It had been three days in the jungle. Or was it four. It had become difficult separating the days from one another. This deep in the jungle there was little light penetrating the dense canopy. And the persistent fever he had developed, the one that left the acidic taste in the back of his throat, was not aiding him in differentiating day from night. It didn’t matter though. All that mattered was getting out of the jungle. Getting out. To the other side. Where the madness had not yet taken hold. And where someone, hopefully could take a look at his feet. There was something seriously wrong with his feet. They felt like they were on fire. Every step was agony; there was a strong, unmistakable smell of decay. Someone needs to look at these feet he thought. In a professional sense. And soon. If they swell anymore they might pop. His feet were all that filled his thoughts. Concern for his feet and what Ernesto had said to him three days ago. Or was it four…
“So what was I saying? Oh yes.” Ernesto said as he lit his cigarette, his fourth of the evening. “So my uncle. You know my uncle Hector, the physician.” Ernesto said to the girl whose name Miguel couldn’t place. He could see that Ernesto was slightly drunk. “Last week my uncle was visited by an American who hobbled into his office appearing as if he had just spent a month in the jungle. He's covered sweat. His feet are bandaged with rags. And my uncle says to him ‘Well those feet are going to have to come off.’ Just like that. Straight-faced. Deadpan.” Ernesto laughed as he pantomimed his uncle’s delivery; teetering as he took a long drag from his cigarette. “What did the American say?” Miguel and the forgettable girl said almost in unison. “My uncle said the American just stared at him and in an almost inaudible voice said ‘My name is Clifford Sawyer and I am from the United Fruit Company.” Ernesto said excitedly; searching the others’ faces for approval. Which he did not find.
“What does this mean, United Fruit Company?” Miguel exclaimed. “Don’t you get it? My uncle said the American was delirious, it was all the man said, over and over. He must have been lost in the jungle for days.” “No, I don’t get it.” Miguel said as the girl who had lost interest in the conversation excused herself and went to mingle with the other guests. Ernesto gave him a look of dismay, “Now look what you’ve done. There she goes. Would it have killed you to laugh at the punch line?” Ernesto said as his eyes scanned the party. “But what is this United Fruit Company and why is it funny?” Miguel said losing patience. “I don’t know what it is. My uncle told me the story yesterday and I thought it was supposed to be a joke.” Ernesto said while slowly moving towards the bar. “You know you’re a real idiot.” Miguel said, “So what happened to the American?” “Oh they chopped his feet off.” Ernesto calmly replied as he steadied himself against the bar ready to order a drink, “I think he had jungle rot.”
Jungle rot. That was it. Well that explains the smell. And the pain. Maybe the American had it worse. Ernesto’s uncle did say the American’s clothes were rags. Or did he say tatters. No matter. His clothes weren’t in rags. Merely lived in. And quite damp. He just needed to get out of this jungle. And find help. But what would he tell them when he got out of this damned jungle. Certainly not, “My name is Miguel Diaz Lopez Gustavo and I am from the United Fruit Company.” Whatever the hell that meant. He laughed to himself. But he would have to tell them something.
Tired of Ernesto’s nonsense Miguel retired from the party, telling the other guests he had to attend to official duties across the street in the Presidential palace. The guests seemed drunk and unfazed by his exiting. When Miguel arrived across the street the atmosphere was much different. He entered the grand, palatial lobby of the Presidential palace. It was chaos. Everyone was scrambling around. Miguel grabbed the arm of a young palace guard rushing by, “What is going on?” Miguel demanded as he smelled his own gin soaked breath. “The Americans. They’re coming.” The guard stuttered. “What do you mean the Americans?” Miguel questioned, not realizing he had raised his voice. The guard said nothing, only pointing up towards the radio. Between the commotion and the alcohol Miguel had failed to hear the radio echoing through the lobby. “Rebel and Americans forces believed to have been camped in the jungles surrounding the capital have entered the city-limits and are moving towards the Presidential palace. There have already been numerous reported clashes with government forces. This is Radio Freedom.” Miguel looked around. The guard had run off. He watched the other officials and military personnel franticly running through the palace lobby. He realized they were not barricading the palace or setting up defensive positions. They were looting. Miguel grabbed a vase and left.
He stopped. The pain in his feet was unbearable. He sat down and rubbed his feet as the throbbing slowly subsided. He cursed the rebels and the Americans for chasing him into this God-forsaken jungle. Why were the Americans even here? What would they want with this tiny country? His stomach was empty. He rifled through his knapsack. There wasn’t much left besides the vase he had stolen. Half a loaf of stale bread and two overly ripe bananas. That was all that was left. He took one of the browned bananas and peeled the label off of it. The label stuck to his thumb. Chiquita. Fucking Americans and their companies he thought. They come here and steal the only resource our poor country has, stick their label on it and sell it back to us. How I would have loved to see those capitalist pig’s faces when our Presidente kicked their companies out of our country last May. He laughed to himself. Guatemalan bananas for Guatemalans. That was the slogan the people had chanted in the streets. He looked again at the label with its busty woman wearing a hat of fruit. Surely some American capitalist’s idea of how all Guatemalan women look. Pigs. It was a label he had seen probably a thousand times before. But at that moment he noticed something for the first time. Below the woman in her fruit hat. Three letters. U-F-C. No. It couldn’t be he thought. United. Fruit. Company.