I was lying aboard the hammock on the verandah of the Colonial Hotel just up the beach from the old town of Puerto Duquesa. I’d had a whiskey or two. OK, OK — goddam you truth-mongers! — I’d had a damn near bucketful of the stuff, and I was just resting it off as I liked to do in the late afternoons, listening to the “Blue” tape while the sun melted slowly into the sea.
There was a light breeze and then there was a bigger breeze and then there was damn near a hurricane or a typhoon or a whirlwind or something. And I sat up in the hammock to see what was going on and that wind was pushing me from side to side and turning me around and I felt sick to my stomach. And that’s when I saw them, coming out of the dust of the beach and the spray of the ocean. A dozen of them, maybe. Or eight or some. Who the hell could count straight with all that damn wind?
They were like Arabs or Saracens or those guys that Richard the Lion -Heart used to fight in those movies with Douglas Fairbanks or whoever. And they had a huge cart or stage coach or some such that was filled all up with jewel boxes and bows and arrows and swords and shields and cartons overflowing with clothes and sandals. Two or three huge Arabs were hauling this heavy-laden carriage out of the water.
There was a silence about them; a stillness within this storm. But the smells of the East washed over me like bathing in perfume: soft incenses and aromatic barks and sandalwoods and something like patchouli.
I lay there swinging in the hammock, smelling their smells, and watching them pull their cart silently across the beach until they disappeared in the swirling mist about a hundred yards away. And as they disappeared, the mist seemed to clear behind them and they were gone.
I don’t know how long I laid there watching where they had vanished, but it was dark when I wandered back to the Marina Bar in the old town and ordered a whiskey straight up. I didn’t tell the barman. I didn’t tell Pepe when he came in later. Don’t know why, just didn’t.