The next morning Rich brewed a small pot of coffee and ate a three day old biscuit. He stuffed $400 in his pants pocket. He pulled a light jacket from the closet he hadn’t worn since leaving Maine. He slipped into the jacket and tucked the .45 automatic into the inside pocket. “I can’t depend on anchors and fast feet,” he thought.
Rich and Zeke walked to Hugo’s shop. His children stood poised and waiting. Hugo introduced Rich to his wife, Luisa, a strong featured woman with strands of silver glistening through her hair.
Hugo walked Rich to the shop where a red Zanella motorbike rested against the wall.
“Plenty of gas,” Hugo said. “Go have fun.”
Rich reached in his pants pocket and handed Hugo $200.
“What is this for?” Hugo said.
“In case I wreck your bike,” Rich said.
“I not sure how much this is worth in Brazil, but I think with this I could by three bikes,” Hugo said.
“Than you will have three bikes,” Rich said.
“It is your money,” Hugo said.
“I may be gone a couple days,” Rich said. “Is that a problem?”
“No,” Hugo said. “When you come back I may have three motorbikes by then.”
“One never knows,” Rich said. “if I’m not back in two weeks take everything out of the boat; it will be yours.”
“Two weeks!” Hugo said.
“I don’t plan on being gone that long,” Rich assured, “but if not in two weeks you can assume I’m not returning at all.”
“Excuse me for asking,” Hugo said, “are you going to do something bad?”
“No,” Rich said. “Since I’ve been on this trip I’ve been kidnapped, three guys tried to rob me, and had some trouble with a couple guys in Rio.”
“Maybe you should stop sailing,” Hugo said.
“Maybe I should stop coming ashore,” Rich said. “If anyone comes around my boat and asks questions just tell them the truth.”
“What is there to tell?” Hugo said. “My family is not in danger are they?”
“No,” Rich said, “but if you feel any danger keep the money I gave you and the motorbike. I’ll go back to my boat and sail out of here in a couple days.”
“The tank is full,” Hugo said. “Keep your eyes on the road.”
Rich climbed on the motorbike, started it with a kick, and chugged down the street lurching and swerving toward the business district of Torres. It took a few blocks before Rich was adequately familiar with the gears and brakes. By the time he found a bank the bike was like an old friend. He exchanged $200 and pointed the bike west.
In some ways the way of a motorbike is like sailing; it is open and free. The wind is in your face and the freshness of nature fills the lungs. There is no better way to experience the sea than on a sailboat and no other way to experience the country than on the seat of a motorcycle. It is solitary and sublime.
One hundred miles into the countryside on a dirt road Rich stopped at sharp curve. He had been driving up hill for nearly an hour. He kicked down the stand and walked to the edge of the road. He looked over a broad spacious green forest below. He snapped a picture with his camera. He thought, “a photo cannot possible capture the life that I feel from what I see right now. There is so much life in this world and sustained because God wills it. That is more powerful than I can imagine.”
An old pickup truck with two men in the cab rattled past him. In the back of the tuck bananas hung and swayed from side to side. The truck down shifted and turned onto a lane leading down the mountain. The engine sputtered to a stop. The men exited the truck speaking in Portuguese.
Rich left the motorbike on the road and walked down the lane. The two men were unloading the bananas.
“Speak English?” Rich said.
“No,” one man said.
Rich reached in his pants pocket and pulled out some change and held it out to them. “Two bananas,” Rich said holding up two fingers.
They exchanged several sentences in Portuguese. Their demeanor turned menacing. One man reached into the back of the truck he pulled out a large machete. On the end of it, the blade had a menacing hook.
Rich inched one step back.
The man without the blade held out his hand flat and tapped on it with his finger. Rich was certain they were demanding money.
“I got bang bang,” Rich said holding out his hand like a pistol.
They smiled dismissively.
The one with the blade said, “shush shush,” and made a slicing motion with the machete.
“No really,” Rich said and held his hand out like a pistol. “Bang bang.”
They spoke to each other again along with light chuckles.
“All I want is two bananas,” Rich said and held up two fingers.
The other man pounded his hand again with his finger more forcefully.
“No,” Rich said. “No.”
Rich steeped backwards. The men rushed. Rich pulled the pistol from inside his jacket. He held it so they could see. “Real bang bang.”
The men stopped. They looked at each other and nervously exchanged words.
The one man dropped the machete and walked back to the truck. He pulled two bananas from a bunch and brought them toward Rich.
“Stop,” Rich said before he got close. Rich made a motion to toss them.
The man tossed them. Rich caught them and stuffed them in his coat pocket.
“How much?” Rich said.
The men looked confused at each other and shrugged their shoulders. They flashed big smiles and made a motion for Rich to leave.
Rich tossed a couple of coins on the ground.
“Obrigado,” one man said.
“You guys really should improve your negotiating skills,” Rich said. “On second thought, think I over payed you.”
Rich walked back up the lane to the main road. He kick-started the motorbike. He sped and weaved back down the mountain road.