Bird Watching with Bubba

Excerpt No. 5
Ambergris Island

There wasn't a man in San Pedro that hadn't looked on Cleo with thoughts of what her form had to offer.

If she held motionless and didn't speak, a simple smile could cause an unwitting man to swear his soul to this beauty, but with the slightest hint of voice or movement a great enigma arose. Cleo was born deep in the jungle where she developed a wealth of practical knowledge for such an upbringing, but few thoughts where given to anything else. Any man complimenting her on her appearance was quickly told, "Shadup!" Cleo found it much more comfortable eating with her fingers and wiping food from her face was a waste until after the meal.

She was a business woman and made herself busy with the boat captains who were willing to bring from her village exotic fruits and fresh meat to sell to San Pedranos. Deer, crocodile, gibnut, papaya, banana and cashew were in demand on the island and Cleo had the connections.

She worked in the Holiday's gift shop fashion boutique in the lobby. Celi allowed her to dress from its inventory. Her elegant selections fueled the enigma. To view Cleo in the latest sleek gowns was a heart stopper. However while indulging in the wealth of offerings from the boutique, Cleo never considered a pair of shoes, partly because no one on the island really needed shoes, but mostly because of her feet!

Cleo's shiny black hair was full and always woven in elaborate braids. Her teeth were white and straight, hidden beneath full and naturally rosy lips. Her skin was smooth, creamy brown and flawless. Her feminine figure was proportioned like a centerfold, her back lightly arched, her legs slender, but her feet!

She walked like a 300 pound man shifting from one hip to the other in an elephantine manner, planting each foot flat and solid as she moved across the lobby positioning herself behind the bar. The gift shop business was slow and Cleo was learning the bartender trade by filling in for Chico on his day off.

"Cleo, may I have a rum and coke? And could Bubba get another beer? Where's Chico?"

She studied the mirrored wall of bottles and asked in an inappropriate, loud tone, "What's in a rum and coke?"

"You don't drink do you CIeo?"

"Shadup! You want a drink or not? Which one is it?"

"It's that one there. The one that says Dark Caribbean Rum."

She grabbed the bottle, removed its cap and planted her feet before the pouring station holding a glass of ice. Studying the bottle's label she asked, "How much does he put in it?"

Watching from where he lay in the doorway Bubba put a paw over one eye. Some of the regulars at the bar, Reverend Bill, lovely Rita and Tequila Steve watched silently from the other end.

I pointed to the shot glass and said, " Chico fills these little glasses to measure it and then pours it over the ice."

Cleo poured the rum slowly and she viewed the red fill line from two angles with the concern of a freshman chemistry student involved in their first experiment. Then dumped it into my glass and filled it with coke to the rim.

"Four dollars!" she said. Reluctantly I asked, "May I have a lime?"

She shifted her feet to angle herself towards Chico's cutting board, quartered a lime and gave, it a squeeze over my drink squirting my face, shirt, top of the bar and in the ruin and coke.

Tequila Steve became unsettled. He shifted his weight on the barstool and looked up over the paperback book that seemed to always cover his face.

"May I get another tequila over here?"

The rum and coke episode had taken 15 minutes and Steve drinks three shots an hour. His sudden restlessness seemed to be concerned that Cleo might not supply his demand in a timely manner. Cleo stepped back to the mirrored shelf to replace the rum bottle, looking down the bar to his request she said, "hold your horses!"

Reverend Bill who had not been seen without a drink in his hand since the end of the Vietnam War began to pay close attention.

Lovely Rita who likes lime with her rum and soda, but does not wear protective eye wear, also perked up.

I thanked Cleo and said, "Cleo you look very beautiful in that dress."


"Cleo, do they have Jabiru Storks in Bomba?"

"Don't talk to me!" She then turned her feet in the direction of the trio at the end of the bar and stepped up in front of Lovely Rita, "What do you want?"

Lovely Rita flinched at the abrupt attention, "Rua ... Rua ... Rum and soda."

Thinking ahead Lovely Rita decided not to ask for the lime. Cleo returned to the mixing station before me and began filling a glass with ice.

Forced to face me I took advantage of this posture and asked, "Could you show me a Jabiru. The San Pedro Sun is going to let me write a weekly column about birds and I wanted the Jabiru to be the first. "

"I'm working, don't you get it? Leave me alone!"

I held up a blue Belizean $100 bill and said, "I'm willing to pay you."

She grabbed for the bill but I dodged it from her grasp. She looked me in the eye and said, "I'm going to show you a Jabiru, take your money and your going to be sorry if you don't leave.

She returned to her tense patrons at the other end and I raised an eyebrow at Bubba who seemed to give me a look of approval. Bubba's in charge of our bird watching budget and I took his look as this being a worthwhile venture.

With her next return to the mixing station I said, "They prefer to live in Riverine Forest, like that around your village. I hear their nests are ten feet in diameter."

"OK! Gringo, give me the blue note and I promise I'll show you a Jabiru! OK?"

I held out the bill again; she snatched it. With her right hand she began to fold it in thirds. With her left she pulled out the neck line of her dress.

She held the folded bill in front of my face showing me to my surprise an illustration of a Jabiru then quickly stuffed the bill in her bra.

"Stupid Gringo," she said as she waddled Reverend Bill's drink to the other end of the bar.

Bubba gave me a-disgusted look and sighed. That was the last time we did business with Cleo.

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