Cajunes el grande
Reno nursed his pint getting ready to leave when Jaap strolled in, leather
jacket hanging loosely, silver chain outside the shirt. Glass of bourbon in
hand, he stepped outside and rolled a cigarette.
"Now that's a leather," said Reno,
intrigued by the crisp figure rolling with one hand.
"It is. It's a good one. Yours too."
Accent subtle, words quick, eyes set and locked caked with lines of life but
jawline tight, muscles in play.
"Just working it in. A bit of a pain
in the ass."
"It is. It is a pain in the ass.
Best way to get up to par is sleep in it." Noble unsure, Reno emitting a toekn
laugh. "Serious. Three nights. Zip it up and sleep. Works." Simple.
"Is that Dutch Drum?"
"Used to smoke Drum. This is Staap.
Can't get it here. I have someone who imports it for me. Better than those
chemicaled cigarettes. Chemicaled, you know what I mean?" Eyes sharp, collar
starched, hair white but full, skin pink with health but lined with character.
"Chemicaled, sure. What is it, 249
chemicals in one of these babies, many purposely putin to increase addiction."
"True." Finger pointed, accused of speaking
truth. "And many of those cause cancer. It's been proven."
"I believe you're correct."
"I am correct. But this is good
smoke. Fluffy if you use that word, and pure."
"Though there are native cigarettes
you can purchase from Indian reservations that are pure tobacco. None of this
"Bullshit, that's right. I heard of
the native ones. Some good and some not so good, but not loaded with the crap."
"Sans crap." The face
transformed from professor and scientist of truth to great creases of joy, skin
fine and eyelids lifted.
crap, that's good." He offered his hand. "I'm Jaap, but people call me Jack."
Jaap's smile grew to protect from a joke.
As in Duke? Or palatinate?"
one. Noble is my last name. Don't use my first name."
"So leave it a
mystery, eh? Work with the girls?"
the delivery." He snatched the cigarette from his mouth before ashes blew on
Noble. "That's a good one."
a regular here?"
expert like the owner?" He tilted his head to consider the angle of the
question. "Not like Toné if you've met him. Big. Bald."
First time here."
an expert, works the flowers. Lilies." Urgency to establish lilies and
not another kind like a rose. "Expert, yes. I run a farm and sell them."
And roses, all colors. Good market for both those."
mostly. Big market there. Others are opening up. But with the new president the
profit margins are thinniing. Really thinning."
me guess. Deemed an non-essential industry."
Can't eat flowers. But this is the best place in the world to grow roses and
lilies. Good profits, good income for my employees. Over 160,000 workers
employed in flowers here."
of perpetual bloom."
right!" Adamant on establishing truths as if marking out Dworkin's universe of
jurisprudence. Depends on the height, but where we are here it's very good.
Very good." Another cigarette, elbows on the table, silver chain jingling.
"President doesn't know what he's doing. If he's not careful he'll destroy what
we've built for decades. Me, eighteen years here building my farms. I pay my
employees a little more but unlike the other farms that have a turnover of...say...
twelve percent, my farms have a one percent turnover rate. You know turnover?"
Accent thick with some words.
the rate employees quit."
Finger pointed, like a Dashund. "I trat my people good. Reall good. So it pains
me to think of closing the farms because of increased taxes and tarrifs. He's
making it unprofitable. Can't work for nothing."
one needs to eat."
And that's what we do. Not Toné, he gets his monthly salary, but others who
sell the flowers. They're getting squeezed." Head shaking, sigh hidden, pain
swallowed, injustice kept at bay.
I ask you a question?"
did you get into flowers? Was your father a horticulturalist?" Three fingers
thrusted at Reno.
what one would expect. But not me." He smiled at a memory, or an irony. "I was
a bartender in Holland, West Holland, about thirty when this regular
comes in and starts bitching about his flower deliveries. ‘Course I had been at
the bar for years so I knew him ‘cause we had spoken often, so he says to me.
Jaap, I want you to go to these twelves places and ask the buyers what they
paid. See it was all a cash business back then and his profits were thinning
too but not for the same reasons. He suspected his salesmen were, you know,
skimming the top? So I take the day off work and drive his truck to these
flower stores, and ask how much they paid for their last delivery. Well it
doesn't take much to calculate how much is being skimmed and who is skimming,
so I tracked them down, the salesmen, and fire most of them. Just told them
they were gone. So when I get back I give the information to the flower manager
and he says ‘Jaap, I want you to deliver my flowers for me.' And I did!"
it was your integrity that earned his respect and opened the door to the
See, he could trust me. You have to in this business. If you don't you don't
last long. Few yeas, that's it. So he retired after a few years and I took over
the business. Love it. Love flowers. I'm lucky."
are. Part of the few."
agree with you. So I expanded and came here, bought some land and built...oh...how
many hectares? Doesn't matter. Did well for years until Correa changed the
the rules of the game mid-game, poor form, no?"
poor form. But you see he's hurting his own people."
is Noble. It is."
don't you speak up, go to the government and say your piece. Seems rational to
did!" Smile smiting the gleam of his smooth skin into a thousand lines of
proportion and symmetry. "I said my piece and then was asked to shut up but I
didn't. The president said to me ‘we're working on it.' So I said ‘when do you
think it will be done?' He gave me the same vague answer so I asked again. I
explained I needed to know because of my employees but he didn't answer."
Okay, sure. So I'm snowballed and driving home and these two big four-by-fours
pin me in at my driveway, block me in. Few of his boys. And they say to me to
settle down and shut up, and if I act like that to the president again they'll
kill me. So, of course this is my property so I tell them if they ever put foot
on my land again I'll hire some killers to snuff them out. So that was the end
gotta have balls to do that."
why haven't they clipped you?"
Oh, no, they wouldn't. Been here too long."
Jaap considered the comment.
you could say that."
el grande man!" The face wrinkled into a work of art, the laugh dry and
only air, eyes pinched shut, chain dangling but hands still rolling another
my problem Noble. I'm too honest. Too direct. Can't keep my mouth shut."
in business one would expect that to be a virtue."
agree with you. I agree with you. But not here. Not now."
have said it better myself. Disagreeable zeitgeist. Yes."
one could argue that to stand up to the president of Ecuador - or for that
matter any country - would not be considered wise, especially if one has built
and runs a successful farm and who cares about their employees' welfare."
his turn to raise his finger in the air. "If one has a legitimate beef where
livelihoods are at stake, not just yours as a business owner but as a
representative of the presidents people, that is, those who voted him into
office, then one might regard that as courageous and a great example of
one could." Nodding thoughtfully.
it was all in the delivery?" They both let it out, the connecting tissue
to bring them right back to where they started. "One might have great ideas,
noble ideas, ideas that do not exploit but rather enhance, but how it id
packaged and handed forward to the big wigs could call for a pointman or deputy
of some sort."
don't disagree, however my problem is that it doesn't matter if he's el
presidente or the tenth man in the hierarchy of power, my point is still valid
and deserves attention."
concur wholeheartedly. Sugar-coating and sucking up and beating around the bush
are not the hallmarks of a visonary or leader."
it. I cannot compromise. If I know it to be true I say it as it is. For
example, tomorrow I go to a farm, you know within the reach of Quito, who is
owned by an older man who has handed the farm to his son. Maybe 29-years old,
knows some but not enough to run a profitable and productive flower farm but I
will tell him exactly what needs to be done, but if he doesn't like it, or only
wants part of it, I walk away. That's just the way I am."
that's also what has made you successful."
would say you are right there."
then stick to your guns and see it through, but make that effort to make them
see how your way is the best way, for their employees, their balance sheet and
so they can go to sleep at night knowing their enterprise is getting better."
you're right. Maybe I should dig deeper to make them see what I see. What do
you say? Stick my guns? I like that one."
forget Jaap that you're the expert. And if you have found your calling don't
doubt your judgment. Your objectivity is your greatest gift." He rubbed his
good Noble. Yes, yes."
you could always bring a beautiful woman with you, not to distract, but
to add to the bouquet and beauty of your presentation and summary
of suggestions." The three women who entered the patio surrounded Jaap, each
giving him a kiss and one taking his hand leading him inside the bar, his smile
hitting maximum with the third kiss.
to talk Noble. See you again."
be an opportunity for some research for that new position you're looking
for." The hand shot up, the head fell back and the laughter bounced off the
ceiling in the pub. Reno remained for a few moments, mulling the exchange,
amazed at the confident voice emerging from his lips, long held dormant and