“Boss!” was the first cry I heard upon my entrance through the dilapidated back door.
“Please Nadia,” I said, “It’s Syd.”
“Whatever you say, boss,” she said with a grin as she turned back to her pile of flaming fajitas.
“Is that new recipe catching on?” I asked.
“It’s a good 3 or 4 orders I got right here, boss, and the rush hasn’t even hit yet!” I loved listening to Nadia talk. For the longest time I thought she had some very exotic foreign accent; turns out, it’s a speech empediment that never quite corrected itself. I was quite happy about that; so unique and endearing it was.
“Great!” I exclaimed. “Well, what’s my duty today? Am I playing bartender? Waitress? Entertainment?”
“You da boss,” said Nadia, “but I think there will be lots of people getting drunk today.”
Oh yeah. I forgot. Today was a local holiday called “Montaigne d’or” or “Golden Mountain”. It was supposedly the day gold was “discovered” on the nearby island (the Island of the Savages as we called it) by one of the first travelers. Apparently the sun had hit the top of the island’s mountains at just the right spot to create a massive golden glow that spread across the whole island. The traveler immediately hopped a boat to the island to dig up his treasure – only to find that there was nothing there but a bunch of “crazies” living amongst the rocks and caves. But folks around here looked for any reason to celebrate, so it became a holiday with the expectation that at 1:20pm the sun would hit the island’s mountain the exact same way it did that day, revealing the famous golden glow to all who watched.
I rolled my eyes. There always seemed to be such expectation for the view on this day every year; and every year the result was the same: disappointment. But, as it were, it was great for business, so I hopped behind the bar and began enthusiastically cleaning and setting up for a throng of orders of our infamous “Montaigne d’or” cocktail (commercialization had always come easy to me).
As the afternoon dragged on, Syd-istic’s was hopping. Everyone was in a great mood. Animated conversations were rampant throughout the entire cabana from the afternoon on into the evening. Stories of those who had found the exact spot for viewing the golden mountain were recounted alongside the scoffs of those (usually the mainlanders) who would remain forever skeptical.
I was wearing down quickly today, doing my best not to self-medicate behind the bar. I put away a few martini glasses while engaging in conversation with an adorable couple at the bar, then noticed someone towards the back of the open-air restaurant. I wasn’t sure what caught my eye at first, and I found myself looking frantically back and forth in the back of the restaurant trying to figure out what had startled me.
“OMG, and Syd, you would not believe how crazy this guy looks when he’s trying to water ski”, said the young redhead in front of me with a giggle, “It’s unbelievable, like watching a monkey dance!”.
I offered a short courtesy laugh, but couldn’t hide my distraction.
“Will you excuse me for just one minute?” I asked, “I have to check something.” The couple looked a bit alienated, and I wondered if I had accidentally blown off a customer for the first time, but something in the back of the room was bugging me.
I squeezed through the crowd, careful not to bump into the already-tipsy clientele and made my way to the wicker bench at the back. This is where I had seen…something. I stared at the bench with a frown. It was set flush against 4 or 5 smaller palm trees, creating a natural boundary which continued all the way around the restaurant.
The bench is empty, I thought to myself. The restaurant was standing-room only. So I had seen someone.
I followed the fence around to the entrance and jogged outside, around the outskirts of the restaurant, and into the sand that lead to the beach.
I knew it!
I could see a figure running towards the beach – running fast! It was hard to distinguish from the shadows, but it looked like a young child, perhaps 11 years old? It was hard to tell. The figure moved swiftly to the waters edge, hopped lightly into a small skid, and pushed off into the sea.
I scolded myself. People visited from the surrounding islands all the time, why should this be any surprise to me? I knew I had a tendency to be bit too jumpy, even to the point of paranoia. I gave myself a quick smack in the face and headed back to the bar. Perhaps some self-medication was in order after all…