Man From the South
It was getting on toward six o’clock so I thought I’d buy myself a beer and go out and sit in a deck chair by the swimming pool and have a little evening sun.
I went to the bar and got the beer and carried it outside and wandered down the garden toward the pool.
It was a fine garden with lawns and beds of azaleas and tall coconut palms, and the wind was blowing strongly through the tops of the palm trees making the leaves hiss and crackle as though they were on fire. I could see the clusters of big brown nuts hanging down underneath the leaves.
There were plenty of deck chairs around the swimming pool and there were white tables and huge brightly colored umbrellas and sunburned men and women sitting around in bathing suits. In the pool itself there were three or four girls and about a dozen boys, all splashing about and making a lot of noise and throwing a large rubber ball at one another.
I stood watching them. The girls
were English girls from the hotel. The boys I didn’t know about, but they sounded American and I thought they were probably naval cadets who’d come ashore from the U. S. naval training vessel which had arrived in the harbor that morning.
I went over and sat down under a yellow umbrella where there were four empty seats, and I poured my beer and settled back comfortably with a cigarette.
It was very pleasant sitting there in the sunshine with beer and a cigarette. It was pleasant to sit and watch the bathers splashing about in the green water.
The American sailors were getting on nicely with the English girls. They’d reached the stage where they were diving under the water and tipping them up by their legs.
Just then I noticed a small, oldish man walking briskly around the edge of the pool. He was immaculately dressed in a white suit and he walked very quickly with little bouncing strides, pushing himself high up onto his toes with each step. He had on a large creamy Panama hat, and he came bouncing along the side of the pool, looking at the people and the chairs.
He stopped beside me and smiled, showing two rows of very small, uneven teeth, slightly tarnished. I smiled back.
“Excuse pleess, but may I sit here?”
“Certainly,” I said. “Go ahead.”
He bobbed around to the back of the chair and inspected it for safety, then he sat down and crossed his legs. His white buckskin shoes had little holes punched all over them for ventilation.
“A fine evening,” he said. “They are all evenings fine here in Jamaica.” I couldn’t tell if the accent were Italian or Spanish, but I felt fairly sure he was some sort of a South American. And old too, when you saw him close. Probably around sixty-eight or seventy.
“Yes,” I said. “It is wonderful here, isn’t it.”
“And who, might I ask are all dese? Dese is no hotel people.” He was pointing at the bathers in the pool.
“I think they’re American sailors,” I told him. “They’re Americans who are learning to be sailors.”
“Of course dey are Americans. Who else in de world is going to make as much noise as dat? You are not American, no?”
“No,” I said. “I am not.”
Suddenly one of the American cadets was standing in front of us. He was dripping wet from the pool and one of the English girls was standing there with him.
“Are these chairs taken?” he said.
“No,” I answered.
“Mind if I sit down?”
“Thanks,” he said.