a Hawkins Family Vacation
“You’ll love it, Jim!” My beautiful wife, Mary, smiled and threw her arms around my neck.
I shuddered and sighed. I loved Mary and would do just about anything to make her happy. But a cruise? “You know I hate boats…”
“Call them whatever you like. I still hate them. I despise the wretched oceans, too.”
“Well, dear, you won’t have to worry about hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic or getting storm-tossed and lost in the Pacific. We’re taking a peaceful week in the Caribbean, with all the modern conveniences, and making port at a treasure of an island sporting one of the best golf courses in the world.” She smiled at me, and her eyes pleaded with me to agree.
How could I resist? But I had to give her one last tease. “I suppose,” I told her as I scratched my chin. “As long as we don’t land on the original Treasure Island.”
Treasure Island. A cursed place where my great-times-seven grandfather, after whom I was named, nearly met his demise 270 years ago. I forced a mischievous grin.
“Silly man! That Treasure Island was supposed to be off the coast of Spain or North Africa, somewhere in the Atlantic.” Mary smiled and threw a couch pillow at me. “I’ll call and reserve our spot.”
We stepped outside the airport terminal onto Florida soil, and I wished I had a knife to carve out a breathing space in the hot, heavy, humid air. The hotel shuttle idled at the curb’s loading area, and we climbed aboard the air-conditioned bus, where I could breathe easier.
“Isn’t it a bit late in the day to launch a cruise ship?” I asked Mary as we weaved in and out of traffic.
“We leave in the morning,” she replied. “I should tell you this is what they call a destination cruise. You’ll see what I mean.” Mary smiled and filled my heart with dread.
We rode for nearly an hour, occasionally stopping to drop off a few of the riders until Mary and I were the only passengers left. My stomach rumbled as the shuttle approached our destination ― the Admiral Benbow Inn, or at least a reasonable facsimile. What sort of cruel joke was this?
For the love of my wife of nearly 40 years, my sweet Mary, I stifled my apprehension and stepped down from the bus in front of a dumpy, ancient inn. A crude wooden sign, marred by a single slash at the lower corner, hung askew above the entrance and announced the Admiral Benbow. Tourist trap, I hoped. We stepped inside a rustic common room, which was steeped in the smell of bacon. I complimented the innkeeper on the replicas of the infamous sign and entryway and generously tipped the young bellboy who lugged our suitcases up the rickety wooden staircase to our room.
The cheerful lad opened the door and flipped a switch. Bright lights nearly blinded me as I stepped over the threshold into a modern suite with all the amenities of the 21st century. A blessed air conditioner hummed in the window, and a coffee maker gurgled in the final stages of brewing a fresh pot.
After we sipped the dark elixir and snacked on the inn’s complimentary tray of sliced meats and fresh fruit, I turned on the flat-screen television to watch the news, reassured I was still in touch with reality. It was late, and the journey had tired us both. Mary and I took turns with showers and climbed between the sheets of the queen-size bed. I was asleep seconds after my head hit the pillow.
Sunlight streamed through the open drapes and roused me from a truly depressing nightmare. Mary was already up and had packed everything except a set of clothes that she laid out for me. I dutifully dressed in the shorts, cotton print shirt, and boat shoes. I tried on the sunglasses but took them off almost immediately when a cloud clothed the Admiral Benbow in temporary gloom.
“We need to hurry, Jim,” Mary warned. “Our ship is set to sail in an hour, and we barely have time to make it.”
I stuffed my pajamas in the suitcase, donned my new straw hat, and stepped out into the hallway. We checked out and were shuttled to the docks with only a few minutes to spare. As we walked up the gangplank and onto the ship, we were greeted by the captain. “Welcome to the Hispaniola!”
With the sound of the ship’s bells and the deep-throated boom of its whistle, we left port and made way in the clear blue waters of the Caribbean. I stood for a while with Mary on the deck, near the railing, and watched the waters part as our cruise ship sliced its way south and west.
We strolled around the promenade and explored the dining area, pool, shuffleboard and badminton courts, and the many shops with overpriced souvenirs. We were invited to sit at the captain’s table for dinner and afterward danced to the orchestra’s lively beat until we both decided to seek refuge in our stateroom.
I awoke in the darkness to an angry gale, and I could hear the rain pounding against our porthole window. It sounded like a terrific storm, and I decided to get up and see what was going on. I swung my foot over the edge of the bed and tumbled out of a hammock onto the planks of a deck. Mary was nowhere to be seen.
From above me, I heard “Land ho!” I peered out the porthole at an apparently deserted island and made out a pointed peak piercing the black sky.
Over the roar of the ocean’s waves crashing against the shore, a seafarer’s voice shouted, “Thar she be! Spyglass Hill and Skellington Island.”
Muffled by the breakers, the high-pitched, scratchy voice of a parrot chimed in, “Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!”