Bat Segundo walked in with a mango dripping from his fingers. People called Hector "Bat Segundo" because he was like a fruit bat, always sucking at his mangos. "They're so ripe," he'd say. His father was Bat Primero. They'd been cursed with bat-like features and blessed with the only mango tree in the village. They were as greedy with mangos as some are greedy with money.
"Hurry up. The general will be here shortly. The soup must be served the moment he's seated."
"Get out of here, Hector. You always manage to muddle things up." Bernie was invincible in the kitchen. She was built like a bull, but had the moves of a matador when she wielded utensils.
"Why don't you go muddle yourself another mojito," I added.
"Shut up you little snark. Go join the gypsies like your crazy mother. Go around promenading poodles with tutus in your traveling show. Live for the roar of the greasepaint, smell of the crowd."
"Idiot. You're one to talk. Your mother wears army boots with her dresses."
"She can't help she has bunions. The boot is very wide and accommodating. Also, they're not cheap."
"Stop," Bernie thundered, bringing her machete down on the soft underbelly of a turtle, cracking the squirming creature in two lengthwise. "There's work to do. Hector leave. Teresa, the onions. And go outside and pick fresh chile, and cilantro too. Everything must be perfect. The general is making a special stop for our terrapin soup."
I finished my chopping and left Bernie tearing the meat from terrapin shells. When I returned, she was easing the turtle meat into the boiling pot.
"The general will be here in ten minutes. He is already at the edge of town!"
"Then you'd better wipe the mango from your chin and pick that mint from your teeth. You're a mess, Hector," Bernie said.
The general came bursting through the door.
"General, it is our honor."
"You have the best terrapin soup I've tasted. Our ship's galleycat could learn a thing or two from your cook."
He waddled to the dining table and tucked his napkin into his collar. On cue, Bernie and Teresa emerged from the kitchen. Bernie ladled steaming soup into his bowl and Teresa added cilantro leaves, topped by slices of the fresh red pepper. A wisp of steamed curled toward the general like a seductress, the will of the wisp bent toward his nose. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.
"Delightful. Just as I recall."
He brought the first spoonful to his lips and swallowed contentedly. His eyes began to water and then the coughing started.
"The pepper. My throat is on fire." He gulped at his water.
Bat Segundo ran from the room and returned with a stack of books. "Home remedies. My mother swears by them. Perhaps . . ."
"Fool! Drop everything and give me ten . . . books are useless. What I need is something soothing," he coughed. "Did I smell mango?"
on the page turtle murder! Yipes!
Miss Snark is devoted to mango yogurt in case anyone is wondering.
Scores to come