The limeade days

May is the most miserable month of the year, and we’ve just entered it. What’s so bad about May? It’s hot, or rather what passes for hot at 7,200 feet above sea level where it’s cool to cold most of the year, which we like. And it’s not just hot. It’s dusty and dry. Most of the year it’s green, wet or damp, which we also like.

You’d likely refer to May here as stuffy. I sometimes do.

Turning now to positive things, May is limeade month. Limeade in the afternoons makes the days more palatable. Here at the Hacienda, I am the limeade maker. Interestingly, Mexicans don’t call them limes. They are limones, lemons. The larger, yellow fruit that Gringos call lemons are far less common down here.

My recipe is easy. A glass the size in the photo. Squeeze four limes into the glass, then add 2.5 tablespoons of that bottled sugar water. Stir and add ice. The bottle of sugar water is available where bar supplies are sold. I’m almost to the bottom of this bottle which I bought at least three years ago. It doesn’t go bad.

I have professional skills. Back in the 1970s, I was a bartender in two establishments in New Orleans. I was fired from both, the only jobs in my life from which I was fired.

Those who know my history might think it was due to my imbibing the merchandise, but it wasn’t. One was a hotel bar which I think was run by the Mafia. The manager decided he didn’t like my style, so out the door I went. The other bar was in the French Quarter. That manager and I had eyes for the same woman, a major babe who waitressed at the bar. He got rid of me, but I got the gal. I enjoyed being a bartender.

I am a certified bartender. Yes, I even completed a course.

Max the cutthroat

Maxence had once been a cutthroat but murdering was long behind him. Now, at 78, he was a bellman at the Marbol Hotel.

He was sitting on this dark night, 2 a.m., at the hotel bar sipping a Guinness Stout and talking to Bo the barman. Maxence’s shift had just ended, and big black LeRoy had taken over the baggage cart till 10 in the morning.

Maxence always ended his nights at the Marbol bar. Nobody was waiting at home. It was ever the same. He would talk to Bo a bit, and he would ponder the past even more. Maxence had been born in France — Sant-Amant, a small town south of Paris — and had been a mercenary man.

First, it was the Legion. Later, he freelanced.

After the second Guinness, perhaps even sooner, his thoughts always turned to Chloë Jomo-Gbomo, his long-gone lover from Sierra Leone who had been killed by a berserk jitney bus driven by a Mende man high on ganja along the main avenue of Freetown.

Maxence later killed that Mende man out of pure fury, but he didn’t feel any better for it because Chloë was still dead and gone. He cried and cried.

Maxence liked Guinness Stout because it was dark and savory like the women of the African men he murdered which was how he met Chloë Jomo-Gbomo.

Chloë’s man at that time had missed Maxence’s Jeep with a bazooka shell during a dustup in the Congo. Maxence’s aim was better with his .45.

Chloë dashed out of a nearby hut and kicked her man’s dead body and spit on it. Maxence knew right away there had been no love there, and Chloë was very beautiful. He immediately made her his own, and she was happy with that.

__________

The two of them fled the Congo together and moved to Freetown where they lived six years in a third-floor walk-up. Chloë found work plaiting hair while Maxence drank blazing café and smoked Gauloises.

a0a97920-1af1-012d-b949-0050569428b1Nights were spent naked and sweaty under the ceiling fan.

Maxence drank Castle Lager in those days because Guinness Stout was not sold in Freetown. It didn’t matter, he thought, because he already had something dark and delicious with Chloë Jomo-Gbomo.

On Chloë’s free day they often picknicked at Siaka Stevens Park where they would spread a blanket under the African sun shaded by a cercropia tree.

They drank Castle and ate cans of cashews. And sandwiches.

He would rub her silky bare legs beneath the skirt of kuba cloth, and she would caress the scar on his cheek.

Our spirits call you ghosts, she said one day, white and unsolid. But the scar is a good thing because it proves you’re a protective man.

He fell deeply in love for the first time in his brutal life.

And then she was dead on the main drag of Freetown as the jitney driver tried to escape, but a jitney jammed with passengers makes a lousy getaway vehicle.

She had only stepped out for a pack of Gauloises.

__________

Maxence wandered some years through Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean picking up piecemeal murders till one day he realized he was too old for that game. He retired to hotels, luggage and tips.

The Marbol was a good gig, and he intended to stay as long as they’d let him.

Later, he would kill himself. He knew the ropes.

Another Guinness, Bo. 

Coming up, Max.

* * * *

(The above is an excerpt from the longest and strangest thing I’ve ever written, The Old Marbol — Skullduggery in Dark City and Beyond, which was published hereabouts perhaps a decade ago. I just reread it for the first time in a very long time, was impressed with myself, so I put this here. The Old Marbol contains a cast of bizarre characters rivaled only by those in the famous barroom scene in the first Star Wars movie. Maybe I’ll do more excerpts here in the future.)