by Gil Hoy

Dark moon peaking over the sea's horizon

They all thought he was famous. But the truth was, he was not. Perhaps it was the long, gray mane that flowed from his head, coupled with his good looks and charm.

Perhaps it was the way Gary Wellington could speak beautiful words. Or his intelligence. Perhaps his man’s man physique built up after many hard days and years in local gyms.

Gary Wellington was an American and a world traveler. He was also a writer. He preferred to travel alone.

He particularly enjoyed travelling to Spanish speaking countries. He liked the way the words sounded and the romance of it.  He also liked the language’s Latin origin, its long sentences and poetic rhythm.

When Gary Wellington entered a steakhouse near his hotel in Madrid, he heard a man in the front in a black tuxedo say he was “muy importante.” Gary Wellington didn’t know why the man said what he said about him nor did he really know what the man meant. It wasn’t the first time this had happened to him.  

While Gary Wellington sat eating tenderloin, his waiter kept refilling his wine glass with red wine. Gary Wellington had to stop drinking to politely keep the man away. He wanted to just sit and quietly think. But so many waiters and so many waitresses tried to get close to him that it became difficult for Gary Wellington to breathe. He soon had to go back to his hotel.

He had been in a tapas restaurant in Barcelona the night before. Eating raw oysters with a strong taste and smell of the sea. He had had a pleasant evening there with his wife and their son. His son was a street-smart, wise young man and a mediocre student. His wife had the most beautiful face he’d ever seen and he loved her very much.

Another patron had shyly approached Gary Wellington to ask if he might be the famous guitar player who he and his lady friend had seen playing on the stage at Sala Apolo the night before. Gary Wellington assured him he was not. He later worried he embarrassed the shy man who, upon hearing the bad news, quickly left the restaurant without saying another word.

Gary Wellington was alone when he went for a swim a week later in his hotel pool on a beach in Mazatlán. His wife and his son had gone home. Seeing the sun rise from the sea was a very fine thing. But it also made him sad knowing he had to die one day and that he’d never see the sun again after that.  

Gary Wellington had asked his father, more than four decades before, “Is it hard to die?” His father had replied, “Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. It just depends on the luck of the draw.” Gary Wellington had dreamt that night that his life was like the books he enjoyed reading. It had a beginning and an end with many chapters in between.

Gary Wellington took two chairs by the pool on the beach in Mazatlán. He sat down in one of them. He put his sunglasses, sandals and a copy of Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon” on the other.

Gary Wellington enjoyed sitting for hours under the sun. He liked to drink smooth, ice cold bourbon. He liked how it made him feel, its vanilla and wood scent. 

He also liked the heavy, airless heat from the sun on the hottest of days. On a sunny day, all of the chairs filled up quickly in the kinds of hotels where Gary Wellington liked to stay. And soon, on this sunny day, all of the chairs by the pool were nearly gone.

Another man and his woman were standing nearby. They’d been able to garner only one chair. There were two of them so they needed another.

Gary Wellington politely offered up a chair, the one with his book, sunglasses and sandals. He had to do it more than once because their English wasn’t very good. And despite his love of the language, his Spanish wasn’t much better. When they finally understood him, they gratefully accepted his offer.

The husband said, in broken English, that Gary Wellington must be “a very good man.” Gary Wellington didn’t know whether he was or he wasn’t. He did know he wasn’t a very famous man.

Gary Wellington later learned the man was a colonel in the Columbian army and that he would be a general in five years if all went according to plan. That afternoon, the colonel said many times that he and Gary Wellington were “hermanos.” And that their countries were “muy buenos amigos.”

The colonel’s wife was very beautiful. Her eyes were the color of the sea. She smiled as she rubbed her body up against Gary Wellington. A dangerous game. But the colonel wasn’t jealous. He seemed almost to invite what he no doubt saw as an innocent flirtation.

The two men talked for a while. Each understood very little of what the other was saying. The colonel said learning English was “importante.” And that learning Spanish was “muy importante.” Gary Wellington wholeheartedly agreed. Not only because he loved the language, but also because 400 million people spoke it and it was the official language in 21 countries.

Soon, there were many English and Spanish speaking men and women crowded around Gary Wellington. They all wanted to touch him and to be his friend. Some of the women wanted more.

The most beautiful woman among them was a twenty-something from Columbia. She had long, straight, black hair. Hair as black as a crow’s wing.

Her bikini markedly showed off her fine form. She moved a trim, tan body in the most alluring of ways. She didn’t have to work very hard to keep her exceptionally good looks.

A man living in Dallas, Texas looked like Roberto Duran. Or a triumphant matador, after a bull fight, receiving his richly deserved applause in a bull ring in Spain while surrounded by Ronda’s architectural and cultural romance.

He was small, but solidly built, with a rugged beard and a fine black mustache. He had a husky voice. And spoke like a man who could give back as well as he got.

The Dallas, Texas man asked the colonel why there were so many riots in so many of Columbia’s cities. The colonel said there were many poor families living there who wanted what they believed was their fair share of his country’s food. Gary Wellington said that all of the riots in all of the world were about those kinds of things.

The Dallas, Texas man told Gary Wellington he knew something important about the beautiful, twenty-something Columbian girl with the long, straight, black hair. That she was the complete “Latin package.” And that this was true both in her fiery temperament and in the ways she made love. His eyes longingly roamed over her with sincere admiration.

Some men preferred reading books about women like her rather than experience the real thing. Gary Wellington wasn’t one of them. That was not his way.

For Gary Wellington, the bullfight was always better than the book about it. And all of the books in all of the world based on just one trip to the ring were the worst of the worst. Men writing so badly they could never have a clear thought nor ever write a true statement.

But Gary Wellington also knew that for a serious writer, there is a danger in knowing a thing too well. Because the more you know, the less you may want to write about it; your tendency is to keep on learning. Until you know all that there is. Which will never happen.

At some point, a good writer has to stop experiencing the thing, at least for a while. And write about it. Write about what he knows.

Gary Wellington always enjoyed writing. Once he got to doing it. And he was good at it.

Just then, it started to rain at the pool on the beach in Mazatlán. The clouds had grown dark when no one was looking. Soon, it was raining hard. The sun had disappeared behind the clouds and Gary Wellington knew it was time for him to leave.

He had had a lot of bourbon and even more sun. He hoped his new friends wouldn’t think he was leaving them because he was an arrogant man or a conceited man. Or because he was a rich man.

The truth was very different. It was really his nerves that made him want to leave. His fear he could never live up to what they thought he must be.

The twenty-something from Columbia, with the long, straight, black hair, said to Gary Wellington, “I know you are famous. And I know you are rich. Thank you for taking the time to be with us today.”

Gary Wellington knew exactly who and what he was. He had reasoned it out. He thanked the young girl for her kindness. Kissed her on her mouth. He began to slowly walk back to his hotel room under gray clouds.

It had stopped raining. He was alone once again. Soon it would be dark. At night, he could see the moon’s reflection on the sea from his hotel room. It helped him to sleep.

Category: Featured, Fiction, Short Story