Just Bill and the Mister

February 2, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — bknister @ 8:36 am
Tags: , ,

The exit you seek comes quickly

This happens to be the week before winter break at the university where you teach.  For the next two weeks, things will also be abnormally slow in your wife’s office.  It’s almost against nature for both of you to be able to get away at the same time.

That’s why Mother Nature takes umbrage at such last-minute arrogance.  The nerve of you, signing up for a cheap cruise and putting it on Visa.  You have no right, Mother believes.  You belong here, in the rustbelt under louring skies loaded with snow, among commuter loonies, and yuppies making deals over cell phones. 

That’s why the year’s first real blizzard starts the day before you leave.

Oh but you know Mother Nature around here. William Butler Yeats, do you imagine Ireland is the only old sow that eats her farrow?  That’s why you book a hotel room at the airport for the night before your flight—haha!

                                                     *     *     *

Many sleepless hours later, the circulation is beginning to move again in your wife’s hands.  Bloodless as always with flying terror, they start to look normal in the Miami airport.  Both of you are shuffling toward the luggage carousels with other dazed escapees.  Pasty and sun-famished, you stare out at bright palms and crotons floating magically beyond the lobby windows. 

Expected!  Greeted!  Bronzed youths from the ship in canary-yellow shirts guide you to buses, see to luggage.  In minutes you see ships ahead, in the Port Everglades harbor.  You’re leaving!  In two hours you will be at sea.  Well, on your way to  the Gulf of Mexico, close enough.  No phone, fax, students, enemies, allies, auto soliloquists or office mates suited to the training needs of proctologists.  At Sea.

                                                  *     *     *

 Unpacked, having prowled the ship and gotten lost, you clean up and change clothes.  At 7:30 you succeed again in locating the Waikiki Dining Room.

This is an important moment: now you will learn whether the tip given to the maitre d’ that afternoon was sufficient to get you seated with people not being deported or in quarantine.  For five days you are going to break bread with: 

George and Belle, borough of Queens

Marie and Frank, upstate New York

Dan and Diane, Traverse City, Michigan.           

“Nice to meet you, this cabin we’re in, I don’t believe it, who’s kidding what, we’re supposed to live in a closet?”

For the next two courses, the Belle of Queens enumerates the hopeless conditions in her cabin.  The ship and the cruise we’ve all booked is strictly on the cheap, but Belle  expected a room at the Ritz.  George at her side is called on frequently for support, but not for color commentary of his own.  He provides the support with a single phrase you know will constitute his world view for the cruise: “F’geddaboudit.”

With a professional’s sense of timing, our waiter Alvarez sends the wine steward.  Soon you are toasting your table mates.  You drink deeply all through Belle’s clinically detailed account of a gallbladder operation, followed by a second critique of naval architecture.

Never mind, f’geddaboudit.  Seafood en chemise, sole meurniere, black forest tort, a brandy—hell, another brandy.  By the end of dinner you are resigned to Belle and her escort-service husband, grateful you like the others.

Especially Frank, on your right.  He and his wife are from the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York.  There is something reassuring about him, a person of graceful gestures and manner who must weigh over three hundred pounds.  He looms above your right shoulder, blotting out a quadrant of the dining room.  Eating and drinking with deft movements, he puts you in mind of a casino dealer or professional pool player.  Slipping his comments beneath or aslant  Belle’s monologue, Frank tells you he has played golf courses everywhere—Saint Andrews, Pebble Beach, Paradise Island, Maui—

Given the size of his forearm, you assume Frank plays them all at once, teeing off in the Bahamas, selecting a club for his next shot, boarding a jet for Scotland….


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: