Down from the Country Club
“Don’t you have any hamburgers?” the woman demanded
“Señora?” the vendor asked, staring at
the woman’s extravagant wedding ring and then at the sun tan
oil glistening on her soft, white belly.
She was staying at El Caribe where all the wealthy
Americans stayed. The vendor had seen her sunbathing just
outside the Caribe’s chain link fence.
“Hamburgers,” she repeated. “Hamburgers. Don’t
you understand English?”
“Oh, sí,” the vendor smiled. He pulled
a couple of tinfoil-wrapped hot dogs out of his cart and held
them up. Hot dogs, hamburgers, it was all the gringos ate.
The old man figured they were pretty much the same.
“For God’s sake,” the woman snapped, “those are
hot dogs, not hamburgers. Why don’t you people bother to learn
a little English?”
“No es OK?” the vendor shrugged his shoulders.
“Why me?” the woman muttered, digging in her
change purse, “of all the vendors.”
A local boy in his late teens came up to the
cart and stood beside the woman. She looked at him and frowned.
“Dame dos cocas,” he said.
“I was here first,” the woman said, extracting
some bills from her purse. The boy leaned back, surprised.
“Oy,” he laughed. The vendor gave him a stern
“Give me the hot dogs,” the woman said, holding
up two fingers. “Two. Dos.” The boy winked at the vendor.
“Sí, señora,” the vendor said.
He handed the hot dogs to her. She pushed the
money at him. He counted it and tried to give her one bill
“Demasiado,” he said; then in broken English,
“too much señora. You pay too much. Uno.” The young
“No,” the woman barked, as much to the boy as
to the vendor. “Keep it. It’s yours. Yours.”
“Gracia, señora,” the vendor said politely,
“Dos cocas,” the boy said again, stepping up
close to the woman.
“Well . . . .” she huffed, stepping away. The
boy laughed. The vendor handed him his cokes.
“No la moleste,” the older man said sharply,
“don’t bother her.”
“Calma, viejo,” the boy said, “relax.”
The woman stalked away, back across the beach
towards El Caribe. The boy paid for the sodas.
“Bruja,” he said in the direction of the woman,
The vendor ignored the boy’s rude language. He
closed the lid of his cart and ran a grizzled hand through
his gray, receding hair. He watched the white gringa lady
walk back to El Caribe, back behind its chain link fence.
He scratched the stubbly growth on his chin and squinted into
the sun. You couldn’t tell what he was thinking.