Miguel rode the bus from Visulia to LA. Then he rode the inter-urban transit to Huntington Park. He was carrying a backpack. He found the restaurant with no problem. Even though he arrived shortly after noon, there were no other diners in the restaurant.
An older woman seated him and brought him a glass of water.
“Where is the menu?” Miguel asked, thinking he was hungry and might as well take advantage of a trip to the big city.
“The menu is on the wall.” the woman said, pointing at a dry-erase board next to the cash register.
The menu had few items. Many of the items had “W/A” next to them.
“What does ‘W/A’ mean?” Miguel asked.
“That means ‘When Available’” the woman replied.
“Well, what do you have available today?” Miguel asked.
“We have rice. We have beans. We have a few eggs. We just ran out of fish. We have tortillas.” the woman replied.
Miguel studied the menu a little more closely. The prices were breath-taking. A serving of rice was ten callors. Frijoles were fifteen callors. A single tortilla with nothing on it was two callors. Holy crap! That was a lot of money.
“So what do you want.” the woman asked.
“Actually,” Miguel said “I came here to talk to Jose.”
The woman looked at him. “Jose is not here.”
Miguel said, “Chad Izzo sent me. He has some merchandise he thinks Jose can help him sell. I brought a sample.” At that, Miguel emptied his backpack. He had twenty pounds of cleaned corn in four pound bags.
The woman studied the bags with interest. “I am not making any promises.” she said. “It might take a few hours before he can see you.”
“I was told to wait.” Miguel said.
“By the way, what is your name?” the old lady asked.
“My name is Miguel Gonzales.” Miguel answered.
Four hours later a neatly dressed man in a causal business suit walked into the restaurant. Miguel was still the only customer in the restaurant. The man walked over to Miguel’s table and sat down.
“You must be Miguel.” the man said. “I am Jose.”
“Tell me, how is our friend Chad doing?” Jose asked.
“Chad and Mardi are fine.” Miguel said. “I don’t really think of them as ‘friends’. In fact, I was worked for him as the crew boss last year. We called him ‘El Patrón’.”
Jose nodded. “We have something in common. That is what I did, as well.”
“What can I do for Chad?” Jose asked. Jose got right down to business. It was clear that he had pulled himself away from his normal business to address whatever it was that Chad wanted and he needed to get back to it.
“Chad thinks he might be stuck with some corn that he will not be able to sell through official channels. He thinks you have connections that might be able to take it off his hands and pay him enough to cover his expenses.” Miguel said. Miguel had put a lot of thought into how he was going to explain the problem.
Jose nodded at the pile of corn in the bags. “Is that a sample?” he asked.
“This is some of the seed we planted. It is hybrid corn. The crop will be a little bit different than this, but it will be close.” Miguel said.
“Are these for me?” Jose asked.
Miguel said, “Yes. Chad said you might want to ‘test’ them, whatever that meant.”
Jose smiled a sardonic smile, “Some of the merchandise my organization deals with requires purity checks. We have some analytical chemists who do that for us. I don’t think this corn will present a problem for them.”
“How much corn does Chad think he will have?” Jose asked.
“That is the difficult thing.” Miguel said. “So far the State has given no indication that they intend to buy it, but they might in the eleventh hour. So there might be no corn.”
“If you buy just the corn Chad is growing, it will be about 200 tons. At least that is what he figured.”
“I don’t know if you remember a trucker named ‘Kenny’” Miguel asked.
Jose nodded his head ‘Yes’.
“He has been driving around and he figures there is another 100,000 acres of corn in Tulare County alone. That would be about one-million tons of corn.” Miguel said.
Jose’s eyebrows went up.
“When will it be ripe?” Jose asked.
“We start picking in six weeks.” Miguel said.
“I appreciate the heads-up.” Jose said. “If you need to have me dispose of Chad’s crop, I need to have you bring the first load here, to this restaurant. Make it a small load. Maybe 10,000 pounds. That will be a show of good faith.”
“Then” Jose said “I will send you back with two of my men. They will know where the second and third shipments must go. They can be full, 40,000 pound semi loads. We can play it by ear from there.”
“There is one problem, though.” Jose said. “There is much crime. There is a high risk that the trucks will be ‘jacked. We need a way to mark them so they will be respected.”
Miguel said, “If I may make a suggestion.”
“What is it. Just spit it out.” Jose said.
“What if we put flags on the trucks, pennants, with a ‘P’ on it for El Patrón. If you put the word out that the trucks belong to El Patrón they will know to keep their hands off of them, even if they don’t exactly know who he is.” Miguel offered.
Jose smiled. “That will work. Pennants with ‘P’ on them are easy to find. Must make sure it is big enough to see and put it right out in front so people on this end know where to look.”
Jose and Miguel shook hands. Miguel left. He had a bus to catch.