Despite the initial cold reception I had received from the Office Manager at the Engineering Office, I remained alert and in an attitude of someone who is quick to learn about all the things that the small office handled. I quickly found the instruction binder to aid me and learned some of the things that were in direct relation to what was happening in the banana fields. I also found the Code Book for every job and that enabled me to help some of the foremen with codes for their various reports.
Some time before the end of the first week some of the foremen were coming in hurriedly handing me handwritten notes saying, “Look this up for me,” or “Muchacho, type this out for me!” And so I would recompose the note into a formal request in the Spanish language and take it down to them. On one special occasion I had taken a letter to this particular foreman, a Spanish man, that I had re-done. He took it from me and started to read the document as I nervously went back to my chair in the back of the office. Soon afterwards the foreman thanked me which eased my worries about making mistakes when he said, “This is perfect kid. This is all right!”
Soon, the long awaited day arrived. I was off to get my pregnant wife to bring her to Baseline to live with her as man and wife. But first, I needed to recover my beloved two-tone shoes- my only valuable possessions. I would need my only pair of formal shoes for any upcoming event that I, as a new father, might need to attend.
That evening, before five o’clock, I left intending to board the train to the ferry terminal hoping to be able to retrieve my almost new black and white shoes. The uneventful ferry ride gave me some time to prepare myself for my encounter with the “yodeler.” I disembarked from the ferry and walked directly to the jail which was not too far from the pier. When I finally get there I meet the young policeman who stood guard at the entrance.
“Corporal, have you seen a black guy wearing a pair of black and white shoes?” I said to him. “Sure, I seen him, he is right back there,” he immediately answered pointing inside to where the cell was. “Would you help me to get the shoes from him?” I asked. “I didn’t give him permission to wear my shoes…” “Just you come with me,” he answered me immediately, “I will get your shoes from him.”
We walked over to the jail cell which happened to be full of men and before we were even close to them, the men started yelling half jeeringly, “Now you gonna have to give up them pritty boy shoes!” The “yodeler” spotted us and said to me “Hey, how you doing?” “I am here to get my shoes!” I said. It was then that he raised his voice in protest. “You can’t do this to me! Let me have the ones you are wearing!” he said pleading. “I never made no deal with you about wearing my clothes or my shoes, so take them off right now!” I said. The thief kept his eye on the young cop as he took the shoes off quickly handing them to me.
As we walked away I heard him threatening me. “You just wait you just wait!” he said but, I paid it no mind. I thanked the young policeman and then walked into town that evening hoping that I would have an easy time convincing my wife’s people about my intentions of getting a place of our own. I arrived at China’s family’s place after dark thinking about how lucky I was to have friends who cared about me.
This trip had been made in order to set everything straight with China and enable me to get a decent place to live. However, I could not help but have misgivings about Pug and how she would react when I showed up in Baseline with her.
This story continues.