Wednesday

Belize Survivor, part 33

Industrious and productive, Max moved with a purpose, loving the dawn of each new day. After a few weeks, he had things so well in hand he convinced his parents to take an extended trip to England to visit Guy's relatives. While they were gone, he set out to accomplish a project that had daunted his father for years: the plowing and cultivation of Field Six. He was convinced that the way to plant the steep hillside was not in lateral rows, but rather straight up and down. First, he took apart the tractor and spent a fortnight rebuilding the worn sprockets, one by one, so the halftracks would not slip. Then he designed and built a special braking system for the plow so it could go straight downhill without running up over the tractor. Through weeks of diligent work, Max finally plowed the precipitous incline. With the help of his old friend, Mishame, he planted the small nodes of cane, sure to produce a fine crop.

The call had come in early that morning. Ian was back from the Seychelles and headed out to Good Faith. Max saw his vehicle approaching and raced down the drive to meet him.

"Ian, you old dog! Good to see you again," said Max, embracing him fondly. "When did you get in?"

"Day before yesterday. I was going to see you first but I decided to stop by Simon Frye’s digs in Durban first. Are you staying out of trouble?"

"Pretty much so,” Max replied. “Haven't had you around to be a bad influence."

"Well, I can change that.” Ian’s characteristically impish smile was back. “I've got something to show you. Look at this." Together they walked over to the car, and Ian pulled out a record album from behind the front seat.

"Yeah? So?” Max was confused. “Led Zeppelin. It’s a great album. So what?"

"Check what's inside." From between the cardboard record cover and the inside sleeve Ian pulled out a sheet of translucent white paper with faint demarcations in half-inch squares. Holding it to the light, Max could see that each square contained a drop of dried liquid.

"Holy shit!" said Max. "LSD?"

"The best acid you'll find anywhere," replied Ian. "Manufactured right in Simon’s basement, guaranteed to be fresh, top quality. Same stuff we had at the Isle of Wight."

"Holy shit," Max repeated. "What are you going to do with it?"

"Well, old buddy, I'm going to give half to you and take the other half down to East London and Port Elizabeth. I'm sure it will sell for at least forty rand per hit. Surely you know a few people who might be interested."

"Ian, this is Natal, not the U.K.," said Max. "People here don't know about this stuff.”

"Enough people have gone abroad to have had a taste of the real world. They've all grown their hair and they've smoked ntsanghu for years. That friend of yours, what's-his-name down at the Blue Note, knows a ton of people. I'll bet we could create a regular market with very little effort. Make a little money."

"I don't know. It's a lot different from weed. The Boers would lock us up forever for this."

"Who's going to know?” said Ian. “Simon's going to have another batch ready in about two weeks. Just keep an open mind, and let's just see what we can do. If it doesn't fly, I'll just tell him we’re not interested."

When Guy and Ellie returned from England four months later, they were thrilled at the progress on the farm. The first thing Guy noticed was a haze of green shoots covering the steep hillsides of Field Six, and this was only one of many improvements. Max had made repairs to numerous outbuildings, including the grain room and storage sheds. He'd had the workers dig ditches around all the farm buildings to prevent water damage from heavy rains. With Mishame's help, he'd coordinated an effort to improve sanitation in the compound by supervising the digging of new latrine pits and reeducating the Zulus on personal cleanliness. He'd repaired every piece of machinery on the entire farm, and serviced every device with moving parts, from the tractors right down to Ellie's sewing machine. Long hair aside, Max had become a model son, and their hearts were filled with pride.

But his parents had no inkling of some other things that had gone on during their leave of absence. Max had enjoyed free rein as lord and master of Good Faith. On many nights the stereo had pumped out rock-and-roll music while Max and his friends had enjoyed wild parties, smoking Durban Poison, a particularly potent strain of marijuana, and tripping on Ian's LSD. Surrounded by black lights and fluorescent posters, the young people indulged in whatever bizarre behavior came to mind. Max had found a market for Simon's basement product at the Blue Note and now had a steady following of key people. It became a bit trickier to keep up the distribution when his parents had returned from England, so Max built himself a huge thatched house overlooking the rim of Ngotche gorge. There he could be his own man in the privacy of his own home.



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