Jackson eased back in the beach chair as the sound of surf crashed over the beach and up to his table where he lay in the shade of a wooden beach umbrella. He admired the intricate pattern of thatched wood and wondered when they’d started using metal nails along with the thatching. He wondered what kind of wood they used for the umbrellas. He imagined it would be something needing minimal upkeep in terms of drying out and warping. A dozen feet from where he lay, seven wooden umbrellas were under construction. He thought about walking over and taking a closer look but decided his rum punch was closer and he really didn’t feel like getting up so he sipped some rum, keeping in mind that he would have to go easy today. Not like the first night. But then, it was the first time he’d had rum, his first night in a tropical paradise, his first time getting drunk.
Someone else had paid the price for his drunken stupor. He’d made Jax first day in paradise hell-on-earth with a brain splitting hangover. Jax had asked Jack if he would please pass the favour on to Jackson. But mercifully, Jack just left a message for him to take better care of his brother’s head next time.
He watched as a trio of pelican’s buzzed around a couple with a pail of fish. They were letting people take the fish from the pail and feed the pelicans. A middle-aged bald man and his strawberry blond twenty-something daughter, who was almost the spitting image of her father, passed by the pelicans and the daughter held up a small fish as a pelican flapped its wings in front of her and snapped its beak forward, grabbing the fish and giving the girl a nasty bite. She swore at the bird as her father laughed. She swore at her father but he kept laughing. The couple with the pail emptied the rest of the fish on the beach and the pelicans landed and strutted toward the fish as though they owned the beach.
The father said something about pina coladas and the girl stopped swearing as the two made off toward the hotel laughing.
Vacation. He still had a hard time getting his head around it but that was the way lately. Everything made sense now: the cuts and bruises, the bumps and missing teeth, the million and one things he’d had to shrug off since childhood. It all made sense.
And what a wonder everything had become. He had five brothers and a sister. All these years, he had five brothers and a sister and he’d shared his body with them. It took a while to get his head around that one but it all made sense. Ad he’d had a chance to visit his mother before she died.
He remembered looking into her eyes. His brother, Jack’s, friend, Valerie had been there. She’d explained everything before they went to the hospital. Manzer had been there. It had been like a dream. So many truths. So many questions finally answered. As he’d looked into his mother’s eyes he was amazed that he’d never guessed the truth hidden between all those folds of skin, that sparkle in her eyes, his mother’s sparkle, so obviously full of love.
How could I never have seen that? How could I never have known?
The folds of her mouth and lips had kept working as she tried to get the words out. It seemed to take forever with his head bent over her, his ear close to her mouth. And then the barely perceptible words:
And that last long breath with all the years of her secret rushing out as her body relaxed.
For the first time in his life, he’d cried. He’d felt like a sack of water punctured in the eyes so badly that his entire life spilled out through his tears. He wasn’t sure how long he’d cried. He remembered Manzer’s hand on his shoulder and him saying it was a time to go home and talk.
They’d talked, he and Manzer and Valerie, right up till the time.
Manzer said they would come back in the morning and talk to Jax.
(Tomorrow is the final episode of The Weekly Man. How do you think they’ll put all this together and still function as people?)