My casita is nestled on a sunny hillside in the seaside town of San Juan Del Sur. The hill is so steep that the house seems to have been installed at an angle; but the house is level, of course; It’s only the hill that’s steep. The heavy cement construction and spanish tile roof hold back the massive storms that blow in from the Pacific Ocean. The front porch sticks out over the hill and provides an observation platform of the beaches below and of the Christ statue on the huge promontory on the opposite side of the bay. The whole area is surrounded by trees in abundance, and the birds, squirrels, and howler monkeys are comedians that constantly vie for my attention. I like to do my writing there on the front porch where the gentle sea breeze blows through the shaded canopy.
The cobblestone road winds its way up from the old fish plant down by the docks, and struggles its way up the hill to my house, then makes a strong left turn and continues its climb on up to a few villas at the top of the hill. Only the strongest of cars have the will it takes to make that climb, and many a vehicle has failed halfway up, only to roar and shake and then finally back down with tires screeching and drivers cursing in Spanish. The people who live in the villas up the hill wave to me as they drive by, and so do the workmen and the pizza delivery boys.
I got up early that morning and put on a pot of coffee, and sipped at it while I made oatmeal on the small propane stove. I stood while I watched the oatmeal boil, and debated with myself about going to Raul’s funeral. The more I thought about it, the surer I was that it was the right thing to do. After all, Raul had worked on my Casita several times, and was a good man. I knew his family would welcome me.
The funeral ceremony was a typical Nicaraguan funeral procession: A caisson pulled by two donkeys rolled slowly through the streets of town, followed by musicians playing a slow dirge, then family and friends followed behind, braving the heat and the long walk. The people in attendance wore mostly black, some with white ruffled blouses underneath. The solemn procession ended up in a quaint cemetery on a hill above town where the body was interred.
I took a taxi back into town, and had the driver drop me off at Cha-Cha-Cha, a small hole in the wall cantina where I had parked my motorcycle that morning.
I walked from the light of the street into the dark interior of the establishment. “Hi Stephen,” I said to the bartender.
“Hi Rick, how was the funeral?”
“It was hot out there, but at least he’s buried. He was a good guy. Can I have some water?”
He slid a glass of water across the bar. “Yeah, he used to come in here quite a bit. He was a nice guy.”
“He had a wife and two kids,” I added, and drank the whole glass of water, leaving only the ice. “I saw them at the funeral.”
Stephen refilled the glass and placed it in front of me. “By the way, fisherman Mike came in this morning looking for you.”
“What for?”
“Says he wants to go fishing tomorrow and wants you to go.”
My lunch consisted of beans, rice, eggs, and avocado, all rolled up in a large flour tortilla, and served with cream cheese and hot sauce. I talked politics with Stephen and one other guy seated at the bar, and ate my burrito, adding plenty of hot sauce as I went.
Mike had said to be there on the beach at 5:15 the next morning, and sure enough, he was walking toward me as I pulled up on my motorcycle. Miguel, the Nicaraguan captain, already had his 17 foot panga bobbing in the surf as Mike and I carried our first load of supplies out into the knee-deep water and heaved it into the boat. On the second trip we threw in the chairs and our backpacks and, in between ground swells, boarded the craft.
“Looks like a great day for fishing,” Mike said.
“Looks like it.”
Miguel guided the panga through the harbor, and around the many fishing boats, sailboats, and luxury crafts that were all playing idly in the quiet of the morning, then out past the narrow opening of the harbor into open water.
Mike handed me a fishing pole already set up with a tuna lure. “Well, let’s get fishing.”
The ocean was flat, and the overcast sky produced just a slight breeze as we put our lines in the water and Miguel adjusted his trolling speed and directed the panga toward the south. Mike got the first fish, a tuna, and after trolling several minutes I began to catch fish one after another, until Mike grunted, “Give me your pole, you’re getting too lucky”.
We changed poles and fished the remainder of the morning, but the fish had quit biting, so me and Mike fell to talking back and forth about fishing, traveling, and politics. The conversation soon heated up when we got to the politics part, and we were both yelling rather than talking, and to make matters worse, Capt. Miguel looked at us a few times with a look that said, “Shut up You Stupid Gringos!” We soon agreed that our political discussions ought to remain calm, and supplemented by facts that would be made available at the time, not out on the fishing boat miles from shore with no proof of anything, and only relying on the opinion of one or the other. So we both agreed to hold fast to that promise. After all, we were good friends and had a lot of other things to talk about anyway, not just politics.
“Opinions are like ass holes,” he said. “Everybody’s got one.”
“You got that right.”
We came in that morning with four tuna and one mackerel, and went to Mike’s house and had fish for lunch. We drank Nicaraguan rum as we ate the delicious battered and fried mackerel, and talked about more fishing trips. Once our bellies were full and the bottle was empty, we called it a day and gave the rest of the fish to Mike’s neighbor, a Nicaraguan woman with two children. She smiled brightly and thanked us, while her children danced in anticipation.
I rode my moto home, and the Nicaraguan guard watched me as I parked my bike in my living room. I conversed with him in my limited Spanish for a few minutes, with him ignoring most of my errors, and only offering his usual corrections here and there. I fell onto my hammock, and let the fresh ocean breeze cool me as I slowly lost consciousness. I must’ve slept well, for it was midafternoon when I awoke feeling slightly disoriented. I wanted to get to my writing, but I put it off for another day. I picked up a book and read a while.
I saw Mike again that evening at Dorado’s. The thatched roof establishment is one of several along the shoreline in San Juan harbor. Open on both sides, the sea breeze blew right through the place, keeping it nice and cool. We had a table on the step-down porch by the sand, and sat in rocking chairs and talked while Mike drank more rum and I drank water. Our conversation again turned to fishing and travel, and so we sat and talked until late in to the evening, with Mike talking about wanting to go fishing in Brazil, or Peru, or Uruguay, or Columbia. “The machine,” he said. “You and I… We’re the machine.”
“Yeah, I said.”
The sun sank below the horizon, producing impromptu paintings in the sky: Orange and yellow streaked across the sky while hues of pink reflected off the clouds in the West. The light dimmed as the sun continued to decline, until finally the twilight gave way to darkness, leaving us… two brothers in arms… to contemplate our good day’s fishing and little else. The creaking of our rocking chairs on the weathered boards made slight sounds as we reminisced and children played in the sand.

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