Friday

Belize Survivor, part 74

Due to distances, transportation, weather, and lack of communications, homesteading gringos rarely saw each other unless they went to town. Going to San Ignacio on Market day was usually the only sure-fire way of touching base with most of the friends they’d made. But through unique circumstances, they’d met Rick and Suzy on the river one day. He was a tall fair-haired handsome Brit who had spent much of his life in Kenya. Rick impressed Alexis as one of those endearing hard-working mad-dog-Englishmen types, who earned and enjoyed his daily gin and tonic sundowners with good humor.
His wife, Suzy, was a smart spunky curly redhead, a pretty girl with a good head for business and a full-steam-ahead attitude. As it turned out, they had been lucky enough to purchase a spectacular piece of land on the other side of the river from Mrs. Whitmore. Their friend, Anita, was from Chicago. With long gypsy hair and dark warm intuitive eyes, she was an earth-mother type who had spent many years living in the wilds of one of the most remote areas of Mexico. As an herbalist and naturalist, Anita had bought an adjacent smaller parcel next to Rick and Suzy. Her plan was to study ethnobotany and natural healing with an old Maya shaman she’d heard about in the Maya Mountains. At almost eighty years old, she was anxious to absorb as much of his knowledge as she could. Otherwise, when he died, it would be like losing an irreplaceable library of information.

One Saturday in mid-August when their crop was ripe, Alexis and Max took hundreds of pounds of tomatoes to San Ignacio, where they found them in high demand. Max had been right. Tomatoes were completely out of season, and people were paying a dollar-fifty BZ per pound at that time of year. Taking a red five-dollar bill for her purchase, and making change for one of the local women, Alexis looked up to see Rick, Suzy, Anita, and Eric walking in their direction.

“Hey, you guys!” called Alexis, as the girls all took turns hugging and the men shook hands. “How’s it going? Long time, no see. What are you up to today?”

“Just making the rounds, buying provisions” said Suzy. “And Anita’s been on a house call with Eric.”

“Why? What’s up?” asked Max, looking over at him. “Are you sick?”

“Not exactly, but I do have a real problem." Eric pulled off the red bandanna and exposed a huge raw red hole in the middle of his forehead. It was an eighth of an inch deep, and nearly the size of a quarter.

"Wow, are you working on your third eye?" said Max, covering his horror with an attempt at humor. “Or did you get hit with a pickaxe?"

"Neither of the above,” Eric replied. “It's some type of weird infection that I can't seem to cure. Actually, I had it the first time you came to the valley. It was just covered up.” Alexis thought back to the visit with Maggie and the others. Come to think of it, she had never seen Eric without a bandanna, and remembered seeing him adjust it frequently. “The British Army doctor says it's not bacteria, or a virus, but some type of protozoa,” he continued. “I remember one day when I was chopping bush and I got bit by a sand-fly. It just started out as a little dot, but the damn thing has gotten bigger and bigger. I've used every antibiotic cream and cortisone junk you've ever heard of. Nothing seems to help. Now the doctor has scheduled me for regular heavy metal injections, shooting right into the rim of the sore itself."

"And I’m trying to help him avoid it,” said Anita. “I’ve been searching my pharmacopoeia for natural cures, but haven’t found anything yet. So I’m going up to San Antonio village sometime over the next few days to see if I can find this old shaman, the venerable Don Elijio. Maybe he will have some suggestions.”

"I hope you can find something,” said Eric, earnestly, “because I sure as hell am not looking forward to the British Army alternative.” Just then, Sheila pulled up in the jeep to pick up Eric. “Well, that’s my ride; I got to go.”

"Take it easy,” said Alexis. “Say hi to the rest of the gang for us."

As Eric got into the vehicle, Max said to Rick, "Did you see the size of that thing? There’s one good reason why I wouldn't choose Baron's Creek to buy property: protozoa infection-bearing sand-flies. I know there used to be yellow fever in Belize, and I hear there are still cases of malaria from time to time. I'd just as soon live by the Macal River. Good drainage and reliable water. I sure hope Michael wants to sell."

“My feelings exactly, Max,” Rick replied. “But don’t hold your breath. We tried to buy that piece before old Jake Gardener sold us this one. Renting it is one thing, but I guarantee Michael won’t budge and neither will Mrs. Whitmore. How about a beer, old boy?”

"You go ahead with Rick,” offered Alexis. “I'll stay here and sell the veggies."

"Okay, thanks, Ntombi,” said Max. “I’ll take Jordan, so you can use both hands. See you in a few."