Saturday, June 12, 2021

Please Hold Thumbs: Oh, That's Nice!

 I'll be frank here. I have to be frank because I can't be me. And Sammy sang "I Gotta Be Me" not Frank. That being said (whatever the hell that was), I have to admit to one and all that I am finding difficulty keeping up with this here blog in the midst of re-writing the first draft of my novel (see previous posts did: FIRST DRAFT DODGER and THE GRATING AMERICAN NOVEL), marketing my other written works (see my website at the horrors of everyday life.

Therefore I have decided that, over the course of the summer, and in celebration of the 10th anniversary of its publication, I will release the first full chapter of my true travel tale PLEASE HOLD THUMBS: A NOT SO ROUND TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA. 

Here's the story:

Attending their daughter's wedding in South Africa promised to be the vacation of a lifetime. But first, they had to face the treacherous gauntlet of modern day travel

Join this hapless, sometimes helpless couple as they brave their way through a never-ending obstacle course filled with such hazards as flight delays, the purgatory of layovers and an incompetent, uncaring air carrier that treats its passengers worse than their luggage. Waiting for them on the other side of the world are an honest to goodness safari with amorous lions and elephants with anger issues, a life affirming visit to a South African school and an anxious bride and groom standing patiently at the airport with a sign that reads:

Please enjoy PLEASE HOLD THUMBS. I said please.


How long had I been dead to the world?
The exact time of day couldn’t be easily pinned down since there wasn’t a clock anywhere within my soft focused field of vision. By the light of the room in general, I took a wild guess and thought it might be daytime. Since I had been lying on my side in this bed, it could have been the stroke of midnight and this was a searchlight blasting in from the outside for all I knew. But right then and there, I didn’t know anything. 
I turned over onto my back and stared up at the whirling ceiling fan when it suddenly hit me:
I was back in ‘Nam.
Wait a second. That didn’t make any sense. I’d never been to Vietnam in the first place so how could I be back there? I may have been out of my head from fatigue, but I sure as hell knew I wasn’t Martin Sheen.
To my immediate left, I saw my wife Laurie in the bed beside me deep in the throes of slumber and figured out in my addled state of mind that where I had actually returned to was Beaverton, Oregon. The bedroom windows in our “European style” apartment had been wide open all night long, airing out the place after ten days away. The familiar sounds of the Max train, a proud member of Portland’s light rail system, whooshing into the station just three floors below our building brought a knowing grin to my bed sheet lined face. That was a sure sign that we were home again.
I rose from the bed with great difficulty. My body had contorted into one giant cramp. With each movement, I cracked and crunched so much, it sounded like a drive-by shooting in a popcorn factory. Maintaining my balance wasn’t any easier as I staggered about from one end of the apartment to the other in a game of human pinball. All this had to be achieved while my sleep-laden eyelids kept drooping closed and each attempt to open them became a strenuous weight training exercise. But, damn it to hell, I was determined.
I had to go to the can. There are some things a man just has to do.
It was the first coherent shit I had taken in over a week. My bowels had been performing in fits and starts for almost ten days now. This can be attributed to the fact that they had taken a trip around the world and had been treated with probably less care than my luggage. I wouldn’t say that I had a spastic colon, even though I do think that’s a great name for a band. (“Hello, Des Moines! Give it up for Spastic Colon!”) Then again, I still had that feeling of accomplishment; a claim to fame that could only be called “a guy thing”, a definite gold star in Camp Testosterone. Not only had I taken a dump on three different continents and in four time zones, but I had also squeezed off a few salvos on both sides of the equator. What a big boy am I.
But now I was back on the road to recovery. This included the bodily function known as the morning constitutional. Talk about a sigh of relief. I had a sudden moment of clarity as I discovered the true meaning of the word regularity. Maybe my ass, plain and simply, was just homesick. 
I then took something else that had been a luxury in the last little while-a long, hot shower. As I cleansed my body of whatever I had acquired in the past couple of days of travel, it dawned on me that the last time I had bathed was on the other side of the world.
Drying off after that lengthy hose down, I inspected myself in the bathroom mirror. I didn’t recognize the guy that was staring back at me. My face had tanned like never before and appeared to be more of a badge of honor that was earned rather than burned. The best part was that it was all natural, not one of those orange tinted spray jobs from a tanning salon that make its patrons resemble overcooked Cheetos. This was the real deal. I hadn’t shaved in several days and my beard stubble, sprinkled with various shades of gray as it has been for years now, complimented my new skin tone. Usually when I’m unshaven, I tend to think I look like a grizzled old sourdough out prospecting for gold. “Eureka! I done struck me the Mother Lode, by cracky!” Laurie hates that description, preferring instead to say I look “seedy”. Yeah. That sounds much better. But even she had to agree that this combination actually worked on me, giving me much needed maturity and, dare I say, a dash of ruggedness. Finally, I searched my eyes, trying to take this all in as I stared directly in the mirror. They were glassy, almost doll-like initially most certainly stemming from various stages of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.  Their shade, seemingly much greener than before, had taken on a more muted hue, which fit quite comfortably with the rest of my new look. As I continued gazing at my eyes, they began to come to life as the drowsiness melted off. At this point, I was looking past them and what lay beyond. Suddenly the vision of a far-off land appeared before me, stretching off into the horizon and in the same array of earthen tones and colors sitting on the palette that was my face. A sudden recognition overtook me and I smiled at myself knowingly. I realized right then and there that I wasn’t dead to the world after all. I was alive. After all, I didn’t just visit South Africa; I had brought it home with me.
It was written all over my face,

Copyright 2010 by Scott Cherney

More chapters available and more travel tales on my page entitled CHERNEY JOURNEYS