Why a Dog is Sometimes Better to Have Around Than a Husband
Whatever you do...
Did you bring mah cherries?
You know that feeling you get on the back of your neck when you just know that somebody is standing right behind you...waiting for you to turn around? The tiny hairs rise and that flush of adrenaline pumps into your system, the genetic gift of our ancestry that makes it possible to go from zero to roadrunner (Meep, meep!) in seconds flat. You feel trapped, like the heroine in a bad B-rated horror film. The audience is screaming, "Don't turn around, don't turn around...for the love of G...geesh, I told her not to turn around! Of course the monster ate her...she TURNED AROUND!"
For a few precious seconds, standing at the side of the large bird cage, I chose to heed the words of the audience. Cooing to the parrots, I reached my fingers into the disposable plastic cup that I held in my left hand, probing about until I had extracted another maraschino cherry heavily soaked in the remnants of my pina colada. "Here you go, sweetie," I said softly, luring the parrot closer as I stuck my fingers between the bars. My sister would be so proud of me, I thought. I'm deathly afraid of large birds...well, not really the entire bird...just their beaks. I wasn't as frightened of the two macaws in this cage however since we'd become good friends over the course of my honeymoon in Aruba. Every day, I saved the garnishes from my drinks at the bar...pineapples and cherries mostly and offered them to the parrots. Cautiously, the red and turquoise macaw made his way toward me, finally wrapping his sturdy claws around the bar next to my unprotected fingers. Very gently, almost as if the bird was aware of my cautious bravery, the beak opened and with the precision of a surgeon, extracted the fruit from my fingertips.
With that done, and a promise to the parrot that I would see him again tomorrow, I knew that I was left with no other choice but to turn around and finally confront the source of my unease. I had a suspicion about who it was...and I was pretty sure it wasn't a good looking guy dressed in leiderhosen.
I should explain that last remark, shouldn't I?
Sorry Jan...it's always about Marcia.
When I graduated from high school, my older sister sent me a ticket to come and spend the summer with her in Florida. Growing up, the two of us had been very close but being five years my senior, she had been on her own for a while and the distance had opened a rift between us. We were both looking forward to the opportunity to bridge that gap with some serious sister time.
Growing up, I had been her shadow...sort of like the Jan to her Marcia Brady. Unlike Jan though, I had never minded. Michele always drew men to her like bees to honey...and she knew it. With a casual flip of her long blonde hair, she would whisper to me as we walked down the seaside boardwalk, "How many now, Laurie?" referring to the number of men that had nearly suffered a fatal case of whiplash. I would give a smug grin and respond with a number that I knew she would deem satisfactory. So I stretched the truth a bit at times...this was my big sister...my idol.
Five years of separation had taken their toll however. For one thing, I was four inches taller than my older sibling and it was difficult to physically hide in her shadow. And...well I just didn't feel like coddling her ego anymore. When I was young, her narcissism was rather endearing...and now, it was just annoying.
We went to Busch Gardens one day and as usual, we hadn't been there for more than a few minutes when men began tripping over themselves, trying to find a way to get her attention. Despite my best attempt to rush her through the crowds, we still found ourselves trapped on a tram ride with two besotted boys, each one trying to outshine the other for my sister's affection. I felt pretty damn invisible...and my mood steadily declined. How could men be so stupid? Perhaps I was a bit jealous...no, let's be honest...I was choking on my own envy and throwing myself a veritable pity party in one corner of the car. I consoled myself with the thought that any male foolish enough to fall for a woman simply because of how she looked, was not good enough for me.
Michele tried to help. When it came to her wardrobe, she was always very generous in allowing me to borrow her things. It wasn't her fault that everything looked great on her...or that she knew how to capitalize on it. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I did take advantage of her offer to wear whatever I wanted of hers. Did I think somehow there was magic in those garments and that by putting them on it would transform me? Perhaps. But if that was the case...I was always bitterly disappointed. My reflection was always a travesty of my sister's image. Instead of making me feel more confident in myself, as my sister had hoped it would, I felt even more self conscious, almost to the point of self-loathing.
I waited out the ride leaning in the corner with my arms folded defensively over my chest...despising those two fools, but still able to admire my sister.
These are not the best choice for dancing shoes...
After shaking off the groupies, Michele suggested having lunch at the Hofbrau House before continuing our adventures in the amusement park. She held me at arm's length suddenly and examined me with a critical eye. As usual, I was wearing my Michele costume, having raided her closet before our outing. The Hawaiian print wrap around shorts which had looked so adorable on her, were trying to creep up into the crack of my ass and I had to keep plucking them out. The pale yellow flirty tank top with the lace trim seemed to miss her as well and hung in a rather despondent fashion on my body. To top off this stunning ensemble, I'd worn an attractive pair of cheap flip flops. I gave Michele a look of despair.
"Nope...she said. It won't work. I'm going to have to go and get the beer...they'll never believe you are old enough even though you are tall."
I let out my breath in relief. Oh...was that all that had been about? Feeling a bit better, I walked into the cool, dark interior of the restaurant with my sister. We found a table alongside the stage just as the next show was about to begin. Before taking a seat though, I paused to admire the dancers as they came out on stage...eight men and women in Bavarian costume. One in particular caught my eye and I exploited my usual anonymity with the opposite sex to take full advantage of the opportunity. To my embarrassment, our eyes met, once my gaze had traveled upward far enough. His eyes sparkled with unconcealed merriment while I flushed a deep red at having been caught out. I turned around hastily and sat down with my back to the stage. We'll have no more of that, I thought.
Michele excused herself to go and get pizza and beer. It seemed to take a rather long time...long enough for a good portion of the show to have been performed. As I sat there, studiously ignoring the stage, my eyes straining to catch some glimpse of my sister returning with our tray, the emcee of the program made an announcement. "And now ladies and gentlemen...our dancers will go out into the audience and choose a partner for the final polka!"
"Michele...where the hell are you?" I muttered under my breath. In a flash of intuition, I realized I was in great peril of being drafted sitting here alone as I was. At least if my sister were here, I could fade safely into the background...a place I was suddenly longing to be.
And then it happened...the back of my neck prickled uncomfortably and I felt a queasy feeling in my stomach. I waited...but I didn't feel a tap on my shoulder and I didn't hear anyone talking to me. The feeling persisted though. Well, okay...I just wouldn't turn around. If I turned around...I'd only feel really silly discovering how wrong I had been anyway. So....I'll just pretend that I'm not feeling like he's standing right behind me.
And then the audience began to giggle...softly at first...a snicker here and there and then louder as if some immense joke was being played. I wasn't sure what was so damn funny...but I had a sneaking suspicion it involved me somehow.
Red-faced, I turned around in my seat and slowly raised my eyes. That same expression of amusement was on his face as he stood there with his hands planted firmly on his hips waiting patiently...leiderhosen and all. He smiled and crooked his finger at me saying, "I choose you."
"But I don't dance very well," I whispered frantically as he grasped my hand and led me to the stage while the audience applauded. "That's okay," he said cheerfully, "we'll just blame it on your flip-flops." I looked down at my feet and grimaced. Oh yeah...doing a polka in flip flops was going to be a lot of fun.
I'm sure it was a ludicrous sight to behold. Well, I can only guess that from the expression on Michele's face. After arriving at our table, she looked around in confusion, double-checking to make sure that she had returned to the right location. From the stage, I yelled "Michele!" and waved. She turned around and froze with the tray still in her hands, her mouth hanging open in shock.
I relived the moment for her during lunch...my wild adventure. "Incredible," Michele said thoughtfully chewing on a slice of pizza, "and you say you just KNEW he was going to pick you?" I nodded, "Strange, huh?" We both agreed that it was...and that was that.
I wouldn't trust this smile...would you?
Well, there was no sense in putting off the inevitable I thought as I took a deep breath and turned away from the parrot cage. It was time to confront my stalker...
Sure enough it was Yourin, the slimy toad of a bartender from the beach bar. He said hello to me in his heavy Colombian accent and gave a smile that would have put the toothy menace of a Great White shark to shame. I nodded nervously in response and tried to step around him. To my chagrin, Yourin drew up alongside me, his intention to accompany me on my stroll quite clear. I had no choice then. Reluctantly I turned in the direction of the beach bar to rejoin my husband. He might be in a fine alcoholic stupor...but I still had faith he would protect me from unwanted attention.
For the duration of the walk, Yourin kept up a non-stop dialog in his native tongue. Occasionally his voice would lower to a suggestive octave and he would gift me with one of his skin-crawling smiles. I had a few years of high school Spanish under my belt, comprehending it with a lot more ease than I could speak it. Still, Yourin spoke so rapidly that I found myself catching only one out of every three words. It didn't make sense to me...surely I was misunderstanding what this man was saying. Did he just say something about meeting me back here this evening?
I was relieved when the two of us finally arrived back at the bar. Seeing my husband sitting there, cigarette in his hand, swaying slightly on his bar stool, I could look back on the past half hour and laugh at my silly imagination. I was on my honeymoon! It wasn't like it was a big secret...especially with Gary constantly fidgeting with his shiny new gold wedding band. Women don't get propositioned by their bartender on their honeymoon!!! And especially...not women like me.
Just to prove to myself how ridiculous it was, I decided to share my absurd thoughts with my husband. We could both have a good laugh, even it was at my expense. "I'm sure it was nothing and that I simply misheard," I said flippantly to Gary, "for all I know...he could have been recommending that we try the Fiesta Chicken for dinner. Pretty silly, huh?"
A good husband would have just agreed and left it at that. A great husband would have put his arm around my waist, kissed me on the cheek and said, "Well, darling, I really couldn't blame him if he tried to seduce you. It's what I would do." Instead my husband managed to find the one thing that would piss me off. "That's GREAT!" Gary replied in exuberance, "That means he'll be really generous with my drinks. You keep flirting with him honey..."
Great...my husband was willing to pimp me for alcohol. But then again, why was I really surprised? It wasn't as if we were on a honeymoon together...oh no. Gary was with the true love of his life right here at the bar. Perhaps that was why the bartender had hit on me. Maybe I was sending off some mysterious signals indicative of my sexual neediness. How sad is that? On my honeymoon...and already a desperate housewife.
With that running through my mind, I watched in horror as Yourin delivered another drink to my husband without it being requested. Gary smiled widely, reaching for the drink and enjoying his new status as wife pimp. Yourin threw me a nauseating wink as if we were conspirators, both eager for the unsuspecting husband to fall into a convenient state of unconsciousness. That was it! I finally snapped and grabbed Gary by the arm.
"Leave that there...or take it with you...I don't care, but we're going to get something to eat before you pass out," I said, trying to drag him away from the bar. Gary stood up, staggering and reached into his back pocket for his wallet. He began to extract a twenty dollar bill and lay it on the bar.
"What do you think you are doing?" I asked in horror. "Don't you dare leave twenty dollars...it would be like you are encouraging him or something. Ten will be fine." I snatched the twenty from his hand, left a more appropriate tip and hustled my husband from the beach bar.
Kittens look cute faceplanted in food...
It didn't take long before Gary face-planted into his plate of linguini. Somehow, it's more amusing in a movie or a sitcom. I didn't find it funny in the least. With apologies to the waitstaff, I half-carried my husband to our room and dropped him on the bed before plucking the remaining strands of pasta from his hair and face. Another night in paradise, I thought with a disappointed sigh. I picked up my book and took it out onto the porch...as far as I could get away from Gary's obnoxious snoring.
Not for the first time, I sat looking over the water as the sun slowly began to sink toward the horizon, wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Here I was...on my honeymoon...with the man I loved and not one lustful thought cast in my direction. No wonder I was inventing the amorous intentions of a total stranger. Or maybe even worse...maybe he really had been hitting on me. How pathetic. Our bartender thinks I'm an easy target...even though I'm on my honeymoon. Had I given him some signal...led him on in some fashion? I tried to think back over the events of the day, to pinpoint the first time he had begun to make me feel uneasy with the way he looked at me. I remembered sitting at the bar, responding in halting Spanish to his queries about what I would like to drink and whether or not I was enjoying my stay in Aruba. Wait...our hands had touched. Yourin had tried to clear away my little pile of fruit and without thinking I had placed my own on top of his, asking him to please not take them because they were for the birds...
Was it as simple as that? Well...perhaps, but it wasn't like it mattered in the end because there was no way I was going to meet him anywhere...even if that was what he had been suggesting...which was a really silly thing to assume. And with that...I put it out of my mind, picked up my book and lost myself in another person's imagination for a change.
At 7:30 p.m. I was jarred from my novel by the shrill sound of the room phone ringing. Worried that it would wake Gary up, I hurried into the room and picked up the receiver. "Hello?" I asked tentatively, wondering who on earth would be calling our room.
I could barely make out the voice on the other end...the accent was too heavy and it sounded as if he was whispering. I thought I caught the words "waiting for you" and "where are you" but since I wasn't sure, I simply said, "I'm sorry...you must have the wrong room." The voice apologized profusely and I hung up.
Now I can be pretty dense when I want to be...but after hanging up that phone, looking at Gary still blissfully unconscious...the thought did cross my mind briefly...was that the bartender? I shook my head, laughed at myself...me and my imagination...geesh. And then, as early as it was, I called it a night and crawled into bed beside my husband.
This dog bears a striking resemblance to Kahuna...
I'm an early riser...even more so on vacation and then double it again if I happen to be near a beach. No sooner had the sun begun to rise and the turquoise colors of the Caribbean begin to become apparent, then I was itching to be outside. Besides, the resort put on a fantastic breakfast spread with everything you could possibly imagine and the sound of fresh fruit, toast and coffee sounded exquisite.
Gary on the other hand would probably sleep until well past noon.
I tiptoed out of the room, nearly tripping over Kahuna, as he lay protectively in the doorway. Gary hated the stray dog that had adopted me on the first day of our trip to Aruba. The feeling was somewhat mutual. I nudged the sandy-colored mutt with my toe and gave him a piece of my mind. "Where were you yesterday when I needed you?" He gave me a doggy smile, his tongue hanging out of his mouth, stretched and walked alongside me as we descended the stairs to the terrace dining room.
The staff of the resort had pretty much given up on trying to evict Kahuna from the outdoor dining area. Instead, we were given our "usual" table at the furthest end, closest to the sea. It was, in my opinion the best seat in the house. Kahuna never begged, but I fed him anyway, along with the birds that hopped onto my table and the lizards that occasionally scampered across my feet. Whoever thought I was dining alone, didn't realize just how much company I actually had for my meal.
My beautiful morning hit a sour note however as I spied Yourin on pool duty, not more than twenty feet away from me, carefully running the vacuum along the bottom in preparation for the day's use. He smiled his toothy white smile and waved. Not wanting to be completely rude, I gave a half-hearted wave back noting with satisfaction the soft growl that emanated from beneath the table. So, I thought, Kahuna didn't like him either. I might question my own judgement, but I wouldn't dream of doubting this dog's opinion.
Taking my wave as a "come hither" request, Yourin put the vacuum down and casually strolled over to my table. In broken English he tried to explain the apparent mix up of the previous night...how he tried to call me when I didn't show up...and how he had gotten the wrong room. To my credit, I recovered quickly from my shock at being right...and not delusional. As firmly as I could I replied, "No...you didn't get the wrong room. I just didn't realize it was you. Don't call me again...or I'll sick the dog on you."
Kahuna had perfect timing...I really had to hand it to that dog. To punctuate my demand, he stared up into Yourin's eyes with deadly promise and bared his teeth. It had the appropriate effect. Yourin quickly backed up and returned to his pool duties without another word or glance in my direction.
"You are a great dog," I said patting Kahuna on the head, rewarding him with the remainder of my bacon. "I don't suppose you could teach my husband that trick, could you?" Kahuna cocked his head...but I'm pretty sure I didn't imagine the intelligent spark of humor in his eyes. My imagination might have a tendency to test the boundaries of plausibility...but when it came to Kahuna, I never doubted his unique abilities. He was after all...the king of the beach dogs.