Where Some Ideas Are Stranger Than Others...
The Red Frisbee
Sometimes, to be frank, moving is the most utterly overrated experience in the world. Even if you are going from a rather nasty place to a very nice one where you can put a hammock just to the left of your bedroom patio doors, and lay there first thing in the morning on your days off, considering whether to go jump into the water from your patch of personalized beach. But such things never come easy, even if they seem nearly free. And oh, is it ever true for this damned place. Worth it, but – oh well.
I staggered in my new front door, rollers and handles and paint cans filing my hands. With my scruffy old army pants, tattered shirt, and holey hat – I maintain at work that it is The Holy Hat, and if you want good service you'll keep the snide comments about it to yourself – you might think, returning to the first chunk of sentence here – you might think, with such scruffy gear and bare feet to boot, I was some sort of bum.
One of the paint cans bounced off the little inner wall of the entry way, adding one more dent to a whole collection of them. Whether the entryway will suffer an overhaul is debatable. I managed to get to the bedroom without too much more incident, unless you count stepping in the faintly sticky paint tray, and was soon back at work painting, much better equipped than before. Before there was one too small paint tray, a near rusted solid paint roller, and a half can of nasty off-white paint. The previous owner, a truly well-meaning person, don't get me wrong, had tried to repaint the house. Too bad he had no idea how to paint.
There were unpainted patches amongst the painted ones, a window it had taken me three tries to cut open again with a neat tool called a windowzipper I had had to almost give blood and a vow of eternal chastity to rent – the look of utter, complete, and unadulterated horror at the latter, together with my rush for the door with my money convinced the owner to get over that idea, and never to joke about something like that again. The walls had originally been covered with plain dark wood panelling. You know, the fake stuff that used to be all the rage for middle class dens in North America. Why anyone would want that crap out on a beautiful tropical island is beyond me. The guy who didn't know how to paint had started painting the stuff without sanding it first. Taking the paint off was out of the question, but three coats later by me and I still hadn't got the stuff looking other than like crap.
I surveyed the room one more time, and cursed again. A three and a half hour job was definitely going to take six. More if you counted in the time it was going to take to repair the formerly beautiful floor, now blotched with hardened and set streaks and drops of latex paint from the old guy's well-meaning efforts.
Kicking the battered old clock radio that made tinny noise to keep me from going batty during my short term return to the painter's world, I picked up a brush and got to work cutting in from the edges of one wall so I could roll it. Again. Sadly, it was nardy oldies of the mainland hour or something, and the disk jockey started playing Jimmy Buffet. Jimmy Buffet!? Please, spare me. Nice voice, obviously has talent. Sorry, don't like his stuff a bit, even if he does occasionally get it right.
"Wastin' away again in Margaritaville, Searchin' for my lost shaker of salt." Well that's true, my wee flurry of the wrong kind of latex fun aside. I am wastin' away and always looking for the saltshakers. You see – proof I'm not quite a bum here – I am the General Manager for the restaurant in Margarita Island Resort. I took the job because I couldn't hang out in college forever. My parents had decided two bachelors and one masters was all they were going to pay for and I was never a 9 to 5'er so I found a job that didn't require much of me and I got to be a bum.
This is their take on it, anyway. As it happens, at college I got into the business of running buildings and things on the side. You know – wait, you probably don't. Most people have no idea what running a building actually involves, and I don't mean an apartment building, either. Nope. I mean a building with fifty meeting rooms, two concert halls that double as theatres, a three floor food court, and two hundred fifty offices. Plus all the equipment you need for those things, setting it up, taking it down, putting it away, fixing it, yelling at it when it falls on your foot, all the good stuff. It only seems undemanding. I made some money at it, so my parents haven't quite been martyrs to my college-going habit.
This GM job is relatively undemanding compared to what I started out in. Not too much equipment hauling or that sort of thing. More part-time bartending and maintenance, a smattering of bookkeeping and the like. Much less running around and sweating, less dealing with office politics and the like. Decent money, especially because the guests appreciate how I run the place. I rather enjoyed my time here on the island to begin with, and I was never lonely if you know what I mean. But at age thirty, I was feeling a bit restless with my life. So I started looking for the house I'm painting and swearing at – well, not exactly.
But the real cure for what ailed me turned up somewhere else. You see, I met a woman who had come into the bar one late afternoon, right when the heat is like a heavy blanket, and behind the bar close to the coolers is the nicest place to be.
"Peter, can you get me a bottle of scotch from the supply room please?" Who drinks scotch in this place? I wondered. Vodka slimes, screwdrivers, fuzzy navels. Mainly something citrussy surely? But every time I did inventory, it turned out we had indeed sold enough scotch to empty a bottle.
"Sure. Be back in a bit." Peter is a darling. Especially now that I have him trained not to run up to me and flutter when I move something heavy. For one thing, the fluttering is useless. For another thing, having some guy grab something out of your hands at work is just plain dumb. You have to move at least one thing that's a bit heavy every day. Get into the habit of having your headwaiter do that for you all the time, in not too long you have a bitter headwaiter or no headwaiter.
Oh wait – I haven't told you my name, have I? It's Shaye, short for Scathach – as in, Shaw-thee-och. Most people have this real thing against calling me Shaw, so Shaye it is. The name is Celtic, and if I ever find out how Mom picked it, hell will freeze over. Mom is from Trinidad. Dad is from Australia, a real Aborigine. Explanations of my name, anyone?
Being all crumpled up, writing down totals, ticking off little boxes, and checking the occasional best before date, I never saw the blonde slide onto the barstool right in front of me until she cleared her throat, causing me to scrawl a zigzag all over a notation to the effect of, 'No re-order to XYZ Potato chips...'
"Umm, barkeep?" she said, rubbing at a mosquito bite. Ah, don't we all try to scratch without scratching those things?
"What can I do for you, ma'am?" I put on my friendly but no-nonsense business voice, clipping my pencil onto the side of my fancy clipboard.
"Well I would like something exotic – lots of fruit, umbrellas, and if I can slurp it up with a straw I will be in Heaven." Ooh, and I think I'd be in heaven if I watched you slurp it. Never let it be said that I don't appreciate gorgeous people. While my true calling is lecherous skirt chasing, I make it a point of never going beyond appreciation with any woman until relatively sure of what's going on. Thankfully, I've only had to punch three guys out who tried to make me appreciate them more. One spent a day in the drunk tank and got deported, the other simply went home, and the third apologized for being a basketcase and still comes here for his vacation every year. He has a nice partner and four kids now.
"That I can do." I grinned, drawing out my accent, which has become quite bad again, much to my mother's delight. Part of Dad's charm to her is his accent. Being as I did most of my growing up in Australia, even after college in the States when my parents moved there for awhile couldn't dislodge it. It faded a bit – Americans often have a miserable time understanding me when I get excited or relax too much, so I have a sort of Austro-American hybrid speech I need to use for our mutual sakes. This hasn't been an entirely bad thing. It taught me what expressions haven't travelled too far from Australia, among other things. Away from the social venue of college though, the ol' accent bounced right back. Must be all those reruns of Crocodile Hunter I watch in the wee hours after a late shift. I don't watch it because I like it – I watch it because it helps me fall asleep.
The house speciality happens to have the characteristics the blonde perched on the barstool had in mind, and with heaven so close, I added a few extra things just to up the effect. You know, a cherry on a stick, a bit of ginger. Watching the woman out of the corner of my eye, I summed up the obvious details. 32, 27 – kidding, kidding. The woman looked to be around 27 with a nice figure and a bit pink on her face from the sun. She also looked like a first timer, and a lucky one, too. She had managed not to sunburn her ears. How many newbies have I seen who are white like a fish belly and simply will NOT wear a broad rimmed hat – and then sit at the bar and whine because their ears are blistered up.
The blonde crossed one shapely leg over the other and goggled at her drink. "Oh my god – there's half a fruit tree in there!"
"You betcha." I drawled, giving the bar a wipe with the battered rag that always sat by for that purpose, then picked up my clipboard again. Just one more cupboard of salty nasty munchies to go. I immediately saw the little rack of honey roasted peanuts, which were most certainly in the wrong place. Long experience had taught me not to put sweet things near salty nasty things because when there's a rush and you're in a hurry, the chances you'll hand over salt and vinegar chips instead of honey roasted nuts are rather high.
The cherry jar was empty, and without thinking I stuck it on the bar out of the road as a reminder to get another from the back storage. The blonde had apparently still been exploring her drink, because she looked at the cherry in it, then at the empty jar, then blurted, "You gave me your cherry?!"
Dead silence throughout the entire room. I remained hidden below eye-level, my upper body stuffed into the salty nasty munchy cupboard. I considered whether to try getting the rest of me in there.
"Guys, guys, this kind of cherry, this kind, see? See?" Peter told me later that she had waved around the cherry impaled on the mini-sword, looking like some manic pirate wannabe. The rest of the crowd laughed, and after a few moments the usual low level hubhub resumed, and I carefully extricated myself from the dastardly works of Mister Peanut. "I'm soooo sorry. I wasn't thinking, it just came out..."
"Hey, hey, no problem, no problem. Have a look at the rest of that drink. Isn't it a beauty?" Babbling is contagious. Blondie grinned broadly at me.
"You sound like the Crocodile Guy."
"In accent only." I mock rolled my eyes so she wouldn't get offended. "That man – and he's one of Australia's most famous exports." muttering some other choice tidbits in this vein and pouring myself a tonic water, I began totalling things up.
"You don't like him?" Blondie took a long pull on her drink, eyes rolling up in her head a bit with pleasure.
"Well, that's putting too personal a spin on it – he's just got an annoying manner."
Blondie considered this, and then raised the cherry to her lips. Pausing, she carefully worked it off the sword with her tongue, then moved it around between her lips until she had the stem sticking straight out. At last, she yanked the fruit off, and I slopped some ice into my tonic water. That sort of demonstration should be illegal if you aren't already neck deep in cold water. "Well, I guess I can see what you mean. Being from Canada and forced to hear all about William Shatner with his singular lack of..." She stopped herself with an effort. "No, no, mustn't get started on that." She winked one greyish green eye at me and went back to her drink.
Totals finished, there were no more reasons or even plausible excuses to hang around talking. Peter reached past me to grab the rag. "Ask her name."
"What?" I hissed at him out of the corner of my mouth.
"Ask her name, you know, the word people call her by when they are polite, sensible individuals?" Then he gave me a dig in the ribs. "She was staring at your ass while you were counting the goods back there, I saw her."
"Oh." I turned towards blondie, who was watching us with interest. "Oh! Oh, yes, right, err, he – do, wha..."
"Samantha." she held out her right hand to shake, which I managed to do, rather mutely.
"How about a few packets of those regular roasted, SHAYE." Peter drew my name out in a rather obvious, obnoxious fashion.
"Sure, Pete." I growled at him, slapping the aforementioned packets onto his serving tray. Off he went.
"Your name's Shaye?"
"Well, sort of – Shathach, actually."
"Oh, so I should be calling you Shaw, like the poet." Samantha grinned and took another pull from her glass. "This is definitely heaven – and I get a whole twenty-one days of it. Paid vacation, too."
"How'd you manage that?" I began stacking the glasses Peter had been ignoring in the washer.
"Oh, by behaving very badly." Samantha sighed ruefully. "Eighty hour weeks at the office and not taking any days off until my blood pressure went through the roof and my doctor nearly had a coronary because I was on the brink of having one."
"Nasty." I commented. Then the awful, shrieking telephone began jerking and rattling itself all over the counter, making Samantha laugh as I corralled it and answered.
"Yo, Shaye, we're finished over here. Come over and pick up this pile of crap before nine or I'll talk to the garbage guy." 'Garbage guy' is a euphemism for 'ocean.' We have a nice cliff overhanging a really deep bay. There's probably some stuff down there none of us want to know about. Luckily, Marg was only kidding. She ran that line past everybody who had her print things for them.
"Thanks, Marg. The usual, you know." Hanging up and flicking on the washer, I leaned against the counter to talk some more with Samantha. She asked me for the menu, and we began discussing the relative virtues of being brave and asking for a hotdog, which had familiar unspeakable things in it for sure, and the local cuisine which could potentially have unfamiliar unspeakable things in it. You always have to have this conversation with people, even when you know the cook and know good and damned well they aren't adding bugs and unicorn hooves to the food. Or whatever other unknown unspeakables.
Peter suddenly stormed back, a look of towering embarrassment on his face. No, that isn't a mixed metaphor. You have to see Peter – he has a very long face, and does up his hair in spikes – no, no, you have to actually see Peter.
"You, you, you!" he sputtered, sounding like one of those cartoon characters. "You! You! You..." On second thought, maybe he was more like a broken record. "Shaye, you handed me several packets of regular roasted COFFEE. I wanted PEANUTS."
Anyway, the next day was the day I took possession of the house. So between that and stacking the latest in my meagre stock of published books covered in a special opaque sheet to keep the sun from torching the covers in my new living room, Peter's predicament was a welcome source of laughter.
Oh – you'll want to know about the books. I run a teeny tiny press out of the living room and my brand new home office. Well, I will be. Before it was being run out of one corner of my work office and I staggered over the books getting out of bed in the morning. They're all good books. Would you like a catalogue? Never mind.
The teeny tiny company doesn't include just me, thankfully. Six other old college pals help me out with it, all of us connected in an obnoxious web of email and telephone connections. After the first year our minute press had begun to break even. Now we each make on average two or three thousand a year, for the past four, anyway. All this selling the works of a few obscure authors and – my poetry books. They're very good, really. If the stuff gets too maudlin I don't publish it on principle. Truly purple prose looks best when it wallpapers my living room. It does too, I draw little pictures in the margins and then scotch tape it somewhere uncovered. Good inspiration for better stuff.
All right, all right, I'll spare you the rest of the details.
At the moment I had given up on painting the kitchen, which was a grotesque shade of pi – er, bright yellow at the moment, because it had been necessary to coat the wall with this stuff that fixes the paint first, and the fumes were enough to make Jim Morrison on a good party night super high. Instead, I had retreated to my private piece of beach and its attendant hammock, to write poems on a big yellow legal pad in green ink. This went on peacefully enough for a good hour or so, before a red frisbee hurled itself over my gap toothed looking fence and clocked me upside the skull.
The legal pad and pen flew one direction, I flew the other, and the damned frisbee pursued me with malicious intent.
Sprawled in the whitish sand awkwardly on one side, I considered which would be more gratifying – leaping up and down on top of the frisbee shrieking 'Die! Die!' or burning it in the barbie pit with a gleeful, half maddened grin. Common sense was chiming in with the unwanted suggestion that I might like to check out the lump on my head. A faint sound interrupted my reverie and ringing ears, the unmistakable swishing crunch of someone hurrying along the beach. There was a pause, then the sound of someone scaling my fence with quite some effort, all devoted to not knocking it altogether down.
"Oh my god!" the voice was somehow familiar even though it was emblematic of fright and panic. "Are you all right? Wait, no don't answer that – of course you're not all right. Are you conscious?" The mysterious woman had fended off the evil frisbee and helped me sit up.
"Maybe." I carefully searched out the welt on the side of my head, and grimaced. My hair had been recently cut, so it looked a bit spiky – but not near as spiky as Peter's – but this meant that any large bumps were going to be extremely visible until further notice. Once I found it the bump proved definitely to be an overgrown welt. I groaned.
"I am so sorry – this wasn't what was supposed to happen, it was supposed to be like in a moo..." Well I'll be damned. It was blondie from the bar. No, wait, not blondie, her name was in my head somewhere.
"Sam, what – why are you talking like a cow?"
"I'm not!" Sam replied rather indignantly. "You think I'm talking like a cow? Oh no, I need to get a doctor..."
"No, wait!" I caught hold of her wrist as she was about to run off towards the house. Discovering that the telephone wasn't hooked up wouldn't have helped anything. "It's not that at all. And I only need a couple of aspirin. Honest." Carefully I clambered to my feet, with Sam hovering anxiously in case I fell down.
Back in the house Sam got to see my bathroom and where I kept the aspirin, which was in a sock hung on a hook under the sink. Strange as that may sound, there is sound precedent for that arrangement. You see, the bathroom is on the seaward side of the house, and any other place I've lived on the island, in even an ordinary storm the sea water can get whipped into a mini-flood on the seaward side. So hanging things that should be kept dry even a few token inches off the floor is a good idea.
Sam anxiously watched me swallow down a couple of the tablets, then carefully held my arm for the short trip to the kitchen, where she offered to make coffee. She seemed awfully guilty about something.
Only after the water was percolating and she had conceded that she would just have to make tea as I had no coffee in the house ('That is so weird!' she had declared on discovering this) did she turn and look me in the eye. "I have a confession to make." Sam carefully perched herself on one of the bar stools in the kitchen – they are in service at my place until I finish putting together the dining room table and chairs – and observed me intently for a moment.
"I ah – well, see – I wanted to see you again, and was wandering up and down the beach doing touristy things. You know, picking up shells, making faces at gross things that always turn up on beaches. Then, I kind of bumped into where a part of the beach was fenced off for private property, and at first that sort of irritated me."
I got clocked in the head because she didn't think there should be private beaches?
"But being a good, law abiding person, I was just going to go back when I saw you come out of your house, and stretch out on your hammock. And then, then, I had this sort of, insane moment, okay?"
I got clocked in the head because Sam had an insane moment?
"There was this red frisbee, must have got away from some kids or something. I decided, hey, a lost frisbee is a good, solid reason to go hurrying into somebody's yard, isn't it? And I threw it, thinking to lob it into your yard and hopefully not the ocean, which would spoil the plan, when a gust of wind grabbed it and – sent it in the wrong direction." Samantha sighed. "In my mind's eye it was gonna be like one of those movies, you know?"
Oh, I got it now. I got clocked instead of having to endure a bad pick up line. "Well, you know Sam, er, Samantha, movies are an awful lot of work, and they're fake to boot." That drew a tiny grin. "Tell you what, let's go to a movie tonight. I can take the evening off."
"That'd be great. What movie? And call me Sam." Her eyes lit right up and she bounced happily on her seat.
"Ummm – don't know. It won't be anything too bad though, visitors have this thing against really violent or gruesome movies on tropical islands. Clashes with their idea of paradise or something."
"Well, this is different." Sam declared, barely keeping a straight face which she tried to hide behind the mondo bucket of popcorn she had insisted on getting.
"It is, it is – we can pass on the drinking game without everybody getting silly about it, honest." All this rather pathetic islander wanted to do was curl up and die of embarrassment. Things had started out relatively well, as I showed Sam the rugged little sandbar offshore that several heavy posts were anchored on. Spread across those posts would be the giant movie screen. The movies were projected from the beach, and the audience sprawled all over said beach in various degrees of undress depending on the time of year, and watched while having a sort of picnic. Unless it was an older, cult type movie, in which case there's be shouting along with the dialogue, drinking games and the like. Which is all very fun, but not quite what you'd want on a first date. Guess what sort of movie it was?
Luke Skywalker whined about getting some more power converters, and I winced. It had to be Star Wars. It couldn't be, oh, Dirty Dancing, or Footloose, or – or – or – Teenwolf. I don't know. And then it turned out to be a trilogy special showing. Bloody hell.
"I love these movies though, so it's all right." Sam smiled kindly. "You have to admit, this isn't even remotely in the same league as hitting somebody with a frisbee." She gave me a poke, then cheerfully handed me the popcorn bucket so she could pour us a couple of drinks. "So, can you rattle off the dialogue for this part, like that guy over there?"
"Sam, that guy is wearing a Darth Vader suit and it's plus 35." I sniffed. "That's hardly a fair comparison."
"That wasn't the question, can you rattle off the dialogue here or not? I can – let me see – ahem: 'Laugh it up, fuzz ball. But you didn't see us alone in the south passage. She expressed her true feelings for me.'" Sam took a cocky pose and smirked at me.
Far be it from me not to rise to a challenge. "'Why, you stuck up – half-witted – scruffy-looking – nerf-herder!'" Then we both collapsed in fits of giggles, and I spilled the popcorn, which had become cold, gross, and inedible anyway.
Having got to a dumb slow part in the movie – Sam, like me, preferred fight scenes and that kind of thing, we started talking about something else while Lando Calrissian drooled all over Princess Leia's shoes – Sam idly pulled a piece of popcorn out of her collar and asked, "So what were you writing when you – met my frisbee?"
"Oh, nothing much. Just some, poetry, you know." Feeling shy all of a sudden, I noticed a lizard that had gotten routed out of bed by the various rambunctious movie goers. "Hey, look at this little guy. Isn't he fabulous?" Picking him up without a second thought. It was just a harmless little bug-eater, after all. "Go on, have a look at him."
"Sure, Steve." Sam laughed at my scowl and carefully picked up the hapless lizard. "Funny, he doesn't smell like my brother's terrerium." She carefully examined it, then looked over at me. "He could have been poisonous – well, or she, I don't know how to tell boy lizards from girl lizards."
"No, not this kind." I was still a bit put out at having lived up to a Steve Irwin stereotype. And no, I can't tell boy lizards from girl lizards.
"Poetry. What kind?" Sam paused. "Not that I'm an expert, I just know there's more than one sort of poetry. You know, epic, dithyrambic, iambic..."
"Whoa, babe, this is the twenty-first century, not the time of Homer or Shakespeare." I retrieved the lizard and carefully let him – or her – loose to run off to bed again. "Anyway, I actually tend to specialize in quatrains and free verse." No, none of my degrees were in English. Bachelor in Greek, Bachelor in general Classics, and a Masters in Greek. So there.
"Quatrains?" Sam frowned at me in puzzlement. "There's four of something in there, I can tell that."
"Yes, four line verses each with a specific rhyme scheme. Should we stick around for the Ewoks? I've always had a problem with violent midget teddy bears with fangs and crossbows."
"How do you deal with them usually?" Sam asked curiously.
"It's called the fast forward button." I replied dryly. "They should have gone back to Tatooine and scrapped the Tusken raiders." Throwing a few popcorn duds at the pudgy guy who should have known better then to wear a speedo, I decided to ask a question. "So what high powered, crazy job do you do that you were forced to go on vacation to fend off a coronary?"
"Head of marketing for the number three manufacturing company in the world." Sam smiled weakly. "You have no idea how hard it is to decide what to wear when a three piece power suit is no longer appropriate." This was an undeniable fact. "You're so lucky. Most people would lop off their right arm for a life like this."
"Oh, it's not all it's cracked up to be. A pleasant sort of rut, mainly." I sighed. "I'm actually thinking of blowing out of here for awhile. You know, taking a sabbatical from my job and heading off onto something else for four to eight months. Maybe forever. Finish renovating the house and rent it out as some overpriced holiday cabin." Try for some longterm luck in the romance department or something. Hell if I really knew then what would make me feel less like a bit of fluff blowing on the wind.
"You're insane, right?" Sam blurted in astonishment. Then her eyes dropped. "Of course, that's what I got told when I confessed that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't go back to the firm." Darth Vader did in Admiral Jerrjerrod, and thankfully, even if weirdly, the conversation turned to lighter things.
Peter was still walking around with his nose in the air over the roasted coffee instead of roasted peanuts incident, but things had calmed down between us. He tended to have these ridiculous mini-tantrums every now and again, usually when some sort of work goof up coincided with the latest argument with his girlfriend. She's a Goth artist with the rather un-Gothic name of Sally. She's some kind of musician, I think – or, is she a soda jerk? No idea.
Today was the first day of the fullblown tourist season, which meant Sam would be gone within the week, and I would be back to just plain old wasting away. And hearing from my compatriots in my teeny tiny press how if we were going to maintain more than twenty bucks profit left over after all expenses including the ice cream fund, we'd have to improve our company profile. The things didn't quite jive to my mind. If you want to keep getting a bigger profile, you trumpet yourself everywhere. If you like being a small press running out of your living room and your sock drawer, which on a tropical island would otherwise be empty, you stick mainly to word of mouth.
The door to the bar flew open, allowing a giant gust of hot, muggy air to claw its way into the room, temporarily washing out the effects of the air conditioner. In with the gust of nasty air came a veritable avalanche of people, who stormed the bar and clamoured loudly for drinks, food, and pretty dancing girls with g-strings. G-string boy had three strikes, then he was getting tossed out. I could see that he was already far too drunk, and when he shouted at me to pour him an f'ing fuzzy navel and be quick about it, I coolly poured him a glass of slightly watered down orange juice and resisted the urge to kick him squarely in the middle of his skinny ass.
Most of crowd wandered off to the tables, and the music suddenly got much louder as John-Don the deejay gleefully welcomed this year's tourists 'to the house' and began to rattle the rafters with two year old techno. "Oh my god. That is so awful."
Sally shook her head in disbelief, and pushed across money for a glass of cola. She had precisely the same thing every time she came in to wait for Peter's shift to finish. A medium glass of cola, no ice, with a double thick wedge of lime thrown in. Heaven knows why that woman likes her cola warm with a murky looking citrus wedge in it, but if it makes her happy, I'll do it. And, being as she's a friend, I pushed back her money. On which, as tradition demanded, she stubbornly stuffed it in my tip jar.
"Who's the cute blonde you've been hanging out with?" Sally asked casually, taking a long sip of her drink.
"Oh, just some high flying executive who'll be leaving before the end of the week." I scowled, and refused to acknowledge openly that this bothered me. Sam was pretty fun to have around. We had finally given in to temptation and dug out my tapes of the Star Wars trilogy to watch them with remote in hand in order to skip the dumb slow parts and replay the nerf-herder line.
"You really like her, huh?" Sally grinned, and the horseshoe shaped thing she wore in her septum piercing jiggled. "Ask her to stick around. It's doing you both good. I saw her come in off the boat. She looked ready to behead people. And three weeks ago you were so alarmingly depressed Peter and I were at a loss what to do to help. Come on, Shaye."
"If I asked her, and if she said yes, what would she do here? Wait tables?" I snorted.
"She could – oh, take over marketing for the press that no longer fits in your sock drawer." Sally's eyes twinkled.
"Does Peter tell you everything?" I scowled.
"Of course." Sally declared. "I have a bullwhip. Later, Shaye."
I stared at Sally's retreating form in some alarm. A bullwhip? Bloody hell.
A woman feeling an overwhelming sense of fun leapt up on one of the round tables and began to gyrate to the music. Her skirt was very short, and every gyration was giving people a real eyeful. G-string boy looked unsure whether to throw money or rush for the bathroom. His level of drunkenness had dropped because I hadn't served him anything with alcohol in it in hours, and it was catching up to him.
Samantha inched her way into the bar, which was no longer an air conditioned haven but a sweaty, noisy, daft place where people like g-string boy debated the merits of the potted plants versus the toilet when they felt the need to relieve themselves. She made her way bravely through the crowd, until she happened to get a good look at the gyrating lady. Her mouth sagged open. Wow, there was a reaction I never would have expected.
"Linda?" Sam blurted. Clear as day on Linda's face was the expression 'Oh Shit!' "Why are you dancing on the table? And what happened to the, 'only certain people get to see my intimates?'"
Now, bear in mind, I had been going out with Sam for the last three weeks. I had begun to entertain notions of convincing her to go along with more intimate interactions than highly platonic movie watching and walks on the beach that could have been romantic if we had held hands. The 'Oh Shit!' expression had spread to my own mug by now as I immediately interpreted Linda as an ex-girlfriend of Sam's.
"Oh," Linda hiccuped. "Gosh Sam, what're you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be like, pushing evil cigarettes on third world nations?" She smirked.
"If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, I have nothing to do with the part of the company that produces cigarettes!" growled Sam. "Would you get down from there? You're acting ridiculous." she grabbed Linda's arm.
"Well, excuse me, miss cancer-stick pusher." snapped Linda, and dumped her drink over Sam's head.
G-string boy caterwauled behind her, "Yo, get out of the way and let the entertainment go on, blondie, or hurry up and slug her so we can see a real show." Then he started turkey-necking, and people began fleeing the potential vomit range.
For my part, because Peter tended to begin vomiting sympathetically with the drunks, I began mixing my 'vomit cleaner's special' the only way I could handle dealing with that kind of mess. I'm a sympathetic vomiter too, but we can't all do it at the same time and add to the mess. Luckily G-string boy stumbled outside, loudly announcing he needed some air, and the relief in the room was palpable.
In the meantime, Linda had staggered off the table and was arguing furiously with Sam.
"How was I supposed to know you were here? This is my vacation, and since when do I have to check with you when I decide to go somewhere? And if you hadn't made such a fuss nobody would have looked twice. For a sister you're a lot more like a pain in the ass."
I accidentally added a second shot of vodka to my drink in surprise. The evil, dancing, hysterical phone began to ring. John-Don the dumb deejay shrieked joyously as he at last found the limbo music and put it on. An impromptu limbo contest was in the making as I struggled to corrale the phone, finally throwing myself on top of it. "Hello?" I gasped into it.
"Shaye, there you are darling." One of my publishing compatriots, whom I had privately nicknamed Ga-Ga the Bore. She's one of the ones in the company not because she's a friend but because we needed a lawyer to deal with the contracts. In truth, she's very nice, but she thinks that tax law is scintillating. "We must have a little chat."
"Must we?" I asked weakly.
"Yes, darling. The marketing issue, you know. Have you some time?"
"Ga – er, I mean, I mean, Fran, it is freakishly busy here at the bar right now. Don't you realize what time zone I'm in? And that the press is not my full time job?"
"What time zone, darling? Anyway, you really must listen to the rest of us about the marketing push, it's very important."
"No it isn't, and if you keep bothering me about it I'm going to run away to be a pirate." It's really hard to run away to the circus on a tropical island.
"Now darling, be reasonable..."
"I refuse to agree to use a swimsuit calendar to advertise the Mini-me Press!" I snapped back and slammed down the receiver. Ga-Ga would get over this, I never hang up on her normally. However, this didn't quite drain all of my frustrated energy, so in a continuing fit of intense peak, I seized the telephone and jammed it furiously into the ice machine, burying it with the help of the big metal scoop.
"Hi, are you, okay?" Sam asked hesitantly. Linda was bobbing and weaving beside her at the bar.
"What? Oh, of course. No problem. Just, disciplining the phone." I carefully whacked it with the scoop. "See?"
Linda goggled at me. Sam sighed a little. After a moment, Linda staggered off to dance on the table some more, but finding it impossible to clamber up again, she went over to John-Don the deejay, who had switched to country music for reasons that made sense only in his warped mind.
"I ah – don't convince small children to buy tobacco products." Sam sighed and took a sip of my drink. "Wow!" she gasped. "This packs a hell of a wallop!" She took a big gulp. "Good deal. Anyway, my manufacturing company has a cigarette manufacturing section. But I have nothing to do with it. Just an old sibling related scrap."
"Ah." I replied, then struggled to catch my eyeballs when Linda belted John-Don the deejay across the chops. "Oh no, don't do that! It's the first day of the season!" Within about twenty seconds the punching had spread all over the bar, and I was forced to frantically chase down the bar stools and hide them in the back. Peter of course, was no longer on duty, so it was left to me and the rueful Sam to grab chairs and the all to easily throwable tables and get them out of the way. It took nearly an hour before the knobby kneed police in shorts could be persuaded to come around and help.
By the time the statements were finished with and g-string boy had been pointedly told not to even think about peeing in the potted plants or he'd be deported, I limped over to the cook and dropped the responsibility for locking the place up on him. Then I slowly walked home, having failed to find Sam anywhere.
What a shitty way for things to finish.
Sitting on my own little piece of beach, writing unpublishable maudlin poetry, I noticed the beeping of my watch and glanced up. The sun was beginning to come up, tinting the sky with streaks of pink, red, orange, blue, and purple. The sea was so calm, it looked like any damned fool could walk on it. Setting aside my notepad and green pen, I leaned back on my elbows and just watched as Venus hurried below the horizon, and the big bulgy, grapefruit looking sun drew ever higher, soon to force me to look elsewhere or do a number on the ol' eyeballs, which had already suffered enough.
Then the ferocious red frisbee belted me in the shins. I stared at it in disbelief.
Sam came galloping down the strand, then tumbled into the sand beside me, breathless. "Oh, there it is. So sorry about my frisbee, it got away from me." She beamed rakishly at me. "Rumour has it – well, Sally, actually, that the Mini-Me press is in need of a marketing person. I do believe I know someone who might just be able to do the job."
"Oh, I don't know, I'm really picky." I was just kidding, my brain was fried. This cute blonde was planning on sticking around? How cool was that? Maybe the press could get a bit bigger – just big enough so I could quit at the hotel...
"Picky? Well, I think I can work with that. I am in marketing. Figuring out how to convince picky people is my job." Then Sam leaned forward and very carefully and thoroughly kissed me. "How am I doing?" she asked after a few minutes.
"I'm not entirely convinced." I lied. Yup, I lied. Lied like a sidewalk.
"Oh, goody." Sam replied with a broad grin. "Of course, we will have to go back to your place. Lots of fruit, umbrellas, and if you're really good, heaven needn't include straws."
- The End