Most of my companions at work had heard about how I’d been challenged to a street fight, and I figured so had the Corregidor. So, here I was in the middle of a predicament, being hated by most of my Westindian neighbors without meriting it. In fact, it made me sad, the fact that I had done nothing to merit such treatment.
I hadn’t been getting the true story from my wife either, who kept very busy running up debts for me ordering clothing from those same neighbors without letting me know about what she was doing. The trouble my next door neighbor was planning did not materialize so I had time to devote entirely to my wife.
While on my temporary leave, I tried to get some sleep in the daytime but couldn’t, so we both would stay alert for signs of the impending birth. I would normally come home to meet Pug at the dining room and after meals we would walk back together hoping that my enemy next door had gotten the same warning as I had about fist fighting in the neighborhood.
One day, I laid down to rest. Since we didn’t own a radio, Pug usually talked me to sleep. On or about eleven that night I felt her nudging me, calling me, “Juni, Juni, wake up, Juni I don’t feel so good!” I jumped up and ran out of the house and quickly walked down to my boss, Sr. Carballo’s, home. I knocked on his door and said, “Jefe, Jefe viene el bebe! So please call the ambulance, please!” “I just called and they are on their way!” he shouted back, apparently more ready than I was with these types of emergencies. “I am going to get her!” I said and doubled back to get her ready for the walk back to meet the rail car, which was, literally, an automobile with rail road tires. It was waiting for us to make the long trip to Almirante Hospital. As soon as we got in the car and sat in the back the driver and a young policeman were sitting in front waiting to take off.
I had brought a blanket to cover Pug and and keep her comfortable for the long trip. We spoke in English in hushed tones trying not to attract attention when, over the whining of the iron rails I heard, “This is not a love car, and if you keep this up I will arrest you!” The harsh admonition had come from the young cop who glared darkly at us both. I was ready to defend myself and started to respond to his cruel suggestion. However, Pug whispered to me, “Don’t answer him Juni, please, don’t answer him…” And so we traveled in silence into the darkened jungle night hoping to get to the hospital in Almirante.
I will never forget that night. When we arrived at the hospital stop we were met by nurses and doctors who took over and I made it out of there glad to have my body and mind intact. The only place I could wait for the morning train was at the Chinese Restaurant, Bar and Hotel where my Mother-in-Law worked the midnight shift. “Pug is in the Hospital to have the baby tonight!” I announced to her, hoping she would show some tender, motherly feelings. She merely shook her head as I paid the Chinaman the fee for a room and disappeared. That was the closest I ever got to my mother-in-law in all that time that Pug and I had been in Bocas del Toro Province. The next day I boarded the train and made it back just in time to don my work clothes and report to work. I met my boss and his Westindian driver and they dropped me off at my work site.
That day I found my favorite Westindian foreman and at lunch time the group of us guys went skinny dipping in a drainage ditch. It was fun and refreshing to jump in the rushing water and before we got past a certain point on a galvanized two inch pipeline we would reach up and grab on for dear life. That day, however, I had been so distracted by my euphoria at becoming a father that I forgot to grab the pipe and the powerful stream of water just took me away while the whole crew looked on in horror, looking for any branch strong enough to fish me out of a sure drowning death.
This story continues.