Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread: Dawn, Red and Black

  1. #1
    Para aquí para acá Jonh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    La Florida
    Blog Entries

    Default Dawn, Red and Black

    This work of fiction was written in late October, 2006, just before the presidential election.

    Bang! Pop. Brat-tat-tat.
    Al Fontaine jolts awake. What the -? Monday. Granada, Nicaragua. My hotel. Another gunshot, sheet yanks over face. Through puffy slits he sees it’s dawn.

    Shove aside tangled sheet, stagger to the dresser. Snatch clean shirt and jeans, gather shoes. Boom! Pop. “Pistols,” he tells the floor. “These damn Nicaraguans with their guns. What the hell’s going on?” Hung-over brain throbs with each shot. Managing to slip on his shoes, he bumps into the door jamb while lurching to the bathroom. Cold water on his face feels good. Smooth the mess of sandy hair in the mirror.

    Coffee. Make coffee. Something happened. Radio. News. Oh God, yesterday was the election.

    The radio is in the living room, the coffee in the kitchen. Fontaine hesitates, deciding which to do first. Coffee wins.

    People shout down the street, in the park. A crowd answers in unison. He rushes to the radio as coffee brews.

    There’s only music. He snaps it off and follows the heady java scent back to the kitchen. Blanca will be here at seven-thirty. She’ll know. He fills a mug, gazing into the golden brown whirlpool. The clock says six fifty three.

    BRAT-TAT-TAT! Duck instinctively. Crap, that’s right outside! Hot coffee sloshes, scalds; he winces, sets the mug on the table, dabs the skin with a napkin.

    Fontaine is alone in the old colonial-era building he’s converting to a hotel, a dream he’s worked on for years. With the rooms mostly renovated, the grand opening is just a few weeks away. Sixteen years of recovery from Nicaragua’s long, dark night told him the country was ready.

    I guess the election didn’t go the way someone hoped. He slurps coffee while his heart slows to a trot. Or, maybe it did. Shooting guns in the air, street rallies at dawn. Sounds like the Sandinistas in ‘79.”

    Pound pound pound
    on the front door. Freeze. Heart gallops. Is it one of them?

    “Fontaine!” a voice, muffled through the door, shouts. “Hurry up. Open the door. I can’t stand out here all day!”

    At the sound of his friend Chris Marder’s voice, he plunks his coffee mug on the table and rushes to the door.

    As soon as Fontaine shoves the steel bolt aside, Marder pushes his way in and slams the door behind him. His gray eyes look hunted.

    “Al, did ya hear what happened?”


    “They went and declared Ortega the winner. Forty percent of the vote. Forty percent!”

    “They called it already?” Neck hair stands up.

    “I was just talking to my sister-in-law on the phone. She’s with the election committee in Managua.”

    “Something’s not right,” says Fontaine. “They can’t have counted all the ballots already.”

    “You got that right. She spent all night there and says she never saw one ballot.”

    “Shit. So whose goons are those, out in the street?”

    “Who do you think? They’re all wearin’ Ortega’s pink hats.”

    “Pink, like that’s fooling anyone. They’re still red and black inside. They can’t change their colors any more’n a snake can.”

    From the park comes the sound of recorded music. Fontaine raises a hand, “Shh! Listen! That’s the song I told you about. By Godoy.”

    At the end of the first verse are the words, “Luchamos contra el Yanqui, Enemigo de la humanidad.” The crowd roars at the words that call them to “fight against the Yankee, the enemy of mankind.”

    A shiver crawls up Fontaine’s back. “That’s the Sandinista’s old hymn. It’s pretty creepy now with Ortega’s new slogan. ‘Peace, work, and well-being’.”

    “It’s a new day, Fontaine. And we ain’t part of it.” Marder looks out the window. “You thinkin’ about leaving?”

    “Well, I wasn’t planning to, if he won.” He furrows his brow. “I’ve worked my ass off to renovate this place. It’s almost done. It’s all I have. But if this is how it’s going to be, good-bye tourists.”

    Marder stands with his feet apart, a stance to pounce or run. “I’m going to the bank today. You’d better go get your money out. Get there early, too.”

    Fontaine pales. “I only have a thousand pesos there. Fifty bucks. My partner in Texas was supposed to wire the last installment Friday, to pay the workers. He called yesterday and said he had to wait. That’s why I was drinking last night.”

    “Fifty bucks’ll get you across the border. Better get it out.”

    The two men go to the kitchen. The clock on the microwave says seven fifty-eight. Shouting and cheering continue down the street and more guns shoot into the air. Fontaine pours a mug of coffee for Marder and says, “By the way, you look like crap. No time to shave this morning?”

    “My sister-in-law called at six, then I heard the guns goin’ off. I threw on some clothes and my flip flops, and went to see what was happening.”

    “You look like those people in the street. I have some extra razors if you want to shave, Chris.”

    “Thanks, but I’d rather eat some breakfast if you got anything.”

    “Yeah, of course. There’s some eggs. And some bread. Blanca’s late, but when she gets here -“ He looks up. “I’ll bet she’s not coming. I’ll bet she’s at the park!”


    The sun washes the streets in light and heat, climbing over the city. It’s still cool in Fontaine’s hotel lobby at nine o’clock. On the sidewalk outside people chatter and laugh as they walk by. Fontaine goes to the window. “You want to try the bank, now?” he says.

    “How’s it look out there?” Marder gets up to see.

    They watch a motley assortment of beggars, urchins, and down-and-outers tramp toward the park, dressed in dirty rags and sandals. Stray dogs trot along side, the lines of their ribs showing in the morning sun. No cars appear that morning, not even a taxi.

    Marder said, “The bank is right on the park. This ain’t gonna be pretty.”

    “No choice, though, is there?” Fontaine sighs.

    “Nope. You ready?”

    “Uh, Marder, I just had a thought. Did you bring your Beretta?”

    He laughs. “You bet I did.”

    “I hope we don’t need it.”

    “If you’d got yourself one, like I told you -” He lets it drop.

    Marder slips out the door and waits as Fontaine locks it behind them.

    Walking toward the park, Fontaine whispers, “Two gringos like us are gonna stick out like sore thumbs.”

    “Can’t help it. Just relax.”

    “At least you have dark hair. I should have brought a hat.”

    They turn the corner, stop suddenly. The park is filled with people. Fontaine points to a refrigerated two-wheeled cart. “Look, it’s only nine and they’re selling beer.”

    “They’re probably givin’ it away free. The opiate of the masses.”

    Keeping to the opposite side of the street, the two men sneak around the park to the opposite corner. There, the bank is hidden behind a long line of people.

    “Damn, I should’a guessed,” Marder said.

    “Might as well get in line.”

    The people have their backs to the park. Fontaine notices they look like regular business people, but no one’s smiling or talking. He recognizes his dentist, Dr. Salazar, and exchanges polite nods with Pedro Gonzales, the lawyer who wrote up his business papers. “I don’t like this,” he murmurs to Marder. “The bank should be open by now.”

    As he says it, the door opens. Two armed guards come out. They let in as many people as the lobby will hold. The sun grows hotter, baking the frowning, squinting people.

    Marder says quietly, “If you wait here, I’d better go check on my bar.”

    “Go ahead. I’m not going anywhere. Be careful.”

    Fontaine looks around at middle-class people like him, then at the rabble in the park. Now we’re the desperados. The business people all look like the world is ending. The bums and beggars are over there getting free beer and propaganda. Inmates running the asylum. A cloud passes in front of the sun. Fontaine looks up and counts four buzzards circling lazily in the blue.

    Some customers come out the door of the bank, and a few squeeze in. The line inches forward. “Why is everyone is so patient and orderly?” he wonders.

    Then they turn toward the park as music starts again. The national anthem, Salve a Ti, Nicaragua, plays through a big funnel-shaped loudspeaker.

    Hail to you, Nicaragua.
    The cannon's voice no longer roars,
    Nor does the blood of our brothers stain your glorious bicolored flag.
    Peace shines in beauty in your skies, nothing dims your immortal glory,
    For work is what earns your laurels and honor is your triumphal ensign.

    While the crowd in the park sings tunelessly, Fontaine notices a wistful look on the faces of the bank customers. One man spits on the ground and grumbles, “Those pigs never worked to earn any laurels.”

    Marder appears, running, startling Fontaine.

    “Chris, what happened? Your face!”

    Panting, touching forehead, seeing blood. Wiping it off, hissing, “Soon as I get my money out of the bank, I’m outta here. You better go, too.”

    “Why? What happened?”

    “I get to the bar. The doors are wide open. The locks busted. A bunch of soldiers are in there drinking, and one gets up and says, ‘This place is closed’. I tell him, ‘This is my property,’ and they just laugh and I get the butt of a gun to my head.”

    Fontaine stares, jaw dropped. He and Marder move another step closer to the bank as more customers come out. A man in a suit and tie opens the door. With a grim expression, he raises his hand to get everyone’s attention.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to say the bank is now closed.”

    The crowd murmurs, and as the man turns to go back inside, someone shouts, “Why?”

    Hesitating, looking across the street at the park, he says, “There’s no more money.”

    “Let’s get the hell out of here,” Fontaine says.


    “Back to my hotel for now.”

    They leave the angry crowd to grumble at shut doors. Marder says, “Let’s go the long way around.” Avoiding the park, they come to the hotel from the opposite side.

    Fontaine unlocks the door and they slip in. “Is it too early for a drink?” He quips.

    “Not today, it ain’t.”

    Pound pound pound on the door. Both freeze. Marder pulls the Beretta from his pocket and stands again with feet apart, ready. Fontaine peers out the window. “It’s the workers. I have a feeling they aren’t here to work.”

    “They must have seen us come in.”

    Pound pound pound. Fontaine unlatches the door.

    Outside stand four young men. Two in back with machetes. One in front, wearing a pink cap, speaks for them all. “Hoy es el dia del pago,” Today is payday, he grins.

    Fontaine’s knees wobble as he remembers it is, indeed, payday. “Are you working today?” he asks in his accented Spanish.

    They grin. The one in the cap says, “No, hombre, today’s a holiday. Ortega’s victory day. We’ll work tomorrow, but we want our pay.”

    Fontaine turns to Marder, who’s standing out of sight of the men outside. He gives him a look of sympathy.

    He turns back to the men. “The bank closed early. No hay dinero.” There’s no money. And my voice is shaking.

    The men’s feet shift and they look at each other.

    “It’s true. My partner hasn’t wired me the latest payment yet. The bank is closed.” He raises his palm. “I have nothing to pay you with. I’d be surprised if my partner wires it at all, now.”

    The spokesman turns and whispers to his comrades, who lean together and listen. Then to Fontaine he says in a low voice, “We’ll collect later.” One in back snickers.

    Slamming the door, shoving the bolt across, Fontaine leans against it, clammy, heart galloping. He looks at Marder pacing around the lobby, looking at the floor, says, “The bastards, I’m not giving them my last fifty bucks.”

    Marder stops, looks up. “Forget the bank. I got cash hidden over at my house. Is there a back way out of here?”

    “Yeah. Come on.”

    They scramble across the courtyard of the hotel, in the shadow of the arched colonnade, past the ornate fountain he’d just got running again. “There,” he points. Closet under the stair. In they go, shove aside dark dusty clutter. Fontaine pries the creaky door on the other side. Daylight. Out to an alley that leads to a side street.


    Cars and trucks, loaded down with people and possessions, clog the streets. A block from the highway is Marder’s small tin-roofed house, where he and Fontaine arrive out of breath. Marder disappears to the bedroom to get his money. “If you’re hungry, get something out of the fridge,” he calls over his shoulder.

    Fontaine is bent with his head in the refrigerator when Marder returns to the kitchen. He looks at the bulging pants pockets, he shakes his head and said, “Chris, you’re gonna be a target, you know.”

    Marder plunges a hand in one pocket. “You’re right. You take some,” and hands Fontaine a roll of bills.

    He rolls off the rubber band and starts counting the red ink-printed bills. “This must be ten thousand pesos.”

    “Sounds about right. Should last a while.”

    “Chris, I can’t –“

    “What ‘cha gonna do? Stay and get your ass reamed?” Marder’s eyes look wild under his salt and pepper mop of hair.

    Fontaine sighs and snaps the rubber band on the roll, and stuffs it in his pocket. “You have this kind of money, and you live in a house the size of my garage?”

    “Yeah, that’s right.”

    Fontaine shakes his head. “You said something about food.”

    “There’s some gallopinto we can warm up,” Marder says. He lights the stove and slides a pan over the blue flame, and spatulas the leftover rice and bean mixture into the skillet. “We stay here, and this is all we’ll be eating.”

    “I was thinking,” Fontaine says sitting at the table, “how ironic it is.”

    “What is?” Marder says, stirring the skillet.

    “These Sandinistas are so happy they’ve won, now they finally get to stick it to the middle class, but the middle class is all leaving. Who’s gonna pay for the freebies Ortega’s promised?”

    “No one ever said they were smart. I got some Toñas in there,” he says, pointing to the fridge with his chin. “Get us some. I need a beer, and I’ll bet you do, too.”

    Marder serves up two plates of gallopinto while Fontaine brings out two beer bottles and opens them. “Well Al, you know what I was thinkin’?”


    “You shoulda listened to me last week about the State Department warning.”

    “Oh, that.” Fontaine says, looking at his beer.

    “Yeah, that. Violent protests, it said. ‘They’re just coverin’ their asses,’ you said.”

    “Well, you shouldn’t have listened to me,” Fontaine smirks.

    They eat gallopinto washed down with beer. Marder clears the dishes and takes a photograph off the refrigerator. “Remember this picture of you, Mari and me?”

    Fontaine takes it. “Oh yeah. My first day in Granada. You didn’t tell me she was your wife till I’d already hit on her.”

    Marder smiles. “You were just divorced, and ready to change the world.”

    Fontaine hands back the picture. “Heh, maybe the world changed me instead.”

    He puts the picture in his shirt pocket. “We’ll stop in Rivas and pick her up on the way south.”

    Then the electricity goes out.

    “Surprise, surprise,” says Fontaine.

    “It’s been a few days since that’s happened.”

    “This one’s got to be on purpose. I always thought the other ones were, too. To make the old government look bad.”

    “Yeah. Maybe it is, maybe it ain’t. We’ll never know.”

    “Well, screw ‘em all.” Fontaine holds up his bottle, and Marder clinks his against it.

    “Screw ‘em all.”


    It’s late afternoon when the electricity comes back on, and Marder and Fontaine are finishing off a dozen or so Toñas. It’s quiet outside, and the two of them have almost forgotten the events of that morning. The sun beams through the window.

    “We better get going. It’ll be dark soon,” Marder says.

    “Where are we going, anyway?”

    “We’re catching the first chicken bus south, to Costa Rica, remember?”

    Rubbing his eyes, Fontaine says, “Oh, yeah. A damn shame. I’m gonna miss the chicas here.”

    “They’re pretty in Costa Rica, too. Come on.” Marder’s chair squawks as it slides back.

    They step out to the street and head toward the bus station. “Too bad we have to go through the park,” Fontaine sighs.

    “Hell, they’re prob’ly so drunk by now no one’ll care.”

    “Yeah, just like us,” Fontaine giggles and almost slips off the curb.

    “Screw ‘em, man.”

    “Hell, yeah; screw ‘em.”

    A sizeable mob remains in the park, empty beer cans roll on the sidewalk, and food wrappers float in the breeze. Stray dogs root through the gutters, cleaning up. Buzzards still circle high above. Marder and Fontaine join the edge of the crowd to watch.

    Someone on the bandstand is ranting through a bull horn and the crowd shouts back in agreement. Fontaine leans toward Marder and says, “Why is he looking at us?”

    The speaker’s voice reaches a rapid-fire staccato. He shakes a finger in Fontaine’s direction.

    Crowd cheers, fists wave. Bang! Gun shoots in the air. Fontaine ducks, yells. “Shit! I wish they’d cut that out! Bullets have to come down somewhere.”

    Another shot, closer, cuts through crowd’s roar. Boom!

    Fontaine reaches for Marder’s arm, says, “Come on, let’s get to the-”

    Marder collapses to the ground, hand to chest.

    Frozen, Fontaine stares at blood spreading. Photo lays half out of pocket. Marder, wife, he, tint crimson.

    Kneels. “Shit. God damn it! Chris!” he shouts, reaches out. Skin feels papery, lifeless. Marder’s roll of bills slides from pants pocket. Fontaine snatches it, panics. Chaotic words fly above. Ladron! Gringo! Yanqui! Asesino!

    Words shoot through him - thief, gringo, Yankee, assassin. His mind swirls. Attention rips from Marder. They think I did this? Someone shoves him off balance, roll of bills falls on sidewalk. Stretch to reach, a tattered shoe crushes his fingers. A hairy hand snatches up bills. Pounding his throbbing fist on the concrete, “Fuck!”

    Fontaine looks up at the shouting mob, at dark accusing eyes filled with madness. Stand up. Got to stand up. Looking down at his friend, he wants to carry him, clean him, dignify him. What will I tell his wife?

    A hand grabs his arm. He yanks away. More hands grope. Shove. His clammy skin slips from their grasp. They’ll hang me.

    Now dozens of hands, fingers questing. Peso notes pass, red ink spreading like Marder’s blood. Now’s my chance.

    A truck stops next to Fontaine. Like a hounded fox, he dives under, scampers on hands and knees to the other side, gets up and brushes grit from his palms. Dash to the corner, away from the park, turn to see no one’s following yet. He looks over his shoulder at every block as he runs to the bus station. Even standing in line for a ticket he turns to check the door. They’ll be here any minute. He notes where all the doors are, places to run, hide.

    A bench in the corner of the waiting area is an hour’s refuge, till the bus comes. He hides behind La Prensa from the newsstand, unable to concentrate on the stories.

    It isn’t until he’s safe on the bus to Peñas Blancas, on the Costa Rican border, that he breathes deeply and relaxes. What happened? How did Marder get shot? Had to be a bullet shot in the air. Why did they think I did it?

    As night falls, the bus passes the shore of the big lake. Fontaine looks out the window toward the island of Ometepe. The setting sun glows warm on the majestic volcano but Fontaine is indifferent to its beauty. He replays the scene of angry eyes, guns shot in the air, the ranting voice through the bullhorn, his bloodied friend, shouts of ladron! Yanqui! Asesino!, money flowing. He can’t help overhear the woman behind him chatting with her seat mate.

    “My brother wasn’t there, but he heard from someone who was. The speaker in the park warned everyone. ‘Yankees’ he said, ‘are going to bring violence to the country to embarrass the movement.’ Just then, my brother says, a gringo came up and shot one of the Sandinistas in the crowd. Can you believe it?”

    The other woman grunts, “They’ll find the pig. They always do.”

    Fontaine turns around. They have to hear the truth. He looks into her brown eyes, takes a breath. In an instant he reads in her face a century of anger, bitter as a lemon peel. Would the truth change her? He smiles, turns around, and stares out the window.

  2. #2
    Viejo del Foro Just Plain John Wayne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Puerto Cabezas Nicar
    Blog Entries


    WOW... Keep 'em coming, didn't know you could write so good...
    To be called a "Has Been" I must surmise, is much Greater than to be called a "Nevah Been"... JW...

Similar Threads

  1. RED and Black
    By Just Plain John Wayne in forum Blog: Just Plain John Wayne
    Replies: 13
    Last Post: 01-04-2009, 01:05 PM
  2. October 7, 2007 - Black Eyed Peas
    By tresfrijoles in forum Events Calendar
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 09-29-2007, 04:24 PM
  3. Managua at Dawn
    By pbnica in forum Nicaragua Scrapbook
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 06-09-2007, 12:16 PM
  4. Black Ceramics of Matagalpa
    By tresfrijoles in forum Nicaraguan Culture, Politics and History
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 03-14-2007, 12:45 PM


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
Also visit the False Bluff Blog!