My friend Carlos grew up in Mexico City but now he lives on Maui. He works as a window washer. I see him at some of my jobs, brandishing his squeegee and an assortment of multicolored rags. We’re always glad to see each other as it gives us a chance to speak in Spanish which really means that we get to tell funny stories and jokes that just don’t sound the same in English.
But this time Carlos was more serious. “Why do you do this hard work all day long? You could teach Spanish. You learned Spanish in Vera Cruz where people tell risqué jokes and colorful stories all day long. You could teach Spanish a la Veracruzana. And if you teach all the bad words, you must charge much more money.”
I had to agree. “I used to teach school but I can make more money taking care of houses for people. That way I can keep my daughter in school.”
“Then you are an angel.”
“Either an angel or an idiot, I’m not sure which one,” I said.
Carlos shook his head. He was much too polite to use the word idiot, even in English.
“I’ve written four novels, too,” I said. “But none of them are published yet.”
Carlos continued washing the windows. “So how do you become successful? How do you become as famous as the writers we see in the bookstores?
I shrugged. “Some of those writers had to write five books before they got the first one published.”
“That’s it!” Carlos was polishing the window with a linen rag and he pointed the rag towards me as if he was going to polish me too. “You write the fifth book. You must go home and do it today!”
“I’m working on the fifth book.”
Carlos shook his head. “You must work harder. Go home and finish the fifth book. I feel certain that this is the answer.”
He stepped back to admire his windows which I had to admit shone like diamonds and then he turned to me, obviously pleased that he had managed to mend my shattered life as part of his days work.
“Go home and write,” he said.
“I guess it’s either that or teach dirty jokes in Spanish,” I said.
My gentle friend laughed as he packed up his rags to leave. “Some angel!” he joked.
As I watched him leave, I smiled for the first time all day. And just as he suggested, I went home to write the fifth book.