Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Thirty-four

The Dutch Hair Piece

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            The firmness of step and the power of a man centered within his character come only after many timid steps and awkward bursts, the entry fee to a lifelong discovery of ones true self. Noble thought that he might have reached a point of center whereby he knows his character and has amalgamated Reno and Noble and had reached the point of the Upper Man, he who knows all selves in the soul.

             He straightened his posture and walked towards Frank and Michael on the corner of the Corner Pub. He wore layers of shirts to hide his emaciated frame, the cut on his cut from the horse red and purple. He knapsack was heavy with rum for Toné and Coke and beers for himself. Birthday present and sunglasses and pipe - the usual.

            "Wasn't sure if you were going to make it," said Michael, crisp handshake, bright red shirt pressed and trousers clean.

            "Look what the cat dragged in," said Frank, eyes watery and puffy, cigarette smoke dry and lined like his face.

            "Had to pick some goodies," he said, putting his bag on the sidewalk. Strange to wait beside the usual hangout when it's closed.

            "We're waiting on Milton."

            "Should be here in thirty minutes," said Frank, suede jacket crisp in the afternoon sun.

            "He had a truck so we can go with him."

            "He knows where it is ‘cause I sher don't!" Thirty minutes standing on the corner looking around?

            "Um, in that case I think I'll relax on the patio down there by the palm tree."

            "Where we met you that night?"

            "That's the one. Come over when he's here, or I can keep an eye open from there." Michael looked at his watch, Frank's curiosity tweaked.

            "Twenty-five minutes, that's enough for a pint. I think I'll join you," said Michael.

            "I'll stay here," said Frank, hunching over at the patio.

            The local football team La Liga won the Ecuadorian championship against their archrival, fans beeping their horns and waving flags, most in La Liga jerseys.

            "Good that they won, otherwise there would have been a riot. Serious grudge match with Cuenca. That's where my family lives. Where the family home it so I'm a Cuenca supporter. Good I'm going to Toné's tonight. It's easier for me not to make a comment to a La Liga fan if I'm out of the bars."

            "Might be some fans at the Dutchman's tonight."

            "Nah. It'll be Dutch and Ecuadorians. Doubt if they'll be any talk about it. Besides, it's the old man's fifty-three-and-a-third Birthday." Michael took a long swig leaving foam on his lip. "You know the story behind fifty-three-and-a-half?" Noble shook his head.

            "Wasn't it something about being halfway to a hundred-and-three?"

            "Right, but that comes from the story behind it." Michael started to smile. "One day, after six weeks off having a swollen lymph node he walks into the doctor with a fever of a hundred-and-six. The doctor says: ‘I need to lance that immediately, it will break the fever. That stuff must come out.' But Toné says: ‘Okay but I need to go home first and make sure my dog is okay. You know, tell the neighbors.' ‘No! The doctors says, it's imperative we open that festering boil before it kills you young man!' But no, Toné picks up his bag and cycles home half an hour, talks to his neighbor to take care of his dog, and cycles back to the doctor with a temperature of a hundred-and-six degrees. I'm telling ya. So his friends afterwards said to him if he can do that with a one-o-six fever then you're going to live ‘til you're a-hundred-and-seven."

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            The house was huge on a natural shelf of rock, bar built in the Dutch fashion, a separate building like a garage but devoted entirely to memories made in there. Outside bar and tables, a band and food, the grass as green as possible. Horticulturalist's lawn.

            "Noble. Are you well?" The Dutchman full smile, rum in hand and hat over bald head. White suit, fully cocked, could not have been more in his element.

            "As well as can be expected." Handed him the bottle of twenty-year-old rum. "This is for you. Happy fifty-three-and-a-half birthday Mister Dutch Man." His hand crushed by the Dutchman's, muscled and tendoned by an extraterrestrial gene pool. That was when Toné took notice of his color, the patchy green skin on the face, the fingers like toothpicks, pink bags under the eyes. Fragile.

            "Thank you Noble. Beverage? You're going to love this band." But the Dutchman knew he was too weak, the mass of his body a third smaller, chest disintegrated, voice firm but lacking moxie. Noble didn't follow his few steps to the live band by the fence, just stodd there in his leather, happy to be part of this exclusive party in the mountains of Quito, full of flower experts, traders wives and girlfriends. But what made Toné different was his sensitivity under the bluster.

            "Let me show you the bar. You will like it." They walked slowly down the grade to the door. Something occurred to Noble at that moment, a knowledge that it would be the last time such a memory were to happen, and perhaps true knowledge of what time was. He had to start letting go, face those last moments with faith that time will keep on going for others, and that at least he had had some good times. Memories to bring to the afterlife in that dimension that none can see. It was to be his last party, the last time he would step into a bar, this one a Dutch masterpiece, the bar at the end of the universe, in of all places: Quito Ecuador.

            Noble's chest seized, causing him to breathe in. His throat caught and he shuddered, tears like salted lava muting an emotive outburst at this realization. Witnessed to no one except the Dutchman and a hummingbird, a convergence of three in a moment in time. The threshold was coming. He had to start letting go. He had to face the pain and accept its sting. He lifted his head and straightened his shoulders, reaching Toné's height but just a flake of a man next to the Dutchman.

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            Since it was Aaron Noble-now-Reno Noble-Upper Man's last shindig, he was supplied with the best tech, up all night, playing the best songs, drinking the best beer and rum, the last man standing after the last of the tall Dutchmen left for the night. Supplied with everything he needed, the music was loud, the ice was still frozen, the seven-year old rum plentiful, and a deep welling in his heart was struggling to the surface that needed attention. With no paper, he found a carboard box and ripped sheets from it, finding a pen he was set to let the emotion out, a thank you for Toné's subtle acknowledgement of his affliction. He thought Toné would be the one he would confess to if it came to that. He hadn't figured out exactly why he had chosen to tell Toné about his affliction, other than it felt right. He didn't want to wreck his friendship with the Dane in any way and Toné had a quality to him that made him feel safe. In a sense he was already grateful that he could tell him so in reaction to that release he had not yet had, he penned some lines for the inventer of the black lily.

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            The next morning Michael was the first one up, having slept in the side room in the bar. Then Toné emerged morning drink in hand.

            "You're still here!"

            "Didn't feel like calling it a night. Bar's too cool. Must be the perfect bar if there's such a thing."

            "Hoped you'd be here." The words like tonic to his stoned mind and paranoia of death kingering around the corner.

            "Never know when it's going to be your last." The Dutchman looked deeper into his bloodshot eyes, turquoise blur, purpose clear: savoring every piece of time he had left.

            "Maybe fifty-three is good enough." Sleep in his eyes, awareness between the lines, steady and true.

            "I was thinking about that. Maybe half is all ya get. So do twice as much in half the time and let the rest go. You have to. ‘Cause it goes on and on and on."

            "I need to smoke more." The Dutch halfway through rolling a cigarette.

            They sat among the hummingbirds, extra green grass like a putting green with a beard, cold beer still beading off the glass, sun strong, leather soft, conversation light, the torn pieces of carboard piled in front of him.

            "Yeah, work on it will ya. Be a team player and croak early to save your fellow citizens tax dollars. " 

            "And shave your head to cut down on haircutting costs. It'll save you money so you can give it to the tax people." Hardy laughter. Spirits bright for the Dutchman's next fifty-three-and-a-half years. 

            "Yeah but you cut yours because you don't have any." He hardly had eyebrows.

            "Maybe so but I still save money on hair costs. I don't have any!" His brother came out from the kitchen with a steaming mug of coffee. Bald like his brother.

            "Why are so many Dutchmen bald?" Toné's brother Henrik stopped.

            "You think you're not going to be bald one day?" Chin slightly out.

            "No, I do not." Reno stepping forth, jutting chin in kind, mocking, playful tone. "I will never go bald. I will have this hair on my head when I am in my box!" The words so definitive, the charge improvable, the jest waiting for rebuttal. The brothers look at each other.

            "Okay then, I'll bet you twenty dollars that you will." Toné, folding his arms with the look he knew something Noble didn't. But Noble knew he was right. No bluffing this time.

            "Done. I'll take your bet Dutchman. And happy to take your money."

            "A twenty then." He wasn't going to be outdone on the eve of his last breath.

            "And be done with it." The words of Noble's grandmother coming out of his lips.

            Jaap from Holland strode in wearing his motorcycle jacket, clean shaven, looking sober and awake.

            "What are you Skandooligans doing here on this Sunday day of rest? Getting ready for church then?" Jaap cool as a mountainside of thousands of roses and tulips all varied in color. The chief. Just because he was the only one who knew how to run things. Simple.

            "A little morning cheer Reverend Jaap." Reno reckless, nasal drip in full drip mode.

            "That's all right My Son, I can handle it."

            About five minutes later Reno was pulled down from his chair from behind, four arms wrapped around his chest.

            "Whoa!" The buzz of shears tickled his scalp from the neck up. "What- Wait!" The hand with the shears clicked it off. Noble's hand darted up to his hair, a fresh bald spot four inches long.

            "You're going to be bald because I want my twenty bucks!" Michael laughed with symphonic sound still holding on to his leather.

            "Well I don't think I'm going to be walking around with this thing exposed." The buzz returned and the shears sheared the rest off in a minute. From no-haircut-in-six-months, his hair now less than a centimeter long. The skin of the white scalp burned under the sun, attacking the virgin white skin never to have seen its full glare, his hand rubbing it, the hair now bristles steaming the moisture out of the tangled jungle.

            "What do you say Texan?" He rubbed his fingers together. "Where the twenty?" He removed his hat and rubbed his bald head the same way Noble did. "You like it? Looks good on you. Hair was too long before."

            "Like a hippie." Michael always to the point.

            He looked at Jaap.

            "Suits you." A true nod. A direct descendent of the God of Truth,

            "All right, fair enough. I am now bald. Here's your bread." Though some rules were assumed they were never specified. The Dutchmen had a good holler at that one. Wasn't the first time that trick had been pulled.

            "No more hippie look for you now. Welcome to the real world." Grin strong, half-rolled cigarette cradled in one hand.

            "So I suppose I should say thank you."

            "You should!"

            "Okay, so to say thank you I give you this." He handed the scraps of cardboard with his leveled handwriting to Jaap, the only normal one in the bunch. He studied it, saw the numbered pieces and figured it out.

            "You want me to read it?"

            "Sure. You're probably the only one in this zoo who can read." Jaap cracked up, took the request seriously, slipped on his reading glasses and read the poem to Toné, his brother and Michael in a clear, poetic voice:

 

The Black Lily

 

Esoteric yet known to child and adult, as old as Cain and Abel,

Flowers have inspired mankind to greatness and feats unseen,

An organic reminder of our faculty for beauty and subtlety of hue, air perfumed,

A modest blip in a world ravaged by waste and warfare and disease and death.

 

As Man progressed and evolved

From spear to seed and sword to stem,

The lily emerged coveted most by kings and court,

Sought by leaders of nations, desired by the cultivated artist in Man.

 

Seafarers by prophecy and traders by instinct and skill,

The Dutch flourished at horticultural pursuit,

Perfecting the art of growing and cross-breeding,

By Fate and with hand of divine grace.

 

Tough, resourceful and blessed with resilient integrity,

The Dutch rose to the top of this industry, vital to few yet inspiring to all,

Discovering soil in the best climes the world over,

Establishing gardens nestled 9000 feet in the Andes on the equator.

 

Like pilots trying to break the unreachable sound barrier at Mach One,

The Chuck Yeager of flowers experimenting and cross-breeding with relish,

Undeterred in his putsch for the Holy Grail of his aristocratic profession:

The creation of the black lily, the long-sought enigma for centuries.

 

Impossible and unattainable by the clumsy hand of man it was believed,

‘Black doesn't exist in the color spectrum,' the naysayers said,

‘A waste of bloody time it is, like an alchemist turning lead into gold,'

The doubters' ridicule smug and cocky, shouted with barbs of cynicism.

 

But some with vision persevered with expert dexterity to create this plant divine,

Determined the human animal could attain the perfection of God,

That drop of the divine that lay dormant in us all.

A challenge to the few who had been given a gift from the heavens.

 

Wondered in whispers of man's mastership of plant and root,

One Dutchman faced the conundrum with self-belief in his step,

Chin out, chest full, and hands earthed by soil from whence we came,

His eyes housing the glimmer of grounded invincibility of purpose.

 

Maybe taken as a personal or professional challenge,

Or perhaps seen as a goal for patriotism ingrained,

Hands and head and hoe spoke for the words he left unsaid,

Bluster manifest in his search for the path hidden to the black lily.

 

Big and bald and brawn and brave,

The botanist busied his brain by blazing boldly with backbone and boot,

Bypassing the backbiting babble of banal boo-hooers banded to break his bevel,

Bolstered by the bower banished beyond beknownst boundaries barren.

 

The Dutchman forged the path still untrammeled,

Ideas working long after the days' work was done,

Eurekas of insight tickling during twilight of slumber,

A pencil handy with paper scribbled with possibilities.

 

Fueled and sparked by the chorus of the impossible,

Old tools of the trade employed and explored,

A sailor of oceans of clay and earth,

The laboratory the bosom of Mother Earth.

 

Failing but learning, inch by inch and yard by yard.

The live-giver smiling its orange heat day after day,

A scientist and dreamer, a yaysayer and doer,

Overlooked by all in the heart of his Andean fortress.

 

‘There is a white lily but not its opposite,'

Thoughts rankled between the raindrops of time,

‘A black must be her Adam, her soul mate, her man,'

The puzzle set and the belief remained.

 

Perhaps wisdom acquired through history ancient in Man,

Permeated like osmosis the Dutchman's digging mind,

The story of the Red Man's Medicine Wheel appeared,

Bespeaking an old story of the four races of mankind.

 

‘White here, yellow over there, red at the top but here the blue race,'

He wondered with mind racing, the quartered circle with colors before him,

‘Why the black race is blue is the key to cracking this!'

Unvoiced words fervent and forceful, holding council with gravel in hand.

 

The color spectrum known to the horticulturalist,

Like a chemist his periodic table of interlaced logic,

Appeared in its glory and perfection shining in his mind's eye,

Having long awaited the man with the daring to see what others had not.

 

‘There is no black race like there is no white race,'

Ran the dialogue of his brewing thoughts,

‘A lack of pigment lets the blood shine out pink,

And blue is not black, far from darkness of a moonless night.'

 

‘So if light pink is white and blue is black,' deduced the Dutchman,

‘Then dark purple is my black, a hue of night waiting to be lit!'

And so he grew new strains and cross-bred new hues,

Of purple and red and burgundy, each kissing the soul mate of lily's white.

 

More batches and more petals tainted by purple and burgundy,

Patience hoping for the genetic blip blighting the color of wisdom,

Soon producing the strain black to the naked eye,

Even under the life-giving smile of Nature's fire.

 

A thing of beauty sought by the connoisseurs of the plant divine.

Taken and nurtured like the Creator Himself,

Giving life to a dream long thought to be beyond the reach of Man,

The botanist's age-old bellyache now neutralized with an antidote of black.

 

And so it was created by the hand of a flower man,

The black lily was born,

Tainted not by mauve or red or rose,

But of the wise power of purple, the color of the royal line.

 

But the naysayers still doubted like Thomas to Jesus,

Believing it to be a miracle consisting of a lifetime of one,

A phony menace to reason and science,

Dying bloom void of the sustainability of life.

 

So to insist the flower was not a fluke,

Five years they demanded it live and bloom,

‘Five years of strength and staying power can only prove its worth,

Before it can be recognized by us in the know.'

 

So the Dutchman kept his secret safe and secure,

The dark purple flourished, stem solid and strong,

With bloom so void of color the hue muted to night,

That mystery that whispers of unconquered secrets of life.

 

Now known as the Black Lily Dutchman,

Incognito in all but name,

A legend revered and respected who rides a Harley Davidson,

By royalty the world over, beyond borders or creed.

 

            "You wrote that last night?"

            "Hey, it's a great bar and I was alone. Writing kept my mind off of other things." Toné stood up, walking around the table and shook Reno's hand.

            "Didn't know you could write."

            "I can't," he replied. "I'm grateful Jaap can read." A blush on his cheek. Hand still seized by the Dutchman's hand.

            "Well we have another four months until it's official but damn, that's going up on the wall of fame in the bar." Smile crooked, teeth as neat as his rows of white lilies. Jaap handed him the poem and shook Reno's hand. Not a word but the nod said it all.

            "It's legible, and look." Jaap held the three pieces together. "All the lines are level."

            "Perfect. I'll put it up with your illegible handwritten scrawl. " He winked as he took possession of the poem. "Maybe I'll get them framed too."

            "Doesn't suit you to flatter."

            "But I do have one thing I want you to change."

            "Oh, oh."

            "I want to be known as the Dutchman of the Black Lily, not how you had it."

            "The Black Lily Dutchman."

            "Exactly. Makes me sound black."

            "Should have called you The Flowering Dutchman."

            "Nah. But the best part you put in there is that I ride a Harley. Good touch. I'll send this to the trade magazine called Flowers Internationale when the announcement is made."

            "And our magazine in Holland too," said Jaap.

            "I can translate it and type it out without the Black Lily Dutchman."

            "Just make sure you don't screw it up." The hand slammed the table, causing his poodle to scurry to his leg, and regard Noble with suspicion, laughter roaring over the cliffs into the valley. For a moment all four looked at him slouched in the chair, the skinny Texan with the sharp Reno wit now seen to have a capacity none of them had. Never had he felt prouder of himself, the first truly selfless thing he had ever done. He smiled and ran his hand across his bald pate.

 


 

Chapter Thirty-five

A Swiss Army Knife

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            How much can a man experience in a lifetime? For every bash and laugh he stretches and drifts farther from the norm. Living in one country to the next, with customs pushing and cultures pulling, staying afloat by his wit, a stone well oiled with wear, a chameleon assumes a style with native poise, identifying the philosophy then cascading down in deductive poetry. A different piece of geography, a new language chopping in verbal gusts, perspective widens and sometimes tears, with the plush cheek from being there, finding a world culture of first principles we all share. The mobile pied-piper sees similarities between nations distill into humanity, honoring the heart among all, pulsating as a global murmur, and seeing the connecting thread wrapping the world. This passed through Noble's mind when he bumped into Kurt the Swiss at the Corner Pub.

            No doubt Kurt was a regular drinker and smoker, showing the signs on his person from never faking it, but he was drunk when they met. He had a solid platform.

            "Ben practicing my Spanish over there," he said, pointing at the small bar a few doors down, "at Biff's." Ticked off gait. "Don't understand why foreigners stay in expat bars. Don't learn anything. Bring the West to wherever they go. Better to suck a few beers among locals. Learn more. See new things. Get to know the slang and the humor. And make friends. This," arm gesturing to the Corner Pub, "makes no sense to me." Pepper in his words, bordering on a tirade. Wanted the local flavor from uncommercial local haunts. Spoken like a true spy.

            "I hear you. I need to find a few spots to immerse myself." Words rung hollow, time made that possibility less likely.

            Kurt's tirade morphed into sweeping references to periods in his life only touched on before, now manhandled like clay into sculptures of unbelievability. Noble realized that when an accomplished man is happily intoxicated who might also be feeling lonely and mortal, the wise things to do is sip, smoke, nod and listen. The beans spilled like a confessional, his eyes never leaving his except to flick his ash in the ashtray.

            It began whe he said: "And when I came back to Swiss they put me in prison." Kurt's droopy eyes saw that he caught it. "There, I've said too much."

            Afraid that if he didn't reply the thread with potential would run dry. Reno, as bold as an Ecuadorian boy selling cigarettes, stepped in with just enough muster.

            "Well, I had some thoughts about your time in the military camps," he said cryptically, ending it there but knowing Kurt understood the reference to the training camps during the Iran-Iraq War.

 
 

Table of Contents

  1. The Divine Elbow
  2. Just Surviving As Noble Intent
  3. Surpassing Neophobia
  4. The Middle of the World
  5. The Dane
  6. The Religion of Sfauism
  7. Celebrating Chemistry
  8. Connected Columbians
  9. Stuntmen and Dakar Motorcycle Groupies
  10. Into Amazon Waters
  11. A Beautiful Repressive Niche
  12. Canalazo de Naranilla
  13. Cajunes el grande
  14. A Noble Doppelgänger
  15. Reno Finds His Footing
  16. How to Make a Bomb Out of a Light Bulb
  17. The Impossible Black Lily
  18. The Boy Fascist
  19. Artistas
  20. The Art of Death
  21. The Earthquake Virgin
  22. Lambaster of Laughter
  23. The Sweet Cadence of Scheudenfreunden
  24. Matador: the Agent of Destiny
  25. Overfilling
  26. Mobile Piping
  27. Aristotle’s Character Years
  28. The Great Pilgrimage
  29. A Purpose for Your Sins
  30. Errol Flynn
  31. The Better Man
  32. The Addict’s Ladder
  33. The African Club
  34. The Dutch Hair Piece
  35. The Swiss Army Knife
  36. The Scent of Ammonia
  37. At the Mouth of the Amazon
  38. Broken and Renewed
  39. Seizing the Moment
  40. A Recent Past Discovered
  41. Pinned and Threatened by Fate
  42. Twice as Much in Half the Time
  43. The Assassination
  44. The Pledge
  45. Slandering Hamlet
  46. Stealing Time
  47. Hannibal at the Gates
  48. On the Old Contraband Trail

                  Epilogue

 

 
 

 

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