Lady Bee Good
Mama Pop wasn’t that impressed by the boy: a dreamy beach bum, was her take. But the girl? Que horror! The slut skirt, those Nazi boots, the stubborn look… one of those little renegades who wanted to throw over centuries of tribe for the latest gringo fad or perversion, is what it all looked like. She let Puch deal with it, pretending not to listen from the porch while using an old corncob to scrub the kernels off maize for tortillas.
Puch couldn’t figure it out either: these two just show up and seem to expect the Pops to put them up, take them in to what they were doing. He stood talking to this Ganzo under the workers’ palapa while his little ponkita girlfriend wandered around the edge of the sinkhole, peering down at The Works.
“So Curtsy told you to come see me. Did she say why?”
“No. She said she didn’t know why, but it seemed like the right thing.”
Puch eyed Ganzo closely, his scan mixed with a little male territoriality. “So how long have you known Curtsy?”
“Only weeks. Since she came to live at my house.”
“She said we should talk to your mother.”
“She said what?” Puch was flabbergasted and didn’t mind it showing. “My mother never liked her, said I was crazy to be involved with her, and since she left me, she really doesn’t like her.”
“It’s what she said.”
Puch looked around, then motioned him over to the lip of the pit. Ganzo stood on the drop and solemnly surveyed the construction site below, which had become a ball court almost indistinguishable from the ancient ones at the ruin sites. He pointed to the growing pile of stone at the far end, where it rose to the level ground in tapering tiers and said, “It’s a pyramid that leads up to the head of a queen. A god, you know?”
Puch stared at him, then back at the stone breaks. He could almost see it himself. “What makes you say that?”
“I just see it,” Puch said. “I look at things and see the shape wanting to come out.”
Well, that sounded possibly useful. “So you make things? Masonry? What?”
To answer, Ganzo pulled a rolled towel out of the blanket purse he had slung over his shoulder. He held his forearm parallel to the ground and let the towel unroll over it, the way he always displayed his wares. Puch stared at dangling necklaces and bracelets, earrings clipped on to the towel: treasures crafted from the leavings of the sea. He bent to examine them more closely, touched one that really caught his eye; a classically stylized bee Ganzo had scraped out of a pork bone using broken files and old drill bits.
“They’re beautiful,” he said. “This one looks like it should be in a gallery.”
“I made it for Xchab,” Ganzo said. “I’m saving it to give to her when…”
Puch looked up at him but that was apparently all he had to say. Suddenly he was aware of his mother standing right behind him. She also reached to touch the little bee, made of bone scorched golden brown with a hot machete blade. She also looked up at Ganzo, and said, “What’s her name?”
“We keep bees,” she told Ganzo and Puch knew it was somehow part of her questionnaire for these two.
And the Pops did have beehives. For generations they had husbanded the rare, stingless Yucatan bees as the Maya always had, harvested the treasured black honey.
Puch nodded and motioned towards the back of the property, where the hives were set among the blossoms of the jungle. But his gesture stopped in mid-air as he stared at Xchab, now standing directly above the tapering ridge where Ganzo had seen a headdressed goddess head, looking down at their constructions and moving in a slow, silent dance.
And behind her, like a moving black shroud, a living version of the mantle of the Virgin, was a swarm of bees. She moved like a swimmer in thick syrup, her movements stately and composed for such a young girl. And each time she swung an arm out from her side, it was the lead edge of glistening black wing. When she clapped her hands over her head, two columns of bees clashed behind her, splashing upwards into the sun. She twisted and trotted and windmilled her arms, all shadowed by that teeming cloud of wings.
Mama Puch watched her for over a minute, then turned to Puch, not looking at Ganzo. “Find the boy a place in the shed with your workers and ball-players,” she said, turning away towards the house. Over her shoulder she added, “The girl can have Yoli’s old room.”
Puch looked at Ganzo, regarding him blankly, and grinned. He stuck out his hand and Ganzo grasped it. “So we stay here?”
“No doubt of it, amigo. Dinner is in an hour.”
“Then I have another message for you.” He rolled the towel carefully, stuck it back in his shoulder bag, pulled out a piece of creamy stationery with the Blancaneaux logo across the top, and handed it to Puch.
I thought you’d find it in you to take care of this pair. You’re a sweetheart.
P.S. I don’t think I’m done with you yet. So watch your ass.
Puch read it twice then looked at Ganzo, keeping his face impasive. Ganzo said, “She said only give you the letter if you invited us.”
Puch shook his head with a smile that wasn’t really amused, but not quite sad. “She doesn’t really know me. Yet.”