Beaches and mental blocks
The next morning found the rested travelers standing on a small key offshore from Utila. Blue sky and water collided with the bright sand of the beach where they stood. The idyllic setting swept away memories of the previous day's near fatal voyage, replacing them with a nirvanic contentment that only comes after having seen hell.
"Are we ready?" Nuco asked. Without waiting for a response, he began snorkeling out toward the reef, spear gun in hand, followed by the Utilan whose dorry they had hired.
"I'm going in!" the BigGuy said enthusiastically, gesturing toward the ocean. Wearing tan shorts, a sombrero, and his usual button-down, white, long sleeve Catholic schoolboy shirt, the BigGuy brimmed with confidence. And unlike Marlow, in Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS, who had tossed his shoes over the side of his tin-pot steamboat on the way up the Congo River to find Kurtz, the BigGuy retained his vomit-covered Rockports. As he spoke, he stepped into the lapping ocean water, putting the shoes to yet another test.
"That was some speech you gave last night, Señor," Medio said from shore.
"I was quite the sensation, wasn't I?" the BigGuy replied, turning back.
"The townspeople were asking for you last night at the Bucket of Blood," Medio continued. "They wanted to know where the guy was that gave such a rousing speech in the town square. They wanted more."
"Ahhhhh....." the BigGuy began, "don't know if I could come up with another speech quite as good as that one."
"They said you were spewing out large bits of wisdom," Medio said. The BigGuy looked out to sea, remembering the speech. "You should have come up top," Medio added.
"Lemon. And pepper. That's what did me in," the BigGuy responded, then continued. "When I first got into the boat, someone handed me a lemon and said it would keep me from getting seasick. It made my stomach turn."
"I think alcohol was the way to go," said Medio. "The crew was drunk and they did fine."
Capn remained silent, the creases on his brow furrowing deeply as he gazed out to sea, battling memories of the voyage.
"Right, well lemon certainly wasn't the way to go," continued the BigGuy. "But, I was okay until I looked downand there, by my feet, was a whole pepper. Floating.... That's when I lost it."
While Medio digested this account of the voyage, the BigGuy turned and began to wade into the ocean.
"You okay, Señor?" Medio asked.
"Yeah," replied the BigGuy. "No peppers out here. I'm heading to the reef and I feel great!"
A Badass Barracuda
A curious fish, the barracuda can suddenly appear six inches away, gazing lazily over your shoulder, opening and shutting its mouth to display sharp teeth. It rarely attacks humans, however, and is more likely to end up in a stew than attached to the arm or leg of a swimmer. Today, however, the BigGuy encountered the underwater exception to this rule, and two minutes after he swam toward the reef, he was returning to the little key of peace.
"What are you doing back so soon?" asked Medio, looking up from his seat in the sand. "See a couple of peppers out there?"
"No peppers," the BigGuy said, "just a ferocious barracuda."
"What's it doing?" Medio asked.
"Circling," the BigGuy said, wading closer to shore.
"Maybe it wants a piece of you," Medio said. "I hear barracuda are quick underwater."
"This one is quick," the BigGuy said, turning around and poking his mask into the water. The barracuda was still there, circling.
"We had barracuda in that stew last night," Medio said. "Maybe this one can sense through the pores of your skin that you ate his brother and is seeking revenge."
"I don't plan to give him the opportunity," said the BigGuy, hustling to shore in his sodden Rockports.
"What do you think his probable point of attack will be?" Medio asked.
"I don't know," the BigGuy replied.
"He could swoop in and bite off a testicle or two," Medio said.
"Oooo..." said the BigGuy, covering his groin.
Just then Nuco returned, carrying a small load of fish the Utilan had speared. "Dinner," he said. "Aren't you guys going snorkeling? It's beautiful out there."
"BigGuy says there's an angry barracuda after him," Medio said.
"Ppffff!" Nuco scoffed. "Barracuda don't bite."
"That's easy for you to say," the BigGuy replied, "you're carrying a spear gun." Nuco scoffed again and returned to the reef. "I'm getting a weapon," the BigGuy said. He left the water, Rockports flopping loudly.
Once he'd found a large stick, the BigGuy returned to the ocean. The barracuda was still there and after swimming around him in an aggressive display of territoriality, it made a closer pass. The BigGuy waved the stick, which only served to excite the fish even more, and demonstrate the stick's underwater uselessness. The BigGuy retreated.