Chapter Description: Images for this story can be found at the following web...... https://sites.google.com/view/comedy-ars-characters/home
(20 new pictures were added 1/22/23)
The last leg of our journey was uneventful … no farting grandmas, no bathroom sex … and I even got a window seat to watch our descent toward St. Thomas’s Cyril E. King airport in the capital city of Charlotte Amalie. It wasn’t a big island … nearly the same size as the city of Buffalo.
“Sweety, we’re too early to check into The Pink Dolphin hotel, so we’ll take our rental car directly to the dive center for the afternoon excursion. I made a reservation, so are you ready to get to work?”
She didn’t have to ask me that. “I can hardly wait! And you are the best Mom ever. I’m so glad that you took me to the Niagra Aquarium to test me in salt water.”
“I’m depending on you to be a quick learner. The other beginners already had a pre-lesson in a swimming pool. So what’s the most important rule in scuba diving?”
“Don’t breathe … no, no, sorry, it’s the opposite. Don’t hold your breath.”
“You better breathe, sweety. It’s my intention to bring you back alive. And never panic or thrash in the water. If your mask gets fogged up, lift it a little to get water in it, then exhale through your nose to get the water out.”
I gave her a thumbs up. “Got it.”
We soon arrived at the dock and changed into our swim suits in the bathrooms. Then we boarded the boat with other participants. Sammantha handed me a child size neoprene wet suit and a pair of fins. It seemed like a pretty snug fit.
I was looking at the fins when a blonde girl about my age walked up to me. “Hi there,” she spoke directly. “Is this your first time?”
She was really pretty. I looked up and nodded. “How did you know?”
She pointed at the two articles. “Because it looks like you’re trying to figure out which is your right and left fin.”
“That’s sort of true … So can you tell me?”
She broke into a hearty laugh. “Ha! … Silly boy, they’re both the same … My name is Penelope Point DuJour.”
“Hi, I’m Derrek Adams.”
“And how old are you, Derrek Adams?”
“I’m te’ … uh actually I’m eleven.”
“Are you sure, Derrek? I didn’t mean for it to be a trick question. I’m eleven too. So does your long hair get in your eyes a lot? What do have, like a zillion girlfriends at school?”
“Truthfully, I have none. My mom home schools me. She doesn’t trust public schools in Buffalo.”
“Seriously? That’s where you’re from? Do you have to walk through ten feet of snow?”
I smiled and shook my head. “Nah … it’s only six.”
“I didn’t see you at the pre-dive pool, Derrek.”
“It’s weird. My skin reacts badly to regular water. I can only go in salt water.”
“Yeah, that is weird. So how will you scuba without lessons?”
I pointed at Sammantha. “My mom’s a PADI instructor.”
Penelope immediately brightened up. “Great, so’s my dad. Why don’t you guys swim with us as a foursome?”
“I’m slow. I wouldn’t want to hold you back.”
“It’s not a race, Derrek … I can show you some cool stuff.
“Well, let me check with my mom.”
Apparently, Sammantha was already hitting it off well with Gladstone Point DuJour, a rugged looking man bearing a substantial beard and moustache … with a fancy name to match a fancy occupation. He owned a small sugar plantation on the island. Father and daughter were both very hospitable and anxious to help us (well help me, anyway, since this was my first dive.)
Sammantha made sure that all my equipment fit right and instructed me on the use of the air gauge and the BCD or buoyancy control device which kept me from rising or sinking too fast.
Penelope pointed out my air gauge. “See, Derrek, we’re starting out full at 3,000 psi. When it gets down to 500, we need to return to the boat. That’s when we use the ‘thumbs up’ signal. For ‘okay’ we just use the regular okay sign.”
“A lot to learn,” I admitted.
“It’s easy, you’ll see.”
“Sweety, we’re going down only 30 feet, but on the way back up, we’ll pause at 15 feet for three minutes to decompress. Your weight belts are set. Just keep breathing normally, you’ll be fine.”
“You’re mother sounds like a good instructor, young man. I’m Gladstone Point DuJour. My daughter seems to have taken a fancy to you. She finds the ‘off-island’ boys quite exotic.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir.” I took the man’s hand and squeezed it very hard.
Our boat finally arrived at the designated coral reef and it was ‘showtime’. We took our spots at the rear platform and our two partners jumped in, feet first. Sammantha then jumped off ahead of me and then waved a hand for me to follow. I needed a moment to build up my courage. I inserted the regulator in my mouth and began breathing through it.
I wasn’t afraid to jump. Although, this would be my first time swimming in three years, my worst fear was still turning into a baby inside the wet suit. I closed my eyes and stepped off the platform.
The plunge gave me a shock at first. I wanted to panic, but I remembered that Sammantha had told me not to thrash around. My brain was telling me that I should be drowning now. When I opened my eyes, she was right there, and motioning me to slow down my breathing, with her hands moving forward and back.
In about a minute, I gave her the ‘okay’ sign and we began using the fins to propel ourselves downward. One thing I was always good at was ‘clicking’ out my ears on an airplane to ease the pressure on my inner ear … same process here. And I felt no ‘age-contractions’ related to my water curse. Having Sammantha next to me gave me confidence.
All the way down, the fish were a kaleidoscope of color. I didn’t know their names, but basically, they had stripes, bars, and spots, in a dazzling array of shapes and sizes. At 30 feet, we stood on the sandy bottom where Penelope came over and handed me a red starfish bigger than my hand. I gave her the ‘okay’ sign. I wasn’t sure if there was a sign for ‘thank you’.
Penelope’s ‘show-and-tell’ went on for about a half hour. She took my hand and guided me around the coral reef. She pointed and nudged her fin against a rock, which turned out to be an orange and white octopus. Then we encountered a green sea turtle … then a stingray, but I wasn’t going to attempt to pet this one. Then she showed me the white, aptly named spaghetti worm reaching out to capture bits of food. Then some sponges attached to the coral. There really was an endless parade of life to view and I was really glad that we had run into Penelope and Gladstone on this excursion.
All too soon, my air gauge pointed to 500 psi and Sammantha gave me the thumbs-up signal to surface. As instructed earlier, we remained weightless at a depth of 15 feet for three minutes to decompress and then returned up to the boat.
Penelope and I entered into non-stop jibber-jabber talking about the wonderful creatures she had shown me. I just stood talking as Sammantha removed the equipment off my body.
“Thank you, Mom!” I exclaimed. “This was the best trip ever!”
“I agree, Sweety.”
Then Gladstone broke in. “If you folks have no dinner plans, we would be honored if you came to our house for a big cookout we’re having.”
“We wouldn’t want to impose,” Sammantha replied.
“Nonsense, many friends are coming, and I insist on continuing our friendship into the evening.”
I tapped Sammantha. “Mom, the flight attendant told me we would be going to a big party today. This must be it.”
Penelope and I jumped up and down as Gladstone gave Sammantha their address.
Before going to the cookout, we checked in at our hotel to clean up a bit. For me, that meant a little soap and ginger ale, while Sammantha showered.
“Is there a peeping tom in this bathroom?”
“Oops, sorry Mom.” I turned away, not realizing how long I’d been staring at her perfect body through the frosted glass. Ogling Sammantha was one of my favorite pastimes.
In a few minutes, she was ruffling through her suitcase. “We should try to find something nice to wear, sweety. Even for a cookout, I’d imagine that a guy who owns a sugar plantation would be hosting a pretty fancy affair … And don’t get so enamored with Penelope. She’s a nice kid and showed you a really great time today, but I don’t think her father would take kindly to Penelope doing any hanky panky with a 28 year old man.”
“How old are you now?”
“Eleven … Should I add a teaspoon of water?”
“Hmm, just go as you are. Put on your white polo shirt and cargo pants. They stretch a bit to different sizes.”
Sammantha walked in front of me and started brushing my hair.
“You’ve never done that before, Mom.”
“I know you’ve got a lot of great hair, but I still want you to look human.”
I checked the mirror and concluded, “I’m ready to go.”
It took us about a half hour to drive from the center of Charlotte Amalie to the northeast part of the island called Sapphire Beach. Sammantha was still trying to get the hang of driving on the left side of the road. We descended the hilly Pavillion Road and came upon their address. The view was stunning, far greater than we had imagined. Aside from being huge, the home appeared open and airy, not castle-like in the least. I assumed it cost millions but I wasn’t going to ask. Palm trees were everywhere.
Sammantha parked on the street, perhaps because she felt too intimidated to park in the extra wide driveway. We nervously walked up to the front door and rang the bell. We waited, but nothing happened, so we rang it again.
After a minute, the French doors slowly began to part and sure enough, there were Gladstone and Penelope along with two other family members to greet us.
We were stunned when viewing the home, but even more stunned by the view of the people. One would have thought that a family who could afford to live in a multi-million dollar home would be ‘dressed to the nines’ for every occasion. But maybe not this one.
They wore nothing.