2012-12-08 (Please note the dates. I'm now posting in whatever order I please.)
|Rickety Rocket Launchers|
The chicken bus stopped unexpectedly. The driver said something I didn't make out and everyone began to get off. I stepped off the bus and looked up to see the top of a rusty ferris wheel against the backdrop of a volcano. As I was wondering what the problem was with the bus, I heard the twin thwumps of mortars being fired. They exploded high overhead, sending cardboard shrapnel to the ground. I followed the crowd and rounded the corner to find a flatbed truck full of angels and demons blocking the road.
The rest of the afternoon was uneventful, though after finishing my business in the city, I found myself walking back to Antigua, wondering where the return buses were.
The chicken bus followed the normal route today. After a fruitless visit to my mechanic, I walked to the centro to find some food. A sizeable crowd was picking their way through the aisles, shopping and eating. I bought some water and a tortilla with sausage and fermented cabbage (Mayan sauerkraut?) and sat down by the church. A banner on the wall depicted a wrinkly old white guy with a gold, jeweled staff topped with a crucifix. Inside, a pre-recorded sermon read by an overly-inflective voice actor played, followed by hymns. Outside, dozens of bells clamored for the attention of potential ice cream customers.
As I sat outside the church, questioning reality and trying to redefine normal in my brain, the hymns stopped and the music changed to flutes and drums. Suddenly the bells stopped and the ice cream vendors started pushing their carts down the road. I thought a religious procession, the bizarre mix of the solemn and the raucous, might be displacing the vendors but suddenly the people on the street began to run. I stood up and looked for danger; the last time I'd seen a crowd move like that it was followed by a group of riot police firing tear gas. A short distance away, I saw a burst of smoke quickly followed by a loud report.
|Fleeing the Thwump|
I ran toward a parked truck but stopped as I rounded the bumper to see two mortars tubes fire their projectiles right in front of me. I backtracked around the truck and ducked down. The majority of the crowd had gathered behind the gazebo in the town square. I peaked around the truck and saw a rocket launcher spinning out of control. I ran for the gazebo. One of the rockets struck a hot dog vendor's stall but no one seemed injured. Another landed in the crowd on the other side of the street. I shared a glance with a guy dressed as a cow. He just shrugged.
|Monkey Demon Torments the Pious|
The mortar fire and rockets continued for several minutes before everyone returned to the street and the ice cream bells resumed clamoring. The music coming from the church never halted.
Afterwards, I picked my way through the crowd, now gathered around groups of angels, priests, cowboys and demons, the latter dressed in drag, others like hellish Three Musketeers and some like blond-haired versions of The Predator.
This time I found the bus.
|White is the Color of Death|