1950s Archive

South American Journey


continued (page 4 of 4)

Rollo, in a white jacket, carved like a cavalry charge as we fed a dozen guests. Uncle Willie had made a cafébrûlot to go with the boar. He mixed lemon and orange peels, stick cinnamon, cloves, and coriander seeds in a bowl and added two lumps of sugar for each person. Over this he poured very hot coffee and then brandy, set afire. He stirred the brew, then blew out the flame before it burned up all the brandy. This potion was just right to follow the late respected boar.

Afterward we sat on our balcony over-looking the lake and the fading mountains and listened to the cold water running over the yellow rocks. Rollo lit our cigars and Mollie's cigarette, and Mollie kicked off her high-heeled shoes and stretched like a plump kitten full of cream. “Ho boy. This is the living.”

Uncle Willie said, “It seems a shame to leave for Chile. But we're going in the morning. Right over those mountains.”

Mollie began to weep. “Always at the best part of the life somebody they leave.”

I said, “We have lecture dates. We have to go.”

Mollie nodded. “I have the gallery in B. A. to take care of. And I am engaged to Willie, yet I make the sacrifice. Like the woman I always lose.”

Uncle Willie, much recovered in spirit, said sweetly, “My dear Mollie, you say the most banal things in the most charming way. Since this is our last night together we must dance a tango in farewell. I will give the party. Is that all right, Stevie?”

I said it was. I sat up late on the balcony while, below, the hotel band played soft, sticky music and a bandman with a mule jaw rattled and banged his seed-filled gourd in dancetime. Rollo came out to me in a tight blue suit, a red flower in his lapel, yellow gloves in his hand, and a gold-headed cane under his arm.

“Rollo,” I said, “men have forgotten how to dress with daring. You are the last of the snazzy dressers.”

Rollo bowed. “A young widow from the coffee belt needs consoling. And thank you for not mentioning today how I fell on a boar. You think my tiger eye pin is too, too much? A little overripe?”

I said, as a burst of tango music rocked the hotel, “I like it.”

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