After sending my son’s teacher an email warning detailing his behaviors, I re-read it and realized I made my son sound like a monster. I am now taking bets to see if/when she resigns. I give her two weeks.
Here’s a snippet of what I sent—only slightly exaggerated. Enjoy
The chatty family at breakfast–who shares an understanding of the role of stress in caregiving those with special needs. How did Alicia do on her conference call, I wonder?
Biking hither and yon, a velocipede pedestrian torquing her camera like an unwieldy bolo tie at every scenic vista. I’m kind of suprised I didn’t garrote myself with my Canon by accident.
What I have learned thus far:
Strangely, the police station is not open for tourism. They were polite, but firm. I’ll just have to count the windows and make my best guess.*
Ditto for the hospital. Though, a very nice nurse did mention that patients could be airlifted via helicopter, saying, “When in doubt, we ship them out!” She was also very pleased to tell me that the medical center was one of the few “free standing emergency rooms” in the state. Now, to Google exactly what the significance of that is so I will be duly impressed…
The airport is a parking lot for planes…planes with highly trusting owners. Apparently a 12-and-a-half-million dollar jet called a Citation Sovereign + landed there just a few weeks ago. I speculated that the ‘plus’ stood for that extra half million. I wonder if they left the keys above the visor?
People on vacation are willing to talk to strangers–probably in greater detail than they would anywhere else. Especially the newly weds.
Congrats once again to the couple from Holland who showed me their wedding photos and chatted in the shade by the Arch Rock waiting area. I’ll make sure to check out Kollen Park the next time I’m visiting Holland. May you live a long and happy life together, may all your worries be in your past.
Seriously, for such a small island, there is an inordinate number of hills. And rocks. And horse hockey.
I managed the tour of the Grand Hotel, getting some good photos and ideas for the finale–yet to be written–but what I really gained was an appreciation for the staff. The many kind people who work there–as well as a mother who took time to chat with me while her son ‘shadowed’ an employee in the program in hopes he might work there himself when he graduates from high school.
I shall take my sweeties and go thither…
Who doesn’t walk their bicycle with an umbrella on a sunny day?
This mom had worked there in the summers of her youth–right around the time the hotel was last renovated. She confirmed that the wallpaper was original, they have no ‘servant stairwell’ (cross that one off the list), and that the wait staff, musicians, and bartenders were housed in buildings down from the hotel, back in the day. The building women stayed in was the John Jacob Astor house which is now called The Grand Cottage. The men were housed elsewhere–possibly in a building called “The Twilight” which is a forest green house down the hill, take a left, and the first on the right. (You can’t miss it.)**
Slipping in and around busy bartenders, waiters, flower vendors, and the myriad other people working the hotel, I was routinely helped, with courteous, generous insistence.
My favorite stop had to be the Tea Shop. The Jamaican clerks were all natural charm and chatted about tea choices and even laughed when I read off a menu item identifying the contents of a $130 cocktail available in the nearby bar.***
I finally asked how I could say ‘Hello’ in the patois of Jamaica. A painstaking effort was made to help me try and say it right: ‘Wha Gwahn’, is what it sounded like. Which could almost be a contraction of ‘What’s going on!” I also practiced the appropriate reply: “Arri, mon!” (Perhaps, ‘All right, man?”) Strangely, the language seems even harder to speak when stone cold sober. Go figure.
I ordered my tea and wandered off to drink it, forgetting entirely to pay. The assistant apologetically brought this to my attention–as if they were at fault for wanting payment!
The young lady and I chatted for a bit. I told her about my son and asked her about autism awareness in her native land. She told me that everyone knows about autism because a great lady wrote a book about her son and it became very well known. I only wish I had taken down the name of the book! Antonette concluded by saying, “Don’t be afraid to bring your boy. Jamaica will be a great place for him. It’s all love!”
How can you turn down an invitation like that?
Her manager called her back to duty, I hope she wasn’t in trouble for taking so much time with me. If he only knew the kindness of such a gift. The thought that somewhere, out there, is a world full of people who would welcome my son with open arms.
It’s all love indeed.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*As dedicated a writer as I am, I wasn’t willing to get arrested to achieve my goals.
**Maybe you can’t miss it, but I certainly did. It is only gravity that keeps me from wandering off this planet by mistake.
***Maybe you’d prefer to save money and make the 125th Anniversary Cocktail at home? A quick search online reveals a bottle of the 100-year Grand Marnier Centenaire costs only $116.00, the 150 Anniversaire Grand Marnier comes in at $219.99 a bottle (Kaching!, and edible gold leaf–strangely enough–is the least expensive ingredient. It’s available, of all places, at Walmart for $76.45 for a pack of 25 squares. Don’t believe me? Check it out here: Gold Leaf at Wally World.
And bonus points go out to anyone who noticed what is particularly strange about the bicycle depicted in the close-up of the wallpaper. I didn’t see it the first dozen or so times I tried to upload the pic from a location Where the Wifi was Iffy. (Which once I wrote that down, looked like a book title for a modern day sequel to Where the Wild Things Are.)
I hit the island like a tropical storm…wearing makeup and shorts and a sweater and a rain coat. (I’m prepared for anything.)
The confusion at the docks means either I gave my luggage to a porter…or someone just made off with my computer.**
Once I’m checked into the B&B where I’m staying, I dive for a bike to start my two-wheeled therapy.
In a giddy rush, I tackle the 8-mile circumference with stop-and-go glee.
Stop-and-go because everything is a picture.
And I mean, E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.!!!
I’m stopping at every cove, each turn reveals a new sparkling shore.
I even photograph the rocks!
(I chuck it at the rolling surf, continuing my life-long experiment in how much I suck at skipping stones.)
There are oddly shaped trees and new construction–I wonder what the islanders have to say about the double-decker mansion going up on the east side??
I meander my way past a makeshift driftwood chair and table hosting a solitary cairn.
I stop to chat about this and that before, I’m off again, weaving my way until I am fish-hooked by a marker signifying the filming of ‘Somewhere in Time.’ A rock with a plaque reads “At this site on June 27, 1912 Richard Collier found Elise McKenna” making fact of fiction.
Does stopping to take a picture mean I’m perpetuating the lie?
The omnipresent seagulls make me a little paranoid…I mean, they are following me everywhere.
I stop to write bad poetry about seagulls pinned to the sky by the wind.
I circle back to the noisy, tourist-engorged center of town…
I clickety-click my way to “The Dock Shack” to ask a few questions about the island’s private harbor to make sure a scene in my book will actually work. I’m assured that the larger boats could dock at the privately owned pier at the far end where my heroine meets a watery fate. (Though, not fatal, as she’s only twelve.)
I have qualms about whether a golf cart could get through this narrow passage way…but then decide that fiction makes all things possible. (No matter how improbable.)
And then, thirsty, but elated, I belly up to the best scenery you can find–overlooking a miniature golf course. I dine with a view of happy families as far as the eye can see.
I sip my watermelon/elderflower cocktail–fluffing my violet so it doesn’t get sucked up the straw.
And I listen…
To the “Good Game” family as they cheer each other on:
“Go, Team Justin!”
(If he’s no taller than his putter, that makes him four, right?)
“Go, Team Evan!”
(Stoically, Evan waits his turn as Justin putt-putts the ball to the cup in what had to be eleventy-hundred strokes.)
Everybody is a winner!
“Crack!” this is the sound their sister’s swing makes as she whacks the ball–hard–and it hits the flag sinking into the cup in a single move. I doubt professional golfers could duplicate her efforts.
She’s all poise and nonchalance as she retrieves her ball.
Everyone high-fives each other and they totter off the 18th hole.
As they leave, I can still hear their echoing ‘Good Games’ wafting behind them.
Then there was the artist earlier in the day. I’m perusing her exhibit and overhearing a NSFW conversation about a date that went nowhere.
“And then, I ask him…’Are you a good kisser?’ And he says, ‘I don’t know. You be the judge.'”
The conversation goes in and out like a static-y station on the radio as I move from room to room. I hear the last bit as I bring my purchase up.
“And then he offers me the couch…’Or,’ he says, ‘you can sleep with me, if you want,’…but that was too weird, so I didn’t go to bed with him.”
To me she says, ‘That’ll be six dollars.”
The waiters behind me are bantering, bringing me back to the here and now. Despite the chill of dusk, there is something warm in their words. They speak in drawling tones–a language born under a hot sun, where humidity slows the syllables and hard consonants are too much work.
Is it…French…? Or…Spanish? I can’t quite tell.
When the waiter returns, I start to ask…and then notice under his name, the tag actually says, “I am from Jamaica.”
We chat for a bit and he tells me he’s been coming here for five seasons now. Flying in from Detroit or Chicago and driving up together.
It’s then that I notice his name, and I’m startled into asking:
“Fitz? Isn’t that a German name?”
He looks at me with his soulful dark eyes–a rich brown to match his skin–apparently unperturbed by my rudeness. “Oh yes, there are lots of Germans and Irish in Jamaica.”
I don’t question it at the time…but now I am wondering if he was pulling my inebriated leg?
I borrow a menu from my neighbors–a father and daughter who’ve been sharing the view of the perfectly manicured lawns.
We exchange “Where are you froms?”
Turns out–we live about ten miles away from each other.
I learn that I’ve been sitting next to a member of the cast of Annie–a production run by Hope College. Ellie tells me that she’s playing “Molly” and that she has a few lines of dialogue as well as singing. She speaks like she’s been in theater for years. She’s ten!
I ask in a conspiratorial whisper, “Do you have a real red head to play the lead?”
She shakes her head. “No, they dyed her hair!”
“Would you have dyed your hair for the part?” I ask.
She considers this. “Well, if it was for a big theater. Yes. Not for just a local production.”
My head is spinning, and not just at the savoir faire of the pint-sized talent beside me.
I eyeball my drinky-winky…
Hey, where’d it go?
I pay my bill, trying not to wince at the total.***
“How much alcohol was in that drink?” I ask Fitz.
“Only a shot and a half of vodka, plus the elderflower liquor.” He seems surprised by my lack of backbone…or knees. “Should I call you a ride?”
I hold up my helmet. “No…’v got my bike. The B&B ‘s not far.”
I pour myself out of the restaurant, slurring my way back to the bike rack. I miss every single horse plop on the way back to the B&B.
Surrounded by families biking, building cairns, playing golf, and being chauffeured by a proud parent from stage to island and back again…I’m tipsy enough to be missing my son. And hoping he’s having as much fun as I am.
There is no high like the freedom from parenting…but a little elderflower liquor certainly doesn’t hurt.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Also drunk blogging…
**Hint…I’m typing on it right now.
***Welcome to the island, all major credit cards can be maxed out here.
[While Kirizar is gallivanting in the back of beyond reveling in freedom…enjoy this rare glimpse of short fiction written for a contest that never wrote back to offer praise or accolades. The bastards.]
I was supposed to write it down. She told me to write it down…
“I’ve got it,” I protest. “Eggs, half and half and ham. I can remember three items.”
“There are four items! You forgot the shredded cheese. Cheddar…not American. So write it down or you’ll forget.”
She repeats the list while I scribble on the back of the junk mail I’d grabbed. I have half an eye on the Greenbay game while she’s nattering about the block association meeting.
“I’ve promised to bring quiche tomorrow. We have got to do something about the insect infestation…and who knows what kind of toxic spill cause the red fungus…”
Suddenly, she’s snapping her fingers in front of my eyes.
“Hurry, Fritz, or I won’t have time to make them tonight. Go!”
And then she’s shoving me out the door.
I’m halfway to my car when I glance down and see what I added beneath the word ‘Ham’:
‘Be Warned. It is coming. Prepare for midnight.’
The foreteller signed it with a cat’s paw. I don’t know why. Maybe the cats dictate to her? Why she can’t be bothered to get a cell phone like normal people…
But then, she isn’t normal people.
These thoughts chase me all the way to her bungalow on the fringe of a suburb suffering urban blight.
I climb out of my Ford Fiesta, which looks like a drunken frat party held a kegger in it, and march up the steps to the door with a gargoyle knocker. I nearly trip on the ubiquitous cats; the striped tom stares at me out of his one good eye and growls a warning. I repress the urge to snarl back.
The door opens.
I don’t even have a chance to speak before my mistress yanks me in. I have just enough time to scoot through before she slams the door shut in the tom cat’s face. And then she’s barking instructions while I’m still scrambling for a quill and parchment.
“Get the moss from a dead oak and circle the graveyard twice before returning.” She shakes a finger at me. “And don’t forget the toadstools. The prophylactic potion of the apocalypse is quite specific. You don’t want the world to end because you forgot!”
I am half-bit by bugs when I finally leave the swamp. The graveyard is not far from the Stop-n-Go. The augured apocalypse isn’t for three more hours; I can spare fifteen minutes to run in. No problem!
After delivering the spell supplies, I race home to watch the post-game highlights. I’m just getting comfortable when I hear the shriek from the kitchen and a loud thump.
What now? I know I got everything on the list!
It’s only when I find my wife collapsed beside a pile of entrails that I realize my mistake.
Oh well…maybe there’s such a thing as a quiche of the apocalypse?