Cheryl Diane Kidder
Jack was bored. He shouldn't be bored, he was right in the middle of a lovely three day getaway, get-as-far-away-as-you-possibly-can weekend with Priscilla, secretary to the Junior Sales Manager, West Coast division, on lovely Maui. But the truth was, he was bored to crap. He had no idea when he booked this trip forty-five minutes after Priscilla's decidedly weak "Well, OK, Jack, if you're paying, but don't plan on getting any," that he really hated white sand beaches, drinks with umbrellas and waiters who were clearly middle-weight body builders on the side.
He hadn't taken his shirt off in thirty-six hours but he'd had enough Singapore Slings to last a lifetime. Here it was, Saturday afternoon. He hadn't seen Priscilla all day. Just the note: Skipping breakfast, see you at dinner. Well, he wasn't sure he wanted to see her at dinner now.
He scowled at the cloudless sky, the gently lapping ocean, the over-stuffed lounge chair. He wasn't the least uncomfortable. He was barely sweating. His skin was developing a nice rosy glow he just knew wouldn't turn into a burn, and that really pissed him off.
Couples walked by his lounge chair, hand in hand, looking dreamily into each other's eyes. Jack almost jumped up and slapped one particularly contented looking couple right in the face, but thought better of it and just sank deeper into the luxuriously covered foam of his chair, sipping the fruit juice he'd switched to an hour earlier. The alcohol had been giving him too much of a nice happy buzz.
If things didn't go directly into the crapper and soon, he might have to do something drastic like take surfing lessons or rent a bicycle and try to ride to the top of the local inactive volcano. People did those things and always had disastrous experiences they could then talk about for years. But what will his stories be like?
"Went to Maui..."
"Ate great food..."
"Got some sun..."
"Didn't see Priscilla..."
"Didn't lose my luggage..."
"Wasn't treated badly by the hotel staff..."
Nothing, absolutely nothing out of the ordinary or bizarre to report. And Jack knew himself well enough. He knew he had no imagination. Hell, Simpson and Bremer had moved him out of Marketing and right into phone sales after only three months. Even they knew he had no imagination. They knew he would always need a script in front of him.
He'd just never be able to tell the guys stories about the five luau girls he spent three days and nights with, or, say, the daughter of the sword fisherman who let him captain her father's boat on an overnight cruise, just the two of them rollicking across the Pacific waves in between islands, only pulling into port for a new magnum of champagne and then setting sail again, the wind in their hair, love or something like it in their eyes and the sad goodbyes at the dock, the promises to write, to never forget, the souvenir swordfish that got lost in baggage claim.
He'd never be able to dream up anything like that.
With a sudden air of resolve, Jack set his drink on the ebony inlay table next to his lounge chair, got up out of the chair, not putting on his sandals, and dared to unbutton his peach, cream and mauve Hawaiian shirt. Looking around and noting that no one fainted in horror at his pale skin, he took the shirt completely off and threw it down on the chair. Then he strode purposefully down the beach, about ten paces or so, and just as his feet were really starting to burn he made it to the edge of the water and stepped out among the clear small waves lapping around his ankles.
Much to his amazement the water was bathtub temperature. No one was about. All of his fellow hotel guests must have gone in to dress for dinner. He didn't care. He walked directly into the water until he was in up to his neck. He moved his arms back and forth as if he was swimming but his feet were still firmly planted on the smooth ocean floor.
He laid his head back in the water to wet his hair and squinted against the lowering sun. This was it. He was deep in the ocean. Anything could happen. Anything at all.
At that moment a boy, blond, maybe ten or eleven, popped up alongside him, treading water with a snorkel and a mask, his eyes somewhere between 7UP bottle green and the green of the plastic seaweed at the bottom of the aquarium he had as a boy, a green closer to Caribbean green than Forest Green, closer still to Screamin' Green than to Jungle Green. And he wondered when he started comparing things to Crayola Crayon colors.
He thought sure the boy was going to speak to him, like in a dream, maybe talk in tongues, tell him his future, give him stock tips, something. But when the boy simply stared back at him, took a bit of a hop and splashed back down underwater once again, Jack rolled his eyes and trudged back to his lounge chair. He put his shirt back on and watched the snorkel bob up and down about three feet out then the boy popped up again, stood and walked back to the beach, stripping off the mask, leaving a trail of big flipper imprints in the sand all the way back to the far cabins.
It was something Jack wished he had done as a boy of ten or eleven. Why hadn't his parents taken him to Maui? Instead he gets here as a middle-aged phone salesman with no idea what to do with himself. He wanted to go run after that boy and shake him and tell him, "Whatever you do, don't forget this. This is special. You may never see any of this ever again."
Instead, he picked up his drink, slid his wet feet into his sandals and made his way up to the double doors of the hotel, glowing now with the setting sun. He saw his reflection there, a golden man, featureless, with a halo that dissolved as he swung open the doors. He imagined that Priscilla had probably spent her day with a half dozen native Hawaiian body builders. Each one offering her a different gift: maybe a ruby bracelet, a car, a house on the beach. Until the last one got her alone, away from all the other body builders and this one got down on one knee and offered her the best gift of all.
Jack looked up as he walked into the hotel lobby and saw Priscilla walking toward him, a huge grin on her face, her body lithe and tan.
"Wait till you hear what happened to me," she gushed, grabbing his arm as they headed upstairs, her arms tanned and glistening, her blonde hair falling in wisps around her face, her perfect, heart-shaped face.
"I know," Jack told her, his sandals making little puddles on the tile steps. "Your life has changed in mysterious ways and you will never be the same again." He let out a sigh.
"My God, how did you know?" Her red fingernails dug into his arm. "Come with me. I'll tell you the whole story."
She pulled him closer, he could smell honeysuckle and the minty vapor trail of the mojitos she must have been sipping earlier. He closed his eyes as she led him into the hotel bar telling himself, "Remember this. This is special. This may never happen again." And for a moment he was happy in his expectations and willful delusions.
Cheryl Diane Kidder holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in CutThroat Magazine, Weber--The Contemporary West, Bound Off, Brevity Magazine, Pembroke Magazine, Dogzplot, Watercress Journal, Jersey Devil Press, The Northville Review, JMWW, Cobalt, Identity Theory, Map Literary, The Atticus Review, The New Purlieu Review, Eclectica, Word Riot, In Posse Review, The Reed, the Clackamas Literary Review and elsewhere including two anthologies: Ava Gardner: Touches of Venus and Meg Files' Write From Life. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and short-listed for storySouth's Million Writers Award