Robert Cormack

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Do You Like Sea Snakes?

A story of bad vacations by Robert Cormack.

 

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I hate vacations. There’s nothing to do.” David Mamet

This happened at a resort, south of Saint Marc in Haiti, two months after Baby Doc Duvalier left the country for good. One morning, the Haitian staff went on strike, locking up the food and water. They wanted an increase in pay, despite making more than professors in Port-au-Prince.

Guests were asked to stay in their rooms until the army arrived, the army being Tonton Macoute. Nothing much came of it. By that evening, the guests were back eating dinner in the outdoor dining area.

Seated at a table of eight were two sisters, one twenty-four, pretty, tanned, long blonde hair, the other eighteen, also pretty, with brown hair. They both wore linen dresses with bathing suits underneath.

It concerned a recent news report involving a Chilean protestor who was set on fire by the police.

As the evening progressed, the sisters started arguing with two Chilean men sitting across from them. It concerned a recent news report involving a Chilean protestor who was set on fire by the police.

“You shouldn’t believe everything you read,” the younger Chilean was saying, lighting a cigar. His black hair shone in the candlelight and he had very white teeth. The other Chilean gazed off as if none of it mattered.

“Are you telling me you don’t torture people?” the older sister asked. Her name was Erin and her younger sister was Zoey. They were Mormons from Illinois. Erin had brought Zoey down to Haiti as a birthday present.

“Of course we don’t,” the younger Chilean said. “You’re misinformed.”

“No I’m not. A girl is dying because of you.”

“Because of me?” he asked. “I simply work for the government. You say very foolish things for someone so lovely.”

“Come on, Zoey,” Erin said. “We’re leaving.”

Sitting next them was man who’d arrived after the others. He was in his late thirties, face red from too much sun. Erin didn’t know his name. The guests were seated without introductions. Erin was worried the Chileans might follow her and Zoey, so she decided to be bold. “Will you escort us to our room?” she asked the man.

“If you like,” he said. “Let me finish my coffee.”

“Don’t go” the younger Chilean said to Erin. “Let’s all have a brandy. We’re here on vacation. Don’t be angry with us.”

“I don’t want a brandy,” Erin said. “C’mon, Zoey, let’s go.”

The tourists gathered, but the Haitians were too aggressive. The guards finally had to push them back to their boats.

Zoey picked up her straw bag and a scarf she’d bought from one of the locals. Haitians were allowed on the beach once a week to sell crafts. The tourists gathered, but the Haitians were too aggressive. The guards finally had to push them back to their boats. The following morning, everything — including food and water — was locked up. The staff went and sat under some palms.

As soon as the man finished his coffee, he stood up, too.

“Surely, you can’t leave yet,” the younger Chilean said. “What have we settled? Are we sadists or not?”

“I didn’t say you were sadists,” Erin replied.

“Do you even know what a sadist is?”

“I know what your police did to that girl.”

“She was an agitator.”

“You burned her.”

“How can I convince her?” he asked the man. “You’re educated. Surely you have an opinion.”

“Leave me out of this,” the man said. “It’s too complicated.”

“But it’s not complicated,” the younger Chilean said. “The girl had a Molotov cocktail up her sleeve. It exploded when she fell. The police and military have been exonerated. This is well documented.”

“We don’t have anything to do with prisoners,” the older Chilean said.

“Why was she a prisoner?” Erin asked. “It was a peaceful protest.”

“Peaceful protest?” the younger Chilean said. “She had a bomb.”

“Be careful,” the younger Chilean said to him. “That one bites.”

Erin shook her head and took the man’s arm.

“Be careful,” the younger Chilean said to him. “That one bites.”

The man followed Erin and Zoey down the patio steps to the beach. The Chileans had been there earlier, playing chess and talking to women. When they sat down for dinner, they had been polite and courteous. They said they were on their way to a conference in Mexico. That’s when Erin asked why farmers and trade unionists were set on fire. “Set on fire?” the younger Chilean said. “Nobody was set on fire. You think we’re animals?”

Walking along the beach now, Zoey kept looking back. Her hand was looped through the man’s arm. Erin did the same with his other arm.

“They had mean eyes,” Zoey said.

“You didn’t think so yesterday,” Erin said.

“I wasn’t the one who thought they were handsome.”

They’d met them briefly the previous afternoon at the bar. The Chileans offered Erin and Zoey a drink. Erin thought the younger one called himself Marco.

“Why didn’t anybody else say anything back there?” Erin asked the man.

“You seemed to be handling yourself okay,” he said.

“Nobody even introduced themselves,” she said. “You notice that? I don’t even know your name. I’m Erin, by the way, this is Zoey.”

“Scott,” he said.

“What do you do, Scott?”

“I work for an advertising agency in Montreal.”

Erin stopped and looked at him.

“Then you must have heard about that Chilean girl.”

“Of course I heard about it.”

“They’re agricultural attachés,” he replied. “That’s not exactly Pinochet’s death squad. They probably weren’t even in the country.”

“Then why didn’t you say anything?”

“They’re agricultural attachés,” he replied. “Not exactly Pinochet’s death squad.”

Zoey kept looking back over her shoulder.

“They’re not following us, Zoey,” Erin said, gathering up the bottom of her linen dress and walking into the water. She started twirling around. “Let’s stop talking about those stupid Chileans. We’re on vacation. Let’s skinny dip.”

She pulled off her dress, showing a light blue bikini. Then she ran further into the water. “Come on, you, two.” She waded into deeper water , taking off her bikini and throwing it up on the sand. Scott shrugged, took off his shirt and pants, and joined her. Zoey sat cross-legged on the sand. She kept looking back at the dining pavilion.

Erin and Scott went further out. She put her arms around his neck. “Tell me if Zoey’s watching,” she said. “I’ll kiss you if she’s not. What’s she doing?”

Erin and Scott went further out. She put her arms around his neck. “Tell me if Zoey’s watching,” she said. “I’ll kiss you if she’s not. What’s she doing?”

“She’s just sitting there,” he said.

They kissed, then Erin looked back, seeing shadows moved in the palms behind the beach chairs. She thought she saw fireflies, too. “What are all those little lights?” Erin asked.

“The guard’s cigarettes,” Scott said.

“They’ve been standing there the whole time?”

“They always patrol the beach at night,” Scott said.

“Why didn’t you say something?” Erin said, telling Zoey to throw her bikini out to her. They came out of the water, got dressed, then walked up the stone path to the pool. A Haitian guard was leaning against a cement balustrade with a gun across his knee. “Do you like sea snakes?” he asked. “They come out at night here. Very dangerous.” He smiled when he said it.

“Yuck! I hate snakes,” Zoey said.

“Let’s go to the dance pavilion,” Erin said, taking Scott’s arm again. Zoey did the same. They walked down the bougainvillea path, following the lights to an open-air building next to a long wharf. People danced on the parquet floor while others sat at a long tiki bar. Erin wanted Scott to dance with her. He wanted a drink first and stood at the bar with some people he knew. Zoey sat cross-legged in one of the rattan chairs.

“Well, I’m dancing,” Erin said.

She talked to one of the male staff.

“Are you allowed to dance?”

The man said he’d dance with her. Zoey watched her sister dance. After a few songs, Erin came back and ordered a drink. The two Chileans walked into the pavilion on the other side.

“We meet again, señorita,” Marco called over.

“You want to learn to samba?” he asked Erin. Erin sipped her drink. She didn’t say anything.

They ordered drinks and did the samba with different girls. The Chileans were excellent dancers. Marco came over after the song ended. “You want to learn to samba?” he asked Erin. Erin sipped her drink. She didn’t say anything. Marco shrugged and danced with an older woman wearing a sarong.

“Stop staring at him,” Zoey said to Erin.

Marco kept looking over. He came back again and lifted the drink out of Erin’s hand. “One samba,” he said. “You will like it. Please, to make amends.”

Erin stood up.

“Erin — “ Zoey said.

“I want to learn to samba,” Erin said.

Marcos moved Erin expertly across the floor. With the samba, she had to listen to the rhythm. They danced and then Erin came back to the table. She said to Zoey, “Go dance with him. He used to dance professionally.”

Zoey got up and danced with Marco.

“You see?” Erin said to when Marco brought Zoey back.

“Let’s have drinks,” he said. “Eduardo is just as good a dancer as me.”

Eduardo had just finished dancing and came over.

“We’ll get them to play a tango,” Marco said. “Eduardo and I will teach you. Tango is difficult but we are experts. It is a very good dance to learn.”

Marco had the DJ play some tango music. They danced and drank until the pavilion cleared. Erin looked around for Scott. He’d left. When the bar closed, Marco and Eduardo asked the girls back to their room to dance.

“I’m not going,” Zoey said.

Erin was a bit tipsy. She twirled around until Marco had to catch her.

“Come with us, Zoey,” he said. “It won’t be fun without you. We’ll rumba.” He put one hand on his chest and did a few steps.

“Come with us, Zoey,” he said. “It won’t be fun without you. We’ll rumba.” He put one hand on his chest and did a few steps. “Please,” he said. “We’re all good friends now, aren’t we? Eduardo needs a partner.”

So they went to the Chilean’s room and danced and drank tequila. Erin got very drunk. When Marco and Eduardo brought them back to their room, Erin stood in the hallway, dancing away.

“I’m still not tired,” she said. “I want to keep dancing.”

“Come to bed, Erin,” Zoey said.

“I don’t want to sleep.”

Zoey went in the room, washed her face, then got into bed. She heard Erin laughing in the hall. When she woke up later, it was quiet. Erin wasn’t in her bed. Zoey got up and opened the door. Nobody was outside.

She went downstairs, walked around the pool, then came back and waited by the window. Shadows appeared along the path. A few minutes later, Erin came in the room. She was still drunk. She went in the washroom and started crying. Zoey listened at the washroom door.

“Erin?” she said.

Erin didn’t answer.

“Are you okay?” Zoey asked.

“No,” Erin said. “Go to sleep, Zoey. I don’t want to talk.”

Zoey stared out the window at the moon, imagining it was one of those all-seeing eyes.

Zoey went back to bed, then Erin came and got into the bed next to her. She cried some more. Zoey felt like crying, too. It seemed like there was a lot to cry about. She looked at the stars outside the window. They looked like the glow from cigarettes the guards were smoking earlier. They also looked like damning eyes. That made her feel like crying, too.

Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist, and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. To read more of Robert’s stories and articles, go to robertcormack.net

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Robert Cormack

Robert Cormack

1 month ago #2

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

1 month ago #1

I’m glad you said these two mormon sisters were from Illinois, Rob. I remember once being told by an uncharitable American acquaintance that the only good looking ladies in Salt Lake City are tourists. 😂

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