Saturday, September 21, 2013

The House

          The house sat vacant. It was unfinished, only brick and mortar; no doors, windows, or flooring. Nobody lived there and the locals would drive by and discuss the house. But they never stopped, never ventured in. So there it sat; unmolested, undisturbed for years. Until one day it had a visitor. I am getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning. Let’s tell the story of this partially finished home.

Javier Bustamente had a dream and it did not involve digging ditches. Except there he was in the middle of Panama digging a ditch. He stopped to wipe the sweat from his eyes before he began digging again. As he stood there he looked out at his land and knew that his dream might not involve digging ditches but sometimes you had to do the dirty work to make the dream happen. He had bought the land a year ago after scrimping and saving all his earnings since his first job. At first he was not sure what he wanted but as he continued to save everyday an idea formed; he would open a fancy resort that would bring in the international customers that were slowly trickling into his country. Javier had never done manual labor before and as he dug he soon appreciated the gardeners and cleaning crew that had always done the work around him. They worked hard for their pay and he could actually say he finally understood that. Javier hoped that soon he would be working smart for his paycheck and not hard for a paycheck. Working smarter was something his dad always talked about. His father always told him the smart worker made the money and that was why Javier had never done manual labor and that was why he learned to dream so big.

The clouds were moving in and he knew he should get some more work done before the rain storms hit. So he dug the shovel in and lifted the soil out, placing it in the ditch between his new land and the road. He needed to get this finished before tomorrow when the trucks came. His shoveling speed increased for a few minutes but he soon learned that was the path to early exhaustion and he let himself find a rhythm. He worked for the next hour before the slowly rising humidity and heat of the day forced him into his car to drive back to the small house he was renting a ways down the road. He would get back to it in the afternoon when the heat broke. He was looking forward to a shower, lunch and a short siesta. Javier had purchased a large parcel of land and he knew that it was a big undertaking but he was sure it was one that would pay off.

Javier awoke later then he had meant to but there were still several hours until night fell. As he headed toward his car he took on the service of two others, and they joined him in the ride out to the land he owned. They sat in silence as he drove until he turned on the radio. One of the men tapped lightly against his arm rest and the other man hummed along as the song approached the crescendo.  He turned off the main road and headed toward his property that was walking distance to the beach.

As he pulled into what would soon be his driveway, but was now just dirt, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. It was movement and his brain registered a wake of vultures tearing at something and as he turned towards the commotion, just for the briefest of moments, he thought he saw them ripping apart a baby. One of the men whispered “Dios” and brought his cross to his lips. Javier kept his eyes on the vultures and soon saw the characteristic face of a possum. He let out the breath he was holding and opened his car door and got out. He walked towards the birds in an attempt to shoo them and their prize away. He thought better of it when he saw several birds pause in their feeding and puff up as he got nearer. He did not want them to think he was attacking them or attempting to steal their meal. He was not sure about what vulture capabilities were but he knew they had strong beaks for tearing apart a carcass. On top of all that, though this is something he was not willing to admit, they kind of scared him on a more primal level. He backed to the car and decided to use that to get them to move. They did move but not real far away. He hopped out grabbed his shovel and scooped the remains and flung them as far as he could. The vultures watched him for a minute then left to complete their feast. Only then did his hired help emerge from the car. They did not look happy but they were ready to work. Javier put on music and they all started digging.

As the day began to slip away he stopped the work and he and 2 tired men left the work behind; the wake of vultures forgotten. He took them back to town and headed to his house to shower before heading out to find something to eat.  As he pulled into his carport he saw them watching him from the trees and surrounding buildings. He stopped the car and hit the lock button on the door. He knew it wasn’t logical. Vultures couldn’t open car doors, so locking them was a futile gesture. He was breathing hard and he saw his hands shaking. His logical brain kept telling him that these were different vultures and that there were a lot of them in this area. Unfortunately his logical side was not calling the shots right at the moment.  He looked away from the birds for a moment and looked at the door to his temporary home. It was not that far away and he could drive closer so he turned the car back on and drove up to the front door. When he opened the car door the birds took flight and he fumbled for the door. The keys were a confused jumble as he tried to remember which one opened the house. Finally he got the key in and as he pushed himself in through the door he noticed the birds were now on the house looking down at him. He slammed the door and locked it before melting to the floor against it.

Javier began to cry and he cried until he fell asleep. When he awoke later he was in the fetal position and there was the scent of urine. He decided to shower and not think about what that meant but before he moved towards the bathroom he looked outside. He had to know if they were still there. He looked outside and did not see the vultures but it was very dark and he could not quite make the leap to believing they weren’t there.  He shivered at the thought of the birds watching him from the darkness and hurriedly moved away from the window.