Hevea

15 Aug

The city of Norka was built upon the finding of uses for the lastic substance that had come to be called by the name hevea. The uniquely offensive smell of burning gommic rubber became the odor of prosperity for the city’s main industry and its army of worker migrants from the uplands to the south.
Restaurants and taverns flourished in a population where males outnumbered females. An early foothold in this service area went to the Tarax group immigrating from overseas.
As the hevea industry became the main world producer of vehicular tires, Norka turned into a booming city awash in wealth and money.

Maxo Velit was a towering young man hunting for a job in Norka. His best hope for success seemed obvious when he tried the series of Taraxian eateries and taverns in the downtown area of the prosperous city. Here was where he met with his first success, being hired as an assistant bartender by the well-known, well-liked Donio Ziam.

The latter was a short, fat businessman with one child whom he worshiped and lived for, a daughter called Enta.

Donio had lost his wife when Enta was only five. Servants and nurses could not fully replace the loss of a caring, warm-hearted mother.

Donio could not have predicted that in time his newest employee at the tavern was to become his son-in-law.

The romance of the black-haired giant and the small, girl-like daughter was short and limited to social occasions among Taraxians of Norka. Summer picnics, church banquets, and wedding receptions were the most frequent acceptable occasions where boys and girls of their age were permitted to gather and meet each other.

Domo took Maxo under his wing as his presumptive successor in the thriving tavern business. The young had no lack of ambition or industriousness. The year that Domo passed away from a sudden heart attack, Enta presented him with his first grandchild, one who took his grandfather’s name.

It was the same year that a new immigrant who was to have a major effect on the course of Maxo’s fortunes came to Norka from the old country. This was a unique character named Nim Trevt, a man underestimated by everyone who met him.

Alu Cubo was a Taraxian who owned a busy grocery store on Poppy Avenue, a house on Para Street, and had four daughters left him by his recently deceased wife. Many of the local bachelors who spoke his native tongue had hopes of someday sharing in what old Alu had personal control of.

Nim Trevt, newly arrived in Norka, did not wish to work in one of the dirty, sweaty hevea factories where tires were manufactured. His preference was a bar or restaurant, and fortune smiled when he was offered a spot serving beer at the Domo Zirm tavern now operated by Maxo Velit.

Nim accepted at once, and was soon busy becoming the most diligent bartender in all the Taraxian taverns in downtown
Norka. Everyone was surprised at how well the newcomer dressed himself. The young man made friends quickly, soon joining the dance band that played at Taraxian weddings and picnics. The leader who accepted Nim as a clarinetist was the busy grocer named Alu Cubo.

The latter soon noticed how the dark eyes of the new bartender fastened upon and engulfed the face and body of his oldest daughter, Anua. His long experience of human drives and aspirations made him wary of this talkative, personable young man. He thought he could read a lot into the special attention to the beautiful female he was father of.

I will have to keep an eye on this potential interloper, the calculating grocer told himself as often as he could.

The annual joint picnic of all the Taraxian brotherhoods and societies of Norka took place that year in late August, at the Hevea Park pavilion. Dancing proceeded hour after hour. The orchestra led by Alu Cubo, playing at the drums, was the public’s favorite and received the most requests for traditional folk dances.

Alu could not ignore how often his oldest daughter and Nim Trevt exchanged looks and glances.

Something with meaning to it must be going on, he said to himself with growing irritation.

Maxo Velit was surprised at who it was that knocked at his front door at the west side residence purchased years before by Domo Zirm, now no longer among the living.

“Alu Cubo! So glad and surprised to see you. Come in and sit down. Let me get you something, maybe to drink. How are you? You are looking pretty good, may I say.”

Alu began to whisper and mumble from the open doorway.

“This is not a social call I’m making. My reason for taking the bus out here is to ask a big favor. The matter is critical to my family and to me personally, Maxo.”

The latter looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“This bum called Nim Trevit. He works for you.”

“I started him as a bartender helper,” mentioned Maxo Velit, beginning to understand what the other was after.

“I want you to fire the bastard. You don’t have to give the guy any reason or explanation. Just get rid of him. I want all the tavern-owners to do so.”

“He’s been bothering your daughters or something?”

No direct answer came. “Just do it for me. I will be forever in your debt. You will be my eternal friend, Maxo.”

Without another word, Alu Cubo turned around and walked away. He soon disappeared into the shadows of the street’s line of maples and oaks.

Maxo continued to stare into the night, his mind lost in complications of tangled thought.

A slight figure, having heard the exchange at the door, noiselessly slid back into the kitchen of the house.

The woman of the house, Enta, had heard and digested every word spoken by the mysterious visitor that evening.

It was an unusual mission that the wife of Maxo Velit assigned herself the following afternoon. Her husband had already left for the tavern as he always did. He would be cleaning and preparing it for later hours of business.

Enta had an idea where she might find the rooms rented by Nim on South Federal St., leading off from the busy downtown. She decided to take a jitney cab to save time on the mission she was now on.

Nim was astounded to find her to be the person knocking gently at the entrance to his small flat.

“Mrs. Velit! It’s a surprise to see you. Can I help you? I should invite you in, but everything is upside down in here.”

“This is nothing like a social occasion, Nim. I am here today to give you a kind of warning. Mr. Alu Cubo has come to my husband and asked him to fire you. He is afraid that you and his oldest daughter, Anua, may be becoming friendly and interested in each other.

“Alu wants to ruin and get rid of you. He wants to drive you out of Norka, I believe.

“All that I want to tell you is this: if you really are in love with Anua, you have to tell her at once. Ask her to become your bride, even if the two of you have to elope.

“I will try to convince my husband to keep you working at our tavern and not listen at all to angry Alu. Anua is a good girl, as you must know. You have to do what is best for the two of you.”

Nim furrowed his brow in deep thought. “Thank you, Mrs. Velit. I appreciate what you did by coming here today. I am going to straighten everything out with Anua at once. I mean to propose to her this very day. We two have to clear the business between us by ourselves. She can say yes or she can turn me down. Thank you, again.”

Enta turned about and walked away without another word.

Nim walked with vigor steps till he reached the Cubo home on Para St. He was taking the chance that the father was not at home, but at his grocery business, busy at work.

He knew that the sisters had chores to complete about the large white house. There on the open front porch he spotted the youngest of the four sisters, Jetra and Vimge.

Nim stood on the sidewalk, scanning the front of the building. All of a sudden, Marna came out onto the front porch through the screen door to the parlor. That meant that Anua was still inside, either upstairs or down in the kitchen preparing lunch for her three sisters.

He decided to take a chance and head directly for the back door that led into the rear of the house. Luck was on his side, and he found that Anua was where he anticipated, peeling onions on a thick board next to the sink.

She looked up in astonishment as he entered the kitchen and spoke directly to her without prologue.

“Annua, we have to settle the question right today. Will you agree to marry me and become my wife? I don’t care if your father is opposed to me. This is your choice, and you are the one who has to live with it.

“I don’t want or expect anything from your father. You may not have much from what I earn right now, but I promise that I will be making better money in the future. Things are going to look up, I know that for sure.

“I promise to devote my life to making you my happy bride, dear Anua. Will you say yes to me today?”

Her breathless reply to him was a strong, simple “Yes.”

The two stared at each other in ecstasy.

“I will have to tell my father tonight,” she murmured.

By amazing chance, Maxo Velit decided to eat at noon with his wife at home. Enta decided that she owed him the truth about what she had carried out that morning.

“I went out by taxi, my dear,” she said to him as they faced each other over the kitchen table. “It will shock you to learn that I went down to South Federal St. to find Nim Trevt. I felt myself obligated to tell him what I heard Alu Cubo say to you here last night. You did not know that I was able to hear all of what he said to you.

“Are you going to obey him and fire Nim Trevt at the tavern?” she asked him with emotion in her voice.

He hesitated, but finally spoke. “I don’t know, because I don’t know what Nim’s intentions might be.”

“He told me this morning that he wishes to marry Anua, and is going to ask for her hand as soon as possible.”

“Alu will forbid that,” grimly said Maxo. “That will be the end of it all.”

“Not if the two of them decide to elope,” muttered Enta. “He is determined to win her one way or another.”

Her husband suddenly grimaced. “I do not intend to fire a good employee at the whim of an angry old man like Alu. He is not my boss nor anyone else’s.”

Enta smiled brightly, but said nothing more. She felt herself a victorious matchmaker.

Maxo Velit had never liked the way that Alu Cubo seemed to assume an automatic authority over younger and newer men in the Taraxian colony. This was an opportunity to rebel against what he found so grating from the grocer.

Nim Trevt came to the tavern earlier than usual or expected. Maxo decided to ask him pointed, direct questions. He found him washing the back booths and interrupted him.

“I want you to tell me the truth, Nim. Do you plan to settle down and get yourself a wife, and are people correct when they connect your name with that of the oldest daughter of Alu Cubo, the one called Anua?”

The young man looked up flabbergasted, unable to answer all these points thrown at him. He thought as quickly as he was able.

“I do not have much yet, but my ambition is to have my own business someday, a house of my own, and of course a wife with children. And I think that my first choice would have to be this girl named Anua. I like her a lot, and she seems to get along alright with me. Why not? But I think it will be hard to convince someone with the mind of her father, Alu. He is a hard man to understand or to deal with. I don’t think that he thinks much of me.”

Maxo took a step closer to him. “Have no fear. That man is more talk and bluster than anything else. If his daughter will accept you, she is certainly old enough to decide for herself.

“I myself, together with my wife, will be your sponsors and stand up for you in church. We two will guarantee that all the expenses of a wedding will be paid in full.

“What can be surer than that? You and I can go and see this stubborn old man after work tonight, when we close up the tavern. I’ll stick up for you, don’t worry. We’ll force him to give his consent to two young people who want to get married.”

Nim, too overwhelmed to be able to say anything, only kept nodding his head yes, yes, and yes.

Somehow, the work for that evening was completed on the part of Maxo Velit and his disoriented assistant.

“The grocery will be closed by now,” said the one in charge. “But the two of us can drive to his house on Para St. I’m parked back in the ally. Are you ready to go?”

Nim said he was, so that Maxo closed and locked up the tavern. Both men climbed in the coupe and were soon gone.

“Let me do all the talking at first,” said Maxo as he parked in front of the big white house.

Avu was sitting in his parlor listening to music on the ether receiver and reading the late news-sheet. He heard the door buzzer sound, get up and went to see who it might be. His four daughters were all upstairs, getting ready to go to bed.

The surprise of the grocer was visible in the dark as he made out who his two tall visitors happened to be.

“Could we see you out here for a couple of moments, Alu?” said Maxo in a soft, moderated tone.

There was only a moment’s hesitation before the grocer opened the screen door and come out onto the porch. “We can talk here, I believe,” he sneered at the other two.

“This pertains to the future happiness of your older daughter, Alu. The young man who is here with me wishes to take her as his bride and wife. I can testify that he has been a good and trustworthy employee to me, and that I intend to keep him helping me, and plan to increase his pay. In fact, my wife and I are willing to stand up in church as the sponsors of this new couple, and act as future potential godparents for them.”

The head of Alu Cubo quit spinning and he finally managed to express himself. “This is a total surprise to me. It shall be necessary for me to speak with my Anua. But if she is willing to accept him, I feel it my fatherly duty to place no obstacle in the way of the pair.” He stared coldly at the profile of Nim, but said nothing directly to the suitor who had just been spoken for.

“We can come back and make some preliminary arrangements late tomorrow morning,” said Maxo with a smile of success. “I shall bring my wife along, if no one minds. It will be good to have a married woman’s opinion and advice available, I believe.”

Since there seemed to be no more for that evening, the two visits left the front porch and headed for the coupe they had traveled there in.

Next morning at the tavern, before a general clean-up was to begin, Nim Trevt had a bit of news to give his boss.

“I am thinking of quitting bartending and going into one of the hevea factories. I believe that my work there can lead to promotion and advancement on a fast scale. It has always been my ambition to study latex chemistry, as well. I had a basic science education back in Tarax and hope to build upon that, if I can. That is where I foresee my future, in the progress and expansion of the hevea industry here in Norka. What do you think, sir?”

Maxo gave him a warm smile. “Keep those ideas on ice for now. Today, we have wedding plans to make and conceive. I will drive home and pick up Enta, then the three of us can head for Para St. and the expectant bride waiting to see you there.”

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