The Hammock

by Sterling Meeuwen

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The rustle of the palm tree was barely a whisper but, it roused Tom. He opened his eyes and looked at the ocean through his feet. His drink was warm and watered down. He wondered how long it would be before the waitress returned. She was long, blonde, and her firm body reminded him of his youth. In the seventh grade he noticed how pretty girls, like her would hang on his every word. A few years later he would be blessed with a strong body, that would take them all night long.

He looked at his reflection, in the glass of his watered down drink and thought, the only reason a pretty girl would talk to him now, would be to offer him another drink. Tom had not let his body fall to the ills of age, far from it. He worked out three times a week, ate healthy, and even ran a charity marathon a year ago. Even when he considered these things, fifty was a hard pill to swallow.

After a watered down sip, he decided the bar was far too great an expedition and laid his head back into the hammock. His slip back behind his eyelids was interrupted by the waitress’s footsteps in the sand. When her shadow was over him he smiled, without opening his eyes, and nodded for another drink. He hadn’t moved from this spot all day and could think of no good reason to break precedent.

Tom had been to this island before. His wife had insisted the honeymoon here. A hurricane blew in the day they arrived and did not let up until the day they left. The young couple clung to the romantic notion, weathering the storm together was proof they could last. That proof was negated the day the papers were signed.

The waitress returned with his drink. This time he opened his eyes when he smiled. She smiled back and Tom’s urge to speak was overcome by his lost for words and he began to stutter.

“Ok buddy, you just go right ahead and spit out whatever lame pickup line, you are trying to think of. I see a thousand of you every season, trust me I’ve heard them all. I’ll laugh, bat my eyes, and then bring your drinks in awkward silence.”

Tom gathered himself, grinned, and gave her the coolest voice he could muster,

“Well, I got nothing so, we can skip right to the awkward silence.”

She let a smile crack her face, (Tom took it to be genuine), sat his drink down, and left.

Tom thought about what she had said. A thousand seemed a low number. He figured that, four months out of the year, it was wholesale creeps around here. She was probably hit on by every middle aged guy with a bad hair piece and a wife, not within ear shot.  Hell, for he knew she could already have a sugar daddy and had no problems taking his money. He imagined this was not what she had planned for her life. A singer or, a dancer no doubt. With the way she talked; she was clearly not a local. Perhaps she was the lead in some god awful dinner play on one of those cruise ships. She landed here on this island and is just waiting for some rich guy to come and save her before the only thing she has going for her fades.

The wind picked up and swayed the hammock side to side. Tom relished every pass like a child wanting the playground swing to go higher. Storm clouds gathered and when a thunderbolt struck just off shore, the expedition to the bar, could no longer be pushed back. He let the hammock make one final pass, then lept from it. Putting on his shirt, he surveyed the storm, it was going to be a nasty one. Tom grabbed his hat, he headed to the shelter of the bar.

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