Previous, Next, Numerical Index, Chronological Index.
For All Nails, pt. 20

(This is a renumbered repost of the former pt. 19.  There is another,
official pt. 19 up.  Anyone have a website for this?)

Mexico City, F.C.D.

12 September 1971

Robert Contreras was generally a happy man, although there was no way
anybody could possibly see that at the moment.

"What the fuck are you molesting me about this for?"  [1]  he hollered
into the phone.

His employee might depend on Bob for his job, but the guy was
Jeffersonian, and he gave as good as he got.  "Because I got ni idea
what they're talking about, patrón!  I thought maybe you might, being
in charge of the company and all."  [2]  The sarcasm was muted, but
obvious.  It didn't bother Contreras.

"Listen, compadre, I have no idea what they're talking about.  Our
records are fine.  I know it, you know it, they know it.  Deal with

"Patrón, if they're fishing, there's no bait."  

"And there shouldn't be.  Our papers are in order, unless you guys
have kicked the duck over there." [3]

Somehow, the subordinate's exasperated expression was transmitted over
the phone lines.  "Not that _I_ know of, patrón.  I'll handle it. 
Como sea."  They hung up.

_Christ almighty_ thought Contreras.  _I have more important things to
worry about right now._  A bunch of customs officials investigating
allegations of smuggling at the company's Monticello office was low
down on the priority list.  [4]  First came getting Pemex to come
through on its promise to honor the escalation clauses in its
contracts.  Contreras bought a whole lot of inputs from the CNA, and
this damn exchange rate volatility was killing him.  Then came
preparing for his meeting with the Progressive Party's presidential
candidate, Immanuel Moctezuma.  Official support was official support,
and Moctezuma could really help him both in getting Pemex to honor its
contracts _and_ in winning the Chamber presidency.  Of course,
Secretary Mercator's support would be even better, but as in his
daughter's favorite expression, "Lo que sea."

The phone rang again.  _Will I never get moment's peace?_ thought
Contreras.  He punched the speaker button.  "Who is it?"

"Your daughter, sir," said his latest secretary.  Well, she didn't
quite _say_ it, she respired it.  That voice was why Contreras had
hired her.  Her looks were why his ex-wife had tolerated her.  His
current wife, just back from Switzerland, didn't really care. 
Contreras had always thought of Manitobans as Jeffersonians without
the guile.  Which was good for him, all around.

"Great!"  It wouldn't be, Contreras knew his daughter, but he was
always happy to speak to her.  "Put her through."  He morosely looked
at the contracts scattered over his desk and waited for the call to be

"Papi!" yelled his daughter.  "The loke broke down!  What'll I do???"

_Oh my God_  he thought.  _My children have become strawberries.  I
never thought it would happen, but it did._   Smiling to himself at
his offspring's, well, uselessness, Contreras said, "Calm down, honey.
 Take a breath.  What happened?"

"I don't know, papi!  I just went to start it, and there was this
grinding noise and oil came out of the front and now everything smells
like vulcazine!  What'll I do?"

"Okay, honey, where are you?"  

"At school," whined his youngest.  

"You're at the Tech?  Okay.  Leave the car there.  I'll call a
mechanic to tow it.  You stay in the cafeteria and I'll come by to
pick you up in a few hours."

"Hours?  Papi!  I can't stay here for hours!  I mean, it's soooo

Embarrassing?  When he was her age, it would have been a challenge. 
Of course, she was just a girl.  What niggled at him wasn't so much
Jennifer, or his other daughter, as the thought that his younger son
probably thought exactly the same way ... there's something
embarrassing about realizing that your children have turned into the
kind of people you used to beat up in the bathroom of your junior high
school.  Would that they had all turned out like Bobby Junior.  "Why
don't you call your mom?"

"Paaaaaaaaaapiii ... momma's in California right now, at the beach,
with that new guy."  She didn't like the new guy very much.  That,
perversely, made Bob feel pretty good.  Bob had primary custody (a
judge owed him a favor) but this was supposed to be her mother's
weekend.  Evidently the woman formerly known as the most beautiful in
Mexico City had other things to do.

"Right.  Okay.  I'll send over a driver right away."  

"You _will_?  Oh, papi, that's wonderful!  You're the greatest!"  Bob
grunted something else, and tried not to roll his eyes.  But what
could he do?  He simply couldn't resist his little girl.  After she
hung up, he rang his secretary.

"Marie?  Listen.  Can you send a car and driver over to the Tech
campus for me?"

"Sure, I'm on it, jefe.  What for?"

He sighed.  Marie was from California.  She would think this was as
ridiculous as he did.  "Uh, to pick up my daughter."

Marie laughed.  "Again?"

"Yeah, again.  I never should have moved to Mexico City, Marie.  My
children have turned into spoiled little rotten strawberries."

Marie laughed again.  "Oh, they're not rotten strawberries, jefe. 
I've seen rotten strawberries.  They're fresh and flavorful

Now he laughed.  "Right, right.  What's with these kids, Marie?  I
thought they'd all turn out like my eldest."

"That's 'cause you never did anything for Bobby Junior, jefe."  

They both laughed at that.  "So parental neglect is good, huh?"  They
were both Norteños.  He was supposedly Hispano, and she was putatively
Anglo, but that paled to nothingness when you considered that they
were both from el Norte.  The pompous aristo crap here in Mexico City.
 He never should have sent his children to private school, but after
the mess Chron had made of the public education system, how could he
trust his own children to it?  On the other hand, the public school
kids had to wear uniforms, and that would have freed him from a major
source of filial tonterías.

"Thanks for handling it, Marie."  He hung up, and turned back to
studying the contracts on his desk.  His major managers would be
coming in a couple of minutes, and they had major problems.  Well,
everything was a major problem nowadays.  The really pressing one was
that their North American creditors were gonna cut them off unless
they agreed to denominate everything in pounds, and unless Pemex could
be made honor their goddamned escalator clauses that would be
impossible.  The second-to-last thing Contreras needed was to worry
about some Customs guy in Jefferson sniffing around for a bite.  The
last thing, well, the last thing was worrying that his daughter was
becoming spoiled ... easier to send the car, even if he wasn't
entirely sure it was the right thing to do.

Three minutes later, the timer buzzed.  "Yee-up.  Hey, Marie.  Send
'em in."  He took his finger off the button, and the front door to his
office opened automatically.  He kinda liked that.  The door and the
office walls were all paneled in the same light-colored hardwood, so
unless you knew where the door was, you'd never notice it until it
opened.  In shuffled his top people, including his brother and
business partner, Charlie Contreras.

[1]  Modern American English speakers would not use the word "molest"
in this way.  These guys are not modern American English speakers.
[2]  "Ni" is not a typo.  The following word was pronounced
"ee-day-ah," not "eye-dee-uh."
[3]  Ain't that a great expression?  
[4]  OTL's Little Rock, Arkansas.  Monticello, Jefferson, lies across
the river from Lincoln, S.V.  (OTL's North Little Rock.)  Lincoln is
named after the lawyer who helped join the Indiana Northern Railroad
to the Jefferson and California Railroad in 1863.  The town was almost
named after Patrick Gallivan, the Indiana Northern's president, but
Gallivan insisted that the settlement be called after "the man who did
all the real work."  Monticello partisans claim that the first
official game of Mexican-rules cricket was played there.  Lincoln's
inhabitants, of course, insist that the credit for the development of
American-rules cricket belongs to them.  Both cities still lament that
neither has their own professional team.  Rather, they root for the
Jefferson City Rebels on one side of the border and the St. Louis
Furriers on the other.

If anyone has more ideas about American-rules Cricket, go ahead!  We
know that old-style British cricket is still played among the CNA
upper class (pt. 21), but nothing about the popular game.  Except that
it's significantly different.  Otherwise Alex Stapleton would be more
familiar with it.

Two differences already:  the American game takes only three hours,
and uses cheerleaders.