All Stories, General Fiction

Hacienda of Love by Monika R Martyn.

The weather app on my phone lies and says there’s only a 10% chance of rain; it’s raining. I listen to the sound of the soft rain as it mingles with the stillness evaporating with the rising sun. The world sleeps, and only the doves are awake with me. Humidity is 96%. Maybe it isn’t raining after all, and the sky is merely sweating. It’s hot in Mexico.

My free hand brushes over Honey’s dusty fur. She needs a bath. With each gentle stroke, I’m reminded of the mango tree. There are thousands of mango trees; they stink as the fruit rots and ferments. Before fate intervened, Honey’s life centered on being tied to the trunk of a dusty mango tree next to the highway that runs from Cabo San Lucas to Tijuana and switches sides from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez for optimum viewing.

Although there’s a dark desert highway, Hotel California is a fifteen-minute drive north and snakes along cactus after cactus to provide a point of direction. The lawsuit has been settled.

Abandoned to the Mexican heat, often without food and water, and denied the simplest gesture of love, Honey’s chances were slim. Dogs are social creatures, and even to this day, she soaks up affection like a dried up sponge. Beneath her shaven white fur, which acts as a strip of Velcro, her skin shines through in patches—a mishmash of seal-grey and purple. Her twitching nose is as black as her eyes. She’s one of four rescues. All thanks to a compassionate woman who one day couldn’t bear driving past the mango tree and seeing that pitiful sight. She paid to have Honey untied from a life of misery and brought her home.

Falling coconuts don’t make a sound until they land.

The thickness of the hovering humidity shrouds the mountain range to the east in a dense mist. But I know it is there. Mountains don’t move. Yet they move me with their breathtaking beauty on those mornings when the sun rises between the peaks and highlights the countryside surrounding me. I’m at the hacienda in a semiarid desert and a temporary surrogate for the pets.

A hacienda is a homestead on rural, agricultural land.

To see the beauty of Mexico, keep your focus trained slightly upward. Allow your eyes to skim over the palms and mango trees, the greenery that is coaxed from the soil with plastic water lines and plastic tarps to conserve each precious drop of water. The fields look like a Christmas tree, red and green, growing either tomatoes or peppers. The soil is a perplexing mix of dust and sand. Snakes leave their ribbon pattern; dead scorpions squashed by car tires are still recognizable if you know where to look.

A dead, upside-down lizard looks in bone structure like an alligator.

A good place to look for scorpions is in your shoes before you put them on. It’s not simply women who have a shoe fetish; scorpions like them too, only they don’t care about brands or size. It takes months to stop the habit of shaking out your shoes and clothing when you return home to the northern hemisphere.

The humidity drops to 95%, and the temp hovers at 19C. The chance of rain remains at 10%. The cement deck is awash and a shade of chocolate brown and slippery as hell. Gentle drumming raindrops land on the enormous palm leaves all around me. It is like the sound of God’s tears falling. He sure has much to cry about. I have no idea what God sounds like; I’m just saying.

Although it’s imperative always to look where you step in Mexico, look up if you want to see its beauty. The sky in Mexico is a moving picture show. Clouds moving across the blue canvas are like Monet’s brushstrokes and palette, best seen at a distance to appreciate the spectrum and detail. At dusk, I see islands and oceans in the sky, even though there are no islands and oceans in the sky. I do see the Pacific.

The Pacific makes me humble. It is a reality check that despite 7.674 billion of us, each of us is about as important as a single grain of sand. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a purpose and bring meaning to someone else’s life. Just as each grain combines to form a beach, each person needs to realize they are on Earth for the greater good. Alone we are ineffective and meaningless.

The Pacific is varying shades of blue. I’m lucky because I have seen a long portion of the magnificent Pacific. From Vancouver down to San Francisco. I’ve swum along the coastline of Panama where the water is about as warm as your bathtub. I’ve seen the sunrise in the Pacific in Panama, which is so wrong when you think about it. On the Mexican Baja, it inspired my novel and this short ramble and musing. No matter how often I stand on the shores of this natural wonder, I am awed anew. Its relentless heartbeat, as it heaves and rolls the waves and sends them crashing ashore, leaves me humbled. It’s only toying with us, giving the world a minuscule sample of its power. I’m not a gambler, but in a contest, my money’s on Big Blue.

Despite the 10% chance of rain, I take a walk. I worry about the gecko in the bathroom sink. It sometimes moves but most often doesn’t. My husband and I argue. He wants to end its suffering; I say, “give it another chance.”

The rain makes tiny dots on the soil; I’m hardly getting wet. The difference between humidity and rain is minimal. I head back to the hacienda. I walk through the plot of manicured land ready for sale. A Mexican retirement plan. The rectangular field is divided into sellable “Gringo” plots and cleared of weeds, cacti, and trash. Embedded deeply in the soil are the shredded black plastic sheets that speak of its farming history. I spot one can of Corona cerveza in my periphery. The rest is as pristine as it gets: that’s marketing to your target audience.

Cerveza is Spanish for beer. Corona Extra is a type of Mexican beer owned by a Belgian company. Corona Extra is not responsible for the virus, though it may make you sick. Why people chose to boycott it? (Insert head shaking.) That’s people for you.

Humidity is 94%—time for more coffee.

Here, I could go on a tirade about the trash, the plastic collection of soda bottles, agricultural waste, but no one gives a damn. In Canada, we also have individuals who chuck their trash wherever, whenever, too. It doesn’t even phase their conscience, and they don’t lose any sleep about the garbage they leave for someone else to remove and the generations yet to come. Don’t get me started on what it does to wildlife.

And I’ve heard every argument. You can’t make people care.

If you want to see a difference, you have to be the difference.

In Mexico, the sun sweats, the air is wet, yet the land is dry. When the coconut lands, it makes a thud. The jury is still out if coconuts kill as many people as some internet blogs suggest. Yet, I believe in the one-sidedness of truth—a falling coconut to the head will make you see stars, regardless. Coconut is a drupe and technically a fruit, a nut, a seed, and delicious. So is a fig. Learn something new every day.

About the stars. The sky at night in Mexico is also breathtaking. The Big Dipper follows me throughout life, always to the left of me. Satellites criss-cross in erratic patterns, and I had no idea there were so many. It’s a veritable freak show of space debris.

Humidity is 85%, temp at 21C. The chance of rain is still 10%. It’s no longer raining. The dogs had a bath. It’s not something I’d try with the cats. Honey’s coat is sleek and curled around her neck and stilt-like legs. We remove the prickly stickers she collects on our walk; remember the Velcro I mentioned, stuck to her upper and lower lip. I now know why I travel with nail scissors.

Later that day, the gecko vanishes from the sink.

Lester, the coolest cat in Mexico, a YouTube star in the making, is stretched out on the leather sofa. He doesn’t like getting wet but enjoys shrimp for breakfast. He’s number one in the pack of rescues, and his claws are about as sharp as Edward Scissorhands. Only he doesn’t sculpt any hedges.

Chuy, a black mini-pin pug-cross and sometimes a diablo, hates anything with wheels and is sound asleep in his little basket. Snoring, he’s dreaming of chasing hot-dog cookies and Honey’s tail. He doesn’t know he’s a rescue dog. He was too young when fate intervened in his life twice.

Ha! Chuy is a nickname for people named Jesus.

Lola is curled into a tri-colored ball. She purrs in her sleep but is still timid when a hand moves too quickly toward her. That she flinches tells you everything. They were all brought to the hacienda of love by that same woman.

The next chapter is waiting at the front gate. He’s black, not a good color to be under the Mexican sun. He wags his tails and whimpers whenever I meet him with a bowl of kibble. Black Dog doesn’t have a home, but I see the inevitable. He now lets me pet his head.

That night, a gecko climbs the wall, and I say to my husband, “See, you have to have hope.” I suspect, however, that he had something to do with the miraculous recovery of the gecko.

In Mexico, life happens. The Pacific reminds you that life is precarious for everyone. Hard for many. There are varying degrees of hardship. Yesterday, on a return trip from La Paz, I saw a man walking along the highway. His legs, bowed as if his hips were two sizes too large, were spindly. He wore flip-flops, which are never good for posture or walking long distances. The lines etched into his face wrote the textbook thesis of hardship. He carries bags slung over his shoulder. He collects aluminum cans to earn a few pesos.

In the rearview mirror, I watch as he dives into the ditch and vanishes—what a bunch of spoiled babies we are.

Monika R Martyn

Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay 

7 thoughts on “Hacienda of Love by Monika R Martyn.”

  1. This is wonderfully balanced. It hardly gushes wildly about Mexico, but it is fair to it. So many lovely descriptions, and the mood, which is tinged with quiet despair, is beautifully struck.



  2. Hi Monika,
    I echo what Leila has said.
    This has a wonderful pace and the balance is exceptional.
    This is a lesson to all writers on how a writer can control a story.


  3. Hi Monika. Refreshing to read essays that your powerfully expressive mind translates to writing. I concur with the other comments and can only add that I was on the Mexican journey with you; as virtual reality! Oddly enough, I still shake my shoes to this day, to keep trespassers off my feet. Such is the culture of wise Africans, even living in Ireland. Have you ever written an anthology of your short stories? If you did, I would love to read it. Blessings, Peter.


  4. I’ve never been to Mexico, but now I have. I love the way you handle the one-liners. Perfect timing. I was jolted with a rush of tears when I read, If you want to see a difference, you have to be the difference.
    Your writing makes a difference.


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