Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Smiling In the Sunshine; The Prayer of the Conquistador

Prayer of the Conquistador

     Once again offshore, wicked Ponce, now alone, is poised at the wheel of his trimaran, skirting the inner edge of the Gulf Stream and making a steady fourteen knots. The wind is from the east by southeast and on this reach the seventy foot trimaran is a gigantic prehistoric bird, flying, flying, using wind and wave and the inexorable pull of the Stream to make a fast and unerring course due North, to Mosquito Inlet. As always, Ponce stands like a statue at the wheel, immobile, wasting no motion; the years have taught him well and nothing is wasted, neither thought nor energy nor time. Especially time.

     Far to the West he can see the tops of the highest buildings, reflecting the morning sun as it climbs up from the sea. There are penthouses there, Ponce knows. Many penthouses, the unreachable castle towers of the criminally wealthy. Ponce knows these places, he is a one familiar with the robber barons and their consorts. These are the people whose feet never touch the ground, coming and going from towers in the sky, traveling by helicopter and private jet and giant luxury yachts. Ponce knows them well. And they know Ponce.

     As morning passes, the Old Conquistador sets the helm on autopilot. He waits, watching to be certain that the yacht is settled and steady. The Stream moves about on its way North, and will take him ever further offshore. But there is no hurry. Going below, he puts a stainless steel kettle on the stove and sets the digital controls to boil. Lightly tapping his fingers across the keypad of the locking titanium cupboard, the door sighs open, an faint cloud escaping like exhaled breath and he takes down a small aluminum canister. He shakes a precise amount of ground herbs into his palm, then drops them into an ancient ceramic mug bearing the image of Quetzacoatl embossed on its surface. He takes the hissing kettle and pours the water into the cup. The cabin is filled with the aroma of coffee, mint and other smells, cocoa, maybe; powerful, cutting, densely pungent but ultimately pleasant. Pleasantly haunting, perhaps.

     Going back on deck, Ponce glances at the compass, (a habit of a long lifetime) and then goes forward to the bow of the boat. The morning is no longer dawn, it is day now and the world is warming, heating the misty air around the boat. The El Condor Pasa is leaping across the sea, plunging, thrusting ever forward as Ponce, clad only in light cotton pants and the worn old rosary around his neck, settles into the lotus position on the bow pulpit. He sips from his steaming mug, scans the horizon for signs of other ships, then closes his eyes and begins his morning worship.

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