January 3, Tarpum Bay

watercolor by Judith

watercolor by Judith

My first morning in Eleuthera. The night was a restless one, not so much for me, but for the tropical village society: every one, and every thing, was moving about. It’s coming down from the holidays, I think—a difficulty letting go of the parties and celebrations of Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s, Junkanoo. People weren’t willing to sleep, and the village seemed filled with energy and movement.

The young men have plenty of left over firecrackers. They are having fun with them, experimenting with ways of setting them off, including in the Methodist church trash barrel right next to my house. In the middle of the afternoon, my neighborhood suddenly sounded like a war zone. On the second volley, I had to make like a white old bitch and growl, “Enough, boys. That’s it.”

Of course they fired off one more round before they disappeared.

Last night there were popping and cracking sounds all over town, even when I last wakened at 3 AM. What really startled me then, though, was the crowing of a rooster. Very loud, very near, and very hoarse. That damned bird, I thought. It’s not even near sunrise. I envisioned myself finding a squirt gun somewhere and filling it with something toxic, maybe some bleach water, and taking aim.

Then I heard an answering rooster crow from several blocks away, and the two had a pneumatic conversation. Ridiculous, I thought. Those birds aren’t supposed talk to each other, they simply announce themselves to the world. And usually not at 3 AM. Of course! It’s the town boys, calling (rather inexpertly) to each other. They need a lot of practice, I thought, and went back to sleep.

The real noise begins about 6 AM around here—roosters and doves, and the sound of pickup trucks and barking dogs. The sun rises quickly and shapes begin to emerge: people walking and calling out to each other in human talk. Even then, the morning has a serenity which the night never knew.

It was a long trip down here. My 8 AM flight out of Traverse City left close to noon: seems Northwest thought it necessary to have pressure in the cockpit so the pilots could breathe. Me, I was just afraid the snowstorm would hit TC before I was able to get out….

At any rate, the late start meant I missed all my connections all day, and since the last flight into Eleuthera leaves Nassau at 4 PM and my Nassau arrival was scheduled for 8:15 PM, I could see I would get to spend a night in the city. Where, I wasn’t sure, but a friendly Delta employee collected me plane side (by then I needed a wheelchair—sorry, Quick Draw), got me through customs, helped me fill out the lost bag forms for my hugely overweight bag and found me a place at Orange Hill Resort.

Now Orange Hill Resort reminds me of something straight out of a Hemingway scenario: hot night, raspy palm trees, a smokey bar with three drunks and no food, and some decent rooms out back. The owner was most helpful: he gave me three bags of potato chips and a club soda (“Dinner’s on the house,” he said, cheerfully). He also gave me an alarm clock at the number of the cab company (“In case they don’t show up at 5 AM. There’s the pay phone, it’s only a Bahamian quarter.”)

No need, though. I was awake by 3, and the cab was there at 5. My flight left the Nassau airport at 7 (too early for coffee) and a half hour later I was in Rock Sound (still too early for coffee). But Brenda, wife of Kervin the Bionic Builder, was there to meet me and by 8:30 I was in the beautiful little Tarpum Bay cottage.

Of course I spent a great deal of time with Kervin admiring the washhouse, the pergola added to the south side of the house, the new gate, and the stairway upstairs. Then I went across the street to the neighborhood grocery, “Bert’s for the Best”, called the airlines, located my bag and convinced my friend Godfrey the taxi driver to bring it to me, and went to Miss Barbie’s restaurant for her famous dinner of barbequed chicken, peas and rice, and homemade key lime pie.

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