Work In Progress

A Short Bit about Hamburgers and Questionable Navigation

Note: Another snippet from the work-in-progress for NaNoWriMo, a twisted bit concerning a family cruise in the Caribbean. For background filler on this one, you should know that my youngest sister, Roni, endured two massive strokes in her early Twenties, leaving her partially paralyzed. This sounds grim, and it is, but I firmly believe that you should embrace what you have been given and find the laughter where you can…


By the time I got down to the Upper deck, I was sweating and emitting pressure-relieving belches, which was most assuredly not a pretty sight. My appearance was not enhanced by the super-long trek down the endless hallway toward the cabin, as said trek increased the sweat factor and the paleness and the bodily disquiet. Topping things off was another round of ship-lurching, resulting in additional unattractiveness like staggering and bouncing off the walls. Suffice it to say that I probably looked like David Hasselhoff that time he really, really wanted to eat a cheeseburger off the floor.

Random development halfway to the room: A door opened, probably leading to one of the guest rooms, as there were roughly seven thousand of them on this floor, and a head popped out. The head belonged to a severe-looking woman who had not quite mastered the art of sunscreen-application, resulting in her splotchy body looking like something that Jackson Pollock would have created in his barn. Said head said: “What is wrong with you?”

Me: “I’m just trying to get to my room and-”

The door slammed and Splotchy was gone. Well, not entirely. From within the chamber, her vocal cords were still very much present: “Harold, we are never getting on a boat again. They let just anybody on this thing. The children have been damaged forever.”

The children started crying, apparently assuming that “damaged” meant “not good” and therefore the next round of Christmas gifts would not be as satisfying as the last. Harold wisely chose not to share any emotions or vocalizations, because fourteen years of marriage had taught him that neither expression was optimal. Instead, he continued to quietly fiddle with his laptop, working on a blog post concerning why people should never marry someone just because they showed up for a second date without a restraining order.

I thought about banging on the door and announcing that I was from Child Protective Services, but such a lark didn’t really go so well that last time I engaged in such frivolity, so I just turned and kept walking. Hopefully they could work it all out before someone ended up giving an interview from a prison cell. (“Well, Barbara Walters, it all started that day when we received the brochure for Carnival Cruises…”)

Eventually, I made it to the proper longitude and latitude where our cubicle was located. I was just about to slide my card into the key lock of the room, when something registered to the left of me, further down the hallway. I turned to review, and I spied several of the Carnival room attendants in a huddle. They seemed to be studying something in the midst of them, a something that appeared to involve what might be a wheelchair.

Wait a minute. I recognized those wheels.

I headed their way, just as the ship tussled with another swell, resulting in a lurch that propelled me forward and had me nearly knocking the group over like I was bowling for Jesus. Some of them scrambled out of the way, clutching at crucifixes and fervently muttering under their breath, and there was my sister Roni in her wheelchair, looking very, very mad. She had her good hand on the knob of a door leading to one of the mysterious places where the service people did whatever they did, a hand-position that was making the workers very, very nervous.

I leaned down to converse with Roni. “Sweetie, what are you doing out here alone? Where’s Mom?” (She can’t actually speak, but she can answer in other ways, although some of those ways can result in the loss of a limb.)

Roni just kept glaring at the door, refusing to look at me, anger flushing her face. She tried jiggling the doorknob again, determined to achieve whatever goal she had in mind. (And I’m sure that it was a good goal, just not one that anyone else would appreciate or support.) In a nicely dramatic move, she upped the jiggling tempo until it sounded like titanium-beaked woodpeckers were trying to breach an underground bunker in war-torn Yugoslavia.

This caused the workers around me to burst into alarmed chatter, in a manner that was not English but made it very clear that if Wheelchair Girl didn’t knock it off we would soon be at Defcon-4 and missiles would be launched. Terrific. I now had to resolve a political crisis without knowing the language, and I was risking the possibility that I would annoy the staff beyond redemption. They would no longer use origami techniques to twist our towels into the beloved cute animals that we could discover on our beds after returning from a night of binge-drinking on the Grain Alcohol Deck. I had to proceed carefully.


Story behind the photo: I’ve used this one before, in a different context. Sometimes you have to go to a familiar place and just breathe…


29 replies »

  1. If have commented before that we are genetically joined in some way …. I too believe that the best way to deal with tragedy is to find the comedy. And you do it so artfully. The vignette of splotch face has me giggling elegantly but when we get to *bowling for Jesus* … helpless I am. And into the mix you add suspense – I need to know what’s behind that door. NOW!!!! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What Peggy said! …I’m not criticizing mind you, but that was a really horrible place to stop. I hope all was well in the end…? And at least you experienced pressure relieving BELCHES. Imagine if the toot toot machine had been in full vigor. That head in the wall would have no doubt come out screeching about a gas leak (ha ha..) and clobbered you with a stale hamburger…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m afraid of what it says about me when any situation that involves Defcon-4 makes me laugh 😃

    … and then there is Splotchy. Who hasn’t encountered a Splotchy in their travels? I love how you paint a scene!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Again, mastery of excess descriptive hyperbole, but close enough to a story to follow. I never got an answer. Is the on and off, maybe it’s dialogue, maybe it’s a screenplay thing a stylistic choice, or a blogger/internet abberation? Just busting your chops. You can write, and you have a wealth of things that are like other things that are like some more things that would would serve a shoe gazing 70’s blues gutarist well in an extended solo, but I’d hate to turn you loose in the grocery store and say “just make a salad, Brian.”


  5. Did I ever tell you how much I pleasure I find in your relationship with Roni? No? Well, I do. It’s the honesty, I think. Nothing schmaltzy, just honest and real.
    Also, totally forgot that David Hasselhoff video. Do you know how long I didn’t drink after that? I mean, I never came close to anything like that, but still. Never hurts to play it safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for noting my bond with Roni. If she could, she would be the first to say that she would much rather I tell it like it is instead of somehow painting her as a victim. It killed me when The Incident happened, and it kills me now that I am so far away. But when I do get to see her, our lights shine…

      Liked by 1 person

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