Monday, November 10, 2008

tropical backwaters

the setting: slightly seedy bar on an out-of-the-way tropical island in what might as well be the south pacific.

the characters:  one brit, heavily tattooed, wiry, small, late 40s, early 50s; another brit, early 60s, or perhaps a bit older, grey hair that has the unreal, unmoving look of a toupee, missing a couple of key teeth in the front; a balding aussie with reading glasses and a severe case of the shakes, might be only late 50s, but could pass for late 60s; heavily-tattooed and pierced, mid-50s american, trying to hold onto youth with long, thinning, grey pony-tail and biker-style leather hat. it’s 11 a.m., but cold, squat, dark-bottled san miguels, glistening with sweat in the heat and humidity, stand before them.

what are they doing here? their conversation is largely about how much tickets cost now to get to the out-of-the-way island. it’s clear they’ve been coming for years. they talk about harrowing landings and take-offs on a nearly-too-short landing strip that starts in the water and ends in a volcanic outcropping that might as well be a mountain. they talk of hong kong, macau, melbourne and manila.

the younger brit who has just arrived has a two-day-old copy of the sun with him. he proceeds to engage in a conversation about how the muslims are taking over the UK...the newspaper has a story of a council that is hesitating to put up their christmas decorations because of the possibility of offending muslims in the community.

i find myself wondering what they’re doing there. what brings them back to this backwater place, where they clearly meet one another again and again? the bartenders know them--setting out their beers without them even asking. people passing by know them. some of the local girls know them. perhaps it’s the girls that bring them back. they’re talking about meeting in melbourne in february. there’s no hint of their business. but i find myself musing on it...small times arms dealers? drugs? whatever it is, it seems small time, more than a bit seedy, insignificant in the scheme of things...something that takes place in a tropical backwater such as this all the time...


Amanda said...

I love musing over the stories of travellers. In bars, in airports, there is always a good story to be had.

tangobaby said...

So, when's the novel coming out? You certainly have the talent for a good story. Make something up for us.