Have you ever noticed that ordinary people get a sense of humour when they're on vacation? I met a lot of people in Cuba who were probably boring at home. Take away the stress of work, put a drink in their hand and let the warm sun shine down on them and suddenly they're Jay Leno.
Like Phil, the candy salesman from Ottawa. Boring. But in Cuba, on vacation? A riot. (If you ever meet Phil, do not play Scrabble with him, he will destroy you.) Or the scary German lady who sat at the bar by the pool for the entire two weeks and never left her chair except to go eat breakfast. "Effery-von yust comes heer fur da smokingk, drinkingk und ZEX!" High comedy.
Of all the hundreds of people I met while on vacation in Cuba, none stick in my mind as clearly as Steve. Steve was a roofer, with a permanent sunburn and a great physique. I know this because he only ever wore a pair of khaki shorts and flip flops. Steve stood out for two reasons. He had a really hot wife and a cute little girl, but he talked like a Halifax dress designer. He would say, "Stop!" in the most effeminate way possible. When he talked, he made Nathan Lane look straight.
The other reason was that he always had a cigarette in his mouth. Even while drinking, he would hold the cigarette in one corner of his mouth and drink from the other. While playing volleyball, the cigarette was there. I saw him treading water in the pool once, cigarette dangling. In fact I only saw him without a cigarette in his mouth once.
It was the night of the bats.
There was a long row of trees running beside the middle of the hotel. There was a path between the open hotel hallway and the trees. That's where I found Steve late one night. He was standing on the path, cigarette dangling, beer in one hand and a huge ripe coconut in the other. He was staring up at the trees like he was having a vision of Jesus descending out of the clouds. As I approached he said, "Stop!" So I stood there and waited.
"What's the coconut for, Steve?" I asked.
"There's bats in the trees." he replied, drunkenly.
"Hundreds of them."
"I'm going to prove it." he said, hefting the coconut in his right hand and rearing back for the throw.
Steve must have been a baseball player in a previous life, because I have never seen a coconut fastball fly with more style and accuracy. It hit a huge gnarl near the top of the biggest tree with a loud "Whok!" noise. Everybody heard it and looked up.
The bats heard it too. They woke up and immediately did that echo-location trigonometry thing they do so well. En masse, they attacked the hurler of the offending coconut.
Steve's initial estimate of "hundreds" was so far off, I'm glad he wasn't an accountant. A cloud of bats the size of Texas poured out of the trees and engulfed him. It was an avalanche of black fur and flapping wings and just before they overwhelmed Steve I saw the cigarette fall from his lips. He ducked and covered his head while the bats streamed past, screaming like a little girl one moment and swearing like a sailor the next. The bats filled the path, the hallway, they were everywhere. One lady opened her hotel room door to see what the screaming was about and got a face full of fur for her trouble.
Eventually the bats settled down and flocked back into the tops of the trees to rest. Steve, eyes wide and shaking, slowly reached down and picked up his cigarette. He dusted it off, stuck it back in his mouth and took a long, deep pull.
"Oh my GOD, did you SEE that?" he asked.
"Stop!" he said. "Help me find my coconut?"
P.S. Tomorrow I'll tell you what happened to Steve's wife. And what happened to me when I laughed about it. Karma is one mean-spirited bitch.
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