I’m going to be completely honest: if everyone at birth is allotted a certain amount of hero-points to use over the course of their lifetime, then this weekend I blew mine all at once.
A few days ago, the entire town of Pearl Lagoon gathered for a big parade honoring a man who has literally spent his entire life devoted to the community. His name is Ray Hooker, and he’s the boss of the organization I work for and the reason I’m here and the reason the school I work for exists in the first place. He’s a monolithic man, well over six feet tall, sage-like in demeanor and so slow and deliberate in his speech that you get the feeling he never said a word he didn’t mean in his life. It’s as if every word that comes out of his mouth is so painstakingly and wisely, WISELY chosen that it needs extra time to marinate in the cerebrum and larynx before coming to the surface in audible form. He’s someone who after meeting you feel an untraceable certainty will live on in myth long after his own death. It’s kind of awe-inspiring.
So I guess I should admit right now that if there really is a hero of this story, it’s him. But sh! Let me have my five minutes.
Anyway it’s big old parade, and my whole school is there, and I am assigned to be cameraman and take pictures for posterity. The parade starts at one end of town, goes through the main street, and ends at the Moravian Church where everyone that can fit squeezes in and listens for (turned out to be) four (that’s 4) hours of praise and speeches of honor. At the central intersection is a triumphant banner that everyone has gathered at and under which the parade will gloriously pass through: WELCOME DR. RAY HOOKER, SON OF THE SOIL/THE PL COMMUNAL GOVERNMENT.
Well I’m standing at the intersection listening eagerly to the distant sound of the marching band and waiting for the approaching parade to round the corner so I can take pictures of it as it passes under the banner. When ALL OF A SUDDEN, an enormous oil tanker truck from Managua, completely out of nowhere and totally oblivious to the fact that there is a parade, comes in from the other direction and passes directly under the banner. Everyone gathered watches horrified as the cloth from the banner catches on the upper corner of the truck’s frame and is torn down to lie like a slain bird on the ground.
The advancing parade is two minutes away and the people at the intersection wail at the calamity as they see the painstakingly spelled and painted banner lying in the dirt. No one knows what to do, and one woman comes into the streets and drags it out of the way in a pile so at least the paraders won’t trip and fall. And this, my friends, it when I spring into action.
To this day, nobody knows why I did it, least of all the people who actually remember me doing it, which is probably just me. But whatever the reason, with a minute and a half left until the Pearl Lagoon Communal Government Parade Honoring the Beloved Doctor Ray Hooker, S.O.T.S., passes through the pearly gates, I run into the street.
I grab the banner and stretch it back out over the road to survey the damage. The left string attaching the banner to the pole has been frayed and broken beyond repair. The part that says “Communal Government” has been ripped halfway off and hangs down limply. Like Inspector Gadget, who at this point I am feeling pretty much on par with, this gives me an idea. I try ripping the hanging piece off, but it’s tough cloth, so I pull out my room keys and cut through the remaining part until I have a separate piece. Then, in front of everyone, I run to the banner pole, grip the cloth and the banner itself in my teeth, and start shimmying.
Judging by the size of my massive thigh muscles this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, but there at the pinnacle of the pole I was able to wrap my legs in such a fashion that it freed both my hands for tying. Using them and my teeth in combination, I fashioned a secure double knot, or “double half-hitch” as they say in the discipline, to both the banner corner and the pole with a generous ten to twelve seconds before the parade rounded the corner. After I glided gracefully down the pole and landed lightly on the ground, I had to fight the urge to perform a little gymnastics flourish to the hordes of people I was certain were beaming at me with appreciation and awe.
Instead, upon landing it became apparent that everyone was much too concerned about the oncoming parade to pay attention to my staggering victory. The only mention I ever heard of the occurrence thereafter was the next day when one of my students who had seen it came up to me and said, “White boys look ugly climbing poles.”
No one appreciates true heroism these days.