I was perched on a stone stool at the swim-up bar, on holiday at an all-inclusive. You know, one of those resorts that provides unlimited food and drink to us guests who provide the gluttony. My tweed coat was beginning to weigh a bit heavily, wicking water as it was, and I kept having to wipe the steam off my monocle. I was on my third vodka-orange of the morning when Arturo picked up the microphone. Arturo on the microphone always made me smile. But on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, at an all-inclusive, pretty much everything makes me smile.
“Ladies and gentleman, chicos y chicas, this morning, esta mañana, tenemos una sorpressa especial. We have a special surprise!”
Arturo’s job was to ensure guests partook of the proscribed “fun” activities, such as playing bingo or water polo, riding the mechanical bull, dancing the meringue, water aerobics, etc. (I felt I was already partaking of the most fun activity.) He seemed to enjoy saying everything twice in two languages. I enjoyed listening to him, no matter what he was saying.
“Chicos y chicas, please welcome, Meester Deke Haircules!”
I ripped off my monocle and smashed it against the bar. Slammed my face down and almost began to cry.
“Señor?” It was the bartender. He’d come running and slapped both hands down on the bar. “Everything ees okay?”
Behind me, I heard women squealing in delight and grown men gasping. I could only assume that my nemesis, my bane, was performing a feat of strength. For show, or some such.
“No, amigo. Everything is not okay. Everything is quite far from okay, the sudden.”
The monster cried cannonball in his high-pitched nasally voice (he sounded like Abbot, of the Abbot & Costellos) and behind me the water went gawomp. I sensed that his mass had displaced an egregious amount of pool, and that gravity would bring it down upon my beverage and me. I protected my beverage as best I could. There was no hope for me.
As the laughter and applause died down, he surfaced and cleared his blowhole and cried out, “Walty Pants! That you?”
I just glared at him out of the corner of my eye. I might have grunted. I definitely glowered. Hard.
“Why are you wearing your writerly duds?” he said. “Ahoy, thar! Rise and greet me, friend!”
“You have chlorinated my beverage.” I said, draining the last bit into the pool. I tossed the empty cup at him. It bounced off his forehead. He waved his hand belatedly, as if swatting a fly, and smiled. “Well it’s back to the well, then!” he said, and beached himself on the stool beside me. Water sluiced off his shirtless black & white torso as if he were a sea lion. “How are ya, buddy?”
“I was marvellous.”
He signaled for the bartender and fist-bumped his own forehead. The bartender laughed aloud and said, “Si, señor!”
Dick pointed at him and winked, then turned back to me and said, “Whatcha mean, was marvellous?”
I shook my head and sighed. “Are you so dense?”
“Let’s start over, Walt,” he said. He reached out to shake my hand. “What ho, stout fellow! Greetings and well wishes!”
I sighed and pinched the bridge of my nose. “Waltbane, is what you are.”
“It’s not a compliment.”
“Neither are you.”
I furrowed my brows. “Come again?”
“Hey, I’ve got something for ya, Walty boy.”
“Let me make one thing clear, sir,” I said. “I am on holiday. I will accept no poetry.”
The bartender returned with eight shot glasses, four full of something golden, four full of something red.
Dick grabbed them four at a time and said, “It’s called a Smokey Tomato.”
“Did you hear what I said? None at all.”
“It’s a new kind of poetry. A drinky kind.”
This caught my interest. I cocked an eyebrow. “Go on.”
He pointed to a golden vial. “Shot of Mezcal.” Then to a red one. “Tomato juice chaser.”
“Repugnant,” I said. “Make it go away.”
Dick snatched the Mezcal and knocked it back, saying ahhhh. He took the tomato juice and knocked that back. “Done!” he said, shoving the second pair towards me. “Your turn.”
Mr. Hercules tossed back another golden vial of Mezcal followed by another shot of tomato juice. He shook his head, his jowls waggled, and he said whoooo! He flapped his enormous limbs like a bird too heavy to fly. Then he fist bumped his own forehead with each hand, left right left right, one after the other.
“No thank you.”
“Arriba, Walto!” he said, shovelling shots towards me.
“I don’t wish to.”
Faster than you’d think a man of such girth could move, Dick pinched my cheeks and tilted my head. Suddenly I was gargling Mezcal. I had no choice but to swallow.
“Ack” I cried. “What foul nectar!”
“Now this one,” said Dick, pouring the tomato juice chaser down my gullet.
I gurgled and swallowed. Most of the repugnancy went poof, leaving only a faint, smokey aftertaste.
“Heh?” said Dick, grinning.
I licked my chops and smiled. “Not so bad.”
“Amigo,” Dick called to the bartender, wiggling his fingers.
“Otra ves?” said the bartender.
“Line ’em up!” said Dick.
“Oh dear,” said I.
I came to in a strange bed with someone using the inside of my skull as a kick drum. On my right shoulder lay the second-most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, her skin the color of purest butterscotch. The first most beautiful was spooning her. On my left shoulder was Dick Hercules, snoring like a lumberjack. Spooning him was Arturo. His microphone was slung across his chest, and I think it was live. I heard it humming.
The sheets were soaked. Peeking under them, I saw that I was still wearing my “writerly duds.”
In my hand was the dreaded piece of wide-ruled paper, torn from a spiral notebook and folded as usual. I did not want to unfold it, but I couldn’t help myself. This is what I read:
Hold me closer tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
You had a busy day today
Curse you, Dick Hercules, I whispered.
Arturo stirred and bolted upright. He checked his watch and was obviously shocked at the hour. He shot out of bed, raised the microphone to his mouth, started pulling his shorts on and said, “Muy buenos días a todos! Who is ready for a ping pong tournament?”