THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

…“We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone with an update, “And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”…

Image result for a problem artwork

Houston, We have a Problem by Dadara

Roy’s text stream reads a continuous, HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!….

The details of which are just coming in:

***   Samiq Gaad {alias Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma} freed before being transferred to Washington D.C. — Two Mil Mi-38 Hind Russian Attack Helicopters headed south out of Houston — Possibly on way to Central or South America ***

***   Aldona Afridi critically wounded on a flight to Galveston from Turkey — Shooter apprehended by US Marshall aboard ***

 “We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone. “An hour ago 2 helicopters and a small army attacked the motorcade that was transporting Samiq Gaad to the CIA office in Dallas. They were able to free Gaad and take off to God knows where.”

“Who is Samiq Gaad?”

“He is the imposter you captured back at Gantry #2, you know hero stuff? You knew him as Gurkhas Dhangotma.”

“At least they got that straightened out.”

“On top of that, your friend Aldona Afridi was ambushed in the washroom on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A2100 in the middle of the Atlantic last night. The latest news about that is sketchy, but he was on his way for an interview at Lovell SC and he is still alive.”

“I asked him to come to LVC… I didn’t think he would get security clearance so quickly,” Roy is starting to feel guilty about his absence.

“And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”

“I am on my way back to Houston,” he tells Braden.

After a few minutes of texting back and forth with the NSA, some of which is sorting the known facts from the suppositions, Roy makes his best judgment call.

“I heard your end of the conversation, just go,” Francine can tell that their fairy tale has come to a screeching halt.

“Are you alright with staying here? I do not want you in the line fire again.”

“I’m a big girl, I’ll be alright here,” she grabs his chin to get his attention. “You better give me updates when you can. I am going to book a commercial flight back to my apartment in Houston, but you can bet that I’ll be working the story on my end and see if I can track down some leads.”

“I will keep you in the loop Francine,” he gives her a huge reassuring kiss. “Just remember, I have that job for you when get back, so be ready to rock!”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 121


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

…Four days have the feel of forty and what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the fortnight; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship….

Image result for friendship artwork

Friendship Digital Art by Astrid Rieger

The following days slow to a satisfying crawl, their pace of life measured by the inch not by the mile. No more fertile an environment can there be to bring people closer. The kinship of this trio {Roy, Francine, Roger} builds down every new road, at each sacred island shrine. The driver of the car has become an integral element to their experience; which is incomplete when he isn’t around to steer them right.

Flying Fish and Lazy Days Waikanae by Gillian Cronin

Four days have the feel of forty and what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the fortnight; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship. So complete is the blending of Roy into Francine, or vice versa, that any thoughts of the New Mayflower or Mars and KHST or celebrity, are dispatched from the foreground of priorities.

When they aren’t being guided by Roger the Dodger, they can be found lounging by the pool or ocean, SILVER SEAS both. In the case of this lazy day, they employ their newly acquired skill in the street side marketplace. With their considerable discretionary funds irretrievably commingled, joint bargaining has become the rule, when in natural dealings with purveyors of goods and their merchandise of fluid value.

Navy F-77N’s

While ferrying one of their spending coups back to the SILVER SEAS HOTEL, from the interior of the island, the tranquil skies are buzzed by a pair of jets, certainly not of Jamaican or Cuban ownership. “F-77Ns in a big time hurry and they are peeling off to the west.” Roy determines after getting a clear look at their low-level wake. “Something big is up.”

“What are they doing down here? Do you think it has to do with Cuba?” Francine wonders aloud.

“Well that isn’t a bombing run and they are going fast enough to reach the Mainland in 2 minutes. 

“I think the Atlantic Carrier Strike Group Two (CSG2) is having joint maneuvers in the Gulf with the Brits, but the attitude of those pilots are taking screams urgent. Let’s get back to the hotel.”

“I’ll call Roger,” Francine thinks ahead.

In the meantime, Roy’s dormant PDA is vibrating off his waist. The text stream reads a continuous, “HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 120


page 114

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 119

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 119

…“My clubs were too short, the balls are like lead, and the wind seemed to gust every time I hit a shot, enough to make a Pope angry.”…

On their first full day out and about, Roger Rodriques drives them out into the back country and a hilly little golf course, there by fulfilling one of the to-dos on their getaway platter. The score card of the Upton Golf Course & Plantation has a tagline on its cover, ‘700 feet up and always cool’, but the persistent 90 degree days betray that claim.

So while their guide waits for them in the clubhouse, the only cool spot for miles, Francine and Roy practice their best “no’s” in turning down a pesky boy who cannot believe these Americans prefer to carry their rented clubs. Compared to the private clubs they are used to playing, this version of golf lives up to one of the sports’ nicknames: “pasture pool”. The fairway mowers are black & white, have four legs, and moo.

The round concludes with Roy losing the only tee shot that was farther than Francine all afternoon, in a pile of grass the “moo”-ers hadn’t got to; in the middle of the 18th fairway.

“The greens are like our tees, the tees like our fairways, the fairways like our rough, and the rough is like our out-of-bounds.”

“Perhaps you should have used that caddy. I beat you 89 to 93.”

“My clubs were too short, the balls are like lead, and the wind seemed to gust every time I hit a shot,” enough to piss off the Pope.

“Don’t be mad Roy; I’ll give you a rematch.”

He will take her up on that challenge, but it will have to wait for another day, there is too much else to do. —

— Like the Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, ‘which is on the site of a 19th Century hotel, long since razed, situated high on a hilltop overlooking the Bay of Ocho Rios, surveying the azure waters of the Caribbean, the Gardens embrace 25 acres of tropic splendor. A sparkling waterfall cascades down a rocky course with luxuriant plant specimens on all sides. Lush tropical trees form bowers with flamboyant blossoms every month of the year.’

This is definitely Chamber of Commerce material.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 119


page 113

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 118

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 118

…Roger Rodrigues caters to picture taking, thrill seeking, taking the road less traveled, all for the benefit of Jamaican tourists…

The Road Less Traveled by Helen Dieter

 “Very good Roger. We haven’t decided exactly when & where, but we are golfers, love to hike, , and I would love to see a cricket match… Roy?”

“I’m with her.”

“Smart Mon! I can take you wherever the lady wants to go. I just need to know the day before.” Roger is markedly more intelligent and organized than the stereotypical islander. “There are also some points of interest we can work into all the other things you mentioned.”

“Can we hire you by the day, for the duration of our stay?”

He thinks it over. “400 $J or 50 $A cash in advance.”

“I thought American dollars were illegal?”

Roger looks at Jimmy and winks, “Not for everyone… give me a Red Stripe Jimmy, eet is hot enough to chase a gecko to the shade.”

Over several more Jamaican brews the visitors learn more of what this island has to offer, the good and the bad.

On the must-do/positive sides are:

  • Botanical Gardens
  • Dunn’s River Falls
  • Fern Gully RoadRelated image
  • Amateur Cricket
  • All Products Jamaican Ceramics
  • No Firearms

 On the avoid/negativity side:

  • Aggressive Native Marketing
  • Not-so-clean Residential Areas
  • Ganga Street Sales
  • Cocaine et al Drug Trafficking
  • Corrupt Police

“You’ve got to learn the word “NO” and at least pretend like you mean it. Then they may leave you alone.” It is Roger’s self-appointed duty to make sure tourists get the most from their stay.

And even though day one is spent sampling local libations, this affable taxi owner is a former local policeman who could not afford to raise four children on the measly wages. Instead he has chosen to carve out a niche, catering to picture taking, thrill seeking, taking the road less traveled, all for the benefit of Jamaican tourists.Chevy Malibu

The view from his 60 year old {well-kept} Chevrolet Chevelle SS is quite personal and real, something that a bus {not Speedy’s} filled with thirty other perfect strangers fails to deliver. You can ask him dumb questions about the cute Jamaican children or the continuing civil unrest, and he will give you a honest, clear and authoritative answer. The sugar coating is in a canvas bag, stored underneath his spare tire.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 118


page 112

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 117

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 117

…Roy takes a sip of his drink, staring at it like the artichoke bit him in the nose, “Now that is an interesting tasting Bloody Mary……rum?”…

The best place to find out about a new town is to talk with the bartender.

They do go downstairs after changing out their $USs for $Jamaican. The 1 to 6 ratio means Francine’s purse will be toting their stack,

“This is like Monopoly money, hand over 50 $J for a drink, that is an arm & a leg!?”

“Please ignore Dr. Roy, he specializes in amputations.”

“Yes, I would like a Bloody Mary with an artichoke and a saw,” Roy is playing.

“Make that two, good man….” she supposes a name with a face, “Hold the artichoke for mine.”

“Jimmy, eet’s JimmyD,” is the Oasis Bar’s fixture bartender… among other things at the SILVER SEAS RESORT & HOTEL. At any given time you can find him doing just about anything.

“Okay JimmyD, didn’t we see you at the front desk when we checked in?” they had arrived frazzled and unaware of new appearances.

“2 towsand sorries 4 da rooms bad, maid queet on spot. Red eye peeple catch us weeth pants down.”

Roy takes a sip of his drink, staring at it like the artichoke bit him in the
nose, “Now that is an interesting tasting Bloody Mary… rum?

“Yes we uze Ovaproof een everything, dunt be dreenking 2 miny.”

“Say, we did not book a tour, so we will need some help getting around the island, any suggestions?”

“Roger!” he gestures at a husky man at the other end of the bar to come over. “He eez da best driva on dee island; Roger da Dodger, who drives a Chevy and friend to da lodger.”

“That is quite a tagline Roger,” a hand is extended. “I am Roy and this is Francine,” who shakes the new character’s hand as well.

“It is nice to meet you,” he responds with a West Indies accent, but it is clear he has been educated elsewhere. “Here is my card:”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 117


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 115

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 115

…And here I pictured you as a pale, wimpy science freak the first time I talked to you on the phone…

— When sleep finally comes to her and him, it is deep and long.Pink Bubbles Sticker by Douglas Schatz for iOS & Android | GIPHY

In the dim light of day, Roy untangles an arm that has been wrapped around Francine like a twist tie and looks for his PDA to see if he had set the alarm. His device reads 9A which opposes the noon-like high blue sky. He chooses to trust the earlier time, so no need to rush cuddling time.

Tick-tock – tick-tock and ten o’clock causes him to stir. His restless movement alerts his bed-buddy, who prevents his escape by employing the old kiss-tummy-to-neck trick. It works.

“And where do you think you’re going mister?”

The acid test for beauty is the morning wake-up. Without makeup, jewelry and clothes orImage result for grade a shower, contacts and hair gel, is the way God intended adult men & women to see each other. Francine is a solid A through Roy’s eyes and Roy rates an A-, because he sleeps like he is weightless {all over the place}, but that is why the king-sized bed was invented.

“We are burning daylight and we don’t want people to get the wrong impression.”

“We are on vacation, the rest of the world can be damned,” she brags, playfully running her fingers through the hair on his chest, yes chest. “How is it you are so tan?”

“I have a small boat on the Gulf; go out after Red Snapper and Groper on Saturdays.”

“Two aircraft and now a boat that I suspect is not a skiff. What else don’t I know about your life?”

“I play http://www.ExpertScrabble.com with Braden and I enjoy long walks in the desert.”

“And here I pictured you as a pale, wimpy science freak the first time I talked to you on the phone.”

“I also play tennis and golf and love God.”

“I adore tennis have taken a couple of golf lessons and a 38 footer stocked with bait ‘n beer is my idea of a great weekend.”

“That is God, tennis, and beer ‘n bait in that order. I drive up to Lakewood Church in Houston when I’m in Texas.”

“I’ve been there back in the Osteen days, but with my weekend schedule I have trouble squeezing in time for God.”

“And when you’ve been up in space, it is hard to think about anything else but God.” He forgot to mention Mars.

The more she learns about Roy Crippen the more she is impressed. She doubts that there is a more well-rounded man in the United States of America, and she is trapped on this deserted desert island with that very man — well not so deserted or arid.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Deserted Island by Jacek Yerka

Episode 115


page 109

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 114

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 114

…When in Rome… we will mix our money, share a room, and take it from there…

So it’s back down to the Silver Seas desk where Roy is given a key to 202. It is not as messy, but untouched by maids as well.

Image result for lucky number 3The third room is a charm; 303, third floor with three hours of daylight left.

“Lots of stairs. At least we won’t have need of the fitness room. It is probably a park bench and an iron pipe anyway. We’ll get all the exercise we need going back and forth to our room,” she consoles Roy who has been schlepping luggage alongside the porter.

He thanks the concierge. The concierge stands firm.

“You haven’t traveled lately have you… he’s waiting for a tip.” She hands the young man a $10.

“Thank you preety ladie!”

“I guess your money spends better than mine.”Image result for going dutch cartoon

“We’re going Dutch right?”

“No. When in Rome….we will mix our money, share a room, and take it from there.”

Once situated in the room, whose air conditioning struggles to keep up, Francine sets guidelines for cohabitation. “I don’t know about you, but I am not going to let modesty get in my way,” she unwraps her sundress, neatly folds it and places it on the bed like they were old marrieds. She slips on a nightshirt, sits next to him and says to him, “Let’s try out their room service. How about we order roast pigeon and fig leaves? That way we maybe we get lucky and get the chicken and salad instead.”

“So this is what Heaven is like, or are you just a dream?” He cannot believe how incredibly easy things are with this woman.

“I’m not a dream because dreams cannot do this,” she undoes his Windsor knot and unbuttons his shirt before he can say ‘no problem’.

… There are two less lonely people in the world tonight. —


THE RETURN TRIP

Third Time’s the Charm by blackxprince

Episode 114


page 108

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 113

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 113

…Roy is in no mood for this hassle, he didn’t come 1400 miles to be visibly annoyed… especially not in front of Francine

Destinations

After five hotel stops and 60 miles later, the bus and its weary remaining passengers, those boarding in Chicago a 12 hour ordeal, are told the end of the line is near. “Thees eez Ocho Rios, wheech meenz five reevers. It eez the bestest place on our island, offering nacherous beautiful and de best een nateev shopping.”

Ocho Rios is bustling at midday, streets dotted by dented compact cars and Image result for nowheresvillesidewalks packed with people, most of who have nowhere to go and all day to do it. Francine cannot wait to be one of them, to actually partake in what Jamaica has to offer, every bit happy to be a citizen of Nowheresville.

But that day is now short and their energy wanes. They would be best served to locate their bags, adjust to the quiet atmosphere and then actually get better acquainted, yes that is the point of them jetting off together.

“Two king sized beds for Crippen, Roy and Francine.”

“Whot eez your name again pleez Mon?” The afternoon clerk suffers from the same disorganized confusion that is the order of the day on this tropical isle.

“C-R-I-P-P-E-N, Roy. I reserved an air conditioned room yesterday. I was told you were not booked up!” He is in no mood for this hassle. He didn’t come 1400 miles to be visibly annoyed, especially not in front of Francine.

“Oh ya Mon, heer you eez,” he reaches below the counter for the key. “That weel be 30 dollas key charge.”

“Okay, here,” he hands one twenty and one ten over the counter.

“American Dollas eez illegle een Jamaica Mon.”

“Where is the nearest place to convert currency?”

“I said eet eez illegle, not undesired.”

“Well what is it, me and this pretty lady need to go to our room?”

“Seex Jamaican dollas for eech US dolla and the banc will open at 9 AM. It closed at 5 PM.” He takes the $20, “Tanc you for da teep. He point up, “201, I get da rest of yur bags, second floor has less aneemals.”

Roy fits the key into the door. At last their paradise sanctuary… beds unmade, a half-full jug of rum, every manner of booze, on every available surface. “Wait here,” he tells Francine

Back down to the desk where he is given a key to 202. It is not as messy, but untouched by maids as well.

Francine politely sits on  her mountain of bags, perfectly content like never before in her life. Heads would have rolled if this were last week. “Things can only get better Roy.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 113


page 107

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 112

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 112

…“My name eez Speedy and I weel be your driva for Blue Danube Tours…

Roy grabs the arm of a scurrying native, “Does this bus stop at the Silver Seas Resort?”

“Silva Seeze you bet mon, nice place to stay… where is your luggage?” The skinny bus driver, dressed in out-of-dated polyester pants, flip-flops and a short sleeve shirt is eager to leave.

Francine points to an equally underfed porter standing next to a dolly stacked to overflow.

“Poot dose on the trunk-truck, we got to go and you 2 come wit me.” The trunk-truck is to trail behind.

He escorts them to a Leyland Coach, vintage 1983 and still in service. It is filled to capacity and when Francine and Roy climb the steps, those already seated glare at them like they are holding up the show. The lady gets the jump seat; the gent is astride the entry stairs, for the two hour ride.

My name eez Speedy and I weel be your driva for Blue Danube Tours.Wen I call your names, pleez say “yo mon” in your best West Indies voice We dunt want to leev no one behind and want to drop you at the rite hotel.”

The grumbling from impatient, tired and hung-over Americans ranges from “I can’t understand him” to “I thought this was supposed to be a luxury motor coach”.

In the meantime, perhaps 20 minutes before the bus gets out of first gear, the trunk-truck has gone ahead, casting doubt that the travelers will see their luggage anytime soon. But when the diesel-powered bus makes forward progress, some of the trepidation is allayed. They were finally getting somewhere.

As they wind their way out of the airport compound and out into the erratically lit streets of Montego Bay, Speedy issues his first travel alert, You weel noteec that I drive on de left side of da rode.”

It did not seem to matter which side he was supposed to drive on, for the roads were narrow and the bus takes up well over 50% of the available pocked pavement. The horn seems to be the most used device on any Jamaican vehicle, including the brakes. A staccato honking precedes every close encounter with oncoming cars and the entrance into every blind corner awaiting the brave traveler of the winding coastline highway.

Roy is intrigued by the excursion, but only because he has the best view. Everyone else has their eyes closed, petitioning their God for a safe vacation.

Francine chooses to keep her eyes closed as well, catching a timely nap, until being jolted to full consciousness by a sudden thud-thump-squeal-screech— the telltale sounds and maneuvers that has made instant bacon out of an unfortunate jaywalking pig, belonging to a Jamaican family who prefers their pork stirred not flattened. They charge out of their windowless hut screaming at the sound of screeching tires and squealing pig.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 112


page 106

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 111

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 111

…The customs agent has pawed her way through mounds of tricot, lace, and female toiletries, looking at Francine like she was a Lady of the Night…

jamaica-001

The flight itself is uneventful, if you don’t count the gusty 2000 foot winds produced by a line of thunderstorms over the previously tranquil waters of the coming Caribbean Sea. It looks as if Cuba will get a blow from the prevailing winds in the next few hours.

140 miles south of Cuba {a fractional contributor to the Space Colony 1 project – celebratory cigars, so still communist}, lays the luxe landmass named Jamaica. Montego Bay is a coastal-cruise-ship-commune nestled against the foothills and mountains which rise out of the tropical waters. As they lower their altitude to the tree line they receive permission to land at Sangster International the island’s only legal airport.

“My head is throbbing,” Francine complains, “must be the difference in barometric pressure.”

“Take three of these and by the time we clear customs, you will be fine.”

“What are they?”

“Space flight enchanted capsule capsules.”

“Are they legal… I don’t want to know.”

NASA pharmaceuticals will have plenty of time to work. The people in customs are disheveled and crabby, seeing that they had just processed an incoming Chicago red eye charter, loaded with “loaded” passengers.

Skycap Roy has conveyed their suitcase armada to duties & tariffs. The rather robust woman who has drawn the short straw is leaving nothing to chance. Under Jamaican guidelines, she is more concerned about what comes into the country than what may be leaving; guns are banned as are wild animals.

She has pawed her way through mounds of tricot, lace, and female toiletries, looking at Francine like she was a hooker. Not one of the items banned by Jamaican customs. “That bag is clothes, that one is clothes, and that one is hair care,” she points out.

vertical-line

“She is going to cost you Mon,” she pulls Roy’s single bag to inspect it. “Are you two really together?”

Roy feels compelled to explain, then decides what the woman thinks about his intent is of no matter.

“Please address your editorial comments to KHST Television.” Francine is a bit put off. “You aren’t sorry I came along, are you?”

“No way wo-mon! Thees ees Jamaica no problem.” Roy loosens his tie and leaves his merits at the gate. They are but one couple among an island full of them.

As luck would have it, an outbound bus headed for the north shore is just about to leave, with several seats to spare. “Look at these people running back and forth,” he refers to the employees of the Blue Danube Tours Company. It is an unlikely name considering that the only thing this island and Deutschland have in common is Heineken’s and Red Stripe, “reminds me of a Chinese fire drill.”

“That is weak PC Roy… Chinese, jeez?!”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Image result for political correctness

“Political Correctness” BY THE RED PHOENIX

Episode 111


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