In 1928, a thick-whiskered lawyer with yet more of the university than of the courts in him, finally reached the small Mexican town where the government wanted him to carry out a survey of the federal lands appropriated by local farmers.
The carriage came to a stop at the doors of the main municipal building. He was to meet with the town’s mayor there. On stepping down, he noticed a man exiting a small booth to his right, with a slice of sweet bread and a cup of coffee in his hands.
Thinking that that would be just the thing to stir himself out of that stupor which the long, uneventful journey from Guadalajara had set him in, he went nearer.
A young woman appeared from behind the shutters that divided the front counter from the kitchen in the back. Her features were not at all like those of the few inhabitants he had observed arriving—her nose aquiline, her locks of hair wavy, and her eyes of the sharpest tangerine.
Such was her smile, as she accepted his pesos on the counter, that he was at a loss for words. By the time he could rally the wit to make the simplest of greetings, she had already disappeared to the back. He sipped at his coffee thoughtfully as he walked back to the entrance.
“Señor Sanchez, there you are!” said the mayor as soon as he saw the lawyer, who was standing at the bottom of the staircase in an attempt to remember the floor where the mayor’s office was. “I was just coming down to find you.”
“Don Miguel, how are you?” responded Mr. Sanchez.
“I’m doing just fine,” answered Don Miguel, signaling to his visitor to follow him upstairs. “How do you find the town of San Bartolomé? We are small but proud of what we have here.”
“Quite well. The streets are clean and the architecture is remarkable. And speaking of remarkable, would you happen to know the name of the woman who tends to the little shop in your plaza?”
Don Miguel chuckled. “You have met Señorita Nomikos, the most charming of the townfolk, without a doubt.”
Noticing that the young lawyer looked at him with much interest, he continued. “If her appearance has struck you as remarkable, that is because, in addition to her own mother being beautiful, her father was not from around here.”
“He was a wealthy Greek impresario who oversaw many lines of business. He was so successful that some have even considered him the first billionaire of the Mediterranean, that is, if the worth of all his assets could have been converted to kilograms of silver coin.
“Then, one day, fed up with being a stressed and exhausted executive, he decided to reform, and sold all he owned. The proceeds went to charity, except for a small sum. For reasons unknown to me, he soon arrived at our town, where he settled. Because here he found his life’s love in the young woman’s mother.”
“Is Mr. Nomikos not in town?” interposed the lawyer as they entered the mayor’s office.
“Lamentably, he succumbed to tuberculosis only two years after arriving. We would have benefited much from his guidance. Now, Mr. Sanchez, if you don’t mind, please close the doors behind you. Let’s speak about how you may begin your task here.” The lawyer obliged.