Pancho D. Cat

1914.

The author Ambrose ‘Bitter’ Bierce (now ‘Suicidal Bierce,’ not because of his recent divorce but the drunken brawl of a marriage that preceeded it) felt relieved when he found himself abducted by a ragged group of Mexican soldiers before che’d crossed back into the United States. A young sergeant politely asked Bierce if he could help them start a newspaper for their new republic — “or else.”  He didn’t mind the ‘or else,’ but the fact that they demanded he do it for free (cheap bastards). He was exhausted, alone, hung over and no longer gave a ‘culo de rata’ what anyone thought. 

Because he had refused to help the new regime (whoever they were for the next fifteen minutes), he was accused of being a spy and was to be shot at sunrise.

Fine!

So the obliging army guys tossed him into a tiny cell in the tiny coastal town of Capitána.

Ambrose and ‘That bad man Jose’

“Señor Bierce, asked a huge, badly scarred corporal named Jose’, “is there anything that I can offer you before the firing squad?”

“I have a question, maybe even a request. It’s about this picture I’ve been carrying with me.” He took the folded paper from his shirt pocket. “I really wanted to meet this woman someday. An old man said that she may have lived in the area,” Ambrose handed Jose’ his treasured portrait of a beautiful, statuesque female pirate. “I noticed that your village has a statue of the same woman. Maybe it’s only a coincidence. Look. What do you think?”

“¿Qué?”

“ Look. Jose’ can you see?”

Jose’ squinted. “In the dawn’s early light.” The statue and the photo seemed to be of the same woman.

“Captain Anne Bonny was brave and beautiful pirate Captain who had liberated our small coastal towns over a century ago? Sí. That is definitely her.”

“So! she was real?”

“Sí. I’m sorry to tell you ‘Was’. Señor, maybe you will meet her when you go to Heaven.”

‘I’m not headed that way, I assure you.”

“Captain Anne Bonnie. She came here long ago and rescued our women from the evil conquistadors. ”

“ Ella es muy bonita.”

“Señor Bierce, let me borrow your picture for a moment. It is not for me. Our Mayor might be able to help a fellow admirer of our villages hero. Mayor Alvarez is very important in our town.”

Ambrose expected nothing, as Jose carefully took and folded the old drawing, “I’ll be back, pronto.” Jose’ walked out and locked the cell, leaving Ambrose Bierce alone.

The sun was bright. It was long past Bierce’s execution time when Jose the jailer returned to the cell along with the town’s Mayor Alvarez. 

“Señor Bierce,” said the mayor, “Our people owe a lot to the Capitana Roja, the Red Captain, Anne Bonny. She is the reason that we named our town Capitána? I’ve decided to set you free.”

“Why?”

“Any person who admires the heroic Captain must be treated as a special guest. To our people, she was a savior.”

In a rare, and sober Ambrose Bierce moment’ the ‘Bitter/Suicidal’ author decided not to argue.

Without another word, Ambrose was released from the jail and headed directly toward Rosa’s Cafe for a drink. As he passed Rosa’s window, a stray bullet from a duel between a rowdy young cowboy and a jealous man named ‘Jose’”(Yes, the jailer.) struck him in the leg.

It was a twist of fate as the family of the village ‘seer,’ La Madre, took him in and nursed him back to health. For weeks the members of the large family fed him the most extraordinary dishes. He soon became strong, like El Toro! Healthy — and fat, they nicknamed Bierce ‘Gordo.’

As Ambrose packed and was ready to return to The States, La Madre, whose full name was Consuela Montoya Rodriguez, handed Ambrose Bierce a book. It was a collection of her village’s favorite recipe. He had suddenly been entrusted with a treasure, not only more valuable than gold but also life changing. He was only to give the volume to a cook who could be deemed worthy of the gift. La Madre’s family told him that the recipes could be dangerous if they fell into ‘the wrong hands.’ 

Bierce asked La Madre why he’d been given this honor?  and her reply was, “It is for El Capitána, señor Bierce.”

But Captain Anne Bonnie is…”

“Shhhh, señor Bierce.  You might scare los niños.”

Bierce hid the recipe book in Pancho’s cat carrier, intending to memorize  Madre’s secret recipes on his journey, wherever Pancho would lead him. He would reserve La Madre’s sacred knowledge for a special someone who could do justice to the great god given gift. 

“By the way,” ‘La Madre whispered to the writer, “We, in Capitana, believe that Captain Anne Bonny is still very mucho alive. When the wind blows from the Bermudas sometimes you can get a whiff of ‘God’s breakfast.’ I’ve been told that she has a great pair of legs too. Your purpose right now is to find her and give her this book which was has been compiled especially for her, by generations of the women of our city.”

Tales are told to our children that the pirate woman is still young and living on an island where people never age. La Madre says if you give the this book to the right one, the woman of your dreams will fall in love with you.”

“Even if she were still young and alive, she wouldn’t be interested in an old beat up soldier, like myself. How do I find her? Is there a map?”

“No, señor. What you are holding will change the course of human history forever. Do NOT give this book to anyone unless you are certain that it is ‘the ‘one.’ Pancho will know”

“But…”

“The book is sealed with wax, mi amigo. Please, It must remain closed until only she opens it. You are an honorable man. Be patient, for when she opens it in your presence, as your gift and the gift of our city, I promise she will be yours until the end of time.”

“Who? Until the end of time? How can that be?”

“The contents of this tiny book are, yes (!), THAT powerful.”

Ambrose Bierce, for the first time in years, felt, what is that word?,  optimistic. “Will I someday meet Anne Bonny, the Queen of the Pirates?”

“CLa Madre says that you will brave great storms on your quest and that you must always hold on to your cat.”

“I don’t own a cat.”

“What does that look like? Chopped liver? You’ve just been adopted by one.” choo!” A large pink and white cat was winding around Bierce’s ankles. “ His name is Pancho. He was named after general Pancho Villa and his great great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was hCaptain Anne’s pet. Pancho has been specially chosen by our citizens to bring you this treasure, our gift to her. He will be your guide and protector. He is the greatest fighting cat in all of Mexico.”

“La Madre swears that the Captain has escaped not only prison, but even time and death. The men outside will prepare you for your journey. Go! Consuelo has been right about 78.8% of the time. I’d trust our women,” said the Mayor. “ They have have made every day here Taco Tuesday.” 

“Taco Tuesday?” He said it like a prayer. “Well, maybe I could stay a little longer then.”

“No! You have a job to do. Go! Or we will shoot you.”

“Chips and guacamole, then?”

“No!”

Bierce had his ‘ammunition.’ The book of sacred recipes. He would also bring back a new dance called The Tango, a dance that he’d mastered in Argentina? Alas, (he slipped back into depression) I have no partner. Besides, with a klutz like me, she would have to dance with two right feet!”

Years later, while living, bored detritus-less in the Bermudas he was invited by some new friends to celebrate his birthday aboard an offshore vessel,. He was told little else except that the ship’s Captain might enjoy his war stories. Pancho the cat could feel the magic in the air. He stretched, sat and stared out onto the horizon.

A young boy of Viking decent, named, Gunnar rowed Ambrose Bierce to the end of the reef, where the the scent of wondrous food permeated the fog. God’s breakfast? The ship was revealed. The morning sunlight also revealed the stunning redheaded pirate of legend. 

“Happy birthday, Mr. Bierce.”

“Whose ship is this?”

“This is The Widow. I’m Anne Bonny.”

“He stared, unable to speak. Only his stomach growled.”

He continued to remain silent through breakfast, as his mouth was stuffed. He’d never eaten food this good. And as he gorged himself he couldn’t keep his eyes off Anne Bonny. She was stunning, even glamorous. Yes, he thought. This was the woman of his dreams whose cooking was also worthy of the secret recipes from Mexico. 

___________________________________________________

One afternoon, in March of 1946, Ambrose finally managed to get the Captain out of the kitchen long enough to sit her down and ask: “Have you ever heard of tacos?”  

“Tacos? What kinda malarkey are tacos?”

Ambrose began to tell Anne about his southern journey…