Slippery Slope

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Bombing: Skiing fast and recklessly without regard for the safety of others or oneself.

Brent stood in the middle of Kristy’s studio apartment and turned slowly in his spot.

It was as neat and orderly as always yet the Christmas tree still stood in the corner, its needles pooling around it on the floor. The houseplants sagged sadly, too, although that was not unusual - they always did – Kristy notoriously killed plants and laughed at her lack of a green thumb. The small fireplace had been cleaned fastidiously and did not look like it had been used in days. The dishes on the drain board were completely dry. Brent didn’t know what to think. It seemed that Kristy had pulled a reverse Derrick. As unexpectedly as Derrick had returned to town, Kristy had left it.

Brent walked over to the small dresser next to her bed and spied into it. Yep, it was almost empty. He looked into the closet. Her backpack and weekend bag were both gone. Kristy was a light, efficient packer from years of being on the slopes and going on rescue retreats. She did not have much to pack but it looked like she had packed all she had. She had left without a word to anyone. Brent shook his head in wonder. It was not like her to simply walk away from her job, her responsibilities, and her friends without a word. He sent her yet another text: “I am standing in your apartment! Where are you?”

Kristy looked out of the plane’s window down at the clear, turquoise water. She had arrived in Florida early in the afternoon, only to find that her connecting flight had been cancelled. A tropical storm had recently damaged the Grand Bahama International Airport to such an extent that planes no larger than 20-seaters could land. The one she was in presently was no more than an air taxi and every seat was taken. There were several couples and a few families. One adorable little boy was making everyone laugh by humming the theme song to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Everyone was with someone, everyone except for her. Instead of making her miserable, she smiled.

Kristy took a deep breath. The sun glistened on a school of large fish that rushed through the water below them, silver streaks against a field of green-blue. She could almost smell the salty ocean breeze and taste coconut, papaya and rum on her lips. She had booked a condo in Port Lucaya for ten days at an amazing price. There was a pool, a spa, and it was just steps from the beach. The environment to which she was headed was diametrically different from the one she had left. And that was the whole idea. She needed to reboot, reset, and rejuvenate. For the first time in six years she was headed toward a Derrick-free destination. They had talked many times about going off to some tropical paradise together, but that had never materialized. At least now she totally understood why.

The plane banked to make its approach to the runway. Being in such a small plane was different. She was not a great flyer, and for some reason the smallness of it made it feel safer. It was not as noisy. It seemed not so imposing. It felt causal, like sitting on a bus. See could see exactly what was happening. They had barely been in the air any time at all. When the pilot announced that it was “2:21 pm Eastern Time and a balmy 82-degrees,” Kristy could not recall the last time she had been in such mild weather. She had become as cold and frozen as the slopes she skied upon and the snow that was piled up around her home. At some point she would consider the consequences for picking up and leaving without telling a soul. But until her own soul thawed a little, there was no worrying about anyone else’s.

On the tarmac the plane taxied to the terminal, a tiny white and yellow building. The pilot stood at the bottom of the stairs to assist the passengers and winked at her as he grasped her hand. Getting on the plane, she had only seen the back of his head; now she could see he was a Matt Damon look-alike with the gear to go along with it – mirrored sunglasses, collared shirt unbuttoned at the neck and cut to show his muscles. Nice, she thought, and lamented what a pity he was working and not on a vacation. She smiled back and picked up her bags from the tarmac. Kristy walked swiftly through the terminal building to the taxi stand outside and gave the address to the driver. On the way there, she could see the extent of the storm damage on the trees. They looked like they had been cut back with hatchets. There were just small tufts where there should have been long, graceful fronds of palm. When she commented on it the taxi driver told her that the damage from the storm had affected half the island. There had also been rolling power outages, lasting for hours.

There was damage at the property where she was staying as well. The pool had been drained but would be refilled within a couple of days. While some of the first floor units had been damaged, her room on the third floor was fine and faced the beach, which looked pristine. She threw her bags down on the bed and rummaged through them for her white cotton sheath dress, one of only two dresses that she owned, and her black bikini, which till now she had only worn into the pool at the lodge. She did not want to waste another moment inside but stopped a second to inspect her body in the mirror. She was toned, but pale, belying a job that kept her almost always outdoors. She was fastidious about sunscreen. At the altitude where she lived and worked, sunburn happened quickly. For this trip though, she had left her SPF 50 at home and opted for a risky SPF 15. If she was going to be on a tropical island for ten days, she was going to go back looking like it.

The beach was as beautiful as she imagined. Kristy threw a towel onto the sand and pulled her dress over her head. The water was warm and crystal clear. She swam a ways down the beach and then back again. There were people on the beach and in the surf, but fewer than she would have expected. For a long time, she sat at the water’s edge and just looked out into the ocean, digging her toes into the sand. She was thinking she could live in a place like this, but who could get anything done? A man’s deep voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Rum and coconut drink?” he asked.

Kristy turned to see a young man behind her. He was shirtless and muscular and cradled a burlap sack against one hip. On his opposite hip was a machete and in his hand, a bottle of native rum. Kristy unfolded herself and stood.

“How much?” she asked.

“Four,” he said, sticking out four fingers, his thumb still wrapped around the neck of the bottle.

Kristy walked back to her things and took four singles from the pocket of her dress. It was all she had brought down with her. It would be money well spent. The man put the sack on the sand, took out a coconut and shook it. She could hear the milk slosh inside. She then watched as he deftly cut off the top of the coconut, which he extended to her on the knife to take.

“It’s good. Fresh.”

Kristy pulled the meat from the shell as he poured into the coconut a generous amount of rum and then handed it to her.

“Thank you, Miss. Enjoy,” he said and then replaced the knife, picked up the bag and with a nod of his head, continued down the beach.

Kristy took a small sip. It was strong, but delicious, the sweetness of the coconut milk cutting the heat of the rum.

She sat back down on her towel and watched as dusk fell and the sky turned an array of muted colors that marked the ending of the day.

Back in her room, she took a long, luxurious nap. When she got up it was already dark. She dressed to go out, figuring she could get a drink next door at the hotel bar. That was when the lights went out.

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