July 30, 2014

James Lloyd Davis

Night Letters from Ecuador

The heat makes every pore collapse into rivulets that mingle with the oar and, then, the river. You become the river, then mist, and finally, the rain. The cycle of life.

Here, they say, white strangers sometimes disappear. Gone. Where? You wonder if someday they'll all return together, hand in hand, sans wisdom, sans civilizing science, sans clothes and fear, as though from Eden where the tree of life abides. But which tree, which fruit, which river, which path. Where?

Instead of those lost souls, a pious campesino, standing at the river's edge, a carved wooden cross suspended by a leather thong over a t-shirt reading "Nike, just do it..." beckons.

Another village, another Mass, another blessing, and on.

Down the river and on.

He travels east and wonders where the jungle ends, not knowing how the rivulets that wash the muddy hills are only the beginning of the great river.

Not far from here, it happened. The murder of the four young men, Protestants. Missionaries. In those days, the Indians were hidden. In those days, the summer dresses, yellow prints and cotton shirts did not exist. Eden's children never knew they were naked, but they knew that the strangers, these men gave away too many treasures.

The old priest said generosity aroused suspicion in the people, so they killed the strangers, thinking them cannibals. Generosity.

A young girl dressed in a yellow cotton dress leans against a tree with short cuttings of sugar cane in her dark hands and smiles.

They haggle over cost in coins. She wants him to buy them all, but finally he gives her only the price of one sweet stalk and nothing more. The young priest wants to give her more, but does not dare to appear generous.

He strikes the bargain with a negative stroke, a chop of the hand through the air at chest level, says firmly, "Nada mas."

Nada mas. Nothing more. But when she smiles so sweetly, as they do, he wants to empty his purse.

"Nada mas."


James Lloyd Davis currently lives in Ohio with his wife, MaryAnne Kolton, who is also a writer. He is working on two novels and has published short fiction and poetry in literary journals and anthologies in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK.

1 comment:

David N. James said...

Barry, I think JLD has a superior story here. I'm really glad you decided to publish it.