At long last, part 5 of The Expensive Universal Instrument!
It took a while to get back to it. So many projects came up and many are still dancing around in my head. I still like this story though, so I’ll keep coming back.
Although going back to read the rest, I’m tempted on doing a little editing and cleaning up. This serial has so far essentially been posted as a first draft. I write it, and I hit “publish”. I’ll have to give it some serious thought.
Either way, I hope you all enjoy it! Feel free to comment or suggest or even criticize!
You can find the previous 4 parts here.
This was a really stupid idea. The thought echoed in my head every second step in the completely cloudless sunny afternoon heat.
The sun beat down on my head. I was burning. Scratch that, I was burned. My arms were red and I was distinctly uncomfortable. My pasty white legs were no longer white. I was dying of thirst. Can you die of thirst in less than an afternoon? I’m sure you could under the sun that was shining down on me. My stomach rumbled and my calf chose this time to cramp. Clearly my body was rebelling. My mind lingered on how nice a cool dark jail cell would be, waiting for a representative from my national embassy.
My morale, clearly way too strong still, took another hit when I realized that the burning on the top of my head meant that I was losing hair I hadn’t realized I was losing.
I’m inexplicably far from home, possibly wanted by the authorities. I was in a foreign country with no explanation as to how I’d entered it, no way to get home. I had no money and the device that I had made the center of my life was stolen from me.
And now I was losing my hair too.
I let myself fall on the lush green grass that bordered the lovely West Bay street, just across from an ocean so close yet so out of reach. I think I might have come across a public beach a while back but I couldn’t be sure and I didn’t want to risk trespassing now. No one was chasing me from Breezes it seemed, I didn’t want that fact to change.
I wondered if Mr St-John had maybe decided to give me a break. It made sense after all. I had caused no damage really, and I was off the Breezes property and unlikely to return. Those types only care about the reputation of their establishments right? Right?
I had no idea. I was hoping and wishing. The thought kept my mind productively away from my aches long enough for me to get back up, brush off the grass from my increasingly tattered shorts and t-shirt and take three steps towards what I hoped would be Nassau’s famous Straw Market and my own goal.
The Buccaneer’s Treasure and my Expensive Universal Instrument.
Between my fourth and fifth steps my body started to rebel again and the cramp came back. I limped on. I kicked every third step. It didn’t help the cramp but it did wonders for me, especially if I could kick a stone a nice distance. About 90 yards further down the street I actually got some serious hang time from a dented can. That let me ignore my tongue for a little while. It felt and tasted like a big dry sponge, after a week’s worth of dishes washed.
I saw a glint near a garbage can and wound up my foot to kick at a bottle just left sitting in the sun. It glittered so invitingly.
I nearly fell over trying to miss it as I realized it was half full of water!
Oh drink of life! Sweet water!
I did miss it and I did fall as I turned back, knocking over the old metal trashcan. I fumbled the cap and poured it down my throat. It was stale and warm and I didn’t want to think about the possible backwash it held.
In that moment it was the sweetest thing I’d ever tasted.
I finished it in three gulps and sighed in such content as I’d never felt before.
A nagging thought came to me. Pride fought it, but it came through.
There might be other bottles in that trash can!
To my credit, I think, I didn’t dive into the old metal container. I dumped it slowly, then put it back carefully where it was meant to be, and I dumped back in every bit of trash I had spilled that didn’t have any liquid I could scarf down.
Sadly, that was all of it.
The last bit was an odd leather wallet. It looked weathered enough to actually be trash and I almost tossed it in without a second look, but curiosity got a hold of me.
There was a few bits of paper and a MasterCard. Vincenzo Garretti. Uh. I pocketed the card, I’m not sure why. What would I do with a lost credit card?
The wallet looked otherwise empty, but I poked and prodded and was gratified to find an american twenty dollar bill tightly folded and tucked into a tear in the lining! Twenty bucks! Comparatively speaking, I was rich now!
I felt much better and much worse at the same time. It’s one thing to be tired and sore when you have no money, nothing to help. It’s quite another thing to be feeling so when you have twenty bucks, or even a credit card. Without the money, I likely could have continued walking, with it I could not take another step because I had a choice.
I could try to use the card or part of the twenty in a cab. I could also take the bus, but that would require finding change. I doubt Nassau public transit took credit cards.
What to do, what to do?
“You lost sir?”
A rickety Volkswagen Jetta had pulled over and the driver was shouting from the open window.
I pointed at myself, “Are you talking to me?”
I really do a mean DeNiro.
“Yeah. You look lost. Can I give you a hand?”
I looked up at the shining sun and mentally gave it the finger. I’d have thanked god if I believed in such a thing. I rushed over to the rusty white vehicle and let myself in with a heartfelt thank you. It wasn’t air-conditioned, but the shade inside was a balm. The breeze that hit me when he sped off was heaven itself. I wasn’t even bothered to find the window was broken rather than open.
The driver, a well tanned young man about my age waved it off, “No problem my friend. No problem! I figured either you wandered away from the resort or you got off at the wrong stop heading back to the cruise lines.”
“The docks. You know, where the boats go?”
I clued in. The sunburn seemed to have fried my brain pan a little too much. I scoured my memories of Bahamas PD. The docks were very near the Straw Market! This good samaritan was definitely heading my way.
“Uh yes. Thank you so much! I was trying to get to the Straw Market and I got turned around I guess. I found a tour bus to pick me up but it was so expensive and they just dropped me in the park. I was walking back when you stopped! Thank you again, I was getting worried I would not make it back.”
The man let out a sharp bark of a laugh, “Ah. It is sad when unscrupulous business men take advantage of visitors. I can only hope that my small service will redeem us in your eyes.”
He was pouring it on pretty thick. I figured he was having me on and getting a good laugh. I didn’t mind too much. The truth would be too insane to explain and frankly, it was just easier to play stupid.
“Oh yeah. It definitely does. Everyone’s so friendly here. I wish I had made it to the Straw Market though.”
“Never fear my friend. I can drop you there just as easily as taking you to the docks. I work at my uncle’s shop beyond the market area. It is on my way. I insist. You have plenty of time to shop and walk back to your boat for tonight.”
“Thank you, uh…”
“Clotide! Just Clotide. It is good to meet you my friend”, he leaned over and shook my hand and the car drifted alarmingly towards the side of the road. He compensated quickly and swung back to a chorus of car horns.
“Well it’s good to meet you John! Now sit back and relax! We will be there in a few minutes. We are not far.”
The green gave way to the brown and grey of buildings. I was starting to see some familiar sights, albeit not behind a tv screen. Clotide pointed out some of spots of interest. He waved at the Thompson Trading Company building and towards an old Church. We were definitely downtown.
We slowed past a large columned building in pink and white.
“That is Parliament House my friend. You should take the time and see it closer. It is very popular.”
He turned down another street and I lost my sense of direction. A few blocks over he rolled to a stop.
“Here you are my friend, just over there is the Straw Market. Enjoy the delights of Nassau!”
I shook his hand and looked around as I coaxed my aching muscles out of the car. The sun found me again and wasted no time resuming it’s cooking. I leaned into the broken window.
“Clotide, I wonder if you might know a place I was told to look for.”
“Did you not want the Straw Market?”
“Oh yes. I do want the Market. I’m heading over right away, but I was told to find another little place near here and I don’t want to get turned around again.”
“What place do you want?”
“This shop called Buccaneer’s Treasure. I’m told it’s just…”
Clotide shook his head emphatically, “No no no my friend. You don’t want to go there. Very bad place. Very bad. Stick to the Straw Market. It’s better for you!”
With that, he sped off in a cloud of blue tinged exhaust. I watched him go and waved.
At least I was near.
I could see the entrance to the Straw Market. I looked around and took a few minutes to figure out which way was west. I had come from the east. Clotide had turned me around a bit to get me here and I wanted to be sure.
I headed on the west side of the street and sure enough, there was the alley and I could spy a small sign reading “Buccaneer’s Treasure”.
I was there. Time to get back what’s mine.