King Flaco II

When I first met Flaco we thought he was dying. He was barely a month old, and couldn't hold down his food --- the technical term is "distal bowel obstruction." His father was working for me and I had come over to see him about something that needed to be done and Flaco's mother came out to the car and showed me her disheveled baby and said that he was sick, couldn't hold down his food, and she thought he might die. She wondered if she could borrow 300 pesos --- about $35 --- to take him to DIF, the government hospital for kids there in Puerto Perdido, and I said get in the car. We got to DIF in ten minutes and an hour later they operated on him and untangled his tiny impacted small intestine and now this child is alive and does all the normal three-year-old things. The only thing to show what happened is a tiny scar just above the navel.

Flaco has taken a fancy to me and I've taken a fancy to him and it's not just because they gave him my name after his life-save routine. It's also not because my god-son is the smartest, most beautiful, most charming, most intelligent being in the whole sentient world.

I go to the house to visit with his father and mother and Flaco comes to the door of my car and stands there and makes an impromptu speech, "Scalum pol," he says. "Mai bassen see scalum tiya. Andoo. Si bikka siga. Pa' 'ya."

They tell me that he is speaking Spanish and although I am not letter perfect in the language I know enough about it to know they are dead wrong. Flaco isn't speaking Spanish --- he's speaking Mandarin Chinese. Thus he is neither not a Oaxacan or even a Mexican --- he's a visiting Buddha, an ambassador of good-will sent secretly from 12,000 miles away to charm the hell out of the rest of us and win our hearts forever.

His family doesn't know what Flaco is talking about either, but that's OK. When kids first learn to talk, we aren't expecting the Gettysburg Address or monologues from "Hamlet." His mother pretends to understand him but Holden Caulfield says that all mothers are crazy and he's right. She says that "tiya" is tortilla and "pol" is pollo --- for chicken --- and "bikka" is the dog Victoria, or maybe his dad's bicycle. But I know Mandarin Chinese when I hear it and I am already planning for Flaco's ambassadorship to that far country in thirty years or so. Meantime, I'll get him a job in some fortune cookie factory. "Scalum pol," indeed.

The main reason I have him pegged for an ambassadorship at the very least is that as I soon as I am out of the car, he is delivering his speech of welcome --- a very serious speech it is, too (he doesn't let himself smile once, although he has a smile that would knock your ears off) --- and all the while he is delivering this homily of welcome I am so enchanted that I want to call up MGM immediately, if they still exist, and set him up to be a child star --- the twenty-first century male version of Shirley Temple.

These children have a way about them, don't they? When I first met Flacos he certainly wasn't much to look at all in a heap wrapped up in a dirty blanket, so listless and wan that I figured that we'd have to lay him in the grave by nightfall. Now look at him. He touched my heart then; he owns it complete now.

I've told his father and mother about Hollywood and his upcoming job with the State Department --- remember, I tell them, Shirley Temple ended up at the UN --- but I have yet to tell them that I am also going to see to it that he is elected president of the world and, soon after, I'll wangle a Nobel Prize for him: the Nobel Prize of Deliverance.

Those of us who know him and care for him greatly can only shiver in fear, afraid for the one we almost had to lay in the grave. I tell you, though, now he's come along so smartly, alive and well and busy, busy making fine and serious speeches . . . capturing the hearts of all those us who, at one time, so feared for his gentle life.