Tag Archives: vacation

Cold

It was the season’s first dip below 32 degrees. And the day’s wind was a harbinger for the months that lay ahead. As it picked away the leaves of fall one by one, and sent so many to their sleep, winter began its long crawl into Sterling Corners.

Chase Hatkins drove down that last mile of 420 before his exit to home. It was dark because it was late, but he reconciled that with the notion that with winter setting in, it would have been dark anyway. He glanced up at the billboard touting “Crazy Low Round Trip Airfares to St. Pete, Orlando and other Locales” and “Round Trip to Miami – $75.” He seemed to catch that one every time, as if it had brighter lights on it which more effectively drew his attention. Just thinking about the cold gave him an uncomfortable shiver in his spine, or perhaps, a touch of nausea.

He didn’t hate winter. It had its charm, in spots, but as he got older, the cold seemed to settle into his bones faster and deeper than he could recall and finding the charm in it all was more o f a struggle each year.

The billboard zipped by, but its message left a subtle impression on him that combined with the slight memories of his past few sightings which seemed to generate some consideration on its message. Chase hated the notion of being manipulated, but damn if the billboard wasn’t doing its job.

It had been over eleven years since he took a vacation. It was a long weekend in Virginia Beach because his feet demanded that they be soaked in the rippling waves of the ocean for a few days. He liked vacations. He liked being away. He was so good at forgetting everything he was responsible for back home that is was almost as if he became a wholly other person. And as he thought about “Crazy Low Round Trip Airfares to St. Pete, Orlando and other Locales” and “Round Trip to Miami – $75,” and balanced that against the pending winter, a tiny ember of longing stirred in his soul.

He could take a vacation, a trip to someplace warm. It would probably be good for him. The airfare seemed right. Then again, he knew those posted airfares were bait meant to lure longing minds like his to dangerous considerations with the promise inexpensive opportunities. A round trip flight to Miami might start at $75, but there would surely be rate windows and limitations, then fees and taxes to make the real cost something higher. Then, there was lodging to consider … and food.

If he tapped out his available savings he could probably spend three economical weeks away soaking up sun rays and forgetting about his frozen existence back home. Work would have no part of it of course. Nobody was allowed more than a week at a time to ensure production quotas. Another consideration was that even after whatever time he could cobble together, he would have to come back. Not only to work, but to the dark and the cold, to his humble abode and to the real life he lead, one far less dramatic and important than the lives he created while away.

He deserved it right? Maybe. Maybe he only deserved what he had because whether by design or by default, that was what he earned.

A burst of wind pushed hard against his car as he left the highway to head up Stiger Road. A neon palm tree flickered in the window of the Southern Heat Tanning Salon. The man on the radio began to talk about the possibility of snow.

Paradise Gone

George Pullman pulled into his driveway at the end of a long day’s work, three days after his vacation. It took a day and a half for the sheen of his time in the islands, that post-vacation euphoria, to evaporate in a cloud of reports, statistics, ratings and fiery circumstances allowed to develop in his absence that needed his immediate attention.

Fortunately, for him a gift awaited on the front step of his house, a gift to himself that he hoped would continue to connect him to the peace and tranquility of those glorious days in paradise, five cases of Manticoopa. Manticoopa was an island favorite and George fell in love with it the moment it crossed his lips. It wasn’t really a soda and it wasn’t really juice. It tasted heavenly any way you served it, straight, on ice, or as a mixer. In one case, he enjoyed a delightful dinner of delicate field quail marinated in Manticoopa and served with a light island fruit chutney.

Manticoopa held within it, the essence of the islands. A delicate balance of fruits mixed with a mango base that was never too sweet or too dry. It had a pleasant, light orange color, an ever so light effervescence so as not to disturb the flavor and the subtle scent of coconut reminiscent of the island breeze. Just thinking about it, he could almost feel himself drifting back to heaven.

His mood perked up considerably. The day might not be a total wash after all. He parked the car, rushed inside and brought the cases into the kitchen. The cost to bring these five cases to Cornington was ridiculous and impulsive. But he so wanted at least the notion of his vacation to continue that he was willing to do the work and pay the cost. One afternoon, he found a distributor willing to ship to the states. George made all the arrangements so that the shipment would arrive safely after his return so he was there to receive them. His work quickly consumed him and he nearly forgot that the cases were on the way.

Now, safely in the privacy of his own kitchen, he prepared to transport himself back to tranquility. He put on some island music, another small gift to himself, a CD of the hotel house band’s most requested songs. He pulled out a special glass intending to highlight the color and let the delicate beverage breathe. He opened case one and pulled out the first of 240 cans that he planned to meter out over the next few months, or whenever he needed a quick escape. He closed his eyes and breathed deep with anticipation as he snapped the top open to release this glorious nectar.   

The Manticoopa tumbled from the can into the glass, a bit darker than he remembered and with a bit more foam. The expectation of a subtle essence of coconut seemed lost in a cloud of fizz, but no matter, this is what he was waiting for. He let the beverage settle before bringing the glass to his lips and taking a full, deep sip. He held the fluid in his mouth and awaited the magic. 

His pursed lips that held back the fluid puckered. His eyes, once closed in anticipation squeezed tighter together as his brain tried to weed through the bombardment of messages coming from the mouth.

His mouth filled with a sour flavor half-reminiscent of a plum well past its prime and a healthy dose of a lemon based furniture polish. Whatever the taste, an immediate flood of saliva mixed with the unsettled concoction and forced him to move the fluid around in his mouth. Pushing it into his cheeks, the flavor transformed again into something more beer-like than fruity and the ever-present essence of stale, wet paper.

George forced himself to swallow. The after taste that coated his mouth forced him to run to the fridge, pull out a beer and cleanse the residue from his palette. He slammed the beer can down on the counter. He looked at the can of Manticoopa. He looked at the full glass minus one healthy swig. He looked at the expensive cases holding the 239 remaining cans, cans which he knew in that moment he would never drink. He looked at the floor. His vacation was truly over.