The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
Revolution Starts at Dawn
Ramon chomped down on the end of his cigar.
“Will your guerillas have plenty of coffee?” he asked. “Since they’ll be up so early?”
He was an immensely fat man who had squeezed himself into one of the narrow wicker chairs seemingly by force of will alone. He wore a flamingo pink jacket and white cotton pants – custom-tailored, of course –and underneath them a pastel blue shirt unbuttoned at the top. There were four jeweled rings spread across the fingers of his right hand (all but the thumb). The fashionable rumor among the upper social strata was that he had cut them off of dead men.
To his immediate right was Sophie Beauchamp, executive secretary to the CEO of an international offshore services company. Her employer had no interest in the ruling party or its political leanings, merely a few deepwater blocks off the coast, which he was certain could be had at a discount rate from a less profit-minded regime. Sophie was slender and dark-skinned. She wore a pin-striped pant suit and her raven hair was pulled up in a tight bun behind her head. Underneath her left armpit she wore a nickel-plated .22-caliber semi-automatic in a designer leather holster.
In front of her on the wicker table lay a leather-bound day planner open to the following week, a $300 fountain pen and a Blackberry Smartphone. The latter blinked incessantly as it announced the arrival of helpless emails from her most recent boyfriend. Sophie ignored Ramon’s joke, picked up the phone and deleted the latest email (I miss you so much babe) without reading it.
It was Jackson Thorpe that finally answered Ramon, saying, “we have a long tradition of organizational prowess.”
Thorpe was well past fifty, with a skeletal face and narrow frame. His silk suit practically hung off him. He wore a panama hat, Sophie judged because a long career in espionage entitled a man to dress ridiculously, but the crème de la tacky was the whalebone cigarette holder he used to smoke. His eyes were a muted shade of grey, his face lined with wrinkles that spoke not to years of emotional crisis and profound regret, but rather being an old hand at a trade that was always in high demand.
Next to Thorpe was Eli Jones, a darkly handsome, middle-aged man in a three-piece suit. He had long, wavy hair out of place on the head of an executive board member for a leading export firm, but spoke softly and with authority, mostly because he was the one that knew the Marxists best, and therefore had become the final arbiter of all things coup-related.
The Marxists themselves were notably in absentia, as Ramon’s wife (a firebrand Colombian with the temperament of an AR-15 assault rifle) refused to tolerate the sight of combat boots and camouflage fatigues on her veranda.
Not that one could blame her.
The villa was perched on the side of a gentle, rolling hill that looked down over the coast and a small fishing village. It was mostly jungle until the village, at which point a narrow spit of white beach protruded from the foliage. Crystal blue waves lapped at the sand.
A uniformed maid appeared with a drink tray.
Pina colada garnished with an offensively large wedge of pineapple for Ramon.
The McCallan’s 18 on the rocks for Sophie.
An understated gin and tonic for Eli.
Thorpe – perhaps predictably – had asked for a banana daiquiri.
“Human rights, muchacho,” he drawled. “The thought’ll have ‘em up earlier than a bucket of Maxwell House.” For punctuation he sucked daiquiri through his grotesque curly straw.
“And you expect them to hand it all over by the end of the day?”
“Never met a revolutionary knew much about foreign investment,” Thorpe said.
Eli Jones cut in with a gesture, replacing his gin on the table.
Sophie couldn’t help but notice the size of his hands. Too rough for a man stuck in an office all day. There was a ragged scar between the first and second knuckles of his right index finger, and she was immediately curious as to how it had gotten there. Also, he wasn’t wearing a wedding band.
“…bottom line is they’re not interested in setting interest rates and regulating investment inflows,” Jones was saying. “There’s an arrangement.”
The leader of the Popular Army for Liberation and Equality - the bearded, perpetually-undernourished Juan-Carlos Allende - was one of the few rural peasants who could read. According to popular legend, he based his blueprint for revolution on a dog-eared paperback copy of the Communist Manifesto that was missing twenty pages.
The basic tenant of Allende’s revolution was that the people should own everything.
But he also espoused an interesting corollary: the people had the right to sell everything, too. Particularly to multinational conglomerates with a vested interest in virgin fields of raw materials. Especially if said conglomerates were in a position to discreetly funnel Juan-Carlos Allende shipments of small arms and rocket propelled grenades.
Sophie thought back to her post-graduate days. The long afternoons in the library stacks, the noise-cancelling headphones she’d bought to kill wretched sound of the TA’s bitching about their course loads, the paper coffee cups that had piled up next to her. “The Impact of Wanting Guns on Socio-Economic Discourse in the Third World.” That’s what she would write now. There was a certain ring to it. Then again, twenty years of hiding from State Security in banana groves (especially banana groves coveted by a man of Eli Jones’ stature) were bound to trigger certain ideological incongruities.
“Well there you have it,” Thorpe said, screwing a cigarette into his whalebone holder. “Just before dawn Ramon’s boys and the guerillas hit the government airstrip at Villa Blanca and the heliport at Puerto del Sol. My pilots gun in from just over the border at sunup and start pounding the slums. Folks look up, see the government markings. Then just as the screaming and bloodletting and untimely expiration of loved ones gets to a fever pitch a few carefully selected community leaders point them all in the direction of the friendly neighborhood arms cache.”
Sophie eyed her scotch. There was a beautiful simplicity to the whole scheme.
It was smooth as all those clever maxims she’d drilled into her head over the years.
Price goes up, yield goes down.
Buy on the deeps.
Never sleep with him on the first date.
“Revolution in a can,” Thorpe said, lighting his cigarette. “Our boy’s using El Jefe for a footrest by noon. Ramon gets his coca leaves, Eli gets his bananas, Miss Beauchamp gets her deepwater blocks and Uncle Sam sleeps well knowing another tin-pot dictator won’t be drawing Axis of Evil membership come the next application cycle.”
Ramon glowered, so dissatisfied it seemed to darken his pink jacket a shade. “They won’t fight at dawn.”
“Why not?” Sophie interrupted, surprised at the sudden force in her own voice.
She had their complete attention: six sets of eyes suddenly fighting the urge to size up her chest.
“Why not?” She lifted her scotch off the table and then settled back in her wicker chair. Only after drinking did she cross her legs again.
He lolled his head from side to side in a halting, pathetic motion, ashamed she had come over to his side, but only because she was a woman. Sophie’s jaw tightened.
“For a hundred years they have been woken up in the dark,” Ramon said, “whether they’re going out to work in the factories, or the fields – maybe they’re not even working, but it’s that particular morning Security decides to drag someone off to prison.” He pulled the cigar from his mouth and spat tobacco on the pristine white of the veranda. It pooled there like a lost spot of brackish pond water. “A hundred years of revolutions and each one worse than the last.” He shook his head. “At least this time we could give them some sleep.”
Sophie was holding her scotch beside her head, her elbow cocked out from her body at a right angle. “Well,” she said softly. Then she looked to Jones and Thorpe in turn. The banana magnate looked down and away from her. Thorpe turned a sheepish shade of red.
“Never could stand the sight of a beautiful woman so disappointed.”
Sophie returned her scotch to the table and folded her hands in her lap. “So the revolution starts at noon?” she asked.
Each of the men nodded in turn, except for Ramon, who was staring miserably at the tobacco stain drying on the veranda, visualizing the conniption fit his wife would suffer when she returned from the capital.
“Si,” he muttered.
Sophie bent to the table, picked up her $300 dollar fountain pen and began to scribble in her day planner.
When what future generations would celebrate as Revolution Day finally arrived, she was on her hotel suite’s balcony, sipping a mimosa in the harsh, mid-day glare of the sun.
A pall of black smoke hung above the slums on the edge of town.
Thorpe’s fat helicopter gunships circled overhead, spewing orange tracers into lopsided rows of corrugated tin huts.
Somewhere down below, a hapless idealist had already begun shouting “Viva la Revolucion!” through a megaphone.
Sophie had showered but hadn’t bothered to dress yet. She wore one of the hotel’s fluffy, monogrammed bathrobes. Her wet hair was wrapped up in a towel. Oddly comfortable all things considered.
'Tell those Hind pilots if they so much as graze a hotel they’ll be up against the wall right next to El Presidente.'
Eli Jones had said that to Thorpe before the last meeting adjourned. He owned controlling stakes in both the Grand Hyatt and Four Seasons - Sophie was booked in the latter.
A half hour before, an armored column had passed by the front of the hotel, a handful of jeeps and tanks snaking its way through downtown toward the slums and circling helicopters. Off on the horizon, one of them cut in for a rocket attack. It came in low and fast, firing dozens of what might as well have been lightning bolts into something Sophie suddenly hoped was a military target.
She sighed, then glanced at her BlackBerry.
The red light was blinking.
She checked the newest message (Thinking of You : ) ) and instinctively reached for the delete button.
Down below, a second platoon of tanks had begun to crawl past the hotel. By now a crowd had gathered on the street and while most people simply stood and stared there were a few more proactive elements shouting and shaking their fists.
“Viva la Revolucion!” the nut with the megaphone blared.
Then, quite suddenly, a machine gun burped and he stopped.
Sophie’s finger hovered over the delete key for a moment.
The sound of a breaking bottle shot up seventy stories, followed immediately by a sustained whoosh as a fireball bloomed against the side of a tank. The armored column jerked to a halt.
Sophie’s finger retreated from the delete key.
'I miss you too, hon', she typed, 'I had a charter booked this afternoon but some political trouble started and all the flights are cancelled. I am very safe though security is always very good at the hotels. Love you always and see you at JFK!'
Down below, the crowd was surging every which way. Some of the people were fighting to get away from the tanks, others toward them. The machine gunners were raking the crowd indiscriminately and the screaming had gotten nearly as loud as the gunfire.
Sophie sent the message and tossed the phone onto a chair.
Then she was back at the railing, sipping her mimosa.
She hoped it would end as quickly as they said it would.
© Nicholas Lewandowski November 2010