I approached the guy at the bar.
“Excuse me, but are you George?”
His attempt at a casually indifferent nod was marred by the crooked sunglasses he was wearing and they way one hand gripped the bar as he turned to face me.
“This is St. Georges. We are all George.”
“Ah, Frederic sent me- he said you might be able help me get my bike across the river on the ferry.”
“There is no ferry.”
“There is no one coming down the road so there is no ferry.”
“Yes, but I was told you might be able to arrange for the ferry to come and get me for a good price.”
“You can take a pirogue. There is no ferry.”
I had already had enough of that kind of fun with my bike in Africa, so I was going to persist that I wanted the ferry, however the owner/bartender stepped in and motioned me aside.
“You got here too late in the day. You won’t get anything out of him until tomorrow. The ferry is crossing tomorrow and it will cost you 20 Euro to take it since it’s already been paid for.”
Well no worries here- I got a night in St. Georges, a good price on the ferry, and George- what more could I want?
So, I arranged for a room and set about exploring the town- a couple of small streets with a couple of shops and a friendly, if subdued, hodgepodge of a population. And I couldn’t help but wishing I could convince myself to spend more time there. It took a beer on the Modestines decrepit deck for me to figure out why.
The place was lost to time. It had a heavy police presence, but they didn’t feel at all local; their starched uniforms and close-cropped hair gave them the air of occupiers when compared to the somewhat disheveled locals. The locals, despite their outwardly relaxed air, seemed almost furtive- Their friendly greetings to some mixed with sidelong glances and small shakes or nods of their heads to others. Like the different colours of flaking paint on the deck, the place had layers that were hidden from the casual glance.
As the afternoon slowly turned to evening, people started coming in for a drink before dinner. As they came in I’d get a glance and then be dismissed, but as the night wore on and dinner was served the owner set my plate down at a mixed table, telling me that it would be rude of him to have me eat alone. The table was filled with the best of the local colour- the fighting couple, one of the domino players and his improbably young amerindian wife, and two continental french nationals who had moved there recently for no apparent reason.
It was a night full of stories, histories, and wine served in small, stemless glasses. In ever way it was a pleasant evening with friendly strangers, but to me it was more. I couldn’t help it. In my mind the two French guys were awol from the French Foreign Legion, the french half of the fighting couple was living just across the river with his Brazilian wife to avoid an old crime he had committed, and the older man had fallen in love with the woman he had originally paid for her services.
All complete fabrications, but all fitting as a cigarette in Rick Blaines hand.