At night, guests in evening wear take their drinks down to the beach and when the high water tide advances they inch away from the foam. Stuart and Val are honeymooning at a couples-only-all-inclusive resort called the Grand Caribbean. Their Balmoral Grand Luxe Suite smells like mould.
“This place is a dump,” Stuart declares.
“So dingy,” Val agrees.
Stuart keeps saying he’s going to book rooms somewhere else but they never do. Dixie cups and straws float in the pool adjacent to their room. Val gets a rash from sitting in the Jacuzzi, which reeks like bleach and discolored her bathing suit. At night the mosquitoes feast on her legs.
“Check this out,” Stuart says from the edge of their bed with his peach limbs splayed, “Not a single bite.”
He gets turned away from the Baccarat restaurant for wearing open-toed shoes.
“She’s wearing open-toe shoes,” Stuart points at Val’s straw heeled platforms.
“I hate it when you call me ‘she,’” Val says.
There are about six weddings a day on the beach beneath a hibiscus flower draped gazebo.
“Assembly line weddings,” Val observes to a couple from Maine, who told Val they’d just gotten married the day before.
“Here,” the wife adds.
Stuart and Val are known as “the Canadians.” They’re friendly with the couples who drink rum punch slurpees at the swim-up bar. “Your husband is so handsome!” people tell Val.
Stuart likes telling angry stories about his encounters with the resort’s staff and guests. He begins with an assurance that he’s calm—in a measured, trembling delivery reflective of the herculean efforts he’d made at controlling his temper despite a steady barrage of scrupulously outlined slights and wrongs—includes as asides the names of witnesses or people who share his opinion of whoever the angry story is about, and culminates in an explosive confrontation he recreates for his new wife.
By the third day their clothes smell like their room. Stuart is dissatisfied with the size of the beach.
“Look, twenty seconds! Twenty seconds!” he calls as he runs the length of the beach, flapping his arms, “Jogging! Jogging! Twenty seconds!”
Val avoids the ocean. She went in on the first day but she was disgusted by the strands of seaweed twined around her ankles.
“You’re such a bad sport, Val!” Stuart yells from the water, “Stop being such a spoilsport!”
They eat dinner at the Baccarat with Rich and Jen from Maine. A pianist wearing a tuxedo plays Arthur’s Theme. Val says she hates the little lizards everywhere. Stuart says he thinks someone on the staff has stolen his watch. Rich and Jen say they hate the resort’s towels.
“We wish we’d brought our own.”
“They’re like grey sandpaper,” Stuart agrees.
They drink Irish coffees and eat Black Forest Cake for dessert.
“Did you hear they say there’s a subtropical storm headed towards the Caribbean?” Rich asks.
“It’s not hurricane season,” Stuart says.
They stroll to the Grand Caribbean’s discotheque and drink strawberry daiquiris. A strobe light roams the mirrored dance floor, where three inebriated couples twist to Crazy in Love.
“Are you having a good time?” Val’s mother asks when she phones. “You were both so drunk at the wedding. I’m watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. A mouse just chased a cat under a sofa. Did you hear Anna Nicole Smith died?”
They turn on CNN. Entertainment Tonight’s grave-faced Mark Steines is framed by the portico of Florida’s Seminole Hard Rock Casino. Steines had scored the final interview with Anna Nicole Smith last week, and they keep cutting to slow motion footage from his big coup.
“Anna had to take a two hour nap before we did that interview. She doesn’t sleep well—she didn’t sleep well—and there were periods of time throughout her day when she just needed to sit down and have some Anna Nicole time.”
“Mark, it sounds like she was an emotional wreck,” Miles O’Brien snaps from behind his desk, “And, coupled with that, she lost a tremendous amount of weight very quickly, that doesn’t sound like a very, ahh… healthy recipe there.”
“Well, yeah,” Steines concedes, “She was trying to loose weight, when I saw her in October she was, she, of course, had just had the baby by C-section. By February, she had lost some of her weight but she wasn’t back to that tiny, tiny, Anna Nicole that we saw after the Trim Spa success…”
“We should have gone there,” Val points at the hotel behind Mark Steines. “I bet the rooms don’t smell like mould.”
At breakfast they are both extremely annoyed when Rich pretends he’s never heard of Anna Nicole Smith.
“You know, the Playboy playmate,” Stuart draws two arches over his chest.
“She was the Guess Jeans Girl,” Val says. She passes Stuart the syrup dispenser, “She married a hundred-year-old billionaire? Remember?”
Rich grins with his mouth closed and shakes his head, “Sorry.”
“I don’t know who she is either,” Jen pipes up.
“Was,” Stuart snaps. He shakes whipped butter from a cupcake liner onto a stack of pancakes.
A television has been rolled in front of the buffet table. Satellites track the position of a storm over the Gulf of Mexico. The Grand Caribbean’s staff is carrying the patio furniture indoors.
Stuart opens his mouth all the way to accommodate a thick forkful of pancake. Droplets of syrup mass at the corners of his lips when he chews. Everyone is looking out of the windows at the grey mammatus clouds gathering in the sky. The beach is covered in piles of driftwood and seaweed. Seagulls float in pockets of wind. There’s a couple standing at the edge of the ocean being whipped by the sand. Stuart thinks they might the Australians, Paisley and Matt.
“Is that the Australians?” Jen asks.
The wind rips off the man’s sweatshirt, which was tied around his waist. His wife catches it by the arm. They’re holding drinks. They seem like they’re enjoying themselves; the man is pumping his fist in the air and the woman has her head thrown back like she’s laughing. When the high water tide advances they inch away from the foam.
Louise Phillips’ work has been published in Dream Catcher, The Copperfield Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Delinquent, The Dirty Napkin, 3AM Magazine, Litro, and 34th Parallel.