O. Henry's Guanaja, Honduras at nighttrademark was the surprise ending that each of his stories contained. He would set a story moving in one direction, and just when the reader was convinced of the general direction of the narrative, the story would be completely reversed. He used this device to dramatic and humorous effect in such stories as The Ransom of Red Chief, The Gift of the Magi, and The Cop and the Anthem.

The real charm of O. Henry's tales lies not in his reversal of the narrative, but in the reversal of his characters' character. In O. Henry's world, rich men become dunces, while rogues become heroes and down-and-outers become gentlemen.

While little is known about O. Henry's actual activities in Roatan and Trujillo, his impressions survive in several of his stories. A number of south-of-the-border tales in his Cabbages and Kings collection take place in the mythical town of "Coralio" in the imaginary Central American republic of "Anchuria." Spanish speakers know that Honduras comes from the Spanish word hondo implying depth. O. Henry's Anchuria comes from the Spanish term ancho which means width -- perhaps a reference to the width of O. Henry's imagination.

Guanaja, Honduras, c.a.
Coralio could very easily be turn-of-the-century Coxen Hole where a motley collection of gringos hang about the town's sole billiard parlor while small boats filled with fruit and coconuts are rowed out to ships moored near the reef. In one tale, a local consular agent, frustrated by the mid-summer heat, retires drunk to his hammock everyday by noon.

In another, a couple of would be empresarios open an ice plant, only to learn that the locals dislike putting ice in their drinks because it makes the drinks cold. In a third, a not-so-shrewd businessman schemes to convince the locals to buy and use something they neither want nor need, but that he wishes to sell them -- shoes. One wonders how that trick was eventually pulled off in this barefoot-is-best environment.

If you are a resident of the Bay Islands, find yourself a copy of O. Henry, retire to your hammock, and enjoy. If you're a tourist, and you find yourself back home and missing the islands, grab a volume of O. Henry, lay back on the sofa, and return temporarily to that land of palm trees, endless beaches, and soft ocean breezes.

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