The navy water turned sheer topaz as we anchored offshore Norman’s Beach Club. Luke dove off the bow to set the anchor as Jamie followed with a whopping splash and immense holler, “Woohoo.” She waved her hands in the air, “Come on in Kelly.”
Dashing to the bottom deck for a less than spectacular entrance I shed my shirt and jumped in feet first. As I bobbled to the surface Luke grabbed my waist and surprised me with a kiss.
“Yum. Salty,” I offered, kissing him more deeply.
Pulling my bathing suit bikini bottoms, he teased pulling them off as I in turn pulled down his swimsuit. A struggle ensued as he tried to pull my bikini off with me wrestling to keep them on. Moments later Jamie emerged next to me. “Children,” she scolded.
Giggling I took the opportunity to fiercely swim ashore as Luke chased me. Arriving on the beach winded and exhausted Luke caught me and tickled my ribs. “Wait,” I screamed and giggled. “Look there’s a duck,” pointing to my right. “No, really. Look.”
He stopped tickling me and gave me an unrelenting smirk. I pointed to the goose rapidly moving back and forth gazing out to sea. It seemed stressed and anxious just staring at the ocean while pacing in quick spurts. I laughed with concern. “What’s up with this duck.”
Luke seemed undisturbed refocusing his attention to Jamie and Nick swimming ashore. I studied the large white goose as I rested in the powdery sand. Her nervous movements made me worried as I wanted to pace just as rapidly to discover a resolution to the problem. The nursery rhyme and game “duck, duck, goose,” flooded my mind as childhood memories of the kindergarten pastime caused me to shiver. I have very limited memories prior to age ten, leading me to believe that I shut out painful events. But I recalled being picked as the goose and then chasing other kids in a circle around the room. Why does a goose chase ducks and what a strange game I concluded shaking off my adolescence recollection.
“Is the anchor secure?” Nick asked, climbing out of the water.
“Yes. I buried it in the sand,” Luke said as he stood up to meet Nick.
Jamie floated in the shallow water not yet wanting to emerge onto land. “That’s one neurotic goose,” she called out to the three of us.
I laughed and nodded with a quick response, “Yeah, it’s making me anxious. Perhaps she needs a strong drink.”
“Good idea, let’s hit the beach club for a Gombay Smash. And explore the island,” Jamie suggested.
“I’m in,” I said rising for the occasion.
The four of us walked just fifty-feet from the beach to an open-aired screened-in restaurant and bar. Wooden steps flanked with palm trees, cactus and greenery led us to the sturdy wooden hut. The timber covered bar was decorated a nautical theme and fully loaded with liquor. Round nautical balls hung from the ceiling and life buoys lined the walls. A white Bahamian, or Conchy-Joe greeted us with a smile. “Welcome to Mac Duff’s. Are you here for a few days?”
“Just one night,” Nick answered.
“Oh, that’s a shame,” he smiled. “Just one night in paradise. Well, I’m Kevin. If there’s anything I can do for you.”
“Restrooms,” I mumbled.
“They’re outback,” he pointed. “Outhouse style. One for the guys and one for the ladies.”
I grinned. “Oh, how interesting.”
A single ply board separated the men’s room from the ladies housing only the necessities; a flushable toilet and toilet paper. When I returned Kevin was making four Gombay Smashes, a combination of spiced and coconut rum, grenadine and pineapple. He was the owner of the bar and adjacent cottage rentals. He offered to give us a tour of the property after we had our drinks in hand.
“What’s the story with the duck?” I asked.
He looked at me with a serious glare. “The goose gets nervous if a portal to a third dimension is opened. It senses it.”
My eyes widened as my companions broke out in laughter. Kevin laughed as he handed me a drink. “Your friends here put me up to saying that.” When his amusement subsided he continued. “Actually, the duck has been staring out to see and pacing for a few years now.” He glanced towards the sea, “a boat traveling through left the duck on shore and then took off with her chicks still on the boat. She’s been looking and waiting for them ever since.”
My heart sank as I reacted in unison with Jamie, “Awe.”
“So she’s waiting for her chicks to return?” Jamie asked.
Kevin shrugged, “it appears so.”
I glanced out to the beach with the goose still pacing. How sad to have your babies disappear, and then to spend your entire life waiting for them to return when they never will. It’s a basic instinct that mothers have no matter what the animal breed. Perhaps that’s why I don’t want kids for fear of loss. That goose will never be happy again, or in any way normal.
My sad thoughts were interrupted by Nick with a “Let’s go look at the cottages.”
The five of us trotted next door with drinks in hand to the closest empty rental house. It was a warm and cozy two bedroom with a kitchenette and a single bathroom. Bright pink on the outside the interior was equally painted lively yellow, lime green and cobalt blue. “Very cute,” I commented. “But don’t most people stay on their boat?”
“We have an airport in our back yard,” Kevin chirped.
“Now we’re talking,” Luke shot back, then turned towards the three of us. “Ready to check out the airport?”
Kevin pointed us to the direction of the airstrip agreeing to meet us back at the bar for a refill. Only 3,300 feet long it was littered with potholes, cracks and weeds.
“Wow, this would be challenging to fly into,” I said walking the runway.
“Well there’s a fascinating history to this airport. It was once controlled by Pablo Escobar and his cohort Carlos Lehder back in the late 70’s and early 80’s.” Nick bellowed enthusiastically. “Lehder owned the island and used it to smuggle cocaine from Columbia to the United States. Armed guards patrolled this island in jeeps and helicopters.” He stopped for a moment and motioned to the runway with one big arm sweep. “And this landing strip was only used for his drug trade. Others were forbidden or even worse, killed. Drugs and money flowed, woman ran around naked and people had sex everywhere,” he grinned. I smirked and glanced at Jamie for her reaction.
She simpered, “It’s true. Nick studies his history.”
Nick swiveled towards me, “Have you ever seen the movie Blow, with Johnny Depp?
I searched my mind for Johnny Depp drug movies in the Bahamas and recalled a reporter trying to land in a small plane in the Bahamas only to be captured or turned away. “I think I saw it,” I finally answered.
“Well the movie is in part based on the drug trade here. Depp plays George Jung, a cocaine drug partner of Lehder. Both were part of the Medellin Cartel with Escobar as the head honcho.” Viewing the landing strip differently I listened intensely as we all strolled. “They murdered, kidnapped and bribed their way into using the island as the base of their smuggling operation. They were thugs who made billions and owned Norman’s Cay. They’re all dead or imprisoned now, he concluded.
“Wow. I’d like to excavate around this airport. I’ll have to re-watch the movie when we get back to the states.”
“I have a book on the boat you can read called, ‘Turning the Tide.’ Nick shook his near empty glass as the ice hit the plastic walls, “Shall we get a refill.”
The three of them turned around and began to walk back to Mac Duff’s as I lingered in the opposite direction. I imagined the island bustling with small Cessna’s, uniformed drug smugglers with AK47’s, garbage bags full of cocaine and naked women. I may have liked partying here on the island with no rules for a week or so, but then the debauchery would have worn me down after awhile. I envisioned digging up bullets, degenerated bags of cocaine, skeletal remains of murder victims and maybe even thousands of dollars of hidden drug money. A flashback to one of my first archaeological digs in Long Beach, California came to mind. Brushing off human skulls and bones with a toothbrush for eight hours a day was intriguing until I fell asleep at night and my dreams turned into nightmares. For weeks they penetrated my lurid nighttime reality until one day they just stopped. One random day the human souls staring back and tormenting me gave up and became peaceful again, freeing me to pursue my career.