there goes the inspiration.
I mean I don’t care about some bugs. My netting keeps the mosquitos away, which is mostly all I really care about. Scorpions or coral snakes, I do not want them anywhere near me. At night as I write next to my gas lamp, as it hisses the night away the mosquitos try to chew their way through, the little bastards, but I have my trusty spray. A couple of blasts beneath my mahogany desk and they’re gone for another half hour, then I have to repeat.
I should clarify. I do have electricity. But often will choose to write in that inimitable glow that only a gas lamp can provide. There’s a pulsing, organic warmth a gas lamp offers. Try it sometime.
I had the floor put in several months ago, after years of battling the creepy crawlers. Wood planks, solid two by six inches, not treated. The trick though is that under the boards there’s a tight gauged screen. Caution here: the screen has to be plastic if not in a year's time the salty air will rust it away. A trick I learned from my former father-in-law, a builder.
The floor is elevated off the packed sand and sets on a number of solid stilts. Several years ago a big hurricane had the surf rolling through and under my shack. It held as the stilts are as thick as tree trunks. The raised floor keeps every bug known to man out! Almost. I did the same with my bamboo walls. Except visually it wouldn’t do to have a visible screen. So there are in fact two stands of bamboo and in between is the screen. This keeps out say 95% of the bugs. My thatched roof has a similar technique. You’d never know from looking up at the thatch that there’s a covering of screen. This keeps away the bats, boas, and all other bugs.
I have a thing about being awakened in the black pitch, something big crawling across my forehead. No, I don’t like it. Or try having a four-inch-long millipede as it crawls across your neck at three in the morning. I swear those millipedes make a clicking sound.
All told, my writing escape cost me a grand total of sixty thousand dollars, including the ninety-year land lease. Unless you’re Honduran, you can’t buy beach property. Driving up to it from San Juan, the road lined with towering bamboo, anyone might think the place had to run a million.
My teak windows have closing tolerances that amazed the locals when they built the thing for me. My designs. Say between the window frame and the sill you can barely shove a credit card between. This will keep everything but the tiniest ants out. Ants don’t bother me at all. In fact, they comfort me as they make their way around my shack. Industrious little guys truly minding their own damn business. Not looking to bite me, suck my blood, or cuddle me!
A spider called the orb spider, beautiful in its perfect and colorful design, does not bother me. As a very young boy, I allowed them to inhabit my ceiling in Nicaragua. Gentle little guys and are happy to be handled. I have them here now, and when I spray it’s with great care so that no one gets hurt!
And yes, though I am averse to mice and rats I don’t get squeamish about them as do some. Mice bother me less as after all they are rather cute and I believe harmless. Rats on the other hand are another thing, those big hairy bastards have god knows what sort of shit on their huge teeth, and their fur crawls with who knows what class of disease-carrying vermin. But with both these critters the way my shack is built, it really eliminates the opportunity they might find otherwise for sneaking in here.
Noises can get my attention. At night, that is. Especially here, noises can mean death in a moment. So I am ready and yes, armed. Contrary to the fashionable thinking of live and let live rah rah rah. I do that. I live and let those live and I’ll be goddamned if I won’t be treated the same. My 12 gauge riot pump and several critically placed revolvers give me almost all the security I need. No, it’s never 100% but then what is?
Today this thing about being armed can cause upset. I get that. But I look at it like this: Most in the animal kingdom have natural defenses, some far more effective than others. I too want defenses, and as I am not Bruce Lee I need more than my fists; here where I live Bruce would need more than his fast fists and fancy footwork. So. My defense is a gun or two. Have I ever shot anyone? Never. I’ve fired into the night sky to scare off several prowlers.
Yeah, I know all about firing in the sky and the dangers therein which is why I very intentionally fire over the bay. No, out here there are no pleasure sailboats anchored for the night. Here the waters belong to those who move stuff up and down the coast under the cover of night.
At night when an out of sync sound happens, this is what you listen for, something out of sync, it happens, then I go into action. Rising from the center of my shack is a spiral staircase that climbs above my roofline. Understand this doesn’t just go above the roofline and ends. This thing goes thirty feet up, enclosed so that bad guys can’t see where I am on the spiral. At the top it opens to a perch or lookout and throwing a switch bathes the immediate surroundings in bright halogens and spotlights out to a radius of thirty yards. Anything moving within that radius is ‘mine’ in a manner of speaking. So far in three years, all that’s ever come around were some wild pigs, a wandering horse who has since made his home here. He just free roams my property keeping the grass short. On two occasions, drunks have ventured onto my place.
One such time two guys were drunk, and I knew them and their wives. Esmeralda chased both men away from the front door with a machete. I would never have a stand-off with the wonderful yet very large and tough Esmeralda, especially if she has her machete. She accused the two of being useless drunks and womanizers. They stayed the night with me and my lovable pits.
Another time the prowlers came snooping around, I scared them off by firing in the sky. One time some cops, two of them, called out to me, this was around 2 am, said I had to come out and show them my papers.
When I asked them from the safety of my tower what the name of their commissioner was and they couldn’t answer, I worked the action of my shotgun. Me and the local commissioner are buds and drink and fish together. The racket of chambering a round is enough to send reason into the minds of most men, even stupid men bent on evil. Like rabbits, they turned and ran. The scary thing is that they weren’t black. The locals, mostly all black, are peace-loving and more times than not accept a gesture, some food, a couple of bills then leave.
The economy here sucks and folks barely scrape by. These guys, the fake cops which is a tactic used ad nauseam throughout Honduras, were from the ‘interior’ and had the up to no good look on their faces. For good measure and to further seal the deal, I released my three pits who chased the men from the property. The dogs have been thoroughly trained to never engage unless I give a certain order, which shall remain secret.
No, I’m not a pit bull type. Never in my wildest imagination, but reality can and will dictate a mean set of living standards.
They know to approach a suspect from a distance and bare their teeth, the growl will send chills down your back. Many years ago, some bad guys released a hail of lead and killed one of my dogs. My cameras picked them up and my towns chief immediately recognized the bad guys. They were three new arrivals from the interior from no one knew where who were staying in an abandoned shack on the outskirts.
The chief, not wanting these men in his community, fell upon these hombres in the dead of night, tied them, and bagged them in burlap sacks, naked, without their few belongings. The shack they were in was burned to the ground. They were taken to the south, two days’ bus ride away, taken by his posse. The bus arrived a little past midnight when they were taken off the bus, and dragged into the prickly chaparral bush, a night bird spooked and flew away, the posse waited for the bus to disappear. A bullet through the knee of each man ensured almost beyond the shadow of a doubt they’d never venture back to our peaceful town on the north coast.
Worth mentioning: one might wonder why no bus passengers brought up questions in reference to the three noisy burlap bags tied to the top of the bus. In this part of the world, silence can guarantee life. In other words, in a state where everyone knows with rare exception doubt that the police are no good and will do nothing. It’s left up to the people to eliminate the dirty laundry…
It’s been this way for as long as anyone can recall.
Had the bad guys ever determined to go back to the north to get even just the cost of travel wouldn’t have been worth it. It just wouldn’t have represented payback to them, plus they were told that should they appear again the vast swamps nearby their town was a convenient place to hide bodies… That they would be joining other errant ghosts there.
An aside to this event: there were four bad guys who were fingered for having beaten an old man in his shack one late night and had raped his wife and three daughters. The girls identified the men. A decision was made one dark, rainy night as the thunder rolled across and lightning lit wet faces. The men were trotted out to the edge of a swollen river that had flooded because of the rains and were executed and sent floating away. Yes, this is far away from Cleveland or Bloomington.
But the stories I hear more and more about the things that go on in the US cities and suburbs makes me wonder…
But this is reality in many third world countries, like it or not. Find it distasteful or not. It is as it is…
A soft voice calls. Every day around this time Florencia delivers freshly made tortillas. Smoke rises as I remove the cloth cover to take in the wonder.