"Que Noche" by Can Chess, January 2013
Disclaimer: All characters presented here are product of fiction. Any resemblances to real characters are of a pure coincidence. No intention was made to insult anyone for any reason.
AN: This story is an act of fiction. No one should attempt to act in the same manner as described.
Summary: Tell me now, oh, please tell me, you wonderful Messenger from Heaven, what your Father, the eternal Lord, is really up to? If my mother can't be nursing someone who is sick, if she can't be staying awake at night and worrying and hardly eating a thing herself, she's not going to be all that happy.
After the basketball game was over, Enrique Garcia and Agustin Bardillo walked alongside Lenana Road in Kilimani, Nairobi, Kenya, nodding to police officers who inspected them with suspicion.
"So what did she tell you?" Enrique noticed that some buildings had their own security as well.
"That it was a bit of a surprise. She knew it was raining out when she woke up, but she didn't realize how ugly the weather was." Agustin chuckled as the police patrol passed by them in a jeep. It was a pleasant, not to hot night. Enrique continued. "… Her boat trip was cancelled due to the weather, which meant that she had only a few minutes to make the decision to take a taxi to the 'Train to the End of the World'."
"Well …" Enrique swallowed as some prying eyes watched them walk by some important residence. "… Did she make on time then?"
"Yes. She made it on time, but was shocked that it was snowing."
"My God!" Enrique hated that feeling of being "accused" as a spy just by some inquisitive stares.
"Yes. In the first couple pictures, you could see snow on her coat and …" Agustin continued, chuckling politely. "… outdoors."
"That must have been a change from the humid ninety degree days of Rio and Iguazu, I suppose?"
Agustin nodded, noticing a street vendor across the street.
"She was glad that she packed all of the extra warm clothes, you know." Two police officers were questioning a young man on a bicycle about something.
"She must have felt as a rookie traveler … with two suitcases, eh?"
"Oh, not her." Agustin sighed and then sniggered. "… She was warm, dry and happy. The train was a nice ride up into the mountain as well." They approached the Arboretum Park, noticing some drug addicts running away and hiding in the bushes. "… And she wasn't sure what to expect and was pleased to sit and enjoy it, you know." Agustin was surprised that no police patrolled the area. "… By the time she returned to the station, …" Suddenly two police officers on horses trotted after those drug addicts, chasing them into the park. "… The weather had cleared and was warm. Some others were going back to the center of town, so she hitched a taxi with them."
They stopped and watched as the police patrol car caught reckless drug addicts, beating them and dragging them savagely into the car. Agustin sighed as two horse riders stared at him.
"And the lunch …" Agustin continued, inhaling fresh air from the trees. "… Lunch was INCREDIBLE."
"Really?" Enrique was stills cared, waiting to be questioned by the local police at any moment.
"Yes. She went into a small local restaurant and had the King Crab Parmesan."
"Yes. It was baked in a light Béchamel sauce with Parmesan and a touch of nutmeg. Holy King Crab it was good!" Agustin licked his lips, making Enrique wish he ate something more other than popcorns. "... She ate it all while doing her happy food dance in her seat."
"Yes. Thankfully …" Agustin sighed, noticing a well dressed couple taking a night walk as well. "… The restaurant was mostly empty so not many people had to see that."
"Too bad …"
After a while they were waiting for the bus on the Valley Road.
"And … after the lunch?" Enrique pretended he was intrigued.
"Ah! After lunch … she grabbed a taxi back to the hotel and arranged a boat tour for the afternoon. It was with the same company as she had planned on using this morning, but was a smaller tour."
They boarded a bus and the local police officer seemed relieved.
"Still, … she was glad that she was able to do it, you know." Agustin noticed a crippled beggar being chased away by another non-crippled. "… Once that was booked, …" Agustin couldn't believe seeing something like that in otherwise good looking area of the city. "… She took some time to write postcards and get herself organized. Soon, however, …" Agustin stopped seeing a prostitute hiding in a dark side street. "… It was back into a taxi and off to the docks."
"Perhaps we should have taken taxi again?"
"Oh, no. You'd miss the 'reality' of life here …" Agustin raised his eyebrows like Grucho Marx, Enrique offering back some fake laughter since he had a feeling as if they were being watched or even followed.
As they were passing by the well lit All Saints Cathedral, some elderly woman made a cross sign and then kissed the cross she wore around her neck.
"What was it?"
"Oh." Agustin was surprised as well. "… It was a nice catamaran that took us past sea lion rocks with birds that were not penguins."
"But … penguins are birds, right?"
"Right?" Enrique noticed that Agustin tilted his head sideways in a manner "Who are you kidding?"
"Right." Agustin finally complied. Enrique did not want to push the matter any further.
They took off close to the Nairobi Gallery. It was well lit, illuminating everything around in some idyllic light.
"Go on …" Enrique encouraged his friend.
"From there it was onto a penguin colony. They didn't go ashore, but the 'captain' did pull the boat very close to shore. She couldn't wait for tomorrow when she would be able to walk on the colony, you know …" Agustin chuckled in some merry manner, Enrique noticing some suspicious men in jeans following them. He failed to see any police officers around.
"Was she on the upper deck?"
"Yes. Somehow she had a ticket to the VIP upper deck. How did you guess?" Agustin smirked, grinning at Enrique.
"Well … with a wealthy father like you …"
They laughed as they approached the Nairobi Gallery. It was closed, but they walked around it, just for the sake of walking.
"But it was so cold on the way back that she was happy to be in a small warm room. The trip back was long, so she took advantage of the changing light to take a bunch of more pictures. It is amazing how the light and clouds can make such a difference in photos." It was obvious that Agustin was recollecting some photos from the Intermet that his daughter sent him. "… And each time, …" Agustin sighed, stopping in front of the main entrance, some locals watching them with a sneer. "… She would bundle up and head out on deck. And it wouldn't be an exaggeration that she had to put her camera on a railing to hold it steady enough to take the picture, you know …" Agustin giggled, probably imagining his daughter doing so. "… And the wind was very, very strong."
"Poor child …" Enrique dared.
"But why?" Agustin raised his eyebrows as if defending himself. "… She wanted such adventure, you know …"
They dined together with Roberto Frippo, in the vicinity of their hotel on City-Hall Way.
Roberto was full of memories and eager to talk as well.
"The Casa Rosada, … the Argentinean president's 'Pink House', …" Roberto sipped some wine, grinning amiably. "… Verged on turning white overnight after Buenos Aires was blanketed in snow for the first time in nearly … I think ninety years?" Agustin nodded as if it was his work.
"What was it like?" Enrique regretted the fact that he was not there at that time.
"Ah." Roberto sighed. "… Children threw snowballs while photographers tried to capture the falling flakes as a party atmosphere descended on the city. Crowds gathered at the Obelisk monument …"
"And … that's in central Buenos Aires, if my memory serves me?" Enrique offered and Roberto nodded, grinning again.
"Yes. The traditional focal point for Argentinean celebrations and protests."
Agustin laughed and some women with jewellery shot a surprised stares at them.
"The national weather service said it was the first major snow in Buenos Aires since June the 22nd of 1918, …" Roberto drank his wine almost as if drinking some fruit juice, making Agustin stare in secret at Enrique, smiling. "… Though sleet or freezing rain have been periodically reported in decades since."
"Yes. My cousin … Juana Benitez … told me all about it …" Agustin suddenly remembered, noticing a good looking African woman that was about to take a seat at the silk-dressed table.
"You know …" Roberto suddenly remembered, smiling like some village tour guide. "… One man even stripped to his shorts to welcome the snow."
"No way?" Agustin answered mechanically, still attracted to that black gazelle at the other table.
"Yes. Motorists honked horns, some with small snowmen on their car bonnets!"
"It must have been … unforgettable!" Enrique concluded, noticing the good looking woman as well.
"But …" Roberto sighed as the waiter took away dirty dishes, smiling in a servile manner. "… Unfortunately … the conditions led to the deaths of three people and the coastal city's domestic airport, … Aeroparque, …" Someone dropped a teaspoon and it banged against some metal. "… Was closed while there were delays to flights at the international airport, … Ezeiza."
Others around were predominantly foreigners, so any locals seemed a bit "out of the ordinary".
"You know …" Roberto leaned forward and the other two closed in, smiling like some kids. "… Even the government minister, … Alberto Fernández, … called on people to conserve energy and said gas exports to Chile would be reduced while the cold weather continued …" Roberto winked and then withdrew.
Agustin smirked and then laughed in some silent manner, measuring Roberto's cleverly calculating eyes.
"But … back in 1918 …" Enrique noticed a well dressed man in his sixties with a goatee, some younger lady at his side, dining together. "… When was it exactly?"
"Ah." Roberto smiled, furrowing his eyebrows as if playing a fool for children. "…That storm struck on Argentina's independence day holiday, I believe … adding to a festive air and prompting radio stations to play an old tango song inspired by the 1918 snowfall."
"What a night that must have been …" Enrique nodded, grinning. Others laughed, imagining.
"I think it is the kind of weather phenomenon that comes along every hundred years or so …"
"Or so …" Enrique nodded, giggling.
"Well … I guess it must be very difficult to predict." Agustin probed Enrique's his ribs with his elbow.
"As a matter of fact …" Roberto waited as waiters served desserts. "… The extreme weather was triggered by a front of Antarctic air that has pushed north and caused temperatures to plummet in many regions. The Patagonian ski resort town of Bariloche recorded its lowest temperatures in … I believe …" His eyes widened as he noticed how well decorated was his fruit cup. "… Forty four years and left many homes without water as well."
They started to endorse desserts, listening to various accents around them.
"Also … lakes froze over in Río Negro province as temperatures reached minus thirty two Celzius, … and some five hundred travelers were forced to take refuge in Río Cuarto after roads were closed."
"Mhm." Agustin nodded, making Enrique wonder whether it was because of his sweet spoonful or because of those stranded tourists that Roberto just mentioned.
"Actually … that snow followed a bitter cold snap in late May that saw subfreezing temperatures, …" Roberto was enjoying his dessert. "… The coldest in forty years in Buenos Aires. That cold wave contributed to an energy crisis and some twenty five deaths from exposure as well."
They noticed some skinny couple, leaving, their manners all spic and span as if being filmed for some TV commercial.
"I suppose that the Antarctica is a closed system that only opens itself sporadically." Enrique leaned forward and whispered. The other two shrugged with their shoulders and nodded, grinning.
Back at the hotel, while waiting for the elevator, Agustin tapped Enrique on his chest and grinned.
"You know … I just remembered …" Some noise bunch of tipsy tourists lined up behind them. "… In the city of Buenos Aires proper, … snow has only occurred noticeably in 1918 and 2007, although there were traces of it in 1928 and the 1960s too." Agustin winked as they entered the elevator. "… But as you go farther from downtown, yes, …" Agustin sighed as they exited on the first floor. "… Some suburbs do get a bit of snow every decade or snow, or perhaps … every two decades, … but not very much."
They entered the pool room and noticed that the snooker table was occupied.
"Oh … by the way, …" Agustin smirked at Enrique. "… The snowfall of 2007 was amazing."
Enrique nodded as they proceeded towards the bar where their wives were waiting.
Tomorrow, Enrique met with Joachim Do Reyes on the Railways Golf Course.
"Pumpkin seed oil or 'the green gold', as the Austrians call it, …" Enrique watched the golf ball fly through the air. "… Is considered one of the healthiest and finest vegetable oils in the world, you see …"
They moved along, closer to the hole.
"It is to most Austrians what olive oil is to their Italian neighbors." Joachim winked to Enrique and he faked a smile. "… In fact …" Joachim picked up the most appropriate club. "… Styrians have a long history actually, …"
"Styrians?" Enrique dared, not wishing to look un-educated.
Joachim stopped with his aim and grinned at Enrique.
"It is the southernmost Austrian federal state where it has been popular since the late XVIII century for its exquisite nutty taste and the numerous health benefits that its consumption may bring along." Joachim winked and then, to Enrique's surprise, scored!
Later on, after first holes were filled with their golf balls, Enrique finally remembered his true motive for their meeting.
"What about the cinnamon fields in Sri Lanka?"
"Well …" Joachim paused as he took a swing. "… Cinnamon peelers were considered low in the hierarchy of the caste system which prevailed during the time of the Sinhalese kings." He was happy with his shot and they continued closer to the hole. It was one like Killiecrankie, which belongs to a 570-yard brute of a par five on the breathtaking Highlands Links in Nova Scotia. "… Perhaps due to little or no intermarriage outside their caste, …" Joachim thanked his aid for offering him an appropriate golf club. "… Some of the words these peelers pronounce are slanted, and a few words are different to the conventional Sinhala of the day."
"Interesting …" Enrique scratched his beard, watching the ball roll on a well trimmed grass. It missed the hole by an inch. Joachim cursed silently and then smiled, looking around.
Suddenly he sighed and panted as if he was running, smiling at Enrique.
"You know … if you travel with an airplane … which has average speed of, what … some five hundred and sixty miles?" He paused and for a moment Enrique got worried that the old gentleman would have a heartbreak. His aid gave him a water bottle and he gulped thirstily, apologizing. "… Between Sri Lanka to Kenya, …" He returned the bottle and grinned broadly at Enrique. "… It takes zero hours to arrive."
"Zero hours?" Enrique repeated, puzzled.
Joachim leaned on his golf club and then laughed, moving along.
Some exotic birds flew over them.