My father got so drunk the next night that he spent a couple hours talking to my brother and I about our inheritance. Whenever we would tell him that we understood and he didn’t need to worry about us, he would say that we needed to know this because he could die at any time. Hell, he said, he could get syphilis tonight.
A new couple arrived at the fishing camp that evening, and they joined us for dinner. Dad spent the entire dinner hour trying to get his pasta salad from his plate to his mouth. Unsuccessfully. Finally, my brother lured him to bed with a half bottle of One Barrel Rum and he passed out. Once an hour, we left the bar to check on him and make sure he was still breathing. He usually was.
The next day, we went north to Mexico (an hour boat ride) to a place where there are underwater caves just chock-full-o-fishes. We caught myriad Red Snapper, as well as a bunch of yellow snapper, black snapper, rock snapper, and something that the guide, Luis, kept calling a "hamburger." On the way back south, Luis said "By the way, if we are stopped by any rangers, do not mention the live-well in the boat. Where we just caught those fish is a nature reserve."
That night, while Luis was cleaning our poached fish, my brother was walking around in the water beside the dock, picking up conch, moving them, and putting them down again for no apparent reason. The guide said, "Hey Todd, you might not want to be in there. There are Moray Eels living under the dock."
"Right." Todd said. "You can’t scare me, Luis."
Just then, a pair of eels sped out from beneath the dock, between Todd’s legs, and attacked the fish entrails Luis had thrown into the water. Todd pulled a Savior moment as he ran across the surface of the water back to the dock. We watched in horrid fascination as the two lime-green leviathan rolled and riled and tore at the bits of snapper. Each was about 4 feet long, and as big around as a soda can. Their ugly, dragon faces masticated fiercely, sending crimson billows out through the water with each bite.
"Those are the babies." Luis said, "The adults are over six feet long, and this big around." He held his hands together as if they were wrapped around a milk jug.
"Fuck" Todd and I said together.
The next day, we dressed back up in our suits and took the boat ride to San Pedro. We had about two hours to kill, so we wandered the town in search of souvenirs for our wives and a particular bar we had not had the chance to visit yet.
The bar was called "Hammock House." It was three stories high, on stilts. It was open air, overlooking the ferry I described earlier. Instead of chairs, there were hammocks and rope seats throughout the bar. You would get your cocktail and then go lie in a hammock while you drank. After a couple of "hangover helpers" I ordered a mango salsa lobster sandwich. Damn that was good.
The Hammock House has a calendar on the wall called "the golf cart drop." When I asked about it, I was informed that it was a betting pool. About once a month, a golf cart gets driven/knocked/dropped off of the ferry. For five bucks, you get to own a date on the calendar. If the golf cart goes in on your day, then you get the pot. I just love the fact that it happens often enough for there to be a betting pool.
We finally made it back to the airport, and who should be waiting to pilot the next flight to Belize City? Our Ass-Tastic Canadian Friend. She took one look at us, said "Gentlemen" and stormed out of the airport. Our flight was delayed a half hour while they tracked down a replacement pilot. Finally, we got on board, and again there was not enough room, so Todd sat in the copilot seat. At one point he convinced our pilot to fly straight into a storm cloud. The resulting pressure drop caused us to fall about 200 feet before the wings bit air again. Todd and the pilot laughed while every passenger buckled their seatbelts.
I found out that the airport in Belize City has a waving gallery for friends and family to come bid their loved ones adieu as they take off. Lord knows the people on the plane can’t see them and probably don’t care, as they’re busy going 300mph and taking off at the time, but it is a nice sentiment.
In my world, where people come and go every day, and where a plane ride is as common place as blondes in L.A., no one takes the time for a fond farewell. Gone are the crowds waving as the ocean-liners leave port. Gone are the beautiful women in polka dot dresses running down platforms beside trains. Gone is just a little bit of the romance, a little bit of the magic, and a little bit of the bravery that it takes to leave home behind.
They won’t remember my name, my face, or even my visit. They certainly don’t miss me now that I’m gone. But on that day, as I took to the skies, a small part of Belize waved goodbye and bent their thoughts toward my safe passage home.