It was time to say goodbye to New Orleans, and be kind to our livers. We spent a leisurely morning at the Café De Monde in Jackson Square, sipping coffee, writing postcards and taking the occasional picture. Having nurtured our livers for a good two hours we headed for Pat O’Brians for a farewell Hurricane - and Mint Juleps I wish I’d discovered earlier. I tried to make up, but time was against me.
It’s interesting how memory plays tricks; from the vantage point of time tedious journeys are telescoped into warp factor nine. On the map it seems a reasonable distance but looking back we were one moment sipping Mint Juleps in a tropical garden, and the next building a bonfire on a Florida beach.
I’ve often read in books, dense, atmospheric paragraphs where the author has struggled to convince that the air could be a soft, viscous pink, the sea milky blue and both equally smooth on the skin. I experienced it that evening and watched as the ocean darkened beneath an orange and grey sunset. There was a solitary chair on the beach that remained unclaimed. The more I looked at it, the more I wondered who had been sitting there, and where he was now.
It made a good marker for my clothes and I stripped and swam, as solitary as that chair, in Florida water. I dreamt of Spanish galleons, pirates. . . and sharks. From nowhere the Jaws theme tune began its soft but remorseless beat, and I imagined my legs, dangling temptingly like sushi for a giant killer white.
The stars had come out but I was glaring at the beach, which now seemed unaccountably distant; and I realised at last the fate of the poor bastard who’d sat in that chair. I kicked and I clawed my way out in raw but self-induced panic, and staggered across the surf-line like a beached pig.
Kim found me and told me the sausages were ready, and my spirits rose. Partying on a Florida Beach at midnight beats anything, though perhaps not the dysentery that shortly afterwards followed. A dodgy sausage or post-shark-trauma. It was bad enough for both.