Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Taste (07/15/10)
TITLE: Our Smog
By dub W
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Although we were trained to parachute jump into jungle areas, on this trip we were lucky enough to find a small dirt field. No airport crew came out to meet us as we landed. We unstrapped our gear and faced the oppressing sticky heat. The taste of the air could only be described as a Brooklyn auto shop in mid July – a mix of unknown exhaust, dust, sweat, and a strange acidic flavor of the air. It was not hard to image that our arrival was preceded by the departure of a pure cocaine shipment – the other crop of the area.
Two jeeps finally appeared out of the jungle and roared to where we were packing our equipment. Our supplies landed in a third parachute. One man, carrying an automatic weapon stood in the second jeep and seemed to scan the nearby brush. Two other men quickly got out of the vehicles and tossed our supplies in the back of the first jeep. We, as passengers, were simply part of the baggage.
We didn’t present passports or papers, but got in the back of the jeep with the man holding a weapon. Seconds later we were tearing through the underbrush on what seemed to be an overgrown road. Finally, our two-vehicle caravan arrived in a small village; I guessed there were about a hundred shacks and half a dozen concrete block structures. Our jeep stopped in front of the first shack and we got out.
My companion and I unloaded our gear and supplies, and walked through the door of the low clapboard building. As my eyes adjusted to the different light I saw a few chairs and an old wooden desk. A fat man in a dirty sleeveless t-shirt looked up when we entered.
“Give me your passports and visas.” He had a distinctive British accent. “I’ll stamp these so you can get back in the U.S., where, if you are smart, you should be heading in the next few minutes.
We handed him our documents. “What’s that smell and taste in the air?” My companion sniffed the air.
The man rocked back in his chair and laughed. “You’ve never smelled cocaine cooking have you? Get used to it, that’s our smog.”
I put my papers back in my backpack. “So, is there a priest or a church in this area?”
The man looked directly into my eyes. “We had a priest, he asked too many questions, now there is no priest. Take the hint.”
I decided to change the topic. “Uh, we need to bunk somewhere, I was told there was a hotel.”
The man laughed again. “Oh, you coffee buyers,” he sneered, “are going to do well here.” I didn’t care for his snide tone. “Go about a hundred meters down this same road. Senora Malina has rooms you can stay in. Easy to find, it’s the biggest structure in town. It is the only restaurant, the meeting hall, the courthouse, the hospital - same building.” He added, “it used to be the church.” He turned and spoke in a dialect to an older man squatting in a corner of the room; then turned to us. “Juan will be your guide, he speaks about as much English as a rat, but he is very perceptive.”
Juan motioned for us to follow him and minutes later we were standing in the pseudo lobby of Senora Malina’s. An older woman cautiously watched us enter. Juan spoke to her in his dialect. She only stared at us; then she pointed down a short hallway, “ habitación dos.”
We stepped inside the lockless room; two cots and a long table were the only accoutrements. I dumped my backpack out on one of the cots. A hundred small red Spanish language New Testament mini-bibles spilled onto the green blanket. “I can taste the opportunity here.”
My companion licked his finger. “Un huh.”
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