I’m sun burnt, hungover, have rashes of unknown origins and in hard to reach places (ahem), and have at least one dozen mosquito bites per limb. There’s a thorn in my foot, on the bottom. The budget is blown, and was probably a joke or wishful thinking to begin with. There’s a dent in the rental car I’m sure they are going to make me pay for, and the kayaks we rented are a mess. In other words, it’s been the perfect vacation, and we’ve had a lot of fun.
Did you know that Hemingway got a dose of Edison’s Medicine, and then blew his brains out in Idaho? That when you come face to face with a Barracuda you will literally pee yourself? Or that Key West is 90 miles from Cuba, and no, you can’t see Cuba from the top of the lighthouse. Don’t ask. The guy at the front desk will throw a thumb over his shoulder and tell ya to read the darn sign. No spitting from the top of the lighthouse, either. No jumping, not even if you have a parachute. But if you do jump, he promises not to yell at your stupid, dead corpse, but that your estate will be billed for the clean up. Ha-dee-har-har! “Next!”
People come here for the water sports, mopeds, and bars. For five-dollar t-shirts and three-dollar baseball caps. Bracelets and Marlin, to see a possessed doll called Robbie, and the loot that was stolen from the pirates, that was stolen from the kings, that was stolen from the people. You can’t touch the free-roaming chickens. It’s a ten-thousand dollar fine, or about what it costs to rent a moped. Coconuts fall from the trees, and enterprising men of young and old snatch them up, stick a straw inside, and sell the exotic-tasting water to the tourists for a ridiculous profit. But people pay it, because what the hell, it’s vacation, right? People line up for blocks to take photos of the southernmost point. People walk around half naked, wholly drunk, and buy stickers that say, Fuck you you Fucking Fuck, or, I’m not drunk, my typical state is staggering, friendly and loud! My kids drag us to the candy store, where we find lollypops shaped like penises, and chocolate boobs on a stick. At four they feed the tarpon, and it’s quite the bloody spectacle. If you sign a waver they’ll hoist you a hundred feet in the air, riding a parachute and tethered to the ship. When you’re done, there are body shots and henna tattoos. There are topless joints of both sexes, and every gender. For twenty bucks the tarot-card reader will meditate over the cards with you, shuffle, shuffle, have you shuffle, shuffle, and make three piles. He’ll pick them up, and wha-lah, there’s the death card, sucker, how you like me know? But relax. The death card isn’t always that bad. Oftentimes it means a dramatic change in your life, that could be good thing, or a bad thing. Or else you’re going to die. Either way, he wants his twenty bucks. “But good times are coming,” he says, “so long as you escape the death card. There’s a sun in your month of October, but in November there is going to be a big fight between you and your spouse.”
“How is that any different than the month of July,” I ask him. “Or any month, for that matter?”
He doesn’t laugh, and neither does my wife.
And so I shut up and take my future like a man.
“Don’t spend money in January, that’s a bad month,” he says. “Unless, of course, you’re already dead, then spend it all.” It appears that he wants the comedic glory for himself. He gets no encouragement from me.
There’s a guy on a unicycle juggling fire, or whatever. A guy doing backflips. They all want money, and make no bones about it. “Pay up. Are we not entertaining?”
There’s a seven-mile bridge, and little deer about the size of an average dog. Speeding is frowned upon, because speed kills deer.
The house that we rented faces the Gulf of Mexico, and the waters are broad, bright, and relatively still. When the sun is shining it dances upon the waves, and with the rain comes the ripples. When it’s cold we get the nipples (sorry, couldn’t help myself.) When the sun sets, it seems to dip into the waters and spread like fire. And then the waters engulf the bright orb wholly, it happens quickly, and the clouds are bright with color. We drink and play board games, and drink some more. The bottle is almost empty, “So come on, don’t be a pussy,” and glasses are filled back up again. The game is a variant of charades, and Uncle Jack gets the card all wrong. He’s not wearing his glasses. The answer, of course, is slinky, but he thinks it says stinky. So he stands, grunts, shits his pants, and waves a hand under his nose. It’s boys vs. girls, and we’re guessing outhouse and toilet paper, shit stains. The girls see the card, notice his mistake, and while one tries to correct him, the other is laughing her ass off, saying, no, let him go on. This is gold. Ultimately the boys win, and so we play another game, and graciously allow the girls a victory. Girls put out when they win, it’s a fact of life.
But it comes and goes quickly, vacation. Work should be so kind. And now we’ve one day left, and the kids are eating bacon.
“What’ll it be? ” I ask. “The beach? Kayaks? Paddle boards?”
They shrug their shoulders and tell me that it doesn’t matter. That they’re happy just to be here, chilling like a villain. In the end they opt for the kayak, a trip around the block. Maybe we’ll see some sea turtles, or manatees, who knows? Another barracuda. Either way, it’s our last day, and we intend to milk it slowly, and savor every drop.
The answer is vacation, and right now, right here, we’re doing a pretty good job acting it out. Work and school will come soon enough.