Secrets of the Lottery Winner
CHAPTER 20: A SECRET
Gari was in the Hilton’s Japanese restaurant, which struck him as odd as Jamaica and the Caribbean seemed plenty exotic to him, with Emily, Teddy, and Sammy. He was sipping his second Sapporo. He’d gulped the first, eliciting a frown and restrained admonishment from Emily. He excused himself by damning the heat and running around examining shoe stores. Sorry, but he was parched.
Emily’s subtle antagonism began before the beers. When he’d arrived back at their room to find his family napping and awakened them, she’d expressed surprise at his foot ware.
After the bus had deposited him downtown in familiar surroundings, he’d dashed into the nearest shoe emporium. He couldn’t say what possessed him. Perhaps the revolutionaries had influenced him more than he’d supposed. He’d bought a pair of sunshine yellow flip-flops. He’d worn them with his black socks. This was both uncomfortable and made the flip-flops appear intensely yellow. No, he honestly couldn’t say why he’d bought them or why he hadn’t removed his socks. Obviously, he concluded, he’d been confused.
However, as Emily would never accept befuddlement as a reason, he’d told her it had to do with his long day of shoe store research. He’d suggested they grab a drink, buying fabrication time.
It was during the course of his second Sapporo, he launched into his story.
“I was in my fifth store, and believe me, Emily, these stores are more like shops. You know, shops are smaller than stores and their selection is limited. Shops are what they have here. They’re nice for a little casual tourist shopping. But, my God, outfitting a family like ours. They’re simply inadequate. But I’m getting a bit off track here. Okay, by the fifth shop I said, ‘Let’s see how they handle the sales process.’ It was a test, what we call a live test, so I had to buy something. The prices for shoes, my God, Emily, you’d flip. They are ridiculous. It’s probably because they have to ship in everything. Never live on an island. I guess that’s the lesson. That’s why I bought these. Cheap. I don’t mean they were cheap by our standards, just cheaper than other shoes I could have bought.”
He drifted to a stop after this, believing he did an excellent job of explaining his yellow flip-flops. But apparently not, as she prompted, “And?”
What he wanted to say was, “And what?” Instead, he plunged into why Lefton & Associates couldn’t work with Jamaican shoe stores. “They don’t get marketing. Not one bit. They expect people to wander in. Databases, like the slick operation I set up for Victor Lubeck, forget it.”
She allowed him to babble in this vein for several minutes before yanking his reins. “No, Gari, I just want to know what you did with your shoes.”
This stunned him into silence, where he remained in for a minute, covering up by draining his Sapporo and ordering another. In the wake of the waiter’s departure, he said, “See what I mean about primitive in the marketing department. What a way to tick off a customer, keeping his shoes. It’s warm down here. I was tired of hot feet. I wanted to wear my new flip-flops and be cool. I guess in the excitement I forgot my shoes. But, you know, they should have reminded me, even chased me down the street if necessary.”
His third Sapporo arrived and he started on it immediately not so much because he wanted or needed it—the first two already had him on the verge of reeling. He used it to occupy his mouth, to prevent himself from spinning to furiously, spinning beyond Emily’s bounds of acceptance. He eyed her over the beer to gauge how well his tale had settled with her. Her countenance was placid and he noticed this calmness smoothed her face and increased her appeal. And, in turn, this set off familiar pangs of guilt. Nothing had happened; but something could have, and it would have if Patricia had been anything but a rabid capitalist-hater. He was beginning to feel sappy and feared he might lose lachrymal control.
“Hey, how about tomorrow we visit the Bob Marley Museum, boost our reggae knowledge?”
Immediately, the boys chimed, “We want to go swimming, swimming, swimming.”
“Sure,” he said, “swimming sounds good to me.”
Emily’s demeanor soured further. “We’ve been to the pool every day. We can go to Diamond Lake any day of the week. Tomorrow we’re getting out. Tonight we’ll find a nice restaurant away from the hotel.”
Teddy and Sammy bridled. “No, no, we like room service.”
Gari threw up his hands. “Some vacation.”
Emily gathered the boys to her. “Yes, Gari, some vacation where you go to work and then lose your shoes and show up in … neon flip-flops. Come on, boys, it’s been a long day. Time for bed.”
As they departed, Teddy’s high voice trailed back to him. “Can we get room service ice cream?”
Gari hoisted his glass at his disappearing family and contemplated a fourth Sapporo. He thought better of it, though, as he was fairly close to collapsing; also, he feared Patricia and her gelding squad might be scouring the streets for him. Best to lay low in front of a television.
Gari didn’t last long in the electron glow of the tube. He watched it from the sofa, while Teddy and Sammy clamored for their ice cream. On reflection, he figured he dropped off—passed out was what Emily called it—just as the waiter entered the room with three bowls of vanilla sitting in a mother ship of a bowl filled with chopped ice.
* * *
Bob Marley was to nobody’s taste, not even his. Everybody but Gari was in the mood to view flowers, which is how he found himself in the Hope Gardens in front of a towering palm that had earned plenty of amazement and praise from his family. He wondered how this botanic garden was any different or any better than Chicago Botanic Gardens not more than twenty minutes from their house. But, of course, here were palms, bamboo, pineapples, a zoo, and delicious heat, so all wasn’t lost.
He covered half the gardens with them and then flagged, to Emily’s annoyance as this was a family event and Gari was detracting from its wholesome value. Nonetheless, he begged off to read the Gleaner, which for a variety of reasons he’d been lugging since breakfast without scanning farther than the top front-page headline.
Flipping the paper, below the fold this headline stopped him cold: Brit Reportedly Kidnapped. He sped through the story. The Brit’s name was Brian Newberry, a writer working on a screenplay, and he was seen last in Kingston Market. Some folks remembered him with an attractive young woman dressed cheerily in pink. A group calling itself the Jamaican Freedom Alliance was holding Mr. Newberry and demanding five million British pounds for his release. If the money wasn’t paid by Friday, they vowed to execute Mr. Newberry in, as the Gleaner phrased it, “a most horrible fashion.” Lowering the paper, Gari found two small children watching him intently and giggling. Unconsciously, but certainly understandably, he was massaging himself below the belt.
As he became aware of performing this easily misinterpreted act, a shadow descended over him. Looking into its source he discovered himself staring at Emily. Teddy and Sammy shuffled behind her. The boys reminded him of lighted bottle rockets seconds from bursting into roaring explosions. He couldn’t decide on Emily’s mood. Scowl of disgust might be appropriate. Perturbed surprise might cover it, too. Though it didn’t much matter, since whatever nuance he assigned it, anger underlay her glare.
Quickly, he flashed the Gleaner at her. “The bloody revolutionaries are going to cut off some bloody blokes balls.” Wasn’t life the human comedy, which more than implied that most situations, including the most serious, contained humor, or could be portrayed humorously? Didn’t people, for instance, laugh like hyenas at funerals in remembrance of the dearly departed, and in some societies do it while shit-faced? Wasn’t Emily aware of any of this? And didn’t the poor benighted woman appreciate the English twist and smart alliteration he imparted to his comment.
No, Emily did not.
“Gari Garibaldi, I don’t know what you’re thinking, and, frankly, I don’t care. You’re just one sick bastard.”
She swept the boys in front of her and pushed them off in the direction of the exit and the Hilton, no easy accomplishment as they had gone off and rolled along announcing to all who would listen, and most did, “Mommy and Daddy are fighting.” Their tone was singsong and it lingered in the sweet-scented botanical air well after they vanished.
Well, naturally, he’d have to make this up to Emily and the boys. He couldn’t blame her as he himself viewed his absent-minded reaction to the story as downright obscene. He was glancing again at the Gleaner‘s reportage when a bigger boo-boo than his absent crotch grabbing riveted him. Nowhere in the story did the reporter mention what part of the anatomy the revolutionaries promised to remove. Yes, you could infer balls, if you had a bent to seeing the sexual in every nook and cranny of life. But, honestly, he knew that if Emily saw the story, she would not immediately think of testiectomy as a method of execution. Which would leave him to explain how he’d drawn this conclusion from the vague Gleaner statement. Fortunately, she hadn’t proved much of a reader on this trip, and the boys, in retrospect thankfully, had commandeered the television; anything but cartoons was anathema to them.
Gari’s mood was sour. He wasn’t in a hurry to return to the hotel and commence the mending cycle with Emily. He decided to walk the couple of miles to the Hilton and see something of Jamaica, maybe stop in the Bob Marley Museum because it was on his way and soak up a bit of Jamaican culture.
He progressed a quarter mile, passed shops, ducked into a shoe store just to be in a familiar place, when he sighted a flash of pink that shrunk his testicles to peas. He calmed himself with a little mental speech amounting to: What were the odds? Actually, quite good, as Kingston wasn’t a big city; the entire country contained fewer people than Chicago and the city itself was no larger than a handful of suburban towns like Mundelein bunched together. In the supermarket, the Home Depot, at the movies, he was forever bumping into people he knew.
He admonished himself. He should grab a jitney and race back to the Hilton. But he wanted to be sure, and maybe even give her a piece of his mind, perhaps say a few words on behalf of the Brit her gang held. Patricia wasn’t to be feared, not on the street by herself without the fireplug and the two incoherent cohorts.
He dashed to the corner wondering how half the population of Jamaica could wear flip-flops or their equivalents; a man couldn’t get up a good head of steam if an emergency arose, and if he did takeoff he’d probably lose his flip-flops, or worse crash head-over-heels. In short, he was thankful he’d packed three pairs of shoes and that he’d retied securely before leaving the gardens.
At the corner, he watched Patricia Pink lope through the intersection and disappear down the street. He determined she was alone. He decided to pursue her. What he would do if he caught her was a vague and vacillating thought in his mind. He would grab her, he fantasized, and shake, rattle, and roll her to death. He’d procure an ugly serrated combat knife and eviscerate her as she looked down and screamed her commie head until it burst. But he was a gentle soul by nature and the image of these atrocities revolted him. No, he would grab her for certain, to attract and hold her attention; and then he would pour forth his disgust for her and her incompetent band of rebels in the bluest language he could muster. He finished rehearsing the verbal lashing halfway down the street, where he spied her idling in front of a store. Okay, he was too much of a gentleman to dress her down in public. What he’d do is sidle up to her and say hello and go from there after gauging her reaction.
Approaching, he eyed her carefully, ducking from sight whenever he detected she might be glancing in his direction. In this manner, he edged up to her. In his effort to surprise her, he failed to develop a shocking greeting, or even a mildly disturbing one for that matter. Next to her, his mouth near her ear, he had only, “Remember me?”
She leapt and cracked his lower jaw with her shoulder. The hard and bony shoulder jolted him.
“Mr. Garibaldi, you are indeed a fortunate man,” she said with unnerving evenness.
“I see I was replaceable,” he replied, his tone a mix of bitterness and sarcasm.
She regarded him icily. Though she was cold and heartless and would happily remove his most precious possessions in the blink of an eye, she was appealing. His eyes drifted from hers to settle on her chest and re-ignite his sexual curiosity: He speculated on the size and texture of her nipples. The confrontation wasn’t proceeding as he’d anticipated.
“I don’t have an inkling of what you’re talking about, Mr. Garibaldi. Now, if you will excuse me, I have an appointment.”
“I’m wondering, Patricia,” he said, refocusing, shifting his gaze to the oversize bag she carried, “if you have Mr. Newberry’s balls in that.”
“Excuse me,” she said, taking a step away from him.
Gari grabbed her arm. “Whoa there, Patty.”
“Mr. Garibaldi, if you don’t release me this instant I’ll call for the police.”
“Please, be my guest. Then we can tell them about Mr. Newberry’s wonderful Jamaican accommodations. I’m sure they would find that interesting.”
“You did not notify the police? Why not, Mr. Garibaldi?” Her tone was loaded with suspicion, as if she felt herself verging on discovering a dark Garibaldi secret.
Oh, baby, I had my reasons, you’d better believe it, or your charming, good God and I do mean charming, ass would be in the Kingston hoosegow this very minute.
He smiled. “Well, I’ll tell you, Patricia, it’s like rape. Literally, I was shocked into insensibility, completely frozen and unable to act. But it’s worn off, and the police seem like the right thing to me.”
“Do as you please, Mr. Garibaldi. But release me or it will be you dealing with our police. Once they hear of your predatory sexual behavior toward an upright Jamaican woman who is a student at university—Mr. Garibaldi, the situation will not be pleasant for you.”
He relaxed his grip and she pulled her arm away violently.
“Perhaps I’ll have the pleasure again,” she said, departing rapidly.
“Can’t wait. Just remember: I know where you live.”
His return to the hotel was a fog to him as he’d actively engaged himself in a debate the entire distance. Instead of the Hilton, he should head directly to the local police station and report her and the rest of her Jamaican Freedom Alliance. However, the police were a nosey bunch and certainly they would investigate how he became involved with Patricia Pink. His response would have been perfectly true: She presented herself as a university student engaged in a research project, and he being an individual entirely dedicated to the education of today’s youth, especially beautiful female youth (no, he wouldn’t utter this, no, no) couldn’t say anything but yes. How was he to know she was a revolutionary and a leader to boot? But why return to her home with her? Hey, it was her idea. A cheap hotel room would have done nicely; or even the beach would have been preferable to the stained and mold-infested mattress on which her semiliterate associates had deposited him. This is to say his internal conversation was borderline irrational, rendering Gari Garibaldi manic upon his arrival at the Hilton.
While he knew it would be disagreeable to Emily, stopping at the bar for an anesthetic was absolutely necessary; otherwise, his encounter with Emily would rapidly degenerate into a rabid argument during which some aspect of his haphazardly woven web might give way. Mello and slightly depressed was the way to deal with the approaching situation.
He ensconced himself at the bar, downed two scotches, felt the better for them, and appeared in the room to find Emily putting the boys to for bed. They were little combustion engines the entire day until in bed, where they dropped off instantly, as a motor cuts off when it exhausts its fuel. He knew they were good for the night, barring an unexpected and very loud event.
When Emily was in bed, he slipped in beside her. He lay still and quiet for several minutes. He listened to her breathe. She sounded as if she was considering each breath.
“Sorry,” he said.
“You should be. Hanging out in bars. What example are you setting for these boys?”
The boys were hardly aware of what a bar was. Their tiny psyches would be just fine. He wanted to tell her this; instead he agreed with her. It was easier. “It won’t happen again. I don’t know what I was thinking. It must have been the day. It was grueling.” If he could tell her how grueling.
She turned to him and stroked his face. “Gari, you’re forgiven.”
“You’re looking mighty good these day, Emily.”
He could make out her expression in the faint light seeping through the drawn curtains. “I was waiting for you to notice.”
He drew her to him. “Oh yeah, well I’m noticing now.”
He kissed her. She pushed against him gently. “What if the boys wake up?”
“The boys are like logs, and they’re in the other room. I could fall out of bed and bark like a mangy mutt and they’d never know the difference. What have you been doing anyway?”
“Nothing much. A little diet. Some exercise. A bit of vein removal.”
He nearly yelped at vein removal and she stifled him with a hand.
“Where did you get the idea for that?”
“TV. Those makeover TV shows. I figured if they could do it, why not?”
“Why not?” he repeated. “Well, for the record, I like this improved model.”
He quietly made love to his transformed wife, did bark a couple of time, and the boys did sleep undisturbed.