The land was clearly being used by vagrants, and was now the commons for village waste, trash fires and wandering livestock. The dirt path cut right into the center of the property where there was a one-room shack, for living in, and a smaller dilapidatedshack across a yard of fattened weeds, presumably for relieving oneself in. It suddenlyoccurred to Moran that he had not bothered to bring any of the trappings of a common jungle villager, and that before he could live here he would need to buy a machete. Thiswas always Moran’s problem. He lived life in a dream and so was able to live freelyfrom the constrictions of status and wealth, in a state that many might consider poverty.An unfortunate side effect of this was a lack of focus and determination, or the perpetualneed for machetes.
Moran hitched a ride in a sidecar with a motorcyclist into Poptún proper, whichconsisted of a row of bars, a motel and some brothels, with a singular general storeadvertising the wares of civilization in bright, hand-made signs. The town obviouslyexisted impurely as a result of the army base, which grew like gangrene from anaggregate of warehouses and fortifications into a patchwork of shacks and shantycollectives. The
were not supposed to be here, but at places like the IxtobelHotel where they could look at wildlife and go tubing in a river. Still, they could be seenwith their eyes either worried or glazed over completely, strolling along the dirty street,and always followed after by emaciated Mayan children looking for centavos and piecesof chocolate.Once inside Tito’s Tienda General, he saw a man who could only be the bearer of the store’s name. A cross between a mobster and a saint or your own father, dependingon what he wanted to get across. Tito looked Moran over, pressing a fat finger into hischin while he did this. Moran’s clean denims must have closed the deal, because Tito’sface lit up with the first genuine Guatemalan smile he could remember.“Hello sir, welcome.” Tito waved. He spoke to Moran in an oily English whichmade him think that he stored meat in his cheeks or beneath his tongue. Moran decided itwas best to use English with him. He was aware that if he spoke in his second language,Tito might pick up his Mexican Spanish and choose to bestow a mysterious stereotypeupon him, one that might command even less respect than his lingua Americano would.“Bad rain here huh? You still wet.” Tito said.“Yeah the rain got me pretty good.” Moran replied, genuinely happy that someonewas finally engaging him.“Ohhhhhhh.” Tito sighed. This was an expression Tito would use a lotthroughout the conversation to suggest a deep concern for Moran’s general well-being.Machetes are big business in Poptún, bigger than tobacco and rifles, and almost as big as prostitution. Rows of military issue machetes hung from the walls and filled buckets around the store. One thing that stood: Nothing was in the open, as if to suggestthat everything was worth stealing, even the cans of Goya that colored the walls. Having