Smorgasbord short stories revisited – Blue Jay Cay by Colin Peck

When I worked on radio in the south of Spain I presented and recorded four series of Authors in the Sun showcasing local writers and their short stories.

Colin Peck who is an established author of several books kindly contributed two stories, one of which I am featuring today. You will find the link to his Amazon author’s page at the end of the story where you will find his novels.

Blue Jay Cay

Blue Jay Cay was a beach like no other they had seen. At least a mile of golden sand stretching before them, underneath a clear blue Caribbean sky. A line of coconut palms swayed in the gentle breeze, standing like soldiers on parade just above the shoreline. It was paradise.

Arnold raised his camera to eye level to photograph the wonderful vista and spoke to his wife, Caroline.

‘If we could get that run down chalet bungalow just behind the beach, we could renovate it completely. Ideal for all the family and friends to visit. I bet a few from the office will be out as well!’

‘Perfect location,’ Caroline agreed. ‘And you could build a patio just like the one we had on the house in England. And that garage could be converted into another bedroom. And I could completely change the garden.’

‘Yes, I think we’ve certainly found the right place to retire. Let’s get back into Nassau town and see the agent, before someone else snaps it up! I shan’t sleep tonight if the money hasn’t arrived!

Then Arnold spotted some more property seekers. ‘Look, there’s another car pulling up over there, I bet they’re looking for a bargain property as well!’

They hurried back to their car and then went speeding off down the dusty track that led to the main road into Nassau.

An old local man, Winston had hoped to greet them as they drove past his old shanty house and perhaps sell them some bananas, but as he raised his hand to wave he was showered in a cloud of dust and sand. They had not even glanced his way.

Momentarily blinded, Winston lost his balance and fell straight out of his hammock, scattering the squawking yard chickens. His old mongrel, ‘Bonzo’ woke from a deep slumber and dutifully started barking.

‘Gee whiz! Them folks is in a hurry!’ he said to himself as he stood up and brushed the sand off of his threadbare shorts and torn shirt. He looked along the road but the car had long since disappeared in a cloud of dust.

‘Oh never mind. Come on, I guess it’s time we went fishin, Bonzo.’

Winston was back in his hammock at the same time the next day but on this occasion he decided he would keep a sharp watch out for approaching cars. Sure enough, Arnold’s car appeared and roared past and then stopped near the old bungalow nearby. The same two people got out and wandered off, armed with what appeared to be plans and stopping every few yards to take snapshots.

An hour later they had finished, but this time their car did stop outside the shanty when they saw Winston’s weather beaten old sign, ‘Coconuts and Bananas for Sale.’

Winston was half-asleep but listened from underneath his straw hat, which was covering his face, as the couple got out of their car and approached.

‘I say there,’ Arnold said in a slightly raised voice, ‘Do you know of any plans to build more houses here?’

Winston stayed put with his hat still covering his eyes. ‘Well, let me see. Good afternoon, by the way,’ Winston paused and thought for a moment as they waited anxiously for his reply. ‘No, no plans I know of. Why d’you ask?’

‘Well, we’ve just bought that old bungalow behind the beach,’ Caroline replied. ‘We wondered if we might eventually be surrounded?’

‘No. Only by all this lovely peace and quiet, Ma’m. Us folks around here just like to let the world go by. Actually, the Cay is designated an area of natural beauty.’

‘Oh,’ Arnold replied as he and Caroline stood closer and looked over the garden fence. Bonzo got up and began to wag his tail.

‘My word, you have a lot of old empty bottles piled up there!’ Caroline pointed at a carefully arranged heap of old rum and beer bottles surrounded by a flower border.

‘Can’t you throw your rubbish away properly?’

‘That’s not rubbish, that’s Uncle Vernon,’ said Winston.

‘How do you mean?’ Arnold was puzzled.

‘He’s buried under there.’

Caroline gasped in horror. ‘What, under there…?’

‘Sure, six feet under, that’s he’s final restin’ place. Ninety one years of age, he was. We all think it was the relaxin’ way of life he enjoyed. So here he is, still relaxing. That’s how we bury our folks in this part of the world!’

‘Good gracious, are you allowed to do that?’ she asked.

‘I hope so, Ma’am. He’s been there for two years now!’ Winston said, finally rising out of his hammock and ambling slowly over to them.

‘So now, what are you good folks doin’ looking at property around here? Holiday home, retiring?’

‘Retiring actually,’ Arnold announced.

‘Good for you! Life’s too short. Just look at all this tranquillity!’

‘We thought it was an ideal opportunity,’ Caroline added.

‘Sure is Ma’am, what are you gonna do with all your spare time?’

‘I like painting,’ said Arnold.

‘That’s great, just look at the scenery around about. Mind you, oddly enough, I’ve never seen a Blue Jay around here! What do you use, oils? Watercolours?’

‘Oh no, I meant painting the house,’ Arnold replied.

‘Gee mister, we don’t worry too much around here. Jus’ look at this old shack behind me.’ Winston gestured at the old flaking timbers of his home.

‘You just never seem to catch up with the rainy season in this climate.’ Then he smiled at Caroline.

‘So, how about you, lady? I’ll bet you’ll be relaxing and reading on the verandah! Catching up on all those great books you folks collect back in Europe?’

Caroline appeared to be slightly shocked at Winston’s direct manner. ‘Oh no, I’ll be far too busy getting the house ready for visitors.’

‘Visitors!’ Winston shouted in disbelief. ‘Boy, you must be wealthy people if you don’t mind me sayin’ so! Them devils cost a fortune, did you know that?’

‘Well I’m sure ours won’t,’ Caroline snootily replied.

‘In fact folks, that is why that old bungalow is like it is now!’ Winston exclaimed.

‘What do you mean?’ said Arnold.

‘The couple in there had so many visitors, they went broke!’

‘I don’t believe you,’ said Caroline.

‘It’s true!’ Winston continued, ‘That guy did so many airport runs it turned his car into a wreck. His lady wife wore out so many washin’ machines and steam irons they could start a scrap yard! There was even a rumour they had to run four chest freezers and- they had to buy a bread making machine! Broke up their marriage in the end!’

‘We think you’re exaggerating,’ Arnold said testily.

‘OK, just check it out. By the way, would you folks like to buy some bananas?’

‘Not today thank you,’ Caroline snapped and they both turned away to walk toward their car.

‘Suit yourself. They are very good for stress,’ Winston called after them, ‘So is coconut milk!’

‘We shan’t have any stress, we’re retiring, remember!’ Arnold shouted back.

Winston watched their progress with growing interest over the following weeks and months. First of all, Arnold got an old trailer to pull behind his car and then a new cement mixer arrived. Hardly a day went past without a delivery of bags of cement or timber, or gravel. New window frames and literally hundreds of tiles. Bonfires of garden rubbish were a daily occurrence and both Arnold and Caroline appeared very tired as they toiled in the heat on their noisy and dusty building site.

Then after six months of hard work, it was Christmas and their first visitors arrived.

Winston saw Arnold driving past in his now well scratched and dented car, forcing a smile and waving a bandaged hand, as he returned with an assorted group of passengers from the airport. What a way to spend Christmas Eve, thought Winston as he watched Caroline greet the passengers on the porch and Arnold struggle into the bungalow with several large suitcases.

And the procession never ended. Hardly a week passed by when Arnold wasn’t on the airport run and Caroline wasn’t hanging out extra laundry, or weeding the garden. Even the small local supermarket could hardly keep up with the demand. The local gossips said they were doing ‘Bed and Breakfast,’ but it was not the case. Just constant visitors.

By Easter, they had worn out their second barbecue and Arnold had even bought some scaffolding to make window cleaning easier.

Theirs was a strange retirement; Winston could not help thinking. They must have really hated leaving work, he decided one afternoon as he lazed in his garden hammock. As though they were terrified at the thought of relaxing in the sun and taking a well earned rest. They were good folks and should be making the best of their new life of leisure.

Then it was time for his work. Winston had finished his afternoon nap and strolled down the golden sand to his little fishing boat moored at the pontoon. Arnold was driving slowly by with a load of building tools and an air conditioning unit strapped to his car trailer.

Winston waved to him and then cast off his boat into the gentle surf.

Hopefully, the Grouper fish would be biting this evening. Otherwise it was Cajun chicken for supper, while he listened with interest and fascination to the local radio station. Sipping a rum punch afterwards, while watching the glorious sunset was just another added bonus of life on the Cay.

He slowly motored the boat offshore, watching the fading gold streaks of light dance on the surface of the sea and then glanced back to the shoreline. He could just see Arnold and Caroline still bringing trays of drinks and snacks to their latest visitors, who were all relaxing on the bungalow verandah. The poor devils were still catering at this time of the day, as the guest’s laughter echoed across the water.

Then Winston suddenly had a thought. It was very easy for him to criticise well meaning folks and the way they lived their lives. But it was still a fact that so many of the new settlers could not help falling into a trap of a sort. Thinking that they were retired, but really still working.

More to the point, what on earth would HE do, when he decided to retire? He didn’t have to think twice of the answer. Then he began to laugh at himself as he got his fishing nets ready to cast, causing a slightly confused ‘Bonzo,’ to wag his tail.

©ColinPeck 2004

About the Author
Colin Peck was born in London in 1946 and grew up in a working class environment during the austere post war years. He was fortunate to get a place at Clarendon School and went on to study chemistry, working in his early career in the technical departments of an international oil company.

He started writing several years back, having some short story fiction published in the U.S. and has written factual articles on both nautical and espionage matters, published both in the U.S. and U.K.

‘Enrico Albyvendie’ was his first novel, inspired by his lifelong interest in London’s history and an intricate knowledge of the London taxi trade. Together with his wife Avril, he retired to live in Spain in 2000 and has written to further books in the Enrico Albyvendie series and recently published his sixth novel.

Books by Colin Peck

 

Buy Colin Peck’s books
Amazon Author Page – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Colin-Peck/e/B00651QJ9E

I hope you enjoy and please feel free to reblog and share. Sally

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Smorgasbord short stories revisited – Blue Jay Cay by Colin Peck

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Tony Bennett, new releases, reviews and series | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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