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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

CDMX - 29. CDMX • XXIX

Three cabs delivered CJ, Owen, and the cadets to Club Yucatán before midnight. Just inside the door, CJ pumped a fist in the air. “TEQUILA SHOTS!” His shout was drowned out by loud cheers as the cadets followed him and Owen to the nearest bar.

“Bro, you buying?” The smirk on Ritch’s face made Owen laugh.

“Mate, I think you can afford to pick up the tab yourself. But fine, we’ll pay for the shots and the first round.”

The group crowded around Owen and CJ, shouting their orders. One bartender handled the requests while another set limes, a salt bowl, and shot glasses on the bar. Without a doubt accustomed to American tastes and habits. When he went to pour, CJ stopped him. “No, Papo. Let’s have the good stuff.” He nodded when the guy showed him a bottle of El Padrino Reposado.

The server grinned. “Good taste.”

Within minutes, the group stood on the edge of the dance floor, sipping cocktails. Everyone’s feet seemed to tap out the music’s rhythm. When the DJ transitioned to a new number, the smiles affixed to their faces grew.

“I LOVE THIS SONG!” Miranda, in front of everyone else, turned and found Ritch standing behind her. “Peterson! The dance floor. Now! That’s an order.” She grabbed his wrist and hauled him out into the undulating mass of bodies before he could object. “You have to like this one. It’s about your hometown.”

Ritch glanced at CJ and Owen who had followed him and Miranda. The three men high-fived each other and matched their moves to the music. The version of “The District” sounded awesome. The remix had an addictive dance beat and sped-up vocals. Considering the song had won Chipper several Grammys, its continued popularity was not surprising.

When CJ and Owen came nearer, Miranda pulled Ritch’s head close, and whisper-shouted something, while staring at his brother and brother-in-law.

“Bro, she wants to know why we’re acting up.” Ritch had to yell to counteract the loud music. His comment led to them laughing even louder, and Miranda looking confused.

“You know who the singer is?” CJ asked the woman.

“Yeah, Chipper. Great voice and a good-looking guy. Quite a few cadets drool whenever his name comes up. So, why were you guys laughing?”

Owen had worn a tank top, Ritch and CJ sleeveless muscle shirts. All three pointed to the tattoo on their left shoulder. “He has the same ink the three of us do.”

Miranda’s eyes shot open. “You know him?”

CJ spoke close to the woman’s ear as Joel and Edrice attached themselves to the foursome. “His real name’s Cristiano Humberto Israel Pereira, Jr.” Realizing more cadets had joined them and were straining to hear, CJ spoke louder. “Chipper and I went to high school together. He’s one of my closest friends. Ozzie and I flew to Miami in January to see him perform live.”

“No shit?” Joel wiggled himself between CJ and Miranda, throwing an arm over each one. “CJ, buddy… Can you introduce me? That man’s so fine he could do anything he wanted with me.”

“Slut!” Miranda shouted.

“Give him a break, Kerr. He’s already tipsy. Did you notice he ordered two more shots for himself?” Joel looked far from being inebriated, but Ritch must have felt compelled to provide an alibi for his fellow cadet.

“I’ll have you know, sir, ma’am, that I am entirely sober.” Joel winked at Ritch. “Okay, who do I have to blow, so I can blow Chipper?”

Miranda unshouldered his arm and took a step away. “That’s disgusting! All you men are disgusting. Even the fucking gay ones. All you think about’s sex.” She looked around the room, searching for who-knew-what. A moment later, she stormed off towards the bar.

“I’m glad I didn’t say a word. I’ve been on the receiving end of one of her tirades, and it scared the crap out of me. CJ, we should call Chipper. Let’s give Joel a cheap thrill.” Ritch’s grin appeared to be contagious; CJ and Owen imitated it.

Joel motioned for Owen to take the spot Miranda had vacated. “Gentlemen, you’re my new best friends. Let me get the next round, and I want to hear all about the concert you mentioned flying to Miami for. Come along, Peterson. I know you’re rich, but I’ll still buy you a cocktail.”

“Ha! Those two are worth a hell of a lot more than I am.” Ritch had been watching the entrance on and off and at that moment his eyes lit up. “You guys go on. I wanna go talk to somebody.” Sofía had walked in with a bevy of women.

CJ watched his brother momentarily drift from the straight line he started on, chat with a couple of other cadets, and resume his trek until coming face to face with the woman and her friends. “I think we’ve lost my little bro for the night.”

Owen shrugged. “I have a feeling there’ll be some very tired individuals tomorrow morning.” He was not off the mark. After substantial alcohol consumption, only a couple of hours of sleep, and a wake-up call before sunrise, the cadets resembled a troop of zombies when boarding their transport to Chichén Itzá.

 

When Ritch had called with his spring break dates, inquiring about the feasibility of spending time on a Mexican beach, CJ suggested Cancún. Promising he and Owen would join the Air Force cadets for a couple of days. The following morning, CJ had called Cody White, the archeologist they had met in Tulum. Upon arrival at the hotel in Cancun, the receptionist handed them an envelope delivered by courier on behalf of the Chichén Itzá excavation team.

The promised credentials for their group were inside. Previously, Cody had emailed him a list of suggested supplies. He speculated the cadets, accustomed to Colorado Springs’ 6,000 feet elevation with its cool, dry weather, might be uncomfortable in the jungle’s heat and humidity. Even though March was supposedly one of the nicest times to visit. He also sent them the name of a driver he encouraged hiring for the day.

CJ and Owen arranged for coolers full of bottled water when they contracted for the bus. Considering they would be traveling through dense vegetation on the way to their destination, they had also brought plenty of bug spray. The hotel had supplied boxed breakfasts and fruit; lunch they would buy from one of the myriad vendors along the way and around the ruins.

“Dude… About fucking time. You look like shit. You alive?” Death might have been an acceptable alternative to the abuse Ritch—and to a lesser degree, Edrice—was about to endure. Considering they were the last to arrive, CJ in particular was ready to subject the cadets to as much humiliation as he could manage. It was the brotherly thing to do.

“Morning,” Ritch mumbled as he approached his brother.

CJ stood by the door, supervising the cadets boarding the old school bus. He sniffed the air when Ritch was closest to him. “Oh, fuck. You didn’t shower, you pig. You smell like booze and sex. And you gave me shit for the same thing yesterday?”

Ritch stared at the vehicle with doubtful eyes. Its faded yellow color—rust volcanos erupting everywhere—would not inspire confidence in anyone. “Keep it down, bro. No need for anyone else to hear. You sure this clunker’s not gonna strand us in the middle of the jungle?”

CJ ignored his brother’s doubts about their transportation. “Why are you and Ed wearing flips? Didn’t I say closed shoes?”

“Boots, socks, and a towel in our backpacks. We packed it all up before we went out last night.” Ritch looked ready to collapse. “Can we get on now? I didn’t get that much sleep. Maybe I can nap on the way.”

CJ stared Ritch up and down and burst out laughing. “Oh, you’re so innocent, little brother. Why don’t you get on? I think you’ll be surprised.” He did not mention the other cadets were sufficiently awake and aware of what had transpired the previous evening. Everyone had seen Ritch, Edrice, Sofía, and one of her girlfriends leave together.

“Romeo!”

The shout came as soon as Ritch stood next to the driver.

“Stud on board!”

He found an open seat, slid next to the window, and ignored the catcalls and jokes.

Owen was kind enough to bring Ritch and Edrice ibuprofen and water bottles after they had settled on opposite sides of the center aisle. “I’m so happy your brother insisted we throw the painkillers in our backpack. If the two of you feel half as bad as you look, I’m glad I didn’t drink as much as you did last night.”

Ritch glanced at his partner in crime, smirked, and raised a fist in his direction. He and Edrice would be in much better shape once they reached their destination; they slept most of the way.

 

Larcos Portales, the driver Cody recommended, spoke English well and would also serve as their guide. After an initial phone call, he and CJ had emailed regularly. Portales was smart enough to send him interior and exterior pictures of his bus. It looked horrible on the outside, but the inside had been updated. Larcos explained the rust spots and faded paint deterred potential vandals and thieves. Once he had gone aboard, CJ realized mechanically there was nothing wrong with the vehicle either; the engine purred, and it was cool enough he kept his hoodie on.

With about a quarter the number of seats larger passenger buses had, there were still enough benches for everyone to have their own. Owen had taken the one behind the driver, and CJ the one across the aisle. They had not drunk as much as the cadets, having had enough Friday night, so there were no hangovers. Nevertheless, Owen fell asleep as soon as the bus started moving. CJ, hoping to see the jungle awaken when the sun rose, stared out the window.

“You mind if I sit with you for a bit?”

CJ had been distracted, watching the passing greenery visible thanks to countless headlights, and Fred had surprised him. “Hey! Sure… How come you’re not passed out like the rest of your boys?”

“Maybe because I didn’t drink one tenth what they did?” Fred glanced back along the aisle and shook his head. “I think it’s just me and Miranda awake, and she’s even more spaced out than you, staring out the window.”

“So, you didn’t drink as much. I’m surprised. I mean you’re not twenty-one, so you can’t even order a lousy beer in the U.S. I figured all of you would be swimming in booze this week.”

“Drinking’s not that important to me, sir. I’m focused on other things.”

“Like?” CJ bypassed objecting to being called sir; he was slowly realizing the cadets were conditioned to show deference, and he was not going to change their way.

Fred sighed and closed his eyes. “I don’t know. Maybe trying to make sure I stay out of trouble and graduate with good grades? I want to be a pilot.”

“Yeah, I’ve been hearing a lot of that. My brother wants fighters, and Joel wants Air Force One. What about you? Any preference?”

“Doesn’t make a difference to me. My goal’s to become a pilot. Period.”

CJ was impressed with how focused the young man was. “That it?”

“For now. You know where I was born and grew up. Hialeah, as a suburb of Miami, differs from others. It’s not one of the wealthy ones. I come from a single-parent home and my mom works hard. I want to make it easier on her.”

“Yeah, I guess between salary and benefits you can make a good living in the Air Force.”

“My end goal’s to put in my time and get out. The Air Force and private airlines are both facing pilot shortages. That’s not going to change dramatically over the next ten years.” Becoming a pilot would extend a cadet’s commitment to the Air Force to a decade.

“You’re right. You have any preference as to where you get posted?”

“Not at all. As long as I get time in the air, they can send me wherever they want.”

“Well, if you’re ever near wherever the State Department sends me, you’ll have friends in me and Ozzie and a place to get a home-cooked meal.”

“Thank you, sir.” Fred grinned but appeared lost in thought. “You know? Ritch claims the two of you are nothing alike, but he’s wrong. Your brother’s one of the most caring, selfless people I’ve ever met. And based on what he’s told us about you, and what I’ve seen for myself, you’re the same way. I’m surprised he didn’t fight you when you insisted on paying for so much yesterday.”

“Ha! He knows better.”

The smirk on Fred’s face did not recede. “He’s pulled your trick on us a couple of times. You know, going to the server ahead of time and handing over his credit card.”

“As has been made abundantly clear to me a couple of times, it ain’t my trick. My dad taught it to me, and he learned it from my grandfather. Family tradition I guess.”

“The reason I came over was to thank you. I wouldn’t have been on this trip if Ritch hadn’t forked over a bunch of reward points to get me a free ticket, and I doubt I’d be on this bus if it wasn’t for you. I watch my pennies. So thank you. Your family has earned my admiration and respect. Not for spending money, but for how you do it.”

“Thanks, Fred. I guess our parents did something right raising us. Hey, if you want to stay here you’re welcome to. Even though we’re headed away from the sunrise, it should be cool to watch the jungle come alive as it gets brighter.”

The toll road between Cancún and Chichén Itzá was modern and in good repair; considering the tourist dollars the archeological park attracted, CJ did not expect any less. The 200-kilometer trip would take close to two-and-a-half hours. Since the park opened at 8:30 a.m., they would be among the first to arrive.

“That’d be cool.” Fred used a thumb to point at Owen asleep across the aisle. “How come you’re awake and he’s napping?”

“Par for the course. I can survive on four a night. Ozzie needs more.”

“He’d get used to less if he was at the Academy. I meant to ask, why do we get VIP treatment today? I figured the place would be really crowded on such a special occasion.”

“Last fall, Ozzie and I spent a weekend at Tulum. That’s a bit south of Cancún. We made friends with this guy, Cody, who’s a doctoral candidate working on excavations, and hung out at the ruins there. He invited us to come to Chichén Itzá for the equinox and to bring friends. We made a contribution in his honor and the family foundation did too.”

“So you actually paid for all this?”

“You might say we did in a roundabout way. I know a portion of our donation’s not tax-deductible because we got something of value in return, but that doesn’t matter to us. We wanted to support a friend’s work. The VIP treatment’s a typical donor perk by not-for-profits.”

“Must be nice.”

“It has its moments. Problem’s now we’re on another mailing list, and they’ll keep asking for money on a regular basis.”

“Are you gonna give them more?”

“Probably. But not as much as the initial donation. The foundation includes a notice with all contributions explaining they only give money to groups that members of the board of directors support first, so not to approach it directly. My dads, Ozzie, and I get bombarded with requests, and I’m sure Ritch will start hearing pleas too. From anyone he donates to and from others who hear of us.”

“Mr. Abelló?” The driver swung his head around momentarily to look at CJ and Fred.

“What’s up, Larcos?”

“We’re about a half-hour away. Do you want to wake everyone up so I can start my presentation?” The man’s grin was visible when he looked in the rearview mirror. “Considering how a couple of them looked when they came on board, it may take a while to get them to listen.”

CJ chuckled. “Yeah… my brother for one. I think he and Ed were in the worst shape.”

“Can I do it?” Fred’s malevolent grin intrigued CJ.

He decided to let the cadet do whatever he had in mind. “Be my guest.”

Still grinning, Fred stood in the middle of the aisle and held on to a metal pole. “TEN HUT!”

The sound of body parts striking bus sections filled the vehicle.

“What the fuck?”

“Fred, you’re dead.”

“Five more minutes…”

“Anyone got a gun or a machete handy?”

CJ had the presence of mind to move next to Owen and gently awaken him before Fred did his thing. Both turned to find the remainder of the cadets in chaos. The call to attention had made several of them try to stand and bump into the seat in front.

“Good morning!” CJ stood and took Fred’s spot when he sat. “There’s water, juice, and food if anyone’s interested. We’ll be there in about thirty minutes and our driver slash guide would like to say a few words. Larcos?”

“Hello again, everyone. My name’s Larcos Portales, I want to welcome you to Mexico, and give you a little background information on our destination. Everyone with me?”

“Go for it, dude. Everyone’s awake.” Ritch had abandoned his seat in the back and taken the one next to Owen. He leaned across the aisle and punched Fred in the arm. “Careful when we get there Fred. A few of us didn’t appreciate the rude awakening.”

Owen elbowed his brother-in-law. “Shut up, Ritch. There will be no violence on my watch.” Grinning, he tapped the driver’s shoulder. “Go for it, mate.”

“Good morning one more time. When most people think of Chichén Itzá, they picture a limestone pyramid. However, the name refers to an entire city, and the structure that has come to represent it is actually one of the countless buildings still being unearthed.

“The Temple of Kukulkán, named El Castillo by the Spanish invaders, is at the center of the city. Built between the eighth and twelfth centuries, it honored the Mayan feathered serpent god, and served as a calendar. What you will see is in fact the second temple built on the site. The original is within it.”

“Can we also see that one?” Will, sitting behind CJ and Fred, asked.

“No, sir. Most buildings are roped off and visitors have to remain behind those lines at all times.” Larcos provided historical information and answered questions for the remainder of the drive. Once at the archeological park, they were directed to the bus parking area.

The Mayan city may have been hundreds of years old, but the access and amenities were modern. A wide boulevard, lined with food and souvenir vendors, followed the path used by the builders to haul the limestone blocks used to construct the city.

”If you plan on buying anything, make sure you look at where it’s manufactured. A lot of the inexpensive items are made in China instead of Mexico. I’d steer away from those cheap trinkets.” The guide spoke while tying his long hair back with a bandana. “And if you didn’t bring something like this”he held up a straw hat“you may wish to consider getting one. We’ll be out in the sun most of the day.” Several Air Force and Air Force Academy ball caps suddenly materialized on cadet heads.

Once off the bus and through the entry pavilion, Larcos led the cadets toward the oldest portion of the excavations. At one point he waved a hand at a pile of rubble partially covered by vegetation. “Chichén Itzá was rediscovered in 1841 by an American explorer. His initial finds were scattered stones resembling this; the intact buildings came later.”

“Is new stuff still being found?”

“Yes. Lidar maps of the Yucatán have revealed countless other structures in this area and scattered throughout the region. Mr. Abelló’s friend, Dr. White, might be able to give you more details when you meet him.”

CJ decided to provide clarification. “He’s working on his Ph.D., so Cody’s not a doctor yet. And I’m not sure if he’ll get the chance to say more than hello. He warned me they had some big donors in town today, and he had to babysit them.”

“You better give them more money next time, bro.” Ritch punched his brother’s arm. “I expect better service when we come back.”

“Third eye!”

“Huh?” Ritch appeared confused. “What you call me?”

Owen cracked up. “You know how CJ calls everyone asshole? Well, your niece has used the word a couple of times and your brother decided to vary it. You should hear some of the other alternatives.”

Some thirty minutes before the equinox, Larcos directed the group past the Mayan pelota fields, towards the temple’s side where the magic would happen. Along the way, he described the ancient game, played with a hard rubber ball about the size of a volleyball, and weighing between six and ten pounds. Players were not allowed to touch it with their feet or hands, and CJ thought ankles, hips, and elbows must have taken a beating during matches.

At the appointed time, the group found itself inside a cordoned-off area reserved for high-ranking visitors. They were the youngest and most rambunctious in a crowd populated mostly by older individuals. At precisely 11:33 a.m. the noise level rose as a snake appeared to slither down the edge of the staircase facing them.

The temple had been aligned and built so at the precise time of the equinox shadows played upon its surface. The illusion of a moving snake was completed by the stone head at the bottom of the steps. Spontaneous applause and cheering filled the air afterward.

 

 

While many visitors immediately departed once the show was over, the cadets lingered. They returned to the grand concourse and the food vendors with CJ and Owen settling on empanadas washed down with tamarind Jarritosa fruit-flavored Mexican soft drink. CJ also stopped at a stall selling Kukulkán items and bought a small onyx replica of the temple. As he was paying, Cody White joined him and Owen.

“Hey, guys. Glad I was able to find you. Sorry I’ve been tied up.”

“Mate! Great seeing you. No worries about not being around. Larcos has been a great guide. Thanks for the tip.”

“He’s nice eye candy too, eh?”

CJ groaned and slapped the man’s back. “Still a horn dog, I see. You have a few minutes? I’d like my brother and his friends to meet you.”

The cadets all expressed their gratitude and inquired about his current project. Cody described the Mayan aquifer, the significance of cenotes, and the fact they had recently discovered a cave full of religious artifacts in perfect condition. The original pyramid inside Kukulkán had been built over a cavern they were currently excavating stone steps into. Actual digging underneath the pyramid was not allowed for fear of damaging its foundation. He suggested they go swimming at the nearby Cenote Sagrado before returning to their hotel.

CJ and Owen had planned on it and the cadets enjoyed diving into the deep, cool water from a stone platform. The return trip found everyone napping again. Later that night, after dinner, they all congregated around the pool and its bar. Since they had a morning flight, CJ and Owen retired before anyone else did.

 

With their luggage stashed in the trunk and the taxi running, the entire Academy contingent surrounded CJ and Owen as they readied for the ride to the airport. Ritch was the last one to hug them both. “Bro, you two are the bomb! Thank you for helping me coordinate the trip and for taking such good care of my friends.”

“When do we see you again?” Owen had admitted he missed having Ritch around constantly.

“Not sure… The first three weeks of summer are OPS Air Force.”Ritch would wind up stationed in Alaska“I’ll probably be in D.C. after. Since I’ll have three weeks off, maybe I’ll come check out Mexico City for a few days.”

“You do that, bro. Ozzie and I would enjoy having you visit, and Liebe would love to see you.”

As the taxi sped away, the cadets remained standing outside the hotel, waving. CJ returned the farewell gesture. “That was fun, Oz. But I’m ready to get home. I miss the munchkin.”

“Told ya you would.”

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

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I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
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