Having got our fill of the day's activities, we disembarked from our respective vessels. We returned Don Pedro to his wheelchair and made our way along the boat dock to the lodge. Ehmet carried a cooler full of his day's catch, likely exceeding the limit -- in fact, I wasn't sure he even had a fishing license. We stopped at the cleaning station near the lodge and waited while Ehmet finished with the fish he hadn't cleaned on the boat. Don Pedro told me that Ehmet had once worked as a deck hand on a fishing vessel out of Acapulco. Watching his swift and sure movements with his fillet knife, I wondered what other interesting details were scattered along this enigmatic man's path of life.
Don Pedro and I discussed our plans for the night. I pointed to some limestone bluffs west of us, where Thumb Rock towered in the distance. I had once bivouacked at the base of these bluffs with a group of older Scouts in my troop and wanted to try spending the night there again. Don Pedro and Ehmet exchanged seemingly significant glances.
"I don't relish the thought of your camping alone, my son. I doubt not your capability as a woodsman. Yet when I look to those bluffs, I get an unsettling visceral sensation."
"A gut feeling?" I asked.
"That, too," he said.
I loved it when Don Pedro adopted some of my youthful vernacular.
"Humor me on this. Allow me to send Ehmet with you. I think he was planning on sleeping under the stars, anyway. Ana Socorro, Tia Elena, and I will stay at the lodge."
Don Pedro said something to Ehmet -- not in Spanish, I knew that much. The language sounded familiar, like something I had heard as a child but no longer understood -- which was impossible, of course, but that was how it felt. I guessed that the language was Ehmet's native Indian tongue. Ehmet nodded to Don Pedro, his impassive face revealing nothing of his feelings positive or negative on the matter.
The golden light of late afternoon saturated our surroundings. The green foliage on the nearby oaks seemed to glow, and the straw-colored underbrush was suffused with warmth. I looked back to the bluffs in the west and saw a kind of aura shimmering over the horizon - a trick of the light, maybe? I started to feel a little lightheaded and felt a chill go up my spine. This is ridiculous, I thought. The power of suggestion was simply adding to the effects of being in the sun all day. Don Pedro looked at me curiously.
"Are you all right? If you're not feeling well, perhaps you should spend the night at the lodge."
"No, I'm fine." I began to feel irritated with all this mystery and suggestion of danger -- and irritated most of all at myself for letting it get to me. "I think I got more sun than I'm used to. I've been pretty nocturnal lately"
Ana Socorro walked over and stood in front of me. She took a religious medal from her neck and put it around mine.
"This will guide you."
I looked down at the medal. "Hmm. Saint John of God. Is he the patron saint of anything?"
"Yes," she replied. "Hospitals and the sick. And book peddlers."
"But to me, he is the patron saint of impulsive love. Of following your heart, wherever it may take you."
I looked down and shook my head.
"You guys freak me out sometimes."
To Be Continued...