Blue egg shells clung to broken yokes on the marble floor. A bit of fluff lay nearby. The couple--Marjorie and Richard--looked up at the birds, diving and circling around the beams that held the marble pyramid above the hotel lobby. But Lupita, taking them on a hotel tour of the Melia Cabo Real, was already down the open hallway, and Marjorie and Richard quickened their pace to keep up. "Here is el doctor," Lupita said, pointing at closed doors. "He is on duty twenty-four hour a day. Here, the health spa." She pointed at another closed door. "You can sit in the spa hot tub for as long as you want. Just a few nuevo pesos." Richard and Marjorie, their heads bobbing like pigeons, eyed the closed doors, as if they were waiting for doors to be opened and scenes to unfold. Here would be the doctor curing gringos of la turista; there, the hot tub with people laughing and sinking down into the water. "This is the weight room," Lupita said directly to Richard, speaking in Spanish only to him, having learned that the Senora was not speaking, would not even try to speak the language of Mexico. She opened the door half way so that they could see that indeed there was an exercise machine, one lone bicycle in the center of mirrored walls, looking as if there were hundreds of machines going to infinity. Richard pulled Marjorie back, whispering in English, "Looks like I work out alone," he said. Marjorie shrugged. What could she say? Another hotel, another place to get used to. What was the purpose of all of it? Lupita chattered along now in English, describing the gardens, the waterfalls, the four hundred rooms. "The rooms have separate beds," she said, "double beds." When Richard and Marjorie didn't answer, she continued, "The ones over the golf course do, where you can hear the great crash of all the waves." "Si," Marjorie said, as if she knew all along that this would indeed be the case, but these were the first words she had spoken since she'd stepped from the bus to the marble floor of the hotel lobby. Yesterday, she was convinced that her heart had almost stopped, seeing the ghostly white animal, walking out in front of the rocking unstable bus, standing there, ignoring the horn, waiting until just when it seemed that the bus would crash into it, to saunter across, swing its head, its bell ringing, its tail slapping, as though that slap could push it forward faster. The bumper of the bus slipped by with inches to spare. She had spoken then, to Richard, asking him for the Spanish words that would describe a ghostly cow, and she put them together as vacca fantasma, a strange and dangerous image --something that could run out in front of you, kill you. It was right after the cow stepped out that the headlights flashed on the white cross on the side of the road, and Marjorie felt herself becoming afraid, the kind of paranoia that she couldn’t resist. She gave herself over to the shadows inside herself, and she simply quit talking. Now they were at the second hotel in two days, and this time traveling in daylight, she saw the white cross again, and though afraid because she didn’t know what it meant, she let it float through her mind while she followed Lupita and Richard. Could someone be buried there, right on the edge of the road. Who? Lupita, anxious to have her potential hotel guests take part in the hotel services, addressed rapid fire questions to Marjorie, since now the Senora was also talking. Marjorie, however, did not think that one word of "yes" in Spanish meant Lupita should think she, Marjorie, should take a bigger share of the conversation. "Are the children at home?" Lupita asked. "No, No, not at home,"Richard said in English, pulling Marjorie along with him. Marjorie could tell that Richard didn’t want to leave her out, wanted to keep her talking, moving away from the silence that she imposed on herself. "Are they with their abuela?” Lupita asked. “The grandmother,” she continued, translating with a smile, that she meant to be warm, but to Marjorie came across as patronizing. "No, no, grandmother," Marjorie said, trying to smile. "Both of our parents are dead." "That must be hard for the children," Lupita said. Richard launched into soft Spanish, saying what Marjorie knew without his translating as soon as she heard the words, ninos and ninas. "There are no children," he said in English, and Marjorie stiffened and stopped. Was he going to tell their whole life story to the hotel hostess? "Then your house is empty of light," Lupita said, with the calm matter-of-fact tone of someone in a culture that had decisions weighed and balanced before birth in a pattern that she could simply fit into at a specific point in time. Marjorie wanted the conversation moving somewhere else. “What’s that cross on the side of the road?” she asked, expecting a long explanation of some part of Mexican culture. Instead, Lupita looked away. “That . . . that cross is for my boyfriend,” she said slowly. He killed himself riding his motorcycle. It is three years ago now.”. I am so sorry,” Marjorie said, now uncomfortable that she had asked, feeling as though she was taking something in, and at the same time, that something was pouring out of her from somewhere deep, disappearing into the desert air. She didn’t know what else to say. Richard led her out into the tiled main hotel balcony, set with tables with large umbrellas. Marjorie’s eyes caught the blue of the ocean beyond the white bird cages that stood covered with scrolls of flowers and leaves. Two yellow parakeets sat in the cage, their little feet holding tight to wooden dowels. They made half chirps as she touched the cage. But that blue beyond! To her, it seemed to stretch out farther than she really wished it would go, to a never-never land, past and through all trips, all the oceans of their trips. Past all the horizons to Richard’s way of seeing, coping with the world. Her arm was being pulled by Lupita, who pointed out, way past the pool, past the carefully situated palm trees, to the invisible world beyond. “We even have whales here, Senora,” she said, then turned. A phone rang in the lobby behind all of them, and Lupita, with apologies in Spanish and English, clicked her high heels back to the phone. After they checked in, Marjorie and Richard went to their new room. Richard tipped the bellboy, and Marjorie walked to the open balcony and looked out at the magnificent gardens. Green, green, green, she saw, and beyond the bluest-green of blues to hold in her mind forever. But what would they do for two whole weeks in this room? Why had she agreed to come here instead of vacationing in Seattle, in a world, even if it wasn’t what she expected in life, was one they shared together. Richard came up behind her. "It's a nice room," he said, kissing her neck. Marjorie pulled away. Green, green, green. Richard didn't see the colors. The light and all the shadows, intruding on the light. The world looked best to her when the desert light came alive from the giant transplanted palms and cactus. "Look," she said, "a nest." Swinging between those banana leaves, a little hammock of yellow relaxed in space. "A nest," Richard repeated. She turned to him and touched his arm. He wrapped himself around her, and she felt safe, and almost said that to him as she leaned against his arm. Secure, she let him get closer to her. His hand touched her breast. She knew she was saying yes, but her voice was silent. She wasn’t really saying anything at all. They made love quietly, slowly, and afterwards, Richard lay there next to her for the longest time, saying nothing. Finally, he asked, "So what do you think?" "About what?" Marjorie did not want to be drawn into something unawares. "About our new digs. Better than the hotel we tried yesterday, isn’t it?” Richard asked. "Si, of course," Marjorie said. She rolled from the bed and slid into her robe. She stepped out onto the balcony to study the small nest. A tiny beak popped up. Richard, now beside her, turned her away from the nest. "Over there, way beyond in the garden," he said, his eyes staring far off, a smile taking over his face. There Lupita stood pointing in the direction of el doctor and the spa, and they both knew exactly what she was saying. They laughed almost at the same time. Marjorie felt the weight that she was never aware of until after it was gone finally lifting. She walked back into the room and dropped her robe. She anointed her body with sun tan lotion. Richard slid it on in places she couldn't reach. She smoothed the smell of coconut oil over his back and down his legs. Now they both wanted to be at the ocean, as close as possible to it now, and they dressed without talking. A few sunbathers gathered under the small palapas near the shore. A yellow dog and a black dog eyed Richard and Marjorie. Marjorie felt the yellow eyes go back deep inside her brain to somewhere primitive. She did not look at the dog again. Richard tossed his towel down, took off his watch, and buried it in the corner of the towel. "I don't need this," he said. "We're not on any time schedule now." But Marjorie wanted to take her fanny pack, even though it was an unnecessary add on, hitched around her middle. She shrugged her shoulders, loosened the belt a little, and followed Richard out into the desert light. They took off across the hot sand, walking in the water, running up, running back to miss the shallow lapping of the waves. They passed the so green, almost too green golf course with the sparse desert hills beyond, and headed further west up the coast. Beyond the jetty, the waves picked up power and pushed their way to shore, thumping, then vibrating the sand. They had not gone far, when Marjorie saw shadows pass by her. She turned. The same two dogs they had seen earlier, plus three more, encircled them. She pulled her arms in close to her sides. Richard waved the dogs away. The dogs moved a few paces away, then came back. "They're just touring the beach," he said. One of the dogs, the yellow one, Marjorie could see, was pregnant. She moved toward the water. "I'm jumping in if they get any closer” She headed toward the water. The dogs followed her to the water. "They think it's a game," Richard said. “Let’s just keep walking.” Marjorie and Richard were separated now, but they tried to head down the beach. The dogs barked. "They aren't attacking," Richard said. "They're holding us here. Wave your arms." They waved their arms. The dogs barked and held them in place. "That's not doing it," Marjorie said. "You said beach dogs was harmless. You said they wouldn't harm a flea. You said they --." "Marjorie," Richard said, his voice slipped from warmth to ice. "Quit it. They're just dogs. We can outlast them. They've got to get bored. We don't have any food or anything." They stood still, silent, with the dogs barking and nobody else on the beach. Then one by one, the dogs started whimpering, and then took off with only the yellow dog left. Finally, she trotted away, her heavy body, swinging low against the sand. "Should we go back?" Richard asked. "No," Marjorie said. "I'm not scared anymore, but I don't ever want to go through that again." "It's something to tell home about," Richard said. Marjorie felt herself slipping back into some space inside herself where she could be very quiet and alone, with the door shut. They walked on and soon had almost forgotten the dogs. The sea glitter had stolen both their hearts and refused to give it back. They sat in the sand and watched the horizon, scanning for nothing in particular, noting a fishing boat, a sailboat, fish jumping and the small birds that dove and skimmed above the water and refused to be pulled into the waves. Marjorie thought she heard Spanish and giggles. No. Yes. She stood up. Two children ran across the sand, their dark bare feet, kicking up sand, their bodies as they broke out of shadow and into light, so rich and deep a color that it took her breath away. Dark eyes squinted up at her. They were so close. She backed up. They moved even closer. Richard sat watching, his face and eyes laughing as the children plied their trade. They surrounded Marjorie. Smiling, she still put out her hands as if she could keep them at a distance. "Chiclets, Chiclets," they chanted with big smiles, white t-shirts and blue shorts. They did a little dance, shouting, "Por favor, por favor. It’s cheap gum. It's good gum." Even though she smiled, Marjorie felt strained. She looked into the brown eyes of one of the children, and she could see such light, such warmth, and she felt her face freeze and her lips press together; It was all she could do to reach into her fanny pack and give the children some pesos. The children looked at the money, counted once, then again. They screamed and handed her all the gum they had and left. They yelled back, "Gracias, senora, you are a beautiful woman. You are a wonderful woman." Marjorie stuffed the Chiclets in her fanny pack. She sat down next to Richard. Did he miss children more than she? He was always more comfortable around children than she was even though he said that he didn't know quite what to do with them. But neither of them would have known what to do with children. It would have been an experiment for them, but that would have been like any other first time parents. Marjorie didn't say anything about that to Richard. Things were not right. For her anyway. She pulled on his arm. "Let's walk further to that rock." "That's miles," said Richard, an expert on how far away things were. "Well, close to it then, as close as we want to get," Marjorie said. They walked for another half hour and the rock grew larger, but they were no where near it. Again, they sat and watched the sea. Richard made an hour glass of his hand and let sand flow to form a small pyramid below. "Bits of time," he said. Marjorie nodded, hearing what she thought was bells, but it was more like jangling. Bracelets? Marjorie and Richard, startled now, looked behind them. Trudging toward them under many blankets was an old Mexican man. He smiled an empty smile, void of teeth and asked, "A blanket for you, senora, for the bed of your casa." Backlit, as he moved closer, the old man appeared bigger and more powerful than he had before. Marjorie and Richard started to get up. With his hand, the old man waved them back in place. "From my casa to your casa," he said, waiting. Marjorie and Richard tried to get up again. "Sit, por favor" the old man said. "You can choose from there. It's a beautiful blanket, yes? He pulled out another one and fanned it across the sand. Then another, and another. Marjorie saw more men coming across the sand. "No, no blankets," she said to the old man, but loud enough for the others coming closer to hear. "Only twenty American dollars, senora," he said. "We have a small one for children." He pulled out a small blanket with a grey coyote on it, turquoise and red stripes. "No," Richard said. The other men trudged closer. Bright blankets waved in space. "No," Richard said, pushing himself up. The old man put his hand on Richard's shoulder. "Perhaps, if you don't like my blankets, you will like those of my brother or my cousin." Richard dropped back, his muscles were tense. Marjorie saw that same look on his face when he was a Golden Gloves champ in college, coming up after being knocked down, ready for bear, to win. She too started to get up too then, with one knee on the sand, and she pushed on the other. Her hand reached out to Richard to stay him, to stop him. She touched his arm, pushing against it. Richard pulled away, rising, and she felt herself being dragged up next to him. The old Mexican touched her arm, and she said firmly now, "No, no blankets." Richard pushed the old man away, and the old man, losing his balance, went down among his blankets. The other men moved in, upset. "No blankets, no blankets," Richard said, over and over. He started toward the old man, to pull him up, but the old man sat. “It is nothing, senor, and he waved him away. Aware of how deserted the beach was except for them and the blanket sellers, Marjorie grabbed Richard’s arm and dragged him down the beach back toward the hotel. "We don't need blankets, none, ever," she said, yelling back at the men. Loud Spanish followed them, then was covered in the crash of the waves. Out of breath, they stopped. "I've got to sit for a minute," Marjorie said. She looked back. The men had disappeared. Richard smoothed some sand, and they sat before the surf again. "It's not okay, is it?" he said. "You mean about the Mexicans?" Marjorie asked. "It's a good thing you didn't deck one of them. You'd be in a Mexican prison." "I don’t mean that,” he said, " I could have taken them all on. I mean the other thing." Marjorie didn't answer. She had thought they faced everything, solved it and moved on, but now she knew he was right. She didn’t know if she could face it now. She imagined her feet in the water--in the sea with that soft warm feeling washing over you. That's what she wanted. A dream she had the night before flowed before her. In the dream, a grizzly bear came out of pine trees, padding toward her, where she sat at a picnic table. It came so close, so close she could smell its scent, and she turned and ran, not in control of her dream, totally immersed. . . . Richard pulled her up next to him and they ran to the water, covering their feet. A huge wave crashed toward them, and they both ran backward, half wet, and screamed, making themselves afraid, then laughing. "Sit down," Richard said, pulling her down on dry sand. Marjorie sat down, aware Richard was getting more directive in his twenty-five years of living with her. She decided she really would have to assert herself more. "I am sitting because I want to sit," she said. "Good," Richard said, smiling. "Yes, good," she said, looking at him more closely now. He was greying at the temples. His moustache was totally grey. "You are the greying of America," she said. "You too," Richard said, pulling one strand of her hair, separating it from the others. "I refuse," Marjorie said, but she saw herself as she had earlier in front of the mirror in their room, streaks of grey coveting her brown hair. Her green eyes would never go with grey. They sat, staring at the sea again. Marjorie began counting the waves, trying to see if she could predict which would be the tallest, the biggest one to pound on itself before pulling back. . . . The bear had almost gotten her in her dream, but then she had changed it into two baby bears. When she walked toward them, she saw them tossing and tumbling on the grass. She saw sharp, sharp claws. Then the bears darkened, becoming shifting shapes that finally turned into shadows, like the shadows of the children on the beach. "You're not over it either," Richard said. We just weren’t able to have children. You have to snap out of this somehow. You can’t let some past you never had haunt you forever." Before Marjorie could say what she thought, say what she really felt, or even decide no to say anything at all, a yellow butterfly flew up and down in quick arcs heading toward the waves. "No, if it goes that way, it will be killed,” Marjorie said, her body stiffening in place. "The salt spray...." The butterfly flew above the waves, darting this way and that, and then Marjorie couldn't see it anymore. A pounding, vibrating wave, came to them, and they jumped up, moving away from the rush. Marjorie saw a bit of yellow, struggling, pulled out to sea. "You have to face where you are in time, square in your teeth," Richard said. "Not now, not now," Marjorie said, knowing that she had to, that she must, instead getting up and running down the beach toward the hotel, toward the lush, green, green, green, and the pyramid of a rust-colored hotel, to where the breeze would come across the balcony and she could remain hidden from the shadows of children.
Norma Sadler short stories have appeared in Pembroke Magazine,
St. Andrews Review, Chanteh: the Iranian Cross
Cultural Quarterly, and the ezine"Moondance: Women in
the Creative Arts," and others. "The Fun House" was
scripted for a readers theatre by Baymax Productions
in Burbank. Her book "Multicultural Connections:
Creative Writing, Literature, and Assessment in the
Elementary School" was published by Scarecrow PRess, a
division of Rowman and Littlefield in 2002. She teaches at
Boise State University.
Contact Norma Sadler at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Norma Sadler at email@example.com
January 30, 2003