It was a gloomy Saturday afternoon when Elida, our maid, approached me in a seemingly-concerned state to reveal she had found something alarming in the Mendez apartment.
“Well…” I said. “What did you find?”
“In the bed in Mendez apartment, I find ticks” she said. She made the hand gesture of a small pile and said that maybe the previous guests had left them.
“Ticks?” I questioned. “So what did you do with them?”
“Well, I put them in my pocket like Mr. Keenan tells me. Then I put them in the little green box.” She pointed to a small container on the shelf-supposedly that which was housing a team of ticks.
Now, I hadn’t been in Panama for a few months, so I figured perhaps Elida and Keenan were practicing some bizarre new habit of collecting insects and storing them for later use. I cringed at the thought of Elida emptying the newly-found tick collection into the box and told her to please, just throw them out next time.
“I can take them home with me?” she asked.
What is wrong with this woman, I thought to myself. Who in their right mind, Panama or elsewhere, would want to keep live ticks. Much less accumulate them in a small green box.
I figured something was up and walked over to the shelf and the tick box. I opened the thing and it was filled with, of all things, money! Maybe thirty dollars-worth in five and ten dollar bills. So you keep the ticks incubated in money? I’m thinking.
And this was when it struck me. Elida was practicing her English and the word she was trying to pronounce was tips, as in gratuity left by the guests in Mendez for a job well done. I chuckled to myself and told Elida that yes, she could take her ticks home. We ran through the proper intonation and I explained the difference between money and blood-sucking insects. Never a dull moment in the Casco…