I’d gone mute. We were in line. It was hot. Yellow-y. She was the one who wanted to be here. I would’ve rather been in my chair, drinking beer in the cool. So, talking? No. I’d eat raw tip before that.
“Why are you always like this?” CC asked. Almost spat it up. “Hmm.” I looked into the relentless, perfect-blue sky, sinking, sinking, about to crush us all. CC’s beautiful eyes licking my skin. Searching for a spot turned brittle from line-sun where an insult might punch through.
To my core.
But too bad. I was already hollow down there. Decided. Just mechanically-separated sandwich ham and low-rent apartments and pressed oxy crumbs and nothing, that was my soul. Time without heroin: thirteen days, six hours, ten minutes, and thirty-three, thirty- four, thirty-five seconds.
“You have a massive ego problem, Hugo. All you American men do. You’re a race of. . . ”
I stopped listening. We were on vacation. The cruise ship beyond us, a swollen shaved belly—a barely-leaking metalloleviathan. The people, subnormals. My people. Softheads cut in two by overpriced blue light and glare light and UV and remorse and all bad vibe blocking sunglasses. Flabby bodies cased in gas station sandals and parrot-colored Bermudas.
It was a mass of mouths and hair and sweat and varicose veins and paunches and gonorrhea. A centipede of fake polite complaining, equipment. For me it was perfect.
I’d finally gone ahead and planned this thrice-requested trip, because my wife was fucking my boss. A suicide mission. Because my wife was also pregnant. And for the past month, every night, I’d been plagued by the same terrible dream: my unborn child being crushed to pale human paste by a massive uncircumcised Protestant cock. My boss, Robert Hauser III, went to one of those megachurches where grown men with goatees and ponytails try to live out some fantasy by playing drums on a stage, if that helps.
Not an ideal scenario.
The best possibility was that the thing was actually his and I was merely being tricked into raising a bastard. So, I was here to get to the bottom of it. Blow the case wide open. Cruise ships, even the big ones, aren’t all that big. This particular outfit? They focused on “close-quarters for ‘transforming
connections.’” Whatever that meant. CC was slippery, smart. But from those words in the brochure it sounded like there would be nowhere for her to run and hide from my final confrontation, my avalanche of collected evidence, yes, for the next week plus two free days with the very limited-time package deal.
I noticed the guy ahead of us was really excited. Bouncing around like a toddler who needed to piss.
“Do you think they’ll have a slide?” he whispered to his wife, unamused like most the others.
I pictured the two of them at the top of this imaginary waterslide, about to go down, his wife finally smiling and kicking him through the hole. Screams and blood spraying back out on her face. Like it was actually a woodchipper. Like she’d set it all up.
The sun continued dripping its pretty pink pulp down our necks. My sweat had gone thick and beige and hateful. All parts under my clothes were quickly fusing into one pulsing organthing, which I dare not detail further. But I’d take it. I’d tolerate these hicks. And eat the thawing swill stored somewhere in the guts of the ship and sweat and do the goddamn limbo and much, much more.
Important work was ahead.
And really, I didn’t care about the cheating. I was doing the same. It was just that with CC, marriage was forever, she was still traditional about some things, the outward facing things, so I needed this evidence and plan to get myself out of the eternal contract. For a nice brisk marriage to a perky young woman-cheater, fine. But a whole eternity? Years and years and us both decomposing like these ones around us, with their constipation prescriptions and catheters, both only cheating worse and having to pile on more elaborate and ridiculous fictions just to cover our tracks?
Sounded like a lot of work. An entire stretch like that? And then after that? Hell, too?
Exhausting. No. We had to go our separate ways. She was much smarter than me, so I only had this window. Tap, tap, tap. (One of those sticks maestros used.) Paranoid trumpets, spill out your foam of music! Announce joyous doom!
“Welcome aboard!” a man—really more a boy-man with hyperwhite teeth and bleached hairwisps atop his balding dome—said.
We’d got to the line’s front. Hmm. Don’t think I’d ever seen someone so happy to be alive and working.
Although it could have been plain old extreme fear; the two always looked indistinguishable to me. There above, hundreds of blank eyes stared down. One of them a window belonging to our future room on the ship. I stared back. You had to have confidence. This was it. My rancid princess of the seas. A trough for dregs. Here we go, I thought, sweating.
“And that’s why you’re never going to get a raise,” CC continued. She’d been nagging the whole time. “To keep your ego all nice and shiny you’ve given up taking any real responsibility. Because then when it all goes to shit you can just shrug and blame the guy in the big chair. Rob isn’t all that bad. He’ll give you a raise if you just show him you’re trying. But, no. Americans like you want to sit back with your cheap food, and TV, and wine—Californian ‘wine’, ha!—as someone else drives your life for you.”
“I’m actually really glad we’re doing this,” I said. “You were right.”
Garth Miró is a writer based in New York City. His work has appeared in Litro, Sundog Lit, XRAY, and Maudlin House among others. He works as a handyman.
A full excerpt of The Vacation is published in EXCERPT Magazine - No 1