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"Well, what I don't understand is how you got a nationwide reputation as a spook," I blurted out with my usual tactfulness. "People say you steal souls."
"Look at me!" he said, his reedy voice lifting sharply. "Ami stealing your soul? What is a soul anyway? This is ignorance, these stories about me."
"Everybody says you have magic powers over people."
"Well, it's true that I'm always trying to develop my willpower and my mind, and I honestly do believe that I can control the average man by looking at him, studying him, by using my willpower to combat his. But it's not magic. I look very intently at people, not to steal their souls but just to practice my willpower. And another thing I do that confuses people—I walk down the road and close my eyes and try to keep them closed till I get where I'm going. Now the average person can't do this—he lacks willpower, and he's afraid he'll bump into something, so he quickly opens his eyes. But I keep mine closed for blocks and blocks, and I never fall. But this isn't magic, either. This is practice, self-control, willpower."
By now it was two a.m., and I was more than satisfied that I had not run into Beelzebub incarnate but simply a man with a high I.Q. and overdeveloped personal skills, a man who inevitably would be misunderstood in a country where phantoms and duendes continue to obsess the mind. We said goodnight, and as he walked ahead of his lovely young companion I could see that he kept his eyes shut down the flight of stairs and out into the night. Just before he faded into the shadows he turned and looked back inside and opened his eyes, and I could swear he winked. I wonder what he meant by that?
The next morning we waited in the customs and emigration line at the Belize City airport. "Good morning, sar," said our old friend the customs inspector. "How did you like our unspoiled country?"
"It has many wonders," I said.
"Tell me," he said, "do you think your countrymen would like it here?"
I thought back on a vermilion flycatcher I'd seen flashing through the unpolluted sky like a spark from a fire, and a slinky jaguarundi crossing the road in her party furs to get to the other side. I remembered beer milk shakes and 7� rum and the final mystery of Jackie Vasquez and the bare-breasted lloronas that beckon from the mangroves. The inspector was waiting for an honest answer, so I gave him one.
"With a little bit of luck," I said, "my countrymen'll stay the hell home." The man just stood there grinning. I think he understood.