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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 - 9. CDMX • IX

“Did you know Columbus actually landed on that Bahamian island on twenty-one October and not on the twelfth?” Owen picked up the pacifier Liebe spat out, dusted it off against his shirt, and stuck it back in her mouth.

“I know he named it San Salvador even though the natives called it something else. You mean to tell me history books got something else wrong?” CJ had the window seat while Liebe occupied the center one between her fathers.

“Yes and no. It was twelve October in the Julian calendar. Since we use the Gregorian one, we should be commemorating the Spanish arriving in the New World on the twenty-first.”

CJ was astonished. Most of the time, it was him with the esoteric information. “How the hell do you know that?”

“I have my sources.” Owen chuckled. “No, really, I found out at work. When I mentioned we were going away to celebrate Columbus Day, I was promptly corrected. I was told the date was incorrect and so was the name. It’s Dia de la Raza in Mexico and most Latin American countries. And someone with indigenous blood chastised me for considering it a day to celebrate.”

“Let me guess. They objected to glorifying the beginning of the conquistadors’ genocide of natives.”

It was Owen’s turn to look surprised. “Right on the mark. What made you guess that?”

“Not a guess, Oz. It’s something that’s been gaining momentum in the U.S. for a few years now. And sensitivity to native beliefs was stressed during training. It’s a little different for each State Department officer, depending on where they’re being posted.”

“Was that when they gave you that list of Mexican cusswords? I was surprised some we use regularly are nasty here.”

“Yep. Same orientation sessions. And to be honest, I sort of agree with their point of view. The Spaniards decimated native populations wherever they landed. Hell, in the Caribbean they all but wiped the Tainos off the face of the Earth, which led to importing Africans as slaves. Between forced labor and diseases, the locals didn’t stand a chance. All for the glory of the king, queen, and Jesus Christ. Just something else to hold against the Catholics.”

“Don’t start ranting, okay?”

CJ grinned. “I think you like me ranting against organized religion. You get to hear aloud what you think anyway.”

Owen leaned over and whispered in CJ’s ear. “Butthole.” The Aussie was better about cleaning up his language in front of their daughter.

The flight from Mexico City took a little over two hours and landed in the Yucatán Peninsula shortly after nine in the evening. Because the drive to their ultimate destination would take another two hours, they had made reservations at the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun for the evening. Even though their stay would be short, free cocktails available all day and night may have played a small role in their decision.

The following morning, with Liebe in her child seat in the back, CJ fired up the rental Jeep’s engine and headed away from Cancun’s Zona Hotelera. Some fifteen minutes later, they merged onto Federal Highway 307 heading south.

Owen turned to check on Liebe and groaned. “There’s more Cheerios on the seat and the floor than she’s eaten.” The girl could not possibly be hungry, she had stuffed herself at breakfast, but the container full of cereal was a way of keeping her occupied while traveling.

“We’ll recycle them when we stop.” CJ felt at home driving the Jeep. He and Owen wore shorts and flip flops, their t-shirts threaded through belt loops to prevent them from flying away. There were windowless doors on the vehicle and a bikini top to protect them from the sun. Their luggage was strapped down in the small cargo area behind the back seat.

“That’s disgusting! Maybe if it was our own car. But in this one? Who knows what the heck’s back there from previous renters.” Owen vigorously shook his head. “I’m not giving them back to her. We have a reserve supply we can use on the return.”

CJ shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Although there’s a jungle out there, civilization’s all over too. I’m sure we can buy cereal somewhere.” The section of road they were on hugged the coast. To their left, sightings of blue Caribbean waters were frequent. On their right, dense greenery hid adventure, danger, and possibly treasure. Mayan ruins were still being discovered in the early part of the twenty-first century.

Playa del Carmen was the halfway point, and they had planned to take a break there, wanting to visit the studio of Jacobo Roa. An artist whose work they had seen and appreciated at Felicia and Andres Barroso’s home. His work resembled colorful collages with elements from pre-Hispanic Mexico to the present. Unfortunately, the gallery was closed due to the artist being out of the country. Their stop was not a complete waste of time; CJ ran into a bodega and returned with a cereal box.

CJ tried to cheer his disappointed husband. “We’ll get in touch with him, Oz. We can come back another weekend with an appointment. Or Felicia says he’ll sometimes travel for serious purchasers.”

“Yeah… I guess. Based on what I’ve seen of his work, I’d love to get one of his pieces for our apartment. Something we can display at Everhope whenever we return to D.C.”

Back on the highway, CJ slowed down and pulled to the side after traveling a few more miles. “Let’s get beers for the rest of the drive. That should cheer you up.”

“Are you nuts? Drinking while driving?” Owen sounded appalled.

“First, it’s only one each. Maybe two. Second, I don’t even know if that’s illegal in Mexico!”

“And you’re willing to risk a ticket or even jail?”

“Dude! Diplomatic immunity. Remember? We’re untouchable!”

Owen did not look convinced. The guy selling Coronas out of an ice-filled cooler for a dollar apiece profusely thanked them when they gave him a fiver for two bottles. The Aussie did not say another word and sipped from his. They would eventually discover there were no open container restrictions, and passengers were allowed to drink while moving. The driver, however, was not supposed to.

“You know something?” Owen had finished his beer and dropped the empty in the back. “Although I love our Tesla, I kinda miss Defiant.” The yellow Wrangler CJ had received as a sixteenth birthday present had been passed down to his brother, Ritch.

“It’s in Colorado. We can take it out for a spin when we’re there in December.” The family planned to gather at their place in Vail for Christmas. Although the Air Force Academy did not allow cadets in Ritch’s class to keep vehicles in Colorado Springs, Defiant would end up at the Academy the following summer after restrictions were lifted.

Less than an hour after leaving Playa del Carmen, they reached Tulum’s outskirts. One of multiple resort towns on the Mayan Rivera, they had learned about it from someone’s posts on Instagram. Known for its beaches and well-preserved ruins of an ancient Mayan port city, it was, of all places, a gym that piqued their curiosity.

Knowing it would be too early to check-in at the hotel, or wait by stopping to eat lunch, CJ and Owen had planned a visit to a swimming hole.

With over 6,000 of them, the Yucatán Peninsula had the world’s largest number of water-filled sinkholes or cenotes. Once revered as sacred by ancient Mayans, they drew travelers, explorers, and adventurers alike. Formed when limestone is gradually eroded over hundreds of years, cenotes were places to swim, snorkel, or dive.

Because Liebe was with them, scuba diving and exploring underwater caves was not possible, but jumping into one and splashing around was. “You wanna go swimming, Liebe?”

Because it was near the coast, just north of their hotel, they had decided to stop at Cenote Abejas. The Tulum area was home to the largest underwater cave system in the world. Their chosen location was part of it. The Sistema Sac Actunmeaning white cave systemwas over 200 miles long.

“Come on, kiddo.” Liebe raised her arms so CJ could take her out of the car seat. “Oz, wanna hand me the protection?”

The bio-diversity in cenotes was fragile and the ingredients of most sunscreens and insect repellants could pollute the water and harm fish and other life. Most formulations were prohibited. Since Owen had planned this portion of the trip, he had insisted on them carrying a zinc oxide-based one considered environmentally safe.

“Here.” Owen handed the container over. “Are we keeping her shirt on?”

CJ had already removed her shorts and started to squeeze their daughter into a bathing suit. “I think the bathing suit’s enough. It covers her titties.”

“God, you’re such a wanker. I pity her when she starts dating.”

“I plan to amass and display a gun collection any jerk asking her out will be forced to see.” CJ’s grin and Owen’s eye roll were par for the course; the Aussie was used to his husband’s outrageous comments. “I’m glad you picked the one related to my family, Oz.”

“What are you talking about?” Owen’s confusion resulted in a furrowed brow.

“Abelló’s derived from abeja, so this one’s named for me. We better not have a problem with bees.”

“You’re such a wanker.”

Cenote AbejasSpanish for beeswas named after the critters due to the importance of the region’s honey industry. The Mayans had cultivated them and used the viscous fluid as a sweetener and as an antibacterial for treating wounds. In recent years, due to biological issues, production had declined. Compounded with fake honey from Chinausually doctored with beet syrupthe industry was in decline. The modest admission of one hundred pesos was earmarked for assistance to beekeepers in the area.

¡Quiero nadar!”

Liebe saying she wanted to swim was not unexpected. From the moment her fathers had tossed her in a pool, when she was a couple of months old, she had taken to water. Although she did well on her own, CJ and Owen would not let her in without a life vest.

The Jeep didn’t have a trunk, but it did have a metal box bolted to the floor underneath the driver’s seat. Everything of value, except for one phone kept to take pictures, was secured in it.

“Look at that, Liebe. We’re going swimming in the jungle.” CJ lifted the girl and put her on his shoulders. “Oz, take a picture of us like this?”

“Fine, but we’ll have to ask someone to take one of the three of us together.” Done, Owen removed his sandals, and along with the phone, stuck them with the towels. Dropping the small bag on the ground, he sprinted to the water’s edge and catapulted himself as far away from shore as possible. The long legs helped. “AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE, OI, OI” The cheer, begun when his feet left the ground, was truncated when he pierced the surface.

“Liebe, your dad’s cray-cray.” CJ liked this version of Owen. Contrary to how most people evolved as they aged, becoming cautious and avoiding risks, his man had become more adventurous over time.

Owen resurfaced with a gigantic grin. “It’s kinda cool. She may shiver a bit.” Cenote waters maintained a constant seventy-three-degree temperature year-round.

Considering it was probably twenty degrees warmer on solid ground, CJ was sure it would feel cold at first. “And not too deep if you’re standing. You could have broken your neck.”

“Nah… I dove in at an angle. I’m sure it’s deeper further away from shore.” The water came up to just below Owen’s pecs. “Wanna hand her over so you can dive in too?”

“We shouldn’t cheat her out of flying through the air. Get ready. I’m gonna toss her.”

Liebe’s squeal of delight, begun when CJ threw her in the direction of her other father, ended while Owen held her and CJ cannonballed. Laughing, she wiped water off her face. “Again! Again!”

“In a bit, Munchkin. Let’s do a little swimming first.” Owen walked a few steps away, lowered Liebe into the water, and let go of her. “Go to CJ, baby. Remember to use your arms and your legs. It’ll be easier to move.”

The girl’s dog paddle was far from graceful, but it got the job done. Once she reached CJ, he lifted her and tossed her back to Owen. She squealed again. “Oz, any idea why land on this side’s just a little bit higher than the water surface but there’s a cliff across from us?”

“Uneven erosion over time. Once the ground subsides and a sinkhole appears, the edges tend to follow, enlarging the circumference. You have to remember these things have been around for centuries. Some of them likely for thousands of years. Not sure why the other side hasn’t collapsed, but I kinda like the way it is right now.”

“You think the three of us could swim there? It looks awesome.” The cliff’s side was covered in vegetation, but stalactites were visible.

“I bet the center’s too deep for us to stand and help Liebe swim. Maybe if she’s on one of our backs…”

“Let’s try it. If it’s too much, we can turn back.” Minutes later, Liebe clung to Owen’s neck while he took easy strokes. Although her life vest would keep her afloat if she slid off, CJ followed closely just in case.

 

Trip Advisor gave Las Estrellas four-and-a-half stars. Following the recommendation, CJ and Owen chose it for their meal. The food was as good as promised. The ceviche was magnificent, and they had to order a third one when Liebe would not stop eating her fathers’ lunch.

“I swear the way she eats, she’ll be a fat bitch when she grows up.” CJ scraped his chair over the ground trying to move away from Owen’s slap.

“You’re calling our daughter a fat bitch?”

“Face the facts, Oz. The girl will eat anything. And if she really likes it, she’ll stuff herself. At least this is mostly fish and lime juice. Remember the ceviche at our wedding. This shit’s sooo much better.

“What do you expect? We’re on the coast so the fish’s fresh as it gets and the cook probably grew up eating it from Liebe’s age or younger. He’s got it going.”

As usual, Liebe was cranky and sleepy after eating. They were certain the hotel would allow them to register, since it was near the advertised check-in time, and a nap did not sound like a bad idea to either father.

Although pricey despite not being the most luxurious property in Tulum, they had made reservations at the Ahau Hotel because it was the gateway to one of the reasons for visiting Tulum. Once they were shown to their room and their luggage was delivered, they showered with a nearly asleep Liebe in their arms. Within minutes of drying themselves, all three were asleep on the large bed.

 

The two shirtless men carried Liebe and her bag to the beach and chose loungers underneath a canopy of palm trees. She had a t-shirt on, but they slathered sunscreen on her anyway. The next couple of hours found them taking frequent dips in the ocean, sipping piña coladas in between. Liebe was content eating the decorative pineapple chunks in her fathers’ cocktails.

“How much alcohol you think the fruit soaked up?” CJ helped Liebe hold a large piece while she munched on it. A limited number of teeth made the process a slow one.

“Probably not that much. If she starts stumbling on the way to the water, we’ll know she’s blitzed.”

CJ cracked up. “Damn, Oz. Your mother would not be happy with our parenting skills if she heard you.”

“Who cares?” Nearly a year earlier, while in Australia over Christmas for Owen’s brother’s wedding, CJ and Owen had been exasperated by Pam Liston’s behavior. Guessing it was due to untreated depression following her daughter’s death, they threatened to deny her access to Liebe unless she sought help. “And anyway, Spencer mentioned she’s stuck to her therapy sessions and the anti-depressants. He says she’s doing much better.”

“Good. That makes me happy. We should invite her and Geoff to visit us next summer.”

The remainder of the day they spent on the beach. Dinner was barbacoa cooked over an open fire in a sandpit near the outdoor dining area. They did not feel the need to get dressed or go anywhere else. Once the sun set, Liebe was ready to sleep. They fixed her a bed on their room’s divan and sat on the terrace enjoying a nightcap and cigars.

“You remember the first time I went to Australia? I shivered when I dove into the Pacific. Growing up in Miami, when the water temperature dropped below eighty, it was too cold for the natives. The cenote today felt cool but that no longer bothers me.”

“Whenever we’ve gone swimming during Florida’s summers, I’ve always thought it was like stepping into a bathtub. Too damn warm.” Owen tilted his head backward and blew out a smoke circle.

“I’m still jealous you can blow perfect rings and I can’t”

“It’s all in the tongue action.”

“Yeah?” CJ wiggled his eyebrows. “How about we finish our smokes, and you show me just how talented your tongue is?”

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.

Story Discussion Topic

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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39 minutes ago, Job said:

I have read all your stories about CJ and and Ozz and his dad's and their friends, I read them all but this one. I enjoy the story!
Merry Christmas to you and as always...Brava!!

Thanks, Job. Glad you're enjoying this installment.

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14 minutes ago, tabaqui said:

Great Christmas present and what a lovely chapter of family bliss :)

At least you didn't have to sneak around to read it at lunch time. :P

Thanks, bud.

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