Bumps on the head are common occurrence at the Hotel Leddie given Angela of Livingston Guatemala’s jab and cross enchantment reach. Other places, like competitor Hotel Villa Caribe, are fine but hold no such spells or hazards. Head bumps are rare, but then again, there’s no magic.
In contrast, the Hotel Leddie’s patio columns are dented like tuna cans from young men who left their neck-swivel on too long as Angela passed them, their beaks ultimately having an abrupt meeting with these storied posts.
Early afternoon and Angela has found a fresh ice pack from the hotel’s large and ready freezer supply. This time it’s for the new throbbing shelf on Veronica’s forehead, an injury that reached out to her during an involuntary tryst with a jungle mangrove. Straight women are immune to Angela’s spell, but not to the black magic of neglecting to watch where they’re going.
Angela hands the ice pack and aspirin to John. He’s trying to explain, in his halting Spanish, that after the meeting of tree and mind, Daniel delivered them to a nearby shaman, who pronounced Veronica fit, though hurting. “Ah, Luisa,” nods Angela approvingly.
The play of dappled afternoon light on Angela’s face is giving him a deeper understanding of the beguiling that has Vermeer and Cellini in its clutch. A shimmering, almost imperceptible lacuna in time takes him in before he regains himself. Maybe hours have gone by. A few seconds, actually.
“Damn!, he says, shaking it off. “Ronnie, we forgot to offer to pay Luisa for checking out your head.”
Reclining on one of the patio’s rickety wood and melon colored lounge chairs, she takes the ice pack to the angry lump. “Daniel says she doesn’t accept money.” She’s closing her eyes and leaning further back. “Says it’s better if we drop by sometime with a bottle of rum if we like.”
“So while we’re on the topic of Daniel, how come he suddenly turned from Rasta guy to a young Morgan Freeman doing a star turn as the learned professor?” He sits down next to her.
“I mean, shouldn’t he be introducing himself at the dock to tourists with, “Hi there folks. My name is Daniel and I’ll be your tour guide and shapeshifter today?”
Veronica laughs and explains that both styles of talking are natural to Daniel. Turns out he’s got a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago but chucked it all to come back here to live five years ago. “This is where he grew up and, well, he says it’s just better here.”
Veronica is thinking, “There’s a lot of something here. Just what is it any way?”
“I think you need to go and really lie down,” he coaxes. “You’re drifting.”
After he’s settled her into their room, he reclaims the lounge chair to enjoy a quiet moment in the shade. He’s just fired up his laptop to learn more about Livingston Guatemala’s history and general points of interest when the calm is handed over to a set of noise bombs. Two, in fact.
First, there’s the deranged glee club of 25 roosters crowing in ones and twos from rotations around the town, “er er-er er errrrrrr!” Its translation is: “Angela, go to the Seven Altars Waterfalls. It’s the doorway back to your real home. Seriously.”
No one, including Angela picks up the message. That’s okay; indefatigable, they’ll soon reboot for countless more rounds. Angela has 4,207,098 unheard messages.
And another bird call is stinging through the Hotel Leddie.
Over the hot afternoon air comes the squawking of Leddie from the Cafe Rios, via a new walkie-talkie system: “Angela?!!” followed by “snap, splutter, hiss. “Angela!!??” This is repeated six more times before John is able to locate the hotel set at the front desk. “Angela, where, hiss, are, blip, you?” The impatience in Leddi’e voice is escalating an octave with each transmission.
Vermeer has come downstairs to the desk, completely pooched from scrubbing toilets, sinks and shower stalls in the swelter, but still buoyant with the idea that Angela will need his help for something, anything. John hands him the walkie-talkie set. “It’s for you, dude.”
John goes back to his shady chair. He sees Angela sweeping sand from the patio. Blue Morpho butterflies hover overhead and sit on her collar bones. Their wings are fanning cool air and giving her and the sand a smoky blue cast as if they were water reflecting the color of a darkening sky.
He looks down at his reading and finds it’s turned to “Las Siete Altares,” The Seven Altars Waterfall.