We had just arrived on the beach. On the last days of our vacation, we saved for Eagle. It was supposed to be the best. We had already been to 6 beaches on the island. This one supposedly had the best white sand, miles of turquoise water, undisturbed by rocks, shallow for snorkeling. Probably not many fish to see, though, no rocks.
We settled under our palapa with the sunscreen, quiet broken by a child’s crying. That wasn’t so bad. It was the dad screaming, top of his lungs, tugging at this little tyke wearing stars and stripes swimming trunks, just like his dad. He dragged him by his little hand, pulling him away from the shore to their palapa. The mom was parked on one of the lounge chairs covered with towels. There appeared to be another child wrapped up on one of the chaises. And a third still nestled in the mommy’s tummy. She was silent as the dad went on and on, loudly at the child.
“You’re just a baby. How old are you, six years old? I am tired of this. Tired of your crying.’
The child cried harder. Dad got louder.
“You think I am gonna take you on the next trip. I am tired of your crying. Stop it; you get me, just stop it!”
The child’s crying continued. The mom said nothing.
“Mommy, I want to go home.”
“Stop it, will you just stop it. You’re a baby, you’re six years old! Start acting it. Stop crying. You’re just a baby.”
It was becoming a scene in this crowded resort, all the palapas occupied by couples and other families. Everyone’s calm unsettled. I stopped the sunscreen, grabbed the snorkel gear. I whispered to Henry, “Let’s get into the water. I can’t take any more of this.”
There was a Dutch family in the water. The child had something in her hand; she seemed to be picking off little pieces and throwing them in the water. As we approached, I saw it was half a banana. She was surrounded by what looked like striped angelfish. From above, they seemed so big. I donned my snorkel mask and floated over. They were tiny. There were many, and they circled, round and round they surrounded her, a school of jailbird-looking fish threatening for snips of banana. She squealed and squealed. Then she was overwhelmed, alarmed, at so many striped fish that appeared to be so big above the water, she threw the banana farther and deeper away. The school left.
It is decades before. The kid sat in his red shorts and sunhat. His pail and shovel were matching red. He had seen the striped angelfish surround another girl who also squealed and threw a banana far away. The boy decided to stay away from those jailbird fish. They looked so big.
He preferred to build with his bucket, his shovel, and the sand. He would make a house, not a castle. It would be a nice house. Maybe yellow. It would have a room for his mommy, a room for himself. But no room for his dad. He did not want his dad to stay with them in this house. His dad yelled at him. All the time. Sometimes he hit. He had boo-boos. Sometimes he made him touch him in the bathroom. He lived in terror of his dad. He would build a house, not a castle, with just a few rooms. In this sand. And there would be no room for his dad. And when the tide came in, the house would be washed away before his dad could see and give him another boo-boo.
The dad argues with the wife. “Will you just cut it out, you spoil him. He is like a fucking baby.”
His wife is tiring of this. She is aware that the older Dutch tourists, or maybe Dutch Arubans, are all looking, tsking with their tongues in disapproval. She can hear them. Tsk Tsk. Her husband’s brother says she needs to tolerate him. Their abusive father. Still, this abuse to their eldest. They are on vacation. It is too much. If he ever hits her or her kids, she will leave. She rubs her tummy, her, and the three kids.
I have come out of the water. I see the kid with the stars and stripes trunks is having fun playing on the sand near the water. I forgot my earplugs. If I don’t wear earplugs, water plugs my ears for the rest of the vacation. “What, what?” I keep asking Henry. “What, What?” Henry keeps yelling at me. Also, my diabetes pill has kicked in. Have to go pee, so I hike to the facility across the street adjacent to the hotel pool.
Two of the three urinals are full. I go left. The yelling dad with the stars and stripes trunks is showing, his cock half flaccid. I roll my eyes. Queen, please, I thought that trade sex went out the window in the ’80s!
He focuses his attention on the new boy now at his right. Young, cabana type, looking to make a quick Florian. Cabana goes into a bathroom stall. There are the fancy ones, that look like a contained room. This is an all-inclusive spa resort, after all. Can’t see anything under once the door is closed.
You can hear, though, sex sounds. One guy on his knees, the other moaning, “Yeah fucking A, yes yes. Yes, I need this; the wife is pregnant.”
I run out of that bathroom. I run across the street to the beach. I run to tell Henry, still playing at the water’s edge surrounded by striped angelfish that look like jailbirds. “Oh, Henry, have I got a story for you!”
Ben Umayam moved to NYC to write the great American/Filipino Gay short story. He worked for political consultants, became a fancy hotel chef, then cooked for priests. He is retired, working that short story again. His work appears in Maudlin House, Digging Through The Fat, 34th Parallel Magazine, Anak Sastra, Southeast Asian Drabbles, Gay Flash Fiction, and The Corvus Review.
An Impression, A Likeness
by Will McMillan
... Before being transformed and disguised to look like bank cards ...
We Hold These Truths
by Paul Negri
... John kissed Marsha on his way out the door ...