Hand-carved wood ornament from Russia

Lorraine wished she had a mirror handy so she could check her make-up, but both her arms were gripped by the men on either side of her. Her expensive shoes were getting muddied on the jungle floor and she hoped she could restore them when they got were they were going. She had no idea what had happened to her purse. She hoped it was still in the limo, as she had her passport in it as well as her cosmetics from Dior. She would hate to have to replace either. She had no idea who this El Chapo fellow was, but she didn’t want him to judge her harshly. She was sure she looked like a drowned rat. Not to mention that she was so fat. And her clothes were rumpled. She was disgusted with herself and was sure that Mr. Chapo would think she was a mess. Her mother had insisted that she and her sisters looked perfect when they left the house. She would be appalled at the way young women dressed these days. They looked like little tramps. Lorraine had high standards.

My Amaryllis Bulbs are Blooming

When she and her escorts approached the large house on the green hill above the ragtag village, Lorraine gazed around her admiring the lush foliage. Pineapple filled the yard and she could smell their sweet ripeness, and jacaranda trees hovered overhead waving their blue foliage in the breeze. The air smelled of flowers and fresh fruit. The biggest mango tree she had ever seen was to her right. She could have reached up to pluck a ripe mango if only her arms weren’t immobilized. She suddenly realized how hungry she was, and she thought a fruit salad would be perfect right about now.

Jim McDowell Tankards

They approached the entrance, and one of the men used a large brass knocker to rap on the heavy oak front door, and they stood and waited. Finally the door swung open and she was face to face (literally…this person was just her height) with an unattractive man with a bushy black mustache. He wore jungle fatigues and was barefoot. He could have benefitted from a pedicure. He examined her as closely with his intense black eyes as she did him, and after a few moments, a flurry of Spanish was interchanged between this short man and her escorts. She wished she had paid closer attention in Spanish class in high school so she could understand what they were saying. 

Local Cutting Boards and Coasters

It was clear, though, that she was the subject of their conversation, as the three men kept looking at her as they argued. Finally, the short man spoke to her in English with only a slight accent. “My apologies to you, madame. These men misunderstood my instructions. I sent them to the airport to meet a courier from the United States who was supposed to bring me some supplies. I told them that the supplies would be carried in a large Louis Vuitton carry-on, and that they should identify the courier by the bag. I am told that you were carrying such a bag, and that they took you for my messenger.”

Perfect dishes for the holidays

“Oh my goodness!” exclaimed Lorraine. “I brought lots of goodies from North Carolina for my sister. Perhaps I can help. What supplies exactly were you hoping for? Sourwood honey? Dynamite Coffee? Barbecue? Cat head biscuits?”

“No. The area of Western North Carolina is known in these parts for its excellent crystal,” explained the man.

“Oh yes,” Lorraine explained. “My husband and I love to go to Spruce Pine. You can find so many kinds of crystals there. I dug up some beautiful garnets not long ago.”

Joe Engel

“Si, Senora, “ answered El Chapo as if speaking to a child. “I speak of a different kind of crystal. It is called crystal meth. I try to diversify the range of products I can offer my customers. I like crystal meth because it is hard to stop once you start indulging in it. In this way, the demand often exceeds the supply and it is easy to make sales.”

“I totally understand,” laughed Lorraine. “That’s how I am with chocolate.”

Sgraffito Painting by Joe Engel

El Chapo threw his head back and laughed a big laugh. “I like you, Lady. Come inside! I think I will keep you.”

Lorraine thought she heard him say he was going to keep her. That couldn’t possibly be right! She was married. She had a dog who would miss her. She loved Cherry Street and didn’t like the jungle. She had allergies! They would be worsened by this humid climate. And her hair would be frizzy all the time! This man with his ragged toe nails was clearly a barbarian. But she could feel the cool of the air-conditioning seeping out of the open door, enveloping her like a soft caress. It led her forward until she was standing in a large foyer. The floor was shiny terra cotta tile, and the plaster walls were painted a soft turquoise blue. In the center of the space was a carved wooden pedestal topped with a Mexican bowl painted with bright flowers. It held a tangle of gorgeous orchids. The two men had slid away bowing, and she was alone with El Chapo.

Joe Engel

She heard the clicking of tiny feet approaching from inside the house and soon found herself surrounded by a gang of Chorkies, a mixture of Chihuahuas and Yorkies. She fell to her knees in joy and was covered with doggie kisses. She hugged the pups to her chest. “Oh babies!!” she cooed.

“Let me get you a Margarita, señora. You must be thirsty after your long trip,” said her host.

Lorraine didn’t hear the offer as she was lying on the floor, rolling around with the dogs. “You babies would love my Suki!” she murmured. But of course she would never say no to a Margarita.