Bahamian Rhapsody,
a short story by Austin I Pullé 
2,860 words

           Betsy’s return after a week’s absence delighted Luke. The beautiful green Anna’s hummingbird was feeding from the red feeder replenished with the sugar fluid filled by Luke earlier that morning.  As Luke watched, Cicero, his neighbour’s Siberian, come through the fence, its intent clear. Luke rose to chase the cat away but he stumbled. By the time he got up, he was just in time to see Cicero climb the fence with a fluttering iridescent piece of heaven in his jaws.

            “Will shoot the bastard the next time,” he swore to himself.  Cicero had snatched Betsy just as capriciously as an aneurism snatched his wife while they were watching a July 4 Parade on State Street. If Angel were around, she would have saved Betsy, he told himself. He missed her. He sighed and resumed reading the Book of Proverbs in the family Bible.

            The theme of the Book was wisdom, described as more valuable than rubies.  This made him think of his wife’s wisdom. “There’s no fool like an old fool,” Luke remembered Angel remarking after parties where she met an almost retired colleague remarried to a woman thirty years younger. Luke secretly envied his colleagues who had dumped their blue haired wives to marry much younger wives. Luke’s friend, Chester, in fact had got a mail order bride from China. Chin-Chin had lustrous black shoulder length hair, almond shaped eves and a skin that looked like white porcelain.  Angel hated that woman who turned heads.  She declared herself a Trump supporter because he would put an end to people like Chin-Chin flooding America. “After all, what sort of name is that?” she demanded. “That’s the name of a panda bear!”

            Months after Angel’s funeral, Luke went gone online and installed some dating apps. He chose sites that featured Chinese women.  He uploaded a photograph of himself taken twenty years ago. These women and he flirted with each other for several weeks. Very titillating but when some offered to send him nude pictures if he sent them $100 and when others wanted money for their airfare and expenses, he confronted reality.  The deleted the apps no longer appeared on his IPhone’s screen.

            In a foul mood, Luke adjusted the La-Z-Boy and watched TV while he ate a piece of the microwaved lasagne.  The surgeon general, an Indian fellow called Vivek Ramasamy, no that couldn’t be right, Vivek Murthy, was saying that loneliness was an epidemic in America. The Fox channel interviewer broke off for a commercial, and Luke turned off the TV. The talking heads of government and industry were now Indians. What had America come to thought Luke, determined to cast a vote for Trump in November 2024.  But the Surgeon General’s warning kept coming back to him. Night after night he watched the Lazy Susan spin as his microwave heated the TV meals he bought from Gelson’s. He poked at the slightly burnt lasagne on his plate and wrinkled his nose.  Was this his Groundhog Day fate, he wondered?

Forty years, spent first at college, then as an insurance executive, and then in retirement with a nice nest egg, he felt he was living an empty life, maybe even unloved. But then he thought of his daughter Mabel, the doctor down in Thousand Oaks, who called him every fortnight urging him to move in with them.  A member of First Wesleyan, the church that had broken off from the LGBT Methodist wing. Luke could not imagine sharing a dwelling with Mabel and her partner, Barkhado, whom Mabel met in Mogadishu when working with Médecins Sans Frontières. Besides why would he want to move from Santa Barbara, a city for which millions would sell their grandmothers to live in, to the fringes of gang ridden LA?

            The next morning Luke visited Georgette at the First Goleta Bank and Trust where he kept a part his nest egg. In her mid- forties and wearing a cream business suit from Nordstrom’s, Georgette, projected an image of a successful businesswoman.  She was reading the eviction notice from her landlord when she saw Luke.   Georgette tucked away the notice and smiled at Luke although the smile did not reach her emerald colored eyes.  How could they after she lost two months’ salary at the Chumash Casino a weekend ago?

“What a wonderful surprise!” she exclaimed as Luke in his white shirt, red tie, and brown suit approached her desk. She arose and kissed him on his cheek drawing back quickly after smelling his aggressive aftershave.

            As Luke sat in front of her, Georgette put on her Versace glasses, adjusted her hair and examined papers in a file. “I’d like you to shift two hundred into a Vanguard Money Market,” Luke said.

 “We don’t know how the S&P will do until after November 5th, do we?” she said meeting his grey eyes.

“It will go through the roof because it will be slam dunk in November.”

“Have you thought of diversifying into real estate? You’re over-invested in munis,” Georgette asked removing her glasses with her left hand and placing them by her keyboard. Luke noticed her bare ring finger.

“Not with the property taxes here. Will only get worse,” Luke said.

“Why not think of the Caribbean? The Bahamas have some fabulous condos,” Georgette said placing some forms in front of him to sign.

Luke signed the forms, pushing his French cuff back to check his Breitling watch, and said “Gotta run. Maybe, we can meet for dinner and you can tell me more.”

“That will be lovely Mr. Pentoli,” Georgette said. “Take good care of yourself.”

As Luke shuffled out, Georgette stroked her chin. An idea was beginning to form in her mind. She looked at her tan skin, the result of her recent trip to the Bahamas where Jacques had taken her snorkelling near the coral reef. The dazzling angel fish and the multi-colored corals were still vivid in her memory.

Three nights later, Georgette sat opposite Luke in the Sakura restaurant in the Mesa. Luke, adept with chopsticks, reached for a piece of braised eel, dipped it in a small bowl of soy sauce and wasabi and, put it in his mouth. Georgette sipping from a wooden bowl of Miso soup wondered whether Luke’s dentures would come off when he chewed the rubbery eel and calamari.

            “Have you thought of buying a condo in the Bahamas?” Georgette asked stirring some soy sauce into her soup.

            “Been thinking about Florida.  SB’s getting too woke. Our museum director fired a curator because her proposed exhibition lacked diversity. None of that nonsense there,” Luke said. “

            “Florida’s full of violent Hispanic gangs, drug dealers, hurricanes and crime. Go for a wonderful retirement opportunity. Golf, swimming, fresh food, clean air and cheap help. No earthquakes, forest fires, or mudslides. What more can one want?”

            Luke was silent.

            “I can help you buy one.”

            “That’s kind of you but I’m not sure.”

            “Well, why don’t we fly over there? After all, seeing is believing.”

            Luke drove Georgette back to her apartment in Fairview. He embraced her and kissed her on her lips. She kissed him back, remembering the passion of her first high school kiss and tried to imitate it but failed.

            Two weeks later they left San Francisco on a Bhamasair flight to Nassau. Luke bought business class tickets and Georgette booked a bridal suite at Mangoes, a recently opened competitor to Sandals.  They were not married yet, but lived together for the past ten days.

            Jacques Grignon met them at the Lynden Pindling Airport.  As Luke climbed with difficulty into the backseat of the SUV, Georgette helped Jacques load their bags into the trunk. Looking into the dreamy green eyes of Jacques, Georgette could not but help plant a kiss on his lips. He stroked her face and kissed her. Jacques, like Bob Marley, was the son of a white man and a black woman.

            As Jacques drove the Toyota SUV back to Mangoes, Georgette kept pointing out various sights to Luke. The astonishing shades of green vegetation, the shanties, and the dazzling colors of the clothes on the women made Luke’s head spin. 

            As they checked in at reception with Luke’s black Amex card, Jacques summoned a bell-hop. Luke touched the pouch in his pocket.  There lay the brilliant diamond engagement ring that he had bought at Rodeo Drive. He imagined the look of ecstasy on Georgette’s face when he proposed the next night over a candlelight dinner on the beach. Loneliness was now a dim memory.  Luke looked forward to a life of marital bliss in his sunset years.      

            The bell-hop with his luggage trolley let Luke and Georgette into their suite. Called the “Versailles Suite”, it had a four poster bed, a Roche Bobois sofa, a massive flat screen TV, a minibar, and a welcoming fruit basket of bananas, star fruit and mangoes. Luke tipped the bell-hop ten dollars. When the door closed, he embraced Georgette and planted a passionate kiss on her lips. He could not see the look of disgust of her face when she broke away.

            “Let’s go to the pool,” Georgette suggested an hour later.

 A combination of how he would look, spindly legs, a chest of silver hair, water that would ruin his comb-over and his being tired spurred him to say, “No.”  The four poster bed with its satin sheets with its freshly laundered smell invited him to lay there. Noticing Georgette’s pout, he said, “You go on Honey. I’ll join you later.”

            “Won’t be much fun without you,” she said, “but I need to work on my tan.” Grabbing a bottle of sunscreen from her carry-all, she pecked Luke on the cheek and left for the pool.

            Luke stripped down to his boxers and flung himself on the bed. In a short time he was snoring.

            Most of the recliners around the kidney shaped pool were taken. Mangoes was a “couples only” resort and Georgette was thankful there were no children which meant a pee free pool.  In a one piece light blue swimsuit with red starfish imprinted, she found an old man staring at her cleavage but in case he got ideas she put on her shades and looked away. A light breeze cooled her while she applied sunscreen on her somewhat tanned body. She saw Jacques bring a pink colored drink with its obligatory tiny parasol atop and give it to a single woman. Even from a distance, she could see that the woman was hitting on Jacques. He made women of her age swoon, and she wondered whether she could keep him from straying when they were married. Jacques saw her looking at him.

            Grinning in his charming way, he came to her. The chairs around were empty.

            “Where’s the geezer?” he asked.

            “Asleep, but he’ll join me soon.”

            “What then?”

            “Gonna transfer a mil to my account in First Nassau tomorrow.”

            “My clever girl!”

            Aware that the manager who had entered the pool area enforced the “Strictly No Fraternization With Guests” policy of Mangoes, Jacques moved away as if to serve other guests.

            But before he moved, he told Georgette, “I get away at three. Meet me at my flat.”

            “Can’t if he’s with me.”

            “Leave it to me. When he joins you, order two mocktails from me.”

            “Who was that hussy who was hitting on you?”

            “She? Amber Thornton from Kentucky, a sex tourist.”

            A believer in the Law of Attraction, Georgette put herself in a good place and visualized her future life with Jacques. With Luke’s money, she would buy the luxury apartment on the beach. It was near the Nautilus Cove, one of the toniest spots on the island. The realtor was a cousin of Jacques and he agreed to hire a top notch interior designer for the apartment.

 Luke finally arrived, smelling of lime cologne and sat on a recliner beside her, and interrupted her reverie. Georgette barely managed to conceal her annoyance. In his swimmers and orange polo shirt, Luke, with his bandy legs and stoop, embarrassed her.  Luke looked around and said, “Honey, I’m so glad that I found you.”

“I told you I’ll be here.”

“No I meant, thank God that I’m not one of these loser sugar daddies with their sugar babies,” Luke said making a vague gesture towards the objects of his derision.  He moved under a pool umbrella. “Hot,” he said, wiping a band of sweat on his wrinkled brow.

            “Dehydration.  Honey, let’s get some mocktails or something stronger,” Georgette said.

            “A Coke.”

            “Boring!  Get one of the specials,” Georgette said summoning Jacques with a wave.  Amber Thornton removed her shades and glared at her.

            Luke touched her hand which smelt of sunscreen. “You are my long lost soulmate sent by heaven.”

            She stroked his palm noticing the liver spots and said, “You don’t know me yet.”

            Jacques brought two drinks one in a coconut and one in a scooped out pineapple.  He handed the pineapple to Luke saying, “The straw is paper.”

            Luke took the pineapple container and sucked deeply. Georgette watched him closely.

            “Nice?” she asked.

            “Strong stuff,” he said making a face as if he just suffered a sugar rush.

            “The syrup’s from local fruits,” she said. “Bottoms up, my adventurous pirate.

            “Yo Ho Ho,” Luke said slurping the drink.

            Georgette noticed Luke nodding shortly after he finished the drink. She shook him and told him, “Let me take you up, jet lag is messing you up.” Luke allowed Georgette to take him back to his room. She couldn’t wait to be with Jacques. She tiptoed out the suite leaving the snoring Luke behind.

            Three hours later, Georgette carefully let herself into the suite. Luke was stirring. She rushed to the bathroom and turned on the shower full blast lathering herself with three mini bottles of the apricot scented body wash provided by Mangoes. Finally, satisfied that she had washed off any smell of the torrid time with Jacques that included smoking many joints, she pulled up a fresh pair of jeans and a Mangoes’ tee and emerged to find Luke awake and seated at the desk.

            In a good mood, Georgette asked, “Rested my honey bear?”

            “Where have you been? You weren’t at the pool.”

            “Took a walk to Nautilus Cove. Got dirty.”

            “What time does First Nassau open tomorrow? Once you put me as a joint account holder, I will get the funds transferred to our account.”

            “I was thinking honey,” Georgette said stroking her chin.


            “Maybe it’s not a good idea putting you as a joint account holder. The IRS will know and you will be in their sights for money laundering and tax evasion. Also you will have to file FBAR reports every year. You really want that?”

            Luke looked uncertain.

Georgette said, “As I tell my clients, the fear of the IRS is the beginning of wisdom.”

            Luke chuckled recalling the allusion but before he could reply there was a loud pounding on the door. An alarmed Georgette went and opened the door.  A man and a woman in police uniform and Jacques in handcuffs were in front. Without asking permission to enter, the woman stepped forward followed by the other two.

            “What’s going on?” Luke demanded rising from his chair. “You have the wrong room.”

            “I’m Captain Philomena Jones from the Royal Bahamas Police,” the woman, who looked like David Bowie’s Iman, said.

            “We didn’t report anything stolen,” Luke said.

            “We arrested this man,” Jones said “a tourist from Kentucky complained that he raped her.”

            She looked at Georgette who looked away. Jones said, “This man says that the lady here was having sex with him during the time of the rape. We’re here to check his alibi.”

            Luke went ashen. Georgette thought he was having a heart attack.

            “This ugly brute’s a liar,” Georgette screamed. “He harasses women at the pool.”

            Silence followed. Then Jacques lunged toward Georgette but was restrained by the burly policeman.

            Jacques yelled, “You lying bitch! Two hours ago, me and you were in my bed.”

            The narrative Jacques yelled out in his lilting Bahamian accent was vivid and credible. Luke heard the details of the set up and felt himself going weak at the knees. He had to sit which he did and barely controlled the nausea welling up in him.

            “Your government’s put a travel advisory on Bahamas. Tourism’s our lifeblood,” Jones said.  “We’re under strict order to crackdown on this epidemic of rapes.”

            “I did nothing with this thug,” Georgette said.

            Jones said, “We’ll sort this out at the police station. Madam, you come with us. Seems that both of you conspired to commit romance fraud.” The policeman produced a set of handcuffs and cuffed Georgette.

            After they had left, Luke sat, tears streaming down his face, reached for his mobile and punched Mabel’s number.  Barkhado answered.

            “Yes, Mabel’s here,” she said.

            “Does the offer still stand?” Luke asked his daughter.

            He listened to her reply, ended the call and pumped his fist in the air. He then sobbed. Whether in sorrow or in joy, even Luke did not know.