Bugs and Bares, part 3: Super Silk

     They had not been long on the highway before Nate pointed out the window. “Do you see that billboard ad? I swear that was not there this morning.”
     Dr. A looked at the sign. It said:

SUPER SILK! 
Specially designed moth-repellent clothing with luxurious feel and great price!

     “Well… that’s interesting. Perhaps you didn’t notice it this morning because you were coming the other way?”
     “OK, quick – turn and look at the other side of the billboard, behind us” said Nate, keeping his eyes on the road.
     Dr. A turned in her seat. “It says, ‘SUPER SILK! Moth-repellent clothing exclusively at Lola’s.’ Was that one there this morning?”
     “It’s almost the same ad! No, both sides of that billboard have just been changed this morning, then. What’s this all about?”
     Dr. A stared straight ahead. “I’ve never heard of Lola’s. Have you?”
     “Nope, me either. Must be a clothing store?”
     “Something’s not right, that these signs have followed so quickly on the heels of the moth infestation. How much longer to Port Trésor?”
     “About 35 kilometers.”
     “OK, my former student’s lab is near the docks. To get there we have to pass through the tourist area – let’s keep on the lookout for this Lola’s place.”
     “Got it. Good plan.”
     “And why do you smell like ginger? I thought I hosed you down.”
     Nate just looked at Dr. A and laughed.

     Some twenty minutes later, and after seeing a few more SUPER SILK signs of different sizes, Nate and Dr. A were driving south along Atlantic Avenue, Port Trésor’s hotel-studded beachfront. Right in between two of the larger hotels was a chic open-air shopping area, and this was where they finally saw Lola’s.
     “It’s packed!” said Nate, eyebrows raised.
     “I have never seen anything like this,” added Dr. A. “A line to get in a clothing store? Don’t tell me our Caribbean government has gone the way of Castro and Chávez!”
     “What?”
     “Slow down! Drive slowly through here. These people leaving – what are they carrying?”
     Nate slowed down. He and Dr. A watched as some women who had just left the store were opening their shopping bags and showing each other their purchases: brightly colored pareos, skirts, blouses, and bikini tops.
     “Do you think that’s the Super Silk?” Nate asked.
     “It must be,” said Dr A. “But what impresses me isn’t what garments these women pulled out of their bags, but rather what they are wearing right now. Did you notice?”
     Nate flushed and stammered. “I, uh, I don’t have a very good clothing vocabulary. But it seemed like they weren’t wearing much.”
     “Exactly! They weren’t wearing much, because it was literally falling to pieces! One of those women must have had about a dozen clothespins holding her blouse together!”
     “Oh, yeah. I saw that,” Nate bluffed. “I thought it was, you know, a look. A style.”
    Dr. A laughed out loud. “I think you’re right, in an odd sort of way! It must be the style now. It’s the proof the moths are as bad as you said they are.”
     Nate laughed, too. “Pretty bad, huh?”
     Suddenly Dr. A was serious, rummaging around for something in her bag. “Don’t miss the turn to the docks.”
   
     Ten minutes later, Nate stopped the Jeep in front of a boom gate. An attendant was asking for identification, so Nate pulled his driver’s license from his wallet. Dr. A had thrown a lanyard over her head and was holding out a special ID so the attendant could read it:

     Dr. MIRANDA T. ALCANTARA
Technician Supervisor
Bustamante Labs

     Nate didn’t act surprised, and the guard let them through. But once they passed the gate he asked Dr. A where she got the ID.
     “I’m glad I remembered to bring it. I consulted with Lalo on one of his mosquito projects, and just kept this in case it might come in handy someday.”
     “Nice,” said Nate. “Where do I park?”
     “It’s that third warehouse on the left. Did you bring any food?”
     “I think I have some energy bars in the back. Want one?”
     “I’ll pass. I’d rather have some of Lalo’s ant eggs. They’re in season, you know.”
     Nate smiled politely and said, “I had no idea.”
     “And more protein than those energy bars of yours, I’ll bet.”

Ant egg taco. I can say from experience these are very tasty. Source

     Nate parked the Jeep. Dr. A asked him to bring Jerome in his carrying case. Then they climbed up a set of loading dock stairs to a door with a “Bustamante Labs” sign. Dr. A looked at Nate.

     “Well don’t just stand there with your teeth in your mouth. Press the button.”
     “Where… else would my teeth be…” Nate’s voice trailed off, watching Dr. A fuss with her dress. He pressed the intercom button.
     Just at that moment, Dr. A spotted turmoil in the mantis’s carrying case. 
     “Oh but look here, Nate! The Buddha is tipped over!”
     “It wasn’t me! I’ve been very gentle with the case.”
     Dr. A pursed her lips. “I know it wasn’t you, it was Jerome. Oh my… he must be in one of his agnostic phases again.”
     “I thought you said he’s Catholic? Anyway…”
     A male voice interrupted them from the speaker. “Who is that with you, Dr. A?”
     “Lalo, how did you… Oh, yes, you see me on the camera. Look at the camera and wave, Nate. Nate is my friend who has driven me here today. And here’s Jerome, come to visit. Can you see him?”
     There was no response.
     “Lalo, I’m here to ask you a favor.”
     There was still no response.
     “And besides we’re hungry and I told Nate we could try your…”
     The door buzzed and Nate pulled it open quickly.
     They stepped into a large open space, easily twenty meters long by twenty meters wide, overtaken by rows and rows and rows of low, bordered tables covered in…
     “Dr. A? What are those things, anyway?
     “Hmmm? Oh, on all these tables? Silkworms.”
Silkworm with cocoons. Source.

     There was an unexpected aroma, but Nate decided it wasn’t coming from the worms. It smelled like something freshly grilled. His mouth was watering.
     From a glass-walled office on the side of the warehouse, a man was approaching them, carrying a tray he held up high as if he were a waiter. The man was naked.

(read part 4)

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