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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

TULUM -- A new novel by David Seth Michaels


By David Seth Michaels

Sunday. October 14. 4 pm. In this country, a day off for everyone. For me, it’s like any other day. First, a small tequilita from the freezer. And then, my book, my plastic chair under the flowering tree, and a cold bottle of beer with a piece of lime in it. A perfect day for the yard. A perfect day to read. A perfect day to be a lizard.

To no one’s particular surprise, when the bottle is empty, I find that I cannot keep my eyes open, the book becomes heavy in my arms and it sinks through the warm humidity into my lap. My eyes close slowly. The beautiful siesta I invited gently sneaks up on me. Initially I can still hear the birds, the soft clacking sound from the cocos, the hum of the town. These fade gently, and then a dream.

An elephant has escaped from its handlers and has run down the beach to escape the intense heat and to frolic in the ocean. It floats in the surf, blowing sea water through its trunk onto its back, enjoying the surf. On the shore, its handlers grow impatient for it to return. They yell at it, “Come bank, Sweetness, come back!” Sweetness, if that is truly her name, ignores them. She wallows in the cool water, she swims around in circles, she sprays sea water with her trunk.

“Sweetness,” they shout. “Come back.”

Evidently, she’ s not yet ready to return to land, to heat, to servitude, and to them. She ignores their shouts and continues her bath. The handlers become more impatient. And angry. One of them shouts at her and in frustration throws a coconut toward her. Sweetness apparently doesn’t care for this. At all. She trumpets loudly and swims slowly down the beach, farther away. The handlers run down the beach after her, kicking up sand.

Some of the sand hits me. It wakes me up. I expect to see the wide beach and the handlers and the escaped elephant basking defiantly in the turquoise water, but when I carefully prop open my right eye, there’s no ocean and no elephant. I’m in my yard.

And there are two sweaty people, people I don’t know, standing there, standing in my yard, near my chair. I reluctantly get both eyes open. I look at them. I know very well why they’re standing there.

“Excuse me,” the bearded one says in English. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I wonder if you could help us.”

I consider saying that I don’t speak English. This would have its benefits, but it will probably prolong their unwanted visit. They will pantomime to me. We will play charades. I consider telling them directly, please leave my yard. Instead, knowing this directness will seem unnecessarily unkind in a country where seeming politesse is so important, I say, “Yes?”

“We’re looking for someone,” he begins. “We’re looking for the curandero. And we wonder if you know where we could find him? If you’d tell us where we can find him.”

I knew it. Same as always. How many times, I wonder, am I going to have this conversation? How many people are going to show up with this very same question?

The question, I think, deserves a consistent answer. So I tell them my usual lie. “I’m sorry. I don’t know who you are looking for.

Perhaps some of my neighbors could be of assistance to you, but I don’t know who that is.”

“Oh,” they both sigh. Crestfallen, they mumble gracias and wander off into the heat and humidity to continue their search for the curandero.

I return to the elephant. There are only Dream Elephants in this part of Quintana Roo. I have no idea what they are doing here. Or where they come from. Or why.

Writer David Seth Michaels, an attorney in Columbia County, New York, is the author of two novels, "Dream Antilles," and his new book, "Tulum," from which this excerpt is taken. "Tulum" is for sale at local bookstores by order, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, iUniverse. ebooks at BN and Amazn. He keeps a terrific blog at www. DreamAntilles.blogspot.com.

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