Contemporary Fiction Speculative

“Yes, my name is Bipkin. I believe I have a reservation for five nights… well, actually seven nights, but the travel agency is paying for the last two nights, so... I’d asked for a ground floor room because of my leg. Fell on the way to the travel agency, you know ice, that kind of thing. Stupid really, but then there isn’t much choice unless you plan on spending six months a year inside. Which we do anyway, but we don’t talk about it, and we don’t like it, but you know…”

“Why yes, you’ll be in 222. It is not on the ground floor, but we’ve had some recent problems, what with the hurricane and all.”

“Did you say you had a recent problem because of the rodents after the hurricane? I don’t see how that is any concern of mine.” 

I find accents difficult to navigate. It appears I hear things that apparently are of my own contrivance.

“Sorry, desk clerk fellow, but did you just tell this gentleman that he was staying in room 222? You just told me I was to be in room 222. You must have made a mistake.”

“Gentlemen, we have suffered a breakdown in our electrical grid. Our computer reservation system was destroyed by lightning. The majority of the staff have not come into work as their homes have been flooded. And the main floor rooms will all need to be refurbished before they will be suitable for occupancy. I must apologize, but we are forced to pair individuals according to gender and the fact that you are alone, by yourselves, well... You will need to share a room.”

“Well, how long will this situation take to resolve. I am not used to sharing. And certainly not with a stranger.”

“They tell me about six months to a year. Things here are done on Mañana time. You’ll see after you’ve been here a while. Tomorrow always comes, but not when you expect it to necessarily.”

And that is how my wonderful vacation began. It was no one’s fault really. Hurricanes, although easier to predict now, rarely live up to their predictions. Bottom Less Bay was not supposed to be affected by the hurricane, but for some reason it changed course and made a direct impact on the inlet and the accommodations that surrounded it.

I was asked by the taxi driver on the way over if I would be needing some charcoal. Charcoal? Why would I be needing charcoal. The thought never occurred to me that perhaps cooking without gas or electricity might be a problem, until I was informed the kitchen was closed and we would be given free meal vouchers for Sand Cabby’s, a local establishment, just down the road. Within walking distance we were told. But then we were told a lot of things. 

I shouldn’t really complain. I was given the opportunity to cancel the trip. But if I did, I would naturally lose the two free days and could not be guaranteed my plane ticket would be refunded as the airline to the island was a small family run business, that too had been hard hit by the storm. A boat had been arranged for, assuming it had not been sunk by the tidal wave that had been reported to be over twenty feet high and had it not been for the mountain range that ran through the center of the island, the whole eastern shore would have been gone. I felt as though I was being asked to be appreciative, as if it could be much worse.

I was apparently going to share a room with a Mr. Albatross. He was an elderly man who had recently recovered from some deadly disease he preferred not to elaborate on, and had decided he was no longer concerned with the welfare of his family, as he had complained he'd, “Made it on my own. Can’t see any reason to waste my final chance at happiness so that my children and ungrateful wife can enjoy themselves at my expense. I’ve given enough, don’t you think?”

I didn’t answer, couldn’t answer, as I didn’t know this person or his family, and have always been a bit skittish when it comes to family affairs that aren’t my own. I find it best in situations like the one I found myself in, to change the subject. I asked if he liked sea food, and would he like to join me for dinner so we could become better acquainted. “I’m allergic to sea anything,” he said, “and I’ve made it a habit never to eat with strangers. The scare I’ve just had, was the result of some germ infusion from some unknown source according to the doctors. I suspect however it was the result of having hired this person from South America someplace. He didn’t look well. I should have asked for some health records. You know how foreigners are?”

I didn’t know how foreigners were, or are, but I did know that blaming things out of one’s control on strangers, especially foreign strangers, was in vogue. Everyone seemed to be doing it. The papers were full of stories about the hordes coming up to infect us with all manner of disease. Even the recent drought was blamed on them. I haven’t seen a paper since I arrived, so I have no idea if the Hurricane is their fault as well.

The mile to the Crusty’s Crab, or whatever it was called, didn’t really matter as it was closed for renovation. It struck me that was what the reference to charcoal must have been about. I do find it disturbing at times, that people can’t just come out and say what they mean. Inference leaves such ghastly holes in ones’ presumptions.

On the way back I met Mr. Albatross being rickshaed down the sand strewn road by a boy that couldn’t have been more than ten, maybe thirteen, but far to young to be driving this bigoted old bugger about, as if he were royalty. Being a kind and understanding person by nature, I waved as they sped by. He didn’t wave back. The boy however, smiled. 

It was strange I thought, that although I waited until after 7:30 in the PM, Mr. Albatross never came to the room. I slept miserably, the heat and lack of fans left everything damp and clingy. Everything had taken on the smell of rotting dead fish. Couple that with garlic and curry and I began to feel as though I was living on the second level of a waste bin. My eyes watered so badly I awoke in total darkness feeling as though I was drowning.

The lobby was deserted when I went down at first light, to see if there was any chance at all that I could get something to eat. Someplace, any place, as between the travel and the nightmarish evening I felt possibly eating something would help relieve the anxiety of my having made a mistake.

I walked out onto the veranda and who should be there but the boy from the previous evening. I had questions about Mr. Albatross, and thought perhaps the boy would be able to provide some reassurance that he’d found other suitable sleeping arrangements, as he had not returned to our room. When I asked, he explained, “The man I was taking back to the boat. He said he’d had enough of this rat-infested place. He had rats at home, and at least he would have electricity and soup. Cans and cans of soup he said. Safest food there was he said.”

“So, he got on the boat and went back to the states?”

“No, Mr., The man was dead when we got to the boat. I was glad he offered to pay before we left. I hate having to go through old people’s clothes looking for money. Do you by chance need to go anywhere? I’m free.”

Just then the night clerk who had apparently been sleeping on the floor behind the desk got up and stood staring at the me and the boy. “Get out,” he yells, I assumed at the boy. “I told you, you aren’t welcome here.”

The boy looked embarrassed, winked, and then left. The clerk then says, "I hope you weren't disturbed by the trash."  He called the boy trash. “And those foreigners,” he says, “Can’t be trusted. He tell you that he was taking someone to the boat, and they died?”

He had told me that. “Yes, he said Mr. Albatross had died.”

“Mr. Albatross was probably his partner. They take you on a ride and the other one goes through your things and steals what you have. You got to watch those foreigners. We, our town council, has been talking about putting up a fence to keep them out, but they live here, so there is little we can do.”

“And where might I ask, are you from?”

“Miami. Ever been there? We got no foreigners there anymore, they all moved back to Puerto Rico and Cuba. I’ve been thinking about going back to Cuba to see my parents once we get this foreign invasion here under control.”

Sometimes I find there are not enough words to express my feelings. Although I found Mr. Albatross a bore, and a bigot, I believed him redeemable. But the boy? Using an old man to facilitate a devious plan to rob people? Unprecedented!

March 01, 2021 15:37

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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