The budget resort, which looked promising in the online brochures, looked more like the Travel Lodge on I-80 than a Caribbean getaway. Anyway, the single vending machine was broken, and room service, while available and plentiful, didn’t provide food. The brochure said, ‘Every room a suite!’ Upon inspection, it technically qualified as a suite because there was a half wall separating the toilet from the two twin beds.
Clifford and Brenda, now too tired to talk, found a different twin bed and fell fast asleep. Mornings come early in Iowa but not so much in Jamacia. Sleeping in slightly past seven, they had to wait until ten before the diner across from the motel opened for breakfast. The diner would be their eating place morning, noon, and night. The diner served chicken. Eggs for breakfast, chicken fried steak for lunch, and jerk chicken for dinner. To give it a homier feel, before they’re your food, the chickens become your friends. Chickens roam the streets, live in the motel lobby, and even share your beach umbrella. Clifford took to naming the chickens, which didn’t sit well with Brenda. “Maybe you should read their cards,” Clifford said. “The future doesn’t look bright,” Brenda replied. This was the first joke they’d shared in twenty years. “Why’d the chicken cross the road?” “Stop,” Brenda said.
The beach was a few steps from their room, but it would take a few more hours before they could get there. Brenda had unpacked the various oils, ointments, and lotions she’d carefully packed. Tender Iowa skin burns easily in the hot Jamaican sun. Clifford’s arms and neck were as dark as the immigrants and farm laborers who took all the good Iowa jobs. Arms a golden brown that hid the truth. His pale, anemic bloodless skin had never seen daylight. Dracula couldn’t draw blood from his pasty white frame. Lucky for him, his Iowa underwear covered most of his lanky frame. Brenda was a different problem altogether.
Brenda had one of those all-year-long tans. The tanning booth in their basement saw to that. For Iowa women who were willing to pay, the tanning booth was a perk after their new bouffant hairdo, courtesy of Brenda’s Cut and Curl. Brenda’s real problem was her bathing suit. Most tops were too small and most bottoms too big. No fewer than seven different combinations in various sizes were needed to fit Brenda’s unique Iowa frame.
Finally greased up, lathered up, and prodded into their respective attire, they hit the beach. The small beach bar was just some local kid on a bicycle with a cooler. But the rum drinks were cold, and Clifford and Brenda got their own sampling of fruit and a different colored umbrella for stirring. They might have been in heaven. The air was warm, and just as advertised, the waves gently lapped at their feet. The couple, now after so many years, had something to say. And walk and talk they did. First separate, but then slowly, their fingers met. Not quite holding hands, their fingers seemed to glide along one another’s. Not that holding hands was out of the question. Being free from Iowa norms and customs, they were finally able to show public affection so sternly frowned upon on the streets of Cedar Rapids. Caressing fingers was excitement enough; it would have to do. Holding hands was impossible due to the amount of ointment and grease they’d applied. Just when one of them would move in for the grab, the other’s hand would shoot out like the piglet neither of them could tackle at the fair.
Drinks were long gone; they’d walked for hours along the deserted sands and clear waters of their new Caribbean hideaway. Finding their spot, they sat for a rest and . . .
If the problems began when they sat, they only got worse when they laid down—being so heavily greased caused a myriad of problems. First, both became coated in sand. If their hand touched the sand, it spread. When they looked at their behinds, it was like looking at a coating of flour on raw chicken. Problems continued when they each snuck a peek beneath their respective swimming attire. Clifford found sand in places he was hoping to keep free. Brenda found sand in places. . . Well, let’s just say Brenda found a lot of sand. Realizing any more displays of affection would only lead to a chafing, the likes of which were akin to the rubbing and bruising they got back in high school when they hid and canoodled in Uncle Milton’s grain elevator. Nobody wanted to have that memory return.
Returning to their room well after ten in the evening, three hours past their usual bedtime, they showered. It took a long time to wash the sand from all those hidden places.
Finally clean and ready for bed, Clifford put on his last clean pair of Iowa underwear. “Maybe Iowa’s not that bad,” he said. “Not if I can be there with you,” she said.
The sun sets early during Iowa winters. Brenda and Clifford don’t mind.