Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor
Later that morning, Toussaint delivered Herbert Trent-Phillips to a social gathering at the tip of the island, earning in the process the twenty dollars that was to pay for their research at the Crab Hole that afternoon. The Crab Hole was aptly named, except that no self-respecting crab would make a home in this particular hole. Its four rickety tables were generally filled by the water-taxi drivers during the afternoon lull when the French tourists drank wine and insulted each other, the British took tea in the shade, and pasty Americans tried to erase generations of hereditary white skin in an orgiastic bout with the Caribbean sun. The rum was cheap, and the vintage tunes on the Crab Hole’s jukebox even cheaper. Toussaint’s twenty dollars was split sixty-forty between rum and golden oldies, and the two young men spent the afternoon soaking up both. Roberto mostly sat and sipped his courage, for Toussaint was not about to let another day go by before his literacy brought these two starfish-crossed lovers together whether they liked it or not; Roberto would give his performance that very night at Marianne’s back porch. Toussaint himself scribbled on a paper placemat as the seductive words of Johnny Cash, Fats Domino, and the Purple People Eater filled the Crab Hole air. Roberto’s declaration of love was completed by 5 o’clock, and from then until dusk, Toussaint put him through a rigorous dress rehearsal.
The sun took its evening dip in the placid Caribbean. With a sense of adventure amplified by alcohol and the growing belief that they had entered a new literary realm in which Toussaint, Roberto, and Herbert Trent-Phillips were the only living souls, pledges in the fraternity of immortality, and not unhappy to remain pledges if the price of full membership were death, they pointed Toussaint’s aquatic hack toward Palmas Bay, where Marianne and her mother lived, if you can call a life without Toussaint and Roberto in it living.
Roberto would find Marianne’s dwelling romance-friendly, for it had not just a back porch but an actual balcony in the Shakespearean sense, one that might have been designed for the delivering of soliloquies. And actually it had been designed that way, or at least as a romantic place to stare at the moon and breathe bosomy sighs, for Marianne’s mother had been a dramatis persona of sorts in her younger days. But that was three husbands, forty years, and 200 pounds ago.
Roberto and his speechwriter crept through the fragrant frangipani up to the back of the house. Toussaint remained at a short distance so he could see everything, but pushed Roberto ahead to where nature in her cooperative way had placed a pretty hibiscus, just the right size and shape for concealing a swain and his cue cards.
“Marianne,” whispered Roberto in a voice not unlike the wicked witch of the west’s. No answer.
“Marianne,” he said louder, his voice cracking but at least without menace in it. The fact that the earth had not opened up and swallowed him gave Roberto a little lift, and he said more assertively and louder still: “Oh, dear one.” When he heard movement on the balcony above, he pointed the little flashlight at Toussaint’s script and cleared his throat.
This story originally appeared in American Way, the inflight magazine of American Airlines. It is included in Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean.