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Okay, I misnamed the story—it should have been something like First Time in the Caribbean, but I can’t change it, apparently; hence the contradiction in number of days.
This day is pretty clean—I need it to set up the environment. After you read this, if you want more action, look for Day 3.
Summary: On the first day he connected with a flight attendant, but she disappeared before he woke up.
Asch tucked the thank-you note into his billfold. “Ah well,” he thought, “a new life lay ahead. No sense moping about the past, even a good past.” Asch cleaned up, put his pack of things together, and headed out. He checked her door; locked. Presumably she had left on the first flight out. From this locale, probably the only one. Oh well, life is full of adventures, and that was certainly an adventure.
He decided to do breakfast at Momma Rita’s, then on impulse turned in at another, smaller, 24-hour café named Anchovie’s. The place was narrow and deep, a lunch counter with stools along one side, booths along the other. A row of tables down the middle. The walls had photos of what looked like a family of fisher folk.
It was on the early side, and the place wasn’t very busy. He took a seat at the counter and looked over the menu. Typical American breakfast fare, with a mix of Caribbean items. He did a double-take when the waitress came to take his order. He had seen her somewhere, and her sleeveless white blouse had one too many buttons unbuttoned, making her fun to look at. Her well-placed name tag said “Octavia.” She smiled. “I was your waitress at Rita’s last night. That was the first time I’ve ever seen Mary with a date, by the way. You must be pretty special.”
“I don’t know about that, but it was an interesting evening. We watched the storm come in. I was doing research on places to stay and she recommended Rita’s as a source of local info, though I never got around to talking with any of the staff there about it. I was on my way there this morning, then decided to stop in here. I see the staff is the same. Do you ever get to go home and sleep?” he asked.
“Nah, I’m the only one who’s at both places. It’s convenient to come here after my shift at Rita’s. The money’s good, and working straight through the night is a decent if unhealthy schedule, and the folks here are pretty nice. The regulars who come in before the drunks in the wee hours are usually pretty good tippers. I’m almost done with my shift here now, and yes, I’m looking forward to bed. To sleep,” she added unnecessarily.
He ordered breakfast. She came back while the cook did his job, so he asked, “So what do you know about Mortensen’s, that place back in the hills?”
“She’s quite a lady. Widowed, has some goats and chickens, which isn’t exactly odd for around here, and a nice garden which also isn’t odd, but she reads scientific journals, speaks a couple languages, and does a few other things, like some civic volunteering over on the east side. Oh yeah, she owns a huge telescope and a bunch of weather instruments. She’s harmless, though. Her renters either stay forever or they last about a week.”
“Maybe I’ll go see if she has anything to rent. It’ll be a nice walk if nothing else.”
“The place is easy enough to find. I hope you like walking, though. It’s about half an hour on foot; a lot less if you have a bike.”
“Well, no bike yet, so I’ll walk.” His eyes followed her as he ate breakfast, helped by the large mirror on the wall. She filled out her blouse nicely. “This island is just full of nice scenery,” he thought to himself.
She moseyed back, coffee the makanai cooking for the maiko house izle pot in hand. “Say, if you can stick around for a few minutes, I can take you to where you can get a bike.”
“I can do that. The chance to get to know a native who can show me around a bit is a bonus.” He resisted saying ‘good-looking native.’
They walked companionably a few blocks, she pointing out and commenting on businesses they passed. Almost all of them had at least some tourist orientation. A produce store (good, run by a nice elderly couple), another produce store (bad, run by a sleaze). Several clothing stores, lots of trinket traps, a few services, mostly insurance, finance, or real estate. She pretty much blew them all off. “Wait until you’ve been around awhile and get to know a few folks before you decide whom to do business with.”
Good advice in any case, and he remarked on her correct use of “whom.”
She laughed. “So I paid attention in English class. The teacher was my mom.”
Not far from a cruise ship terminal they came upon a bike shop, Bill’s Bikes. It had lots of rentals for tourists, repair shop in the back, (Asch thought he could make out someone’s head), new and used bikes for sale on racks. Pictures of a fishing family on the walls. He recognized a couple from the restaurant. “So are these photos standard island fare?” he asked.
“Actually, they’re my family. Or ancestors. The fishing around here has kind of turned into tourism, but they’re good photos. My twin brother runs the store. Fraternal twin. That way I get to be better looking,” she quipped.
Someone who looked like a proprietor approached them. “Bill, I’d like you to meet the newest escapee from civilization—I just realized I don’t know your name!”
“Yeah I kind of disappear into the woodwork that way. People call me Asch.”
Bill asked, “Short for Ascher?”
“Good guess. That’s Hebrew, but my full name is Assyrian—it’s Ashurbanipal. My folks were Old Testament scholars with a perverse sense of humor. At least nobody mistakes me for Tom, Dick, or Harry. So. Pleased tameetchya. Got any bikes for sale?”
Bill grinned at Octavia. “Thanks, Sis, for bringing me such an eager customer. Is he rich? Huh? Huh?”
Octavia scowled. “Bill, how would I know? He’s just nice. Don’t ruin a budding friendship!”
“Sorry. I sort of got the impression that you two knew each other enough that I could tease a bit.”
Asch turned to Octavia. “I’m flattered that you think of our friendship as budding.” He addressed Bill. “We met only last night, and that briefly. She was our waitress at Momma Rita’s, and she waited on me at Anchovie’s this morning and showed me the town on the way here. She thinks I should buy a bike.”
Bill rubbed his hands together and leered at Octavia. “You get a commission if he buys, bwhaha.”
Octavia rolled her eyes. “You guys talk shop. I’m heading home. It’s past my bedtime.”
“Maybe I’ll show you a new bike at breakfast tomorrow,” Asch called out as she walked through the door, hips swaying.
Bill turned to the business at hand. “Okay, I assume you want to ride around the island, not in the ocean, right? We have water bikes out back—And you gotta admit she is cute, right?”
“Seems to be well educated and highly intelligent. Pleasant company.” He looked pretend thoughtful. “Yeah, I guess she’s cute, too. I like the slightly curly black hair. And yes I plan to ride on land. My first trip’ll be up to the the midnight club izle Mortensen’s.”
“Mortensen’s! Now there’s a lady who’ll be a highly educated conversationalist, no offense to my sister. If you’re the professorial type, you’ll like her. She even owns a telescope! Now. Do you care about color? I recommend a combo style—lots of low gears for the hills, decent rubber for in town.”
Asch ended up with a camo paint job, extra reflective tape on the frame, and a pair of carriers over the rear wheels. He also got a head and tail light combination, reflective vest, a multitool, and some energy bars.
“Now point me to Mortensen’s.” And he was off.
The road could have been impossibly steep, but there were a lot of switchbacks. Paved, but no shoulders. He was thankful for the low gears. If he planned to live out here, he was going to have to get into shape. Or buy a car. But the idea of using the bike appealed to him. This was not a place where you needed to hurry, and he certainly had no schedule to deal with.
A shingle at the foot of the driveway, which angled southward up to the house, told him he had reached his destination. The house itself blended into the local coloration so well that with a couple more trees by the road it would be hard to see. The road itself continued more or less down and eastward. The place had a spectacular view to east and west, a whole valley between here and the town, the ocean at the foot of the eastern side of the hill. Vegetation on both sides of the road had looked impassible the whole way from town, and he wondered what it had taken to build the road in the first place. The building looked to be rectangular. It had greenish brown painted cement block walls, porch around both upper levels, red roof with a widow’s walk; two stories on top of a walkout basement. It looked as if someone with a no-nonsense, storm-resistant approach to life had designed it. Separate garage. A fenced and stepped bare garden patch off to the side. Rustic paths curved up both sides of the house. The awning-covered door in front of him looked like it would be a front door if it were one floor up, but it made sense to think of the walk-in basement as the front.
Just before he was close enough to knock, the door opened, revealing a trim not-quite elderly woman and a large black dog. Both looked him over. The dog sniffed his crotch, sneezed, and accepted some pats. “Hello there, young man. Come in for a bit of refreshment from your ride.”
He acknowledged the greeting and stepped inside. The room looked like a kitchen-dining area combination. Homey. Stairs and a door toward the back. The dog asked for a few more pats, and curled up on the rug. “Your pooch must be pretty used to company,” he remarked.
“Well, Octavia called to let me know about you, so I knew to tell Rover not to kill you.” Her eyes twinkled. “Actually, he’d be more likely to lick you to death. Besides the goats gave the all clear, so we knew you weren’t dangerous. Not that anybody with dastardly intentions would ride a bicycle all the way up here. He only barks if I tell him to, or if a loud vehicle stops by—I think he likes to compete with the sound of the exhaust. So have a seat and some tea. Tell me about yourself before I decide whether to show you the room.”
Two iced teas were already on the table, so he sat next to the nearest one and took a sip. Almost sweet, fruity, and something else. Pretty good. He raised it in an appreciative toast, and took another sip. “Hmm. Well, no criminal record, PhD in classical studies, somewhat the midwich cuckoos izle more than half a century old, widower, financially secure, and I like astronomy and mycology. And photography. And I’m willing to try my hand at sailing and scuba. Might stay on the island for a while if they like me here. Um, lessee. I consider coffee to be my drug delivery system of choice; where I come from, we take it intravenously. Other than that I don’t do drugs beyond the very occasional ethanol-containing beverage. I learned to mow grass in high school, do laundry in college, and I generally pick up after myself. Wide variety of jobs over the years, lately mostly in IT. What else would you like to know?”
“Do you pick your nose?”
He blinked. “Well, sometimes, yes.”
She nodded to herself. “Do you like pretty girls?”
He smiled to himself. “Yup. I like to think I’m a gentleman, though. And if you’re thinking of Octavia, I think I’d like her even if she weren’t good looking.”
She smirked. “Can you cook?”
“Won second prize in an outdoor cooking contest once. In Scouts. The judge ate the whole meal, so I missed out on breakfast that day.”
She chuckled. “You’ll do. Let me show you around.” She led him to the stairs. “Basement and storm shelter behind that door, though the house itself has so far survived the occasional storm. You can check it out if you decide to stay, and if I decide to keep you.” The stairs opened into a large living area that looked out three sides of the house. “The north end is my bedroom and bath. It’s not for rent. I assume you know how to work a TV, and we have Wi-Fi. One more flight.”
The top floor held four corner rooms, apparently all about alike, and a common bathroom. The vacant one looked south and west. You could just barely make out the glint of the ocean horizon, and the verdant valley below looked like Eden. The southern ridge zig-zagged into the distance. He thought he saw evidence of a trail.
“The other tenants?”
“Two are seasonal, but they pay yearly, which is nice. They just left, and they’ll show up again come fall. The other is a guest room that happens to be empty at the moment, but the view isn’t quite as nice as this one, so this is the one I rent. You like astronomy, eh? I’ll have to show you my observatory.” They walked into the hall. “Pull that rope.”
He did so, opening a collapsible attic stairway. They ascended into a small room with a trap door in the ceiling. A large Celestron occupied one corner. “How do you get it onto the roof?”
“I have a hoist on top.”
He looked at the telescope more closely. It stood on a sturdy-looking wooden platform, ropes with eyes attached at the corners. Clever. They took the built-in ladder to the trap-doored roof. It was large enough for not only the telescope, but it harbored a table and a large pad. “Sometimes I take a nap up here when I get sleepy, and it’s nice for meteor showers.”
It crossed his mind that the pad was big enough for two people. “I’m impressed. You have a really nice setup here. All I brought with me are a pair of binocs and a decent zoom on my camera.” He sighed. “So how much do I have to pay for you to keep me?”
“Let’s go back down to the kitchen.” They worked out a deal where he’d do some handyman work around the place and contribute to the grocery bill, plus some rent. They were both happy with the arrangement. He liked to be useful, and she liked someone stronger for the work that needed doing, and she said it was more fun cooking for two than for one.
“If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go unload the bike and then take a look at your garden tools.”
“And I’ll fix lunch.”
He puttered around the rest of the day, familiarizing himself with the site and getting started on the garden.
At supper he outlined his garden and site improvement plans and got 100% approval. A quick check of a few news sites, wrote the first several pages of a story he had decided to write, and then he hit the sack.
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