Our Man In Resaca (1)
Episode One: Wellcome to Resaca
The territory of the Republic of Resaca, capital city San Dalia, comprises the dozen of islands of the Resacoso archipelago. The biggest of the islands is called Resaca Mayor and is three times bigger than all the other smaller island put together and the only one with a population of other than seagulls. The archipelago is located in the Caribbean Sea, north of Cuba and south of Jamaica which makes very difficult to find the place from a plane and causes great embarrassment to the locals living abroad when they cannot pinpoint their birthplace on a map.
I am inside of a plane headed to San Dalia International Airport a facility that has the dubious honor of being the only airport to double as the biggest free range chicken farm in the world. My government has sent me to this little Caribbean republic in a sensitive and highly classified mission, so secret I am clueless myself about what it consist in. I was chosen to this mission as the leading expert in this nation’s people and customs of whose existence I learned just yesterday although I was the only agent that could spell Resaca with less than two mistakes. I don’t know which is the nature of my mission but I am sure there is something subversive in the insistence of those little American republics to speak foreign languages making their names so hard to spell.
I can’t reveal the identity of the government that employs my services. Suffice to say is a big one and that it just loves to intervene in the internal affairs of smaller countries, specially if they are in the Caribbean because meddling there is more fun, and handy because the close proximity. Just one clue in case you are not very bright and haven’t guessed which country I am talking about: my boss lives in house all painted white.
The speaker systems of the plane babbles something unintelligible in Spanish and then the pilot repeats the message in even more unintelligible English. I guess we are about to land on San Dalia.
San Dalia is the main and only city of the republic. For what I’ve read in the inflight magazine of Katacras Airlines, the national Resacosan airline and the only company that dares to flight and land at San Dalia International, the Republic of Resaca is a parliamentary democracy in which all the members of parliament took a fishing trip organized by the President in their honor to reward them for the great job they were doing in limiting his dictatorial powers. Apparently they didn’t catch anything and were so ashamed to show up empty-handed before the President who has a great liking for tuna sandwich that they haven’t come back yet. Also according to the magazine San Dalia is renowned for its Spanish colonial architecture and cheap underage prostitutes that rank second in the Middlesex guide of sex tourism with four and half phalluses out of five.
I look through the window to have a look to San Dalia and I see the dusty landing strip dotted with small white spots that run in panic and I realize they are chickens. Katacras airlines is so poorly funded that they had to rent the strip between flights to a chicken farm. In fact i had noticed some crew are chickens that make some extra income working for the airline. This became a problem when I ordered the feathered hostess a martini and got an egg instead.
The plane touches down with a loud noise of tyre screeching in the sand and a not less loud and certainly more piercing of chicken screams being suctioned into the turbines. After the plane taxies to the terminal I see a team of four man approaching the plane carrying a folding ladder while a much numerous group darts from the terminal and begins to fight over the chunks of dead chicken. At I first think they are clearing the turbine but then I see they are using their mouths to do so and I realize they are having lunch. I fear I have landed in a country populated by barbarians until the hostess informs me that my first guess was correct. Those people are the land crew in charge of maintenance and they are paid in chicken minced meat, a thought that eases my concern but that makes her feathers stand up.
Outside the plane the passengers are welcomed by a blaring sun that would melt our luggage if it hadn’t been stolen already. We carefully descend the ladder while the locals hold it against the fuselage of the plane. They wear the local traditional dress: an stained promotional T-shirt and baggy charity shorts complemented with one single rubber flip-flop sandal. I am told people is so poor in Resaca that most of them can afford just one sandal and that I should be careful in the streets because there are gangs of barefoot kids that bite off your feet to steal your shoes. A cart with a single rickety donkey is waiting to drive us to the terminal although it is only three paces away. The driver informs me that the limousine is part of the VIP service for the first tourist to land in Resaca in ten years and that he will drive me inside the terminal to the passport check point. There is a long line of people waiting and I fear a long wait until we get closer and I realize the crowd are locals watching the customs official sleeping in his boot buried in beer bottles. He is snoring and stroking a cat that struggles to escape to safety while the crowd watches the spectacle with clear amusement.
In the arrival hall I see a small man hopping up and down and waving his hands. Hanging from his neck there is a cardboard with something written with felt pen. It says:
” El agente secreto señor Estrak”
My name is Stark, not Estrak and I don’t think a midget screaming my name in the crowd is the best way to conduct a covert operation. I should talk to my supervisor and tell him not to send to welcome me somebody from a mental institution. He is still an improvement over my contact in Nairobi, a blind octogenarian cannibal that used leeches as hair dressing and spat when he spoke. His name was Cerebrino Hogan and he stole my underwear to buy beer. He got drunk and insisted in telling me funny stories about his grandmother and how she skinned reptiles.
The bouncing midget introduces himself and tells me his name is Dr. Hongo. He is running a mental asylum in the city outskirts. The institution is the front of the local agency’s outfit and it is run by a Christian charity that is also a covert agency operation of psychological warfare: they teach the Wall Mart catalog is the most sacred text of Christianity. Dr. Hongo is in charge of the asylum although he is not a real physician or has a degree of any kind. He was selected because he had the same size of coat that his predecessor who was a veterinarian midget. He tells me he was recruited by the agency because his condition of political refugee. He had been intercepted by U.S. customs officials when he tried to enter the country illegally by smuggling himself inside a shoe box disguised as a pair of slippers. He was sent back to Resaca to be the liaison with the agency. He begins complaining of the lack of resources and the scarcity of nutcase shipments, barely enough to keep the asylum running. He tells me he has to double himself as patient and act crazy to cover some interns that act sane sometimes.
I follow him to his car, a heap of rusty metal that belongs to a museum of scrap and we drive into the traffic. The road is crowded and most vehicles lack wheels but still the drivers push them along leaving deep scars on the earth behind them which makes the road’s surface bumpy and the traffic flow slow. I ask Dr. Hongo if he knows why I had been sent to this forsaken island.
‘ No, señor Strak, I don’t know. They never tell me anything. They say I am too idiota but I think is because the rebeldes tried to kill the presidente. They put a bomba under his pillow and he couldn’t sleep well that night because the tic-tac. The bomb went off after he went to the kitchen for some milk and cookies. The presidente got very loco because the blast spilled his milk glas over his best pijama and had some political prisoners shot as reprisals next morning before breakfast. The presidente is a good man but he really has mucho amor for his pijama.’
I listen to his ramblings and I wonder how I am going to accomplish my mission whatever it is with the help of this little demented midget. We leave dowtown for the outskirt climbing up a narrow mountainside of thick jungle dotted with dusty cardboard shacks that my excited driver insist in calling houses. The sneaky road is narrow and in one side there is a bloodcurdling ravine that we barely miss every time we negotiate a curve. Almost miraculously we finally sight our destination: El Manicomio Nacional de Resaca, the only mental institution in the country and it is located in an old Spanish hacienda called Casa Pollastre. Surrounded by high walls some peeling off spots reveal it was pink once but now it looks like a giant piece of decaying meat.
We drive through the gates that are guarded by a dog that stands still as a gargoyle in spite of the flies that hover around him. Dr. Hongo explains that he stuffed the dog last huracan season when the animal got carried away by the wind and crashed against the bell tower of the church. He tells me that since there was no budget for a new dog he devised this system to scare possible intruders. We park the car inside the patio and get out. There is a cracked old fountain with a circular pond and a naked man is taking a bath in spite of the fact that the fountain is dry and littered with all sort of garbage. Dr. Hongo explains me that the naked man is a patient who was a film critic that went mad when he found out that Fellini’s movies were in Italian and now believes he is Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita. He tells me he cannot persuade the patient otherwise and that there is no money to pay for breast augmentation surgery either.
We go into the house and he shows me to his office behind the reception desk where a dummy dressed as a nurse stands at attention. The place is a mess, the drawers are on the floor and there are files spread al over the room. My first thought is that the place has been searched but Dr. Hongo apologizes because the maid left when her ear was bitten off by a patient and he cannot find neither a replacement for her nor the missing ear. He believes the patient swallowed it because next day he found a hearing in the toilette.
We turn up to rattan chairs and sit down on them. He opens a cigar box and offers me a big cigar that looks like a mummified giant caterpillar. We light the cigars and watch through the balcony open door how the sun sets. I guess that they have pretty decent sunsets in this place and I am right. From the window we have a commanding view of the city like a pile of dark brown garbage spilling into the orange sea. We smoke and watch the spectacle until there is knock on the door. I stand up and turn around. I see a bearded man in his pajamas banging with his head on the door frame. One of the asylum patients I guess.
‘ The cranes are coming on flocks, and many of them bring their offspring with them’ he says looking straight into my eyes. It takes an instant for me to make the connection, he has just uttered the emergency password of the agency.
‘ You are Stark, aren’t you’ he says when he realizes the tip of my cigar is about to burn my fingers. He grabs the cigar and tosses it away in one corner. It lands into some scattered files and a small fire starts. He stamps it out with his bare foot and he does not seems to register any pain. He holds my wrist and speaks into my ear with a demented expression in his eyes but with cold precission and exactitude.
‘ Listen Stark. There is not time for fucking around here. You thought you were to spend your time here to drinking rum under a palm tree with some local tropical pussy in your lap. Well, these are the bad news, you thought wrong. We are in deep shit in here. I have been passing for a madman for three weeks waiting for you to show up and brief you. I am sick of it. I am not even sure what is real and what is fake in this shit hole. There is a place in the mountains. They perform unnatural acts with animals in there. That is why they sent you here, to stop that madness. The president is about to close a deal with the TV men. That is why we tried to kill him but failed. The fucking insomniac went away and now security has tightened. You have to stop that deal from happening or shit is gonna pile up so high that you will have to spend the rest of your life wearing a snorkel mask.’ He says and motions to leave. This turn it is me who grabs his beard and holds him.
‘Wait a minute! What do I have to do? What are you talking about? What is my mission? Is everybody crazy around here?’
‘Find Kika Matraca and she will tell you what to do next. She is with the resistance. ‘ he says and turns making the greasy beard hairs to slip off my grip.
I let him go and I turn toward the balcony doors. Dr.Hongo is still in the veranda, his diminutive silhouette drawn against the fast darkening tropical sky. He hasn’t even noticed my quick encounter with the scrawny patient and he is still speaking and smoking. Beyond him I can see the palm tree tops with their spiked leaves swaying slowly on the sea breeze. I might like this place after all.