Backstory to "BOCA DE MORTE"
„Pick yourself a nightmare!“ Howard snorted and waved patronizingly at the swinging boat hulls. They bobbed up and down, in the brownish shoals of the Rio Amazonas. The plank under our feet creaked, so I showed Howard towards one of the newest looking boat. It hit me, that new was just a mere concept in Manaus. New meant anything under 15 years, more or less. My partner gave me the brow. „You know, there are easier ways to-“
„Shut up ’n move!“ I had no intention on striking roots here. It smelled of dead fish and rotting vegetables, if we stayed longer we’d put on mold. The sweltering heat was getting on my nerves. Dammit!
„My. Aren’t we cheerful today? Nicky? Really?! A death-stare? I’ll be another mystery death. A body with two holes in the chest, burnt all the way through. Oh, noes … Just imagine the newspapers will write horrible headers, that the Chupacabra finished a mighty good-looking tourist. What a terrible loss to humanity… Seriously. …Stop it.“
Actually, I had no reason to be annoyed. The whole project was going well. We were even ahead of schedule, which was only Howard’s merit. Well, his money’s, his language skill’s and his negotiation technique’s; which was plain as day: paying everybody off.
He called it greasing our way into the paper jungle.
Funny how accurate he was about that. He did his best to get me safely to Vitoriá. Being my translator, and my investor, made the whole situation awkward. He told me, that he had to take care of his investments, but if you ask me, every excuse was good enough to pack his bags and set out to another headless adventure. On second thought… Howard was being, well – Howard. It’s hard to explain. He could go from a worrying mother hen to a vulgar, abusive, irresponsible show off in two point three seconds. And that’s not nearly enough. He loved fights, betting and what not… But he was one of those people, who’d you call at three a.m; because you felt like shit, and he’d show up half hour later with booze, chinese take-out food, and a hooker.
Howard did more for me, than he intended, I guess. He lend me the necessary money we were denied by the head of the department. The “we” I mean is my mentor, Professor Henriksen and me. This whole „Mouth-of-death-Expedition“ was the linchpin of my thesis, and paper in paleozoology. If we find any proof of it, that is… It was the key to my scientific success, and maybe fame.
In exchange, he wanted his name in the science paper I was writing for my thesis; so that he didn’t have to write his own. Imagine, he wanted to be the co-author! Without contributing a word to the thesis. That was Howard all over. An opportunistic asshat and a cheat. I told him so, but he just laughed and thanked me. I don’t even know how he got wind of my situation… Professor Henriksen must’ve called him, or Helen… Nah, she hated him as much as someone dragging nails over a chalkboard.
„What are you shaking your head at, Nicky?“ He looked down at me, intently searching my eyes. „Should I start worrying now, or later on?“
„Say, buddy… You didn’t tell me earlier. How did you knew that I was in a bind?“ I tried, but Howard scratched his chin boredly and smiled his crooked smile. A piece of his upper left incisor was missing. Did he get in a fight, again? Did he have an accident?
„Aren’t you always, doc?“ Unbelievable! „Lets get us good places. Hold onto your hammock, and don’t let the jet lag finish you.“ His elbow nudged me, shaking with the rhythm of his guttural laugh. „We’ll get you some caffeine on board. Try’n stay awake.“ I hoped he was right about the coffee. Three days and two nights without sleep, listening to the roaches under the hostel bed, and you start wishing someone punched you so hard, that your lights go out. My head made an attempt to double its size, the burning sensation in my eyes crept down to my nape, melting my face on its way down. „Careful now. I won’t fish you out if you take a dive into that stinking wash.“
How was Howard not sweating? He truly did his best to annoy me. This shitty backpack was getting enormously heavy, my shoulders revolted, and my hands started stiffening with the weight of the luggage. Thank god, we sent most of the equipment last month.
pic by author, Bodensee