Hey! Who are those two, just joining the cluster of Marine Patrol cops? They sure as hell don't look like cops. It turns out they are a reporter and a photographer from the Miami Herald. Nestor had never heard of a reporter coming all the way out here in the bay. The photographer was a swarthy little guy wearing some sort of safari jacket, pockets all over it, wide open. Nestor couldn't tell what he was but there was no doubt about the reporter. He was a classic Americano, tall, thin, pale, wearing a navy blazer, a light-blue button-down shirt, khaki pants with freshly pressed creases down the front very proper-looking. Over-the-top proper. Who ever heard of a newspaper reporter wearing a jacket in Miami? He was soft-spoken to the point of shy, this reporter. His name was John Smith, apparently. How much more Americano could you get?!
"I can't believe what you just did," said the classic americano. "I can't believe anyone could swing hand over hand down that thing holding another person between his legs. Where'd you get the strength? Do you lift weightsor what?"
Nestor had never spoken to a reporter before. Maybe he wasn't supposed to. He looked at Sergeant McCorkle. The Sergeant just smiled and gave him a slight wink, as if to say, "It's okay, go ahead and tell him."
That did it. Modestly enough, Nestor began, "I don't think it takes strength exactly." He tried to continue on the modest pathbut he just couldn't tell the Americano enough. He didn't believe in weight-lifting for the upper body. It's much better to climb a, say, fifty-five-foot rope without using your legs. Takes care of everything, arms, back, chesteverything.
"Where do you do that?" said this John Smith.
"At Rodriguez's 'Ññññññooooooooooooo!!! Qué Gym!' they call it."
The americano laughed. "Como en 'Ññññññooooooooooooo!!! Que barata'?"
::::::This americano not only speaks Spanishhe must listen to Spanish radio! That's the only time you can hear the "Ññññññooooooooooooo!!! Que barata!" commercial.::::::
"Es verdad," said Nestor. That was a linguistic handshake for John Smith's speaking Spanish. "But you have to use weights and do squats and everything else for your legs. I don't know what you do for carrying some little guy like that with 'em except try to avoid the whole thing." Light touch of modesty there or self-mockery or whatever. Nestor looked down, as if to check out his uniform. He tried to tell himself that what he was about to do was unconsciouswhich of course made it self-fraudulence per se.
"Dios mío," he said, "this shirt is soaking wet and fucking filthy! I can smell it." He looked at Umberto, as if this had nothing to do with the two guys from the Herald, and said, "Where's some dry shirts?"
"Dry shirts?" said Umberto. "I don't know, unless they keep them in "
But Nestor had already stopped listening. He was busy pulling his wet shirt up and off his torso and his arms and his head, which involved lifting his arms almost straight up. He winced as if in pain. "Awwwguh! Hurts like a sonofabitch! I must a pulled something in my shoulders."
"That figures," said Umberto.
Just like that John Smith's swarthy little photographer had his camera up to his eyes and was pressing that button over and over.
Sergeant McCorkle stepped in and took Nestor by the elbow and pulled him away. "We got shirts inside, not at the Miami Herald. You know what I mean?"
He marched Nestor off at a good clip and pulled him close enough to say in a low voice, "You can talk to the press on the spot like this, as long as you don't talk strategy or policy. But not so you can show off your fucking physique. You know what I mean?"
Excerpted from Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe. Copyright © 2012 by Tom Wolfe. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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