I am sitting under a tree with an anthropologist who’s telling me she’s exposing “once and for all” reports about this tribe that summons children from solid rock. I’m there on a day tour from the resort and have heard nothing of this, but tourists from all over are gathered on a grassy knoll for the same reason as me: a cheap cultural excursion. A group of local tribesmen start playing a thundering rhythm on various drums and primitive string instruments when several shaman in white robes come stomping out of the jungle chanting to the drum beat. To my left, on a shallow mound, ornately dressed women place linen sheets over a bas relief sculpture of an ancient fertility god carved into a rock. The chanting and music grow in intensity and I see a sheet start to move, squirm, then seem to contain a small body. Tourists are stunned; I run over, pick it up, hold it, and can feel that it’s a living baby wrapped in a sheet.
People stare at me, mouths agape, in stunned silence.
“Put it down!” the anthropologist yells as she starts running towards me.
I look down at the bundled sheet and notice something is wrong, the baby doesn’t feel right and starts twisting and writhing to get free. As the chanting reaches a crescendo the baby starts making gurgling sounds then seems to gain ten pounds. I cry out for help but nobody moves; I begin unraveling the smock and notice it has black eyes, like staring into two bottomless wells, green leather skin, and a large mouth full of sharp white teeth. It hisses at me then flicks a pink forked tongue out just inches from my face. I release the beast and watch as it slithers across the ground and attacks the anthropologist. “Run!” she shrieks moments before being engorged, her blood splatting across the hollow faces of tourists. People start to flee, screaming, but the demon attacks the crowd. There’s guts hanging from trees, corpses lie twitching on the grass. I turn towards the rock and see a dozen more sheets begin moving. I start running, but the ground feels like quicksand. Growling demons grow ever louder. I tumble, they’re right behind me! <Gaaaah!> I awoke in a daze, startled, arms flailing like I was fighting off a lizard creature and wondering for a second where I was. I could feel heat from the jungle and smell the sea. Ah yes, Antigua, I’m on holidays!
I can only attribute a series of vicious dreams to two sources; either babies have scarred me for life, or the principle ingredient in Sure Tox is mescaline. Whatever the case, the next morning, I awoke and recited the entire dream to Julia as if I had seen it the day before. Shaken, I got up and made breakfast, then following frigid showers, we hit the road, bound for St. John’s, the capital of Antigua, a full half hour drive through the heart of the Island. For the first ten minutes we drove the same path to the west coast, past the supermarket, and the pink church on the hill (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) that didn’t look like it was helping anyone in Swetes, unless of course it was the Church that needed perpetual help. We got stopped at our first traffic light on the Island and I dutifully waited while every vehicle behind me, including the Island bus I had just past, skipped the light by cutting through the bays of a gas station. I had almost forgotten the “get the fuck out of my way” road etiquette.
Finally we were back on our way and things started getting noticeably more built up until we turned onto Cross Street and found ourselves in the heart of downtown. There were people and vehicles everywhere; fortunately all streets were one way which gave us a bit of room, but also required that I make the correct turn without driving two blocks out of the way, something I kept doing. There were no tourists in this part of town, just crumbling buildings, narrow streets, and people who routinely walked right out in front of the car. My left foot was poised with a hair trigger on the brake. We drove around for twenty minutes before finding a parking space near the dock, where we met “Sugar Momma” who insisted we buy a souvenir. We assured her we’d be back, but told her we wanted to explore the area first.
“Well you come right back here. Remember, my name is Sugar Momma and I’ll be waiting for you.”
We walked through the dockyards and saw two relatively small cruise ships in the harbour. Obviously there were going to be tourists around and while we certainly looked the part, we had arrived by car, not by sea. Many of the vendors took us for cruise passengers, routinely asking what ship we had arrived on, if we were interested in a tour, and if the misses wanted her hair corn-rowed. We just kept saying “no, no, no, no” and some seemed surprised—even annoyed—that we had driven from the other side of the Island, flashing a similar look to when dogs realize you’ve just eaten the last piece of steak.
We bought a few shirts at Rasta Pasta then had dinner at a pizza restaurant in a small courtyard behind the main tourist block. By the time we finished it was pushing three o’clock so we wanted to get out, and back to Birds and Bees, before rush hour. I couldn’t imagine how much worse rush hour would be than regular hour, but I didn’t want to find out. A thick curtain of rain loomed over the harbour so I rushed Julia to the car then we drove past Sugar Momma who yelled at us seconds before being engulfed in a deluge of rain.
We made it back with relative ease except we were looking for the Jolly Harbour turn that never materialized. Just outside of St. Johns we drove past the “G-Spot Bar and Restaurant,” which means we know there are at least two G-Spots in the Caribbean, this one and the G-Spot Drinking Saloon (and brothel) we visited in Jamaica one night—yes, that’s ANOTHER interesting story.
We pulled off the road just before Falmouth Harbour to visit Carib Bean coffee roasters, a small coffee operation about five minutes from our cottage. While they did not grow coffee in Antigua, they roasted it in a small green house with a single table for sitting. I had an iced coffee, which was delicious, while Julia drank nothing as usual because she has still, to this day, never tried coffee. I know, I know, it’s absolutely inexcusable that she has never tried it, but trust me, I’ve been down this road before. (There has to be twelve step programs to wean people onto coffee and if you know of any please send me their phone number). The ladies at Carib Bean told us the local Island delicacies include “Bull Foot Soup” which is made from, you guessed it, bull foot. There was also their own special pepper pot which she said had “pig tail, pig snout, and pig lips.” I was just waiting for her to say anuses and really, would it have mattered at that point? Upon leaving we cursed the rain and she said, “Ya’ know, rain is a gift from God because it comes from the sky.”
“So is lightning.” I retorted.
Wednesday night was more Sure Tox and more vivid, and often horrifying, dreams. Most I could recite in great detail the following morning. On the bright side, I hadn’t broken out in any new no-see-um bites for two whole days. I cannot stress how this made me feel and as my previous bites pussed out and had started healing, I ceased reminiscing about the “good ol’ days” when I had chicken pox. Heck, I’d even trade no-see-um bites for shingles: if shingles were a cure for no-see-ums, I’d happily rub my face all over someone’s shingly torso.
The next morning we decided on an early swim then spent the rest of the day lounging by the pool, reading, doing crosswords, then dipping into the Vodka and Rum like we were acting out our own version of Leaving Las Vegas. We were so lazy we didn’t even take the car to the store, a five minute drive, to get food for dinner. I improvised and made creamy, cheesy spaghetti with bacon, onion and peppers because that was all we had in the fridge. I had no thickening agent besides pasta water, so it ended up a little soupy, actually a lot soupy with globs of cheese that didn’t melt. Yet it’s amazing how your taste for quality food is inverse to the amount of rum you’ve consumed: cheese spaghetti soup with globs of cheese was just what I needed, washed down with rum.
Friday we would head out again, to Pigeon Point, which is supposed to be one of the nicest beaches on the Island and a mere fifteen minutes from our cottage. The weather called for rain all day so we had a back-up plan of shopping at the Crab Hole and staying in our cottage, but we were optimistic because the previous week called for sun and we saw what happened. We were starting to really like hanging out at our cottage, though, now that Sure Tox made our lives so much easier. I could even do a Sure Tox commercial: “When you want the bugs gone away or when you want to write like Hunter S. Thompson, try Sure Tox; it’s toxic FOR SURE.” I like the sound of that.