THE WORRY DOLLS
There is a legend amongst the highland Indian villages of Guatemala.
If you have a problem, then share it with a Worry Doll.
Before going to bed, tell one worry to each doll, then place them beneath your pillow.
While you sleep the dolls will take your worries away.
Chapter 4 – “Rosalinda and the Devil’s Kiss”
The rainclouds broke and parted. The full moon wore a rainbow ring around itself. In the alleyway Rosalinda had gazed up at the lunar rainbow and thought of her grandmother. “Mamich!” she cried out and she thought she could hear her grandmother saying, “A rainbow is God’s promise to good little girls like you”.
Not far away, Kristen had been motionless inside her cocoon of reverie inside her stopped Volkswagen Coupe inside the glow of the stoplight at the deserted intersection. The stoplight glow changed to green then to yellow then back to red.
Kristen had been illuminated three times but she could not see beyond the past, beyond that other evening, that evening of her first encounter with Kahuna.
That evening of their first encounter in Montejo, Kristen had been talking to Kahuna on her cellphone as she drove around the plaza, looking side-to-side, asking, “So where the hell are you now?”
Kahuna replied, “A little respect, please. I’m up here with La Virgen. Do you want me to put in a good word for you after what you just said?”
Kristen parked her faded-yellow Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible at the foot of the statue of La Virgen (Virgin Mary). La Virgen was set twelve steps above street level and offered Kahuna an angel’s-eye view of Kristen in her favorite light cotton dress. The mauve-sky color and thin spaghetti shoulder straps had never failed to turn heads before and so Kristen hoped it would work its allure again tonight.
Kahuna, however, was looking away up at La Virgen, still talking to Kristen on his cellphone.
Kristen then put her cellphone down and made a megaphone of her hands and called out above the noise of a passing auto-bus, “Hey, mister! Are you the gringo who wanted a taxi?”
Waiting for the auto-bus to pass, Kahuna then called down, “Si, gracias, taxista guapa! (Yes, thanks, hot taxi driver).” Then he did a scuttling dance down the steps like a teenager leaving high school for summer vacation.
Kristen explained to him, “Gringo, you’ll have to hop-in to this lunch box. I mean it. Literally. That door is on strike, and has been for the last month.”
Kahuna had put one hand on the door the other on the windshield and gracefully lifted his body up and over the jammed door, like a gymnast. He had just barely settled down onto the seat when Kristen shifted into first gear and raced off down the street without any further words or time for Kahuna to find the seat-belt.
Approaching the corner like it was the end of an airstrip runway Kristen was asking, “Left or right?”
Kahuna had shouted “Highway libre, East!”
Kristen, Kahuna, and the VW Cabriolet almost reached the corner at the same time. Kristen then took the corner a lot faster than any Montejo police officer would have tolerated.
Kristin whooped, “Highway libre, here we come! So where am I taking us?”
Kahuna braced his hands on the dashboard and said, “It’s a surprise. Just keep all four wheels on the road and don’t touch any crossing zones with people in it. Or I may have to arrest you”.
Kristen teased, “Would that involve me being handcuffed?”
Kahuna looked the other way and smiled.
Kristen had felt so alive then, so sexy, so happy.
Kristen followed Kahuna’s road directions, but not his road warnings.
Kristen said, “You’re worried about my driving? Look at that!” and Kristen pointed to a Yucateco (Mayan) driver talking on his cellphone and watching a small television mounted on the dashboard of his car.
Kahuna laughed, “Right next to his plastic Virgen de Guadalupe.”
Eastward they cruised down Highway 180, the Highway libre (no tolls), on toward Cancun, laughing and singing as each of them secretly began to wish that the road would never end. But only twenty-five minutes later, they were entering Cancun, a constellation of golden lights, shops, restaurants and hotels.
Kahuna took a pamphlet brochure from his shirt pocket, “The Cancun Hotel Zone is basically one long road called Avenida Kukulcan and because of this it is easy to get around, and difficult to get lost, as long as you remember the kilometer designation of your hotel.”
Kristen rolled her eyes and said, “I know how to get to the Playa Tropica.”
At the Playa, Kristen idled in the loading zone near the lobby, politely refusing Kahuna’s invitation to help him get dressed more quickly.
When Kahuna reappeared at the Playa lobby entrance, it was clear to Kristen that he had brought along only one set of clothes for an evening out, and obviously only as an after-thought. Kirsten glanced-over those black slacks and shoes and that bright blue and green Hawaiian floral shirt and she thought to herself, “This is a work in progress.”
Hopping over the jammed door into the Cabriolet and fumbling for his seat belt Kahuna produced a piece of paper that the concierge at the Playa Tropica had given to him. Kahuna squinted at the piece of paper in that golden light bestowed by the Playa lamps. Then he turned to Kristen and said dramatically, “Damas y caballeros! Vamos! Arriba! (Ladies and Gentlemen! Let’s go! Eee-haw!”
Thirty minutes later, endeavoring northward up the coast, they arrived in the parking lot of Villa Ramos, a secluded old Spanish colonial villa which had been remodeled into an exclusive restaurant.
Kristen hadn’t noticed the Villa itself yet. Ever since driving past the high iron gates she had used only exclamations of glee that revealed her love of the local flora, “Wow, look at that coconut tree”.
Pointing in the opposite direction, Kahuna observed some other vegetation and he said, “You have a lot of those near your house”
Kristen exclaimed, “Oh my god that’s the biggest Red Ginger I’ve ever seen! Who is the gardener here?”
Kahuna took another cellphone picture and said to Kristen, “You really know your stuff.”
Kristen pointed, “Look at that humongous Jacaranda. They have to be my favorite of all the blossoming trees”.
Kahuna laughingly accused Kristen, “Ah-ha! So, señorita, I notice that you can drive slowly.”
Kristen parked in a cove of green ferns.
Entering through the Villa Ramos twelve-foot high solid oak doors they were greeted in the grand entrance-hall by a diminutive but aristocratic white-haired gentleman who seemed to have stepped out from the colonial era.
He spoke graciously, “Bienvenidos y gracias por venir (Welcome and thank you for coming). My name is Don Aaron Ramos. I am the owner and I am delighted you have chosen to spend your evening with me and my family. Please, if you have a special wish let me know and I will do my utmost to make that wish come true.”
Don Ramos then lead Kristen and Kahuna down the grand entrance hall and Kristen thought, “Don Ramos is like a proud galleon sailing into harbor.”
The grand entrance hall was decorated with a reception line of potted palm trees of various sizes and an honor-guard of several large paintings of conquistadors.
Don Ramos recited, “Hernán Cortés, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, Francisco de Montejo, and of course Francisco Montejo the Younger.”
His eyes had been moving buoyantly back and forth between Kristen and Kahuna as he spoke but now he concentrated on Kristen and with a slight bow he had reached for her hand.
As if Don Ramos had hypnotized her, she extended her hand out to his. As he gently kissed it, Kristen’s skin turned entirely into goose-bumps.
Kahuna thought to himself, “Good act, old man”.
From the small mosaic table on his left Don Ramos swept up an orchid corsage, then with charm and flare he gently pinned it on Kristen without seeming to have touched her dress at all. As he held her eyes he said, “Please accept my apologies, for had I known that someone of such beauty would be visiting us tonight I certainly would have ordered something more exotic”.
As Don Ramos escorted them into the garden Kristen whispered to Kahuna “He is definitely in the wrong business. No matter how successful this restaurant might be, what he really should be doing is teaching men how to treat women.”
Kahuna gave her a wink, arching his eyebrow in a burlesque of Don Ramos, “Or perhaps selling used Volkswagens…?”
Kristen scowled and Kahuna concluded, “…To someone of such beauty as you.”
Don Ramos left them at their table with an aperitif of sweet white Port. Kahuna slid his chair next to Kristen so they could survey a menu together.
Again gently mocking Don Ramos, Kahuna said to her “Ah, Dar-rrrr-ling, I soog-jest the Pollo Motuleño.”
Kristen made a sour face and rolled her eyes. “And what will you be having, Don Dorko?”
Kahuna announced, “I will be having the Mayan King Steak Special”.
Kristen and Kahuna expressed their choices to the white-clad waiter and sent him hurrying off so that they could be alone.
Kahuna leaned toward Kristen, “So ‘of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world’, how did you wind-up here?”
Kristen remembered now how she then had talked a waterfall of words that had washed over the trinkets and the triumphs in her life.
Kristen continued, “Then I came to Montejo after graduating college with a degree in Accounting and IT Office Management. It was supposed to be a three-week break, a visit with my father, and a present to myself before getting a job at some brokerage or insurance company. Then, before I knew it, the three weeks had passed and I no longer wanted to go home. But after another four weeks I was just about out of money. That’s when I made up a resume of inflated claims about jobs that I’d done in Montejo, mainly managing my father’s ‘estate’.”
Thinking about it now, Kristen wondered how her shortly-thereafter-to-be husband had endured it at all. She imagined him running out of the place with his hands pressed over his ears.
The waiter arrived with Kristen’s Pollo Motuleño; a main dish of chicken and rice with a cooked mixed vegetable platter covered with corn, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and eggplant. Red ground chili powder called Beso del Diablo (Devil Kissed) had been placed in a small light-blue porcelain bowl next to Kristen’s plate and the waiter gave her an explicit warning “Use sparingly, with caution. If at all”. Kristen had lived on the peninsula long enough to appreciate the warning, and pushed the Beso del Diablo away toward Kahuna.
Kahuna snorted with exaggerated contempt, “That can’t be any worse than my Aunt Barb’s home-made Tabasco recipe. She’s given to every mouth in my family a third degree burn, except mine.”
Kristen smiled wryly, “Yes, I’m learning all about that mouth.”
Kahuna had ordered the Mayan King Steak Special with a mixed salad and a large baked potato, now hidden under a mountain of sour cream. The Mayan King was a big premium steak grilled over an open mesquite fire, medium rare. Kristen could only too well remember Kahuna looking back-and-forth between his steak and the Beso del Diablo.
Kristen saw Kahuna’s machinations with the Devil’s Kiss and she warned him, “Just remember: this is not your Aunt Barb’s Tabasco recipe.”
Kristen instantly regretted her challenge to his macho.
Kahuna huffed, “A man’s gotta eat what a man’s gotta eat.”
With a comical lascivious smile he grabbed his table spoon to transfer a conquistador-sized mound of Beso del Diablo onto his plate, deliberately ignoring the dainty little cautionary ladle provided with the bowl.
Kristen opened her eyes wide and covered her mouth, saying, “That’s enough to incinerate half of New York City.”
Kahuna said, “Yeah, but those who survive will be stronger because of it.”
Kristen had not been certain if Kahuna had then come to his senses or if he had just wanted to show politely that he could follow her advice. Kahuna relented and he scooped back most of the red mound, sprinkling the remainder on a corner of his steak.
Kahuna studied the shimmer of Beso del Diablo dust on his spoon. He raised it as if he were toasting Kristen. And with a silly “a man’s gotta to do whatever stupid thing a man’s gotta to do” expression, he wiped the spoon with his tongue, like a child would lap a lollipop.
Kahuna instantly dropped the spoon onto his plate with a clatter. He was clowning but as he opened his mouth to speak he inhaled Beso del Diablo powder.
Choking, and blowing bubbles of laughter from his nose, Kahuna’s eyes were filled with too many tears.
Kahuna cried, “I’m blind! Give me cerveza (beer)!”
Kristen squealed and sat back to avoid the thrashing as Kahuna grabbed and gulped her water, spluttering some down his chin. The waiter arrived rapidly with the cerveza.
Kahuna was sucking down his cerveza like a baby sucking a bottle, making a loud cracking sound with his throat as he swallowed hard and fast.
In an instant Kahuna was calm and composed and with his best imitation of Don Ramos he thanked the waiter most effusively, and said. “My Aunt Barb compliments the chef on his Devil’s Kiss”.
Kahuna winked at Kristen, and then he puckered as if in pain, crossing his eyes.
They had laughed together, loud, boisterous, joyful laughter. It was the beginning of several loud, boisterous and joyful years together, each interested in the other, each willing to give more than take from the other.
Kristen’s attention was jolted back into the front seat of her blue VW Coupe, crying, “Oh, my God – the stoplight!”
The stoplight blinked to green. Wondering just how long she had been sitting there, Kristen was still decompressing from the cozy past into the cold present. She had not quite made it back when the green light elevated to yellow. She stepped down hard on the gas. The car jumped through the intersection before the yellow had a chance to turn red again.
Kristen was finally moving; she was on her way home. Yes, she was on her way home, where she had left her sick husband no more than three hours earlier. That was now the only time she ever saw him: when he was sick. Her bittersweet flashbacks had forced her to understand and to see the truth of what she felt. She would have to tell Kahuna this evening.
Yes, this time she would tell him that she was really leaving him.
Leaving the intersection behind, Kristen rounded the corner quickly and cleared the cross-walk. Without warning the VW vibrated. For a brief instant, something fluttered over the windshield, twirling, and then vanished back into the shadows of the deserted street.
Kristen was harder on brakes than she was on gas peddles, stomping the car into a sliding, screeching halt that flung her body hard against her seat belt.
Shocked and frightened, Kristen was not sure what she had seen, heard or felt. It had all happened in an instant. Kristen had closed her eyes reflexively and was not certain what she had really seen or what she might have imagined.
Three dark spots hung before her eyes.
Sitting motionless behind the wheel, Kristen watched as three dots of wine-red liquid melted wearily down the windshield. Kristen, aghast, clicked-on the windshield wipers. The wipers whipped across the windshield, back and forth, smearing a few thin arcs of red.
Kristen was praying that she had only injured a dog. She opened the door and stepped out of the car.
Kristen then cried out in anguish.
A small girl was lying on her side a few feet from the rear end of the car, her eyes still open, head twisted upward and staring at the moon with the rainbow around it. Scattered all around the young girl were match-sized figurines, all brightly colored.
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