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The Wolfs spent New Year's Eve just like their neighbours did, drinking a bottle of cheap champagne from California and watching Mexican manufactured fireworks exploding in the air. And when they awoke to face the New Year, they were greeted as they had been the last two years while living in the land by the Caribe Sea by fresh reports of yet another murder in Belize City. I guess the more things change the more they actually do stay the same.

And change was indeed in the air. Charley and the other three Wolfs that made of their family of four were planning their first vacation in three years. That's right, they were planning to travel throughout the country to enjoy the natural beauty of their beloved newfound homeland.

With their map of Belize spread out on the mahogany table that had been created by a Mennonite man from the village of Pine Hill in the far southern Toledo District, together Charley and the Mrs. began planning their trip in earnest. Little Charley was eager to see up close a Belize Mayan archaeological site. Mama Wolf was simply wanting to get out of the kitchen and into a swimming pool. Baby Panama would be content to simply frolic about in the beach sand with her plastic bucket and shovel. As for Charley Senior, well he was hoping that he could practice casting a fishing line with the new rod and reel that Santa had brought to him two weeks prior.

As they charted their course the Wolfs were suddenly interrupted by someone knocking on their screen door. Upon answering the knock, Charley realized it was his machete man Clemento’s brother Ernesto.

“Mister Charley, I need to speak with you”.

“Yes Ernesto, give me just a minute”. Charley then put on his knee high rubber boots, grabbed his machete from it’s resting place leaning beside the door and headed out.

“Que pasa mi amigo, what’s happening?? Charley inquired.

“Mister Charley, it’s my wife, she is was having the baby and ran into some problems. I need to take her to the hospital. The ambulance will not come unless I pay them one hundred dollars. I do not have one hundred dollars and wanted to know if you would loan me the money.”

Charley understanding the desperation Ernesto faced seeing whereas they both lived at least ten miles from the closest hospital did not hesitate. He knew it was always a gamble to loan a man a dollar in this land some called paradise, much less a ‘c note’. But what was Charley to do, let the poor woman. He reached into his billfold and handed Ernesto the only one hundred dollar bill he had. Ernesto reached out and took the money, said thanks and was on his bike again heading up the road.

Charley and the Wolfs returned to their vacation planning session. Little Charley was keen on a visit to a Maya ruin. The Mrs. was deep into a daydream about lounging around a swimming pool in her two piece bikini and sipping endless rounds of frozen ‘Pina Coladas’. Little Panama had already pulled out her sand bucket and was shovelling air sand on the front porch. As for Charley, well he was tying some fly-fishing lures and thinking about whether or not he would respect the fisherman’s code of ‘catch and release’ if he were to actually hook a Tarpon.

As Charley was looking at himself in the mirror admiring the fishing vest with the freshly tied fly attached, he realized Ernesto was staring back at him. Caught somewhat by surprise, Charley first thought was where had he left his machete. In that mili-second when the mind when caught off guard attempts to read the situation at hand, Charley came to his senses.

“Ernesto, is everything okay??”

“Mister Charley, I went up on the highway and used the payphone to call the hospital. The woman that answered said she was sorry but she did not know where the ambulance or the driver were; she said she thought he had taken his family to the river. I was wondering if you could drive my wife to the hospital??”

Charley knew just how limited Ernesto’s options were since Charley’s truck was the only vehicle within a five-mile radius of the village they both shared. So Charley put back on his knee high rubber boots, grabbed car keys and his driver’s license in case they came upon a police checkpoint and headed for the thatched roof champa garage that protected the old Toyota truck from the blistering heat of the tropical sun.

Together Ernesto and Charley drove off down the dirt road. Once they arrived to Ernesto’s thatch hut that he shared with his mother, father, his wife, and his eight brothers and sisters, they ever so gently loaded the woman and the new born baby into the flatbed of the truck, In a matter of minutes they arrived to the hospital where Ernesto’s wife was admitted. Apparently during the birthing that was supervised by a Mayan midwife, part of the afterbirth remained. Unless a trained physician removed this material, it could be deadly toxic. Understanding that his role was complete, Charley returned to his idling truck, put it in gear and headed for home.

About a month and a half later after the Wolfs had returned from their vacation to Caye Caulker where they had satisfied Mrs. Wolf’s fantasy of swimming pools and pina coladas, Charley Juniors need to climb to the top of a Mayan pyramid with a trip to Lamanai, Charley Seniors addiction to fly fishing, they were tending to Little Panamas severe sunburn when Charley got to thinking. Since their return they had not seen Ernesto. Clemento had of course stopped by to machete the yard and the nature trails that twisted their way through the Wolf’s piece of paradise. When Charley had inquired as to how mother and child were Clemento had explained that they were doing just fine.

Another week or so passed by when it was time for Clemento to once again chopped back the relentless encroachment of the surrounding jungle. When Clemento had completed the task and came up to the main house to receive his well earned pay. Charley decided to ask “so Clemento, when do think your brother can stop by and discuss how he plans to settle that debt of one hundred dollars??”

Clemento replied, “I’m not sure Mister Charley, I will tell him to stop by.”

Four days later as Charley was driving by Clemento and Ernesto’s humble abode when he noticed the two men in the front yard saddling up the family horse. Charley decided to stop.

“Que pasa mi amigo, what’s happening?? Charley asked waiving for Ernesto to join him alongside the road.

“Hello Mister Charley…”

“Ernesto, how’s your wife and new born son??”

“They are doing well Mister Charley…”

“Ernesto, I hate to bother you, but how do you plan to settle that debt??”

“What debt Mister Charley??”

“To refresh your fading memory, that debt of the one hundred dollars I loaned you for an ambulance to take your wife to the hospital.”

“Mister Charley, the ambulance was not available that day, we had to catch a ride…”

“I realize that Ernesto, for it was me that drove you that day, don’t you remember.”

“Oh yea, that’s right…”

“So, how do you plan to repay me for the one hundred dollars I loaned you for the ambulance that never came??”

“Well I don’t have the money any more…I used it to have a party for my wife when she came home from the hospital. We were going to invite you but you were on vacation…”

“That’s all well and fine Ernesto, but again, how do you plan on repaying me the one hundred dollars you borrowed for the ambulance ride??”

“Mister Charley, like I told you, that ambulance never came, we had to catch a ride to town…”

“Ernesto, I am quite aware that you had to catch a ride, for it was I that you caught that ride with!!”

“Oh yea, that’s right…”

Charley learned a big lesson that day. And I guess that if a story needs to have a moral to reach it’s proper ending, then one can simply say that when it comes to loaning money to anyone, be it a gringo drinking partner in a neighbourhood cool spot or a desperate Mayan man trying transport his wife and new born son to a hospital, a wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse. And no matter how much things seem to change in life for Charley and the Wolfs, the more they actually stay the same.


'Adventures with Charley Wolf' is a purely fictional account of life in Belize.


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