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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 - 7. CDMX • VII

“Go change. I’ll finish cleaning.” CJ pushed Owen out of the kitchen. Otherwise, the man would linger and insist on helping. “Head over now, and we’ll meet you at the park when I’m done. Weather’s nice, I’ll slip on shorts and a t-shirt, and dress Liebe the same.”

Although they had not expected to be out late the previous evening, CJ and Owen had insisted Trixie Newman spend the night and join them for Sunday breakfast. Because Owen had a game with his new rugby teamthe expat group from Oceaniathere was no time for a leisurely brunch.

“Is my mom coming here or meeting us at the park?” Trixie carried her empty plate to the sink where CJ was once again tasked with placing them in the dishwasher.

“She said she’d text us. I assume since she didn’t make it over already, she’ll join us out there. When you change”Trixie had donned another oversized t-shirt to sleep in“put your backpack by the door. We’ll stash it with mine in Liebe’s stroller.” His would double as a baby bag.

Owen returned wearing blue shorts and the Oceania Rugby shirt Calum had delivered during Thursday’s practice. He sat to tie his boots. “Are Lincoln and Austin meeting you on the sidelines?”

“That’s the plan.” CJ dried his hands on a kitchen towel while using a knee to close the dishwasher. “Come on, Liebe. Let’s get you ready.” He lifted his daughter out of her high chair, leaned in to kiss Owen, and allowed him to do the same with their girl. “We’ll join you in a bit, Oz.”

Before they left the apartment, Simmone messaged him she would see them at the park.

 

“How was dinner?” After hugging her daughter, Simmone Newman adjusted the ball cap holding her hair back and pecked Liebe and CJ on the cheek. She waved at Owen when he looked over from the playing field.

“Par for the course. Kind of what we expected from The Palm. Good food and impeccable service.” CJ momentarily glanced at Trixie who appeared mesmerized by the men running at each other on the field. Since she was not paying her mother attention, he felt safe asking his question. “You get lucky?”

“CJ!” Had her skin tone been lighter, CJ was certain her face would have turned bright red. “None of your business!”

He guffawed at her demureness; the Simmone he had gotten to know rarely minced words. “Did you at least have a good time?”

“Yeah… It was fun. We were real close to you guys. We went to the old Hard Rock. They had a decent band playing last night.” The Hard Rock Café Mexico City location on Campos Eliseos, the same street the Intercontinental Presidente and the Palm Restaurant were on, had closed. An enterprising Mexican restauranteur had taken over the space, renamed it La Casa de Rock, and emulated the chain’s menu and decor. “We should take the girls there for lunch one weekend.”

“Hey!” CJ felt he was being rude. “Do you know Lincoln and Austin?” He tilted his head in the direction of the two Americans standing on his other side.

“Lincoln I’ve talked to a few times. Austin I’ve seen but not met, but. he’s the hottest of all our jarheads.” She winked at the visibly embarrassed marine. “What’s up, guys?”

“I know who you are Ms. Newman. I’m Austin MacKenzie.”

Simmone reached across CJ and ruffled Sergeant MacKenzie’s cropped hair. “You look cute when you blush, Austin. Call me Simmone.” She tilted her head back a bit to look Lincoln in the eyes. “How ya doing, Linc?”

“Not bad. Did I hear you say you were at La Casa de Rock last night? That’s my go-to spot when I want a juicy burger.”

“That’s what my friend had.”

“Ozzie!” Liebe’s shout made CJ return his attention to the playing field. Owen laid on the grass, not moving, his arms spread out crucifixion style.

Before CJ could make a move, Owen did. He raised both hands and was helped up by a couple of teammates. It took minutes longer for CJ’s heart rate to return to normal after the scare.

“Your dad’s fine, Liebe.” Lincoln reached over and plucked the girl out of CJ’s arms. “Just had the wind knocked out of him.”

Simmone had mentioned she and Trixie would leave at half-time, however, when play stopped, she lingered while talking to Lincoln. ”Who’s tall, dark, and handsome and coming our way?” She nudged CJ and tilted her head in the direction of the adjacent field.

“Sounds like me or my brother.” Lincoln looked in the direction she indicated. “That’s Ugo, right, CJ? I forget his last name.”

“Mapimpi.” CJ raised a hand in greeting. He lowered his head and whispered so only Simmone could hear. “South African businessman. Plays rugby but injured his knee a couple of weeks ago. Nice guy.”

Following introductions, Simmone announced she was enjoying the game, and since Trixie appeared to be having a good time too, they would stay until the end. A little while later, when Ugo asked if she was joining the guys at The Bulldog after the game, she quickly said yes. She also agreed to walk over a bit early with him to secure a table.

 

In contrast to how it was during their previous visit, The Bulldog was packed. A cacophony of languages and accents assailed CJ’s ear the moment he walked in. Lincoln, being the tallest, spotted Ugo raising a hand and the group headed his way. At the table, CJ tried to retrieve his daughter from Lincoln’s arms. “Liebe, you want to sit on my lap or in your stroller?”

Con Linc.”

With Linc?” CJ grinned at the man. “Lucky you, big guy. Let me know when you get tired of her.”

“Doubt that’s gonna happen. She might be changing my mind about having kids myself.”

“I think you’d be good at it, Linc. That kid hasn’t complained once since you picked her up.” Simmone had taken a seat between her daughter and Ugo. “So, what’s good here?”

“Most of us had bangers and mash last week. It was pretty tasty.” CJ glanced at the menu and closed it. “I’m going for the fish and chips today.”

“What, you eat a lot of meat last night?” Lincoln’s double entendre did not go unnoticed.

“He did, mate. It was bloody huge. I was surprised he could fit it all in his mouth.” Owen scraped the floor trying to move his chair away from CJ.

“Ha, ha, ha… The two of you should take your show on the road.”

“So, the meat was good last night. How was the conversation?” Simmone tried to hide a smirk behind the menu in her hands.”

“You too? Conversation was good. Secretary Lujambo jumped all over us about the proposal. We’re supposed to go visit the first school on the list as soon as she can make arrangements this coming week.”

Ugo shifted his eyes between the speakers and appeared utterly confused. His sight settled on CJ. “Secretary? Proposal? Schools? Are you running some kind of project for the embassy?”

“Not the embassy, even though the ambassador threw her support behind their idea.” Lincoln broke off a small piece of bread and offered it to Liebe. She grasped it and stuck the whole thing in her mouth. “Not my fingers, Liebe. Glad I gave her a small piece or she could have choked swallowing the whole thing at once.” He returned his attention to the South African. “CJ and Owen want to build a technology center at a public primary school. Their family has a charitable foundation that pledged a bunch of money, and they roped Amazon and its founder into building a dozen more.”

“Eleven. Bezos will fund one, and Amazon Mexico’s kicking in a million dollars to build another ten.” Owen shrugged when CJ glared at him. “What? They’re all gonna find out sooner or later. You know Amazon and the embassy are going to milk the bloody thing for all the positive publicity they can. Our names will come out too.”

“The two of you have a foundation? And if my maths are proper, you’re donating a hundred thousand?”

CJ sighed, resigned to explaining the whole thing. Considering how close Simmone sat next to Ugo, the man would probably be around again. Might as well give him the correct information before rumors got started.

“Not us, Ugo. Our family. Owen and I sit on the board of directors. So do my fathers and my brother.”

“Is this like Bill Gates’ foundation?”

“Oh, hell no!” CJ could not have responded faster. “What does that have? Like fifty billion in assets? We don’t even have one.”

“Still…” Ugo appeared not to know what else to say.

Lincoln spoke up in the lull. “Last week I mentioned I knew CJ and Owen while we all lived in Washington. I spent a lot of time with their daughter and CJ’s grandmother before my transfer, trying to improve my Spanish. As a result, I know the entire clan, and I’m a bit familiar with their charitable work. Mostly done quietly and behind the scenes. If they pull this thing off, I think it’ll be only the second time they get involved in something so public.”

“What was the first one?” Simmone and Ugo asked simultaneously.

A Home for Warriors.” CJ tried to recall if he had a copy of the documentary at home. “A friend of mine, an Army Ranger, lost both legs in an IED incident. When he returned to the U.S., he lived at this place called Heroes Haven for a few months.” CJ paused to sip his beer.

Owen picked up the narrative. “It’s a community for homeless veterans CJ supported and had been on their board for a bit. Someone approached them about making a documentary, and when the primary financial backer walked away, the family stepped in. So all our names are on the damn thing as producers.”

“Has it been released?”

“Yeah. Last May. The premiere was at the Kennedy Center in Washington. It’s damn good. Our friend Brad did an excellent job as narrator.”

“I’d be interested in watching it.” Austin had been quiet up to that point. “And I bet the rest of the military staff at the embassy would too.”

CJ shook his head. “I keep trying to remember if we have a copy with us. I’ll check later, and if we don’t, I’ll get one sent down. Or you can stream it on Amazon Prime.”

“He’s not the only one who’d want to watch it. I’m also interested in seeing it.” Simmone scowled at CJ. “Why haven’t you told me about this?”

“Geez, Simmone. How long have I been in town? How long have we known each other?”

“Excuses, excuses.” She blew him a raspberry. “Fine. Since you keep giving us short answers, let’s talk about someone else.” She fixed her sight on the man sitting next to her. “So, Ugo, the guys mentioned you didn’t play today because of an injury?”

“Yeah… Twisted my knee. But I’ll be back next weekend. I miss the pitch.”

“You know, that surprises me. I always thought of rugby as a white man’s game.”

CJ slapped his forehead, “Geez, Simmone! Racist much?”

“Uh, uh…” She vigorously shook her head. “It ain’t racist if it’s true. I’ve seen a couple of rugby player calendars and there wasn’t a brother in sight.”

“You’ve been looking in the wrong place.” Ugo patted her hand. “That may have been true years ago, but not today. In South Africa, after 1995, interest in rugby jumped racial lines with a vengeance.”

“What happened in 1995?”

“South Africa hosted and won the Rugby World Cup.” Ugo smiled, blew on his nails, and buffed them against his shirt.

“And the movie about it made me a rugby fan.” CJ immediately glanced at Owen, expecting his usual reaction. He was not disappointed.

Owen’s eye roll made his husband grin. “If CJ watches that movie one more time, I’m buying stock in a tissue company. He tears up with the opening credits.”

“Do not.”

“Do too!”

“Wait!” Simmone waved her hands to get her tablemates’ attention. “You can argue later. Since the movie’s about real-life events. Let’s start with those. What’s so special about this rugby cup thing?”

Ugo sipped from his pint, leaned back in his chair, and lit up the room with his smile. “I was nine and my game in the township was football, what you call soccer. Rugby, and particularly the Springboksthe national teamwere a symbol of apartheid. Until Madiba got involved and turned everything on its head.”

“Who’s Madiba?” The fact Trixie was paying attention surprised CJ. It reminded him kids, including his own, listened and learned from the adults surrounding them.

“I think she wants to switch laps.” Lincoln relinquished control of Liebe to the teenager when the toddler tried to climb over him. “Madiba was Nelson Mandela’s clan name.”

“I knew that.” CJ felt proud. Nelson Mandela was one of his idols.

“So did I,” Owen added. “Thanks to countless watchings of that movie CJ mentioned.”

When CJ made to add a comment, Simmone’s raised hand stopped him. “Movie later, reality now. This is fascinating so far. What did Nelson Mandela have to do with South Africa hosting and winning the World Cup?”

“After twenty-seven years in prison, Madiba was released in 1990. Four years later, he was elected president.” Ugo momentarily closed his eyes, apparently lost in thought. “Those were heady times for the downtrodden. Madiba worked hard to reconcile warring black factions and to earn Afrikaner support. Between his release and election, with the end of apartheid, international rugby readmitted South Africa and awarded it the third Rugby Union World Cup.”

“There are several variants of rugby, Simmone.” CJ was reacting to her confused expression. “Not really important here, but union rugby was all amateur until the ninety-five cup. They allowed professionals to play the following year.”

“Is union what you guys play?” Simmone, apparently distracted by the conversation, finally dove into her meal.

“Yep. The most obvious differences between league and union rugby are the number of players to a side and scoring.” Owen finished cutting a portion of breaded, fried fish into small bites, and slid it in front of Liebe; her hand immediately grabbed a piece and stuck it in her mouth.

“Anyway, Simmone, against the desires of advisors and a large chunk of the black population, Madiba threw his support behind the Springboks. He met with the team several times, and wore the green and gold in the finals against the Kiwis.”

“I like sports, but I’m not a big fan like you guys seem to be.” Before taking another bite, Simmone nodded at CJ and winked at Owen. “Okay, you’re up. Tell me about this movie that makes you cry like a little boy.”

Grinning, CJ admonished his coworker. “Have I mentioned CJ’s commandments? An important one’s: Thou shalt not conspire with my husband to make fun of me.”

Lincoln’s laughter exploded out of his chest. “You tell her, Rev.”

“The movie’s Invictus.” It had taken a few moments for everyone to stop laughing. “Based on a book, directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as the Springboks captain. It came out in December 2009. I remember ’cause for my twelfth birthday, my parents let me invite a few guys from school to the movie and for cake after.”

“Does the name come from them being unbeaten?”

“Actually, it’s a poem by”CJ turned his phone over and typed a couple of words on the screen“I always forget the poet’s full name. William Ernest Henley.” For a moment, CJ felt sheepish. “I’m not big on most poetry.”

“Yeah, except my husband can recite Invictus by heart and large chunks of The Kasidah.” Owen smirked. “But I think Casey at the Bat’s his favorite.”

“What’s The Kasidah?”

“Forget it for now. It’s a long-assed poem by Sir Richard Francis Burton. The explorer, not the actor. We’ll cover it in the next course segment.”

From admitting he was not a fan of most poetry, to implying he was teaching a course on the subject, CJ’s wild swings on the matter had his companions grinning.

Invictus’ a motivational poem ideal for when things are bleakest. Mandela acknowledged it helped him survive incarceration. Everyone felt the likelihood of the Springboks winning the world cup were nil, yet they pulled it off.

“When I first watched it, I focused on the sports theme. At some point in time later, I still thought of it as a great sports flick, but I started to discover its depth. Mandela shows us how to bring people together and how to surmount incredible odds. The man forgave his jailers and joined them in rooting for a common cause. It’s something I admire and struggle with. I hold grudges. Too often, I want revenge. And too seldom do I willingly forgive.”

Owen had the final words on the subject. “But you’re getting better. Age brings wisdom and in your case, it’s been in buckets.”

 

“The season ends the last Sunday in October, right?” CJ turned off the lamp and rolled on his side, facing Owen. Once again, because lunch was hearty and late, the evening meal was light. They had watched a movie and stumbled to bed after ensuring Liebe was asleep in her room.

“It doesn’t really end; it goes on hiatus. We’ll pick it up next February for another three months. Then it’ll be over until after the summer.”

“Same shit. How about we have people over the first weekend in November? Sunday afternoon. We’ll get some finger food, and open a few bottles of wine.”

“That works. I’ll ask Spencer to send us an extra case or two. How many people you think?”

“Maybe a dozen? I’ll ask Felicia for her bartender’s number when I call to invite her and Andrés. The guy can pour wine, mix drinks if anyone wants something else, and make sure the food platters are always full.”

“Elpidio, right?”

CJ nodded. “Yeah, Felicia mentioned he takes care of his elderly mother and is always willing to work. I guess he needs the money.”

“Call them this week so he can block the day for us. Tell him we’ll tip him well.”

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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