Patrick C. Crowell
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“Man, my nose hurts,” John Pfeiffer said. He recalled the ferocious fist he’d taken, as he manipulated the crusty innards of his distinct schnoz.
“ Move faster next time, idiot,” his buddy said, rubbing his own throbbing shoulder.
Beaten up and exhausted, the pair was relieved to be heading home. Well conditioned for their age—forty-eight—they were able to handle eight to twelve foot Costa Rican surf for hours with relative ease on a surf trip like this, day after day. There were always rashes, cuts and bruises, and deep-seated aches and pains at the end of such a vacation. These were happy feelings for surfers. But this time there was more, and the reprieve was different.
The sparse afternoon flight over the turbulence below was soothing. They were belted-in, Pfeiffer reading a legal thriller and Peter Cromwell attempting to write one. The two lawyers were best friends—middle-aged surfers craving curls instead of golf or riding Harleys.
“ You look like W.C. Fields,” Cromwell said, knowing Pfeiffer hadn’t had a chance. “I can’t believe you let that guy pop you like that. I thought you used to be a boxer?”
“ I would’ve had to have been a fish, like you, to win that bout.”
“ Well, you won anyway … thanks to Miguel,” Cromwell said.
“ And you.”
“ Hey … what’re friends for?”
Cromwell searched for literary inspiration out the portal, studying bulbous squall lines crammed against a Costa Rican mountain range. Electricity crackled and lit the darkened horizon. So this is what’s it’s like to be on the throwing end, he thought, imagining that he was Zeus lobbing lightning bolts like javelins. He and Pfeiffer had been on the receiving end of nature’s fury on their mountainous drive to the San Jose airport. Hail, lightning, wind blasts up to tropical storm speed; it’d been a typical Costa Rican corker.
The lurking flight attendant sashayed by and pretended to check seatbelts, though the captain’s light had been off for some time. Scoping them out, she zoomed in on their salt and peppered sophistication under Luau shirts and cargo shorts, and smiled at the handsome lawyers ... interested, though trying not to appear too obvious.
Cromwell leaned over the empty seat between them and tapped Pfeiffer on the arm. “Ask her for some wine. I think better when I’m loaded.”
“ I’ve noticed.”
Pfeiffer stuck his head in the aisle and trailed her swaying posterior with his eyes. The hard looking stewardess reminded him of the king of beasts, despite the difference in sex—tanned skin, thick auburn hair like the Lion King’s mane surrounding an angular face, muscular legs under broad hips stretching a tight skirt the color of lion fur, and chesty—so chesty.
The solid woman misinterpreted Pfeiffer’s hail, having shot a glance over her strong shoulder to ascertain whether her hook had been set. She was all smiles and working her return so hard that when the jet bounced on an air pocket, her wayward haunch smashed the elbow of a young business woman, causing deletion of the meteoric maid’s data on her laptop. Excusing herself, she refocused on her prey.
“ What can I do for you, darlin’?”
“ What kind of red wine do you have?” the surfer-clad attorney asked.
She found herself riveted by his deep blue eyes. “Shallo,” the woman bragged. “Merlot … would you like some?” She clasped his arm while her pearly-whites gleamed in the light, surrounded by vivid red substances.
“ God,” Cromwell said under his breath. “We shall serve all wine before its time.”
“ Excuse me?”
“ Don’t mind him,” Pfeiffer said. “He’s tired and grouchy. He was just reflecting on the quality of your wine list.”
“ It’s Chilean!” she pointed out, as though that would help.
“ Bring us two, please,” Pfeiffer said in resigned voice.
“ I’ll be right back,” she promised, and swished away.
“ I think she likes you, John,” Cromwell said. “Want me to go to the back of the plane? I can write back there, while you pork her under a blanket.”
One of Cromwell’s many nicknames was “Gorilla” because of his long arms. A collegiate swimmer and water polo player, he spent an hour in the pool at least five days a week. He was taller than Pfeiffer at six-foot-two, and though narrow-framed, quite sinewy from leagues of hard-swum laps and paddling surfboards. His royal blue eyes twinkled when engaged in one of his favorite social activities—stirring the pot.
Pfeiffer changed the subject, ignoring his sardonic friend as much as the prowling feline. “I’m glad we took Miguel to lunch. He’s really a good guy, helping us the way he did. … He saved my life, man.”
“ Carlos seemed to know him.”
“ Yeah, when you were in the baño, he told me a little about Miguel. He told me he lives in some squatter-shack close to Carlos’ restaurant. He gives Miguel food in exchange for work around the farm and watching the kids when he and Mama go to San Jose. After we told Carlos what happened, he fixed Miguel up with a sack of pancake mix and three pounds of bacon.”
“ That Carlos, man, there’s another good guy. I’m glad we hooked up with him an’ his family.”
“ They fed us great this trip, didn’t they? How many plates of arroz con pollo do you think we ate? Man, I think I gained weight on this trip!”
“ Yeah, I can’t believe we took every meal there. We paid ‘em a shit-load of money.”
“ And they were grateful, too. It showed in how Mama and Rosalica looked after us.”
The stewardess returned, deliberately positioning her oversized bosom close to his face, as she bent over Pfeiffer in order to set Cromwell’s Chilean Merlot on his drop-tray. She seemed disappointed that Pfeiffer didn’t nibble a nipple right through her blouse.
Cromwell stifled an impulse to ask, “Got milk?”
“ That Rosalica’s a sweet young girl,” he said, after the mountainous mammaries took their leave. “What’s she, twelve, now?”
“ Yeah, twelve,” Pfeiffer replied. “Pretty, too. We’ve been going there to eat for six years. Hard to believe, huh?”
“ Yeah, I enjoy the waves at T-box, but I’m glad we tried the Fiesta. It was different from Jacó for a change. This trip’s been a little more adventurous … with the fight an’ all.”
“ I forgot to tell you. Miguel and I saw a monster shark in the water.”
Cromwell’s eyes widened and he jerked his glass from his lips. “When?”
“ Just before the fight. I’ll bet it was a twelve-footer at least. Miguel called it a Tiburón de Nicaragua.”
“ That’s what the Ticos call a Bull shark. Nicaragua and Costa are known for them. Isla del Cocos has a huge population of them. Aggressive suckers. Just last week one killed a girl in the Panhandle.”
“ Yeah, I saw that.”
“ I read an article about illegal shark-finning, and Costa Rica seems to be the capital. They kill the gray suits in order to harvest fins for delicacies and shark cartilage pills, like I take for my arthritis.”
“ Well you oughta boycott, you shithead,” Pfeiffer said. “I thought you were a liberal?”
“ I know. I want to research it some. The damn pills seem to help my joints so much, but I don’t know. Anyway, we ought to send Carlos and his family something from the States to say thanks. You know … something they can really use.”
“ That’s a good idea,” Pfeiffer said. “Let’s think about it. They’d be really grateful.”
“ They’re all like that, you know? It’s still one of the things I understand least, but like best about our trips, the Costa Ricans are so damn happy.”
“ And child-like.”
Cromwell nodded and returned to the private world of a would-be novelist. Pfeiffer opened a Surfer Magazine and turned to a story about middle-aged surfers in Indonesia. “Now that’s where we should go!”
Cromwell ignored him, so Pfeiffer became lost in a jungle scene. Gazing upon greenery much like in Costa, his mind drifted back upon the events of their own recent adventure.

Copyright © Patrick C. Crowell 1995-2004.
All rights reserved. Rev. 3-2



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