Is He Dead?
“Es él Muerto?”
I jump out of my seat and gape at a Peruano man standing in his canoe in the rain. I brush mosquitoes from my face. I thought mine was the only boat around for miles, but here’s this man in a canoe pointing to the front of my boat.
“Es él Muerto?” he says again.
He looks worried. He’s standing in the rain in his canoe, pointing. It’s not just any kind of rain, either. It’s rainforest rain. It’s coming down harder and faster than you’ve ever seen rain. It’s thick. It has sound. It’s coming down so hard, it hits the surface with such a splash, it’s like it’s raining up. I look to the front of my boat, to Mark laying on the fishing platform in his raingear. Rain bouncing up off him.
Where I am, in the relative dryness under the thatched roof by the wheel, are a million mosquitoes, buzzing about their good fortune of shelter and food. I’m doing my best to put mind over matter, to kind of hum at a frequency sympathetic to theirs and confuse them enough to stop the frenzy. I’ve always tried to make a point of ignoring them and going about my business. It is not working.
There didn’t have to be mosquitoes. Really. It depends on the water. Black, tannic acid, no mosquitoes. Clear sweet water, Deet won’t do it. When we were back in Iquitos planning the trip, we knew this, but we wanted to come here. We packed the boat, threw the chickens on the roof, and took off. We meandered around adventurously and wound up here, with a guy standing in the rain in his canoe pointing to Mark, laying on the fishing platform in his raingear to escape the mosquito fest under the thatching.
“Hey, Mark,” I call. “What’s muerto mean?”
Mark sits up on the platform. “I don’t know. Dead, I think,” he says. “Why?”
I look back out at the rain falling in an unbroken curtain, like looking out from behind a waterfall, no sign of the Peruano man or the canoe. “No reason,” I say. I brush at the mosquitoes.