It was time to go home, and so my dad backed the Cadillac with the boat trailer down the launching ramp, and mom and I guided the boat up onto the trailer. My dad winched the boat fully on, then went to the car to pull it out. The Cadillac’s engine made its characteristic growling sound, and the tires scrunched on the wet concrete, and the boat came slowly out of the water. Halfway up the ramp there was a loud bang from the Cadillac, and my dad threw on the breaks.
I don’t remember what it was on the Cadillac that broke, but it was broke. My dad, the inventor and adventurer, was also a master mechanic. He knew instantly what was wrong. The boat went back into the water and the Cadillac went to a garage. Some expensive part was needed, and there was none available. It had to be shipped down from the US.
By this time Dad was once again the boss of his own company, and we were doing well financially, so this wasn’t a big deal. It was merely a reprieve to the end of the vacation. A few days more, no problem.
Well, the part got lost in the mail somewhere between the US and Mexico, and it took something like two weeks before we got it. In the meantime we stayed at a nice little seaside hotel, and I went out hunting lizards. At night we’d have dinner in the same restaurant, and I kept seeing this most beautiful girl. She looked about my age, had long blond hair and big, bright eyes, and was sitting at a table with her mom and dad. We kept stealing glances at each other, but I didn’t have the nerve to go talk to her despite my father pushing me to do so.
During the days I would go catch lizards. I caught whiptails and geckos and those funny Zebratails, and not having a terrarium handy I kept them in one of the dresser drawers in the hotel room. Not being climbers, the whiptails and Zebratails generally stayed in the drawer, but the geckos were gone within minutes. By now my mom was used to this and hardly paid attention to lizards crawling on the walls. She’d be reading a book, glance up, and say “Jerry, one of your lizards is loose.” Then she’d go on reading her book.
All hell broke loose when one of the poor maids opened the drawer. I don’t think we had much maid service after that.
At night we would have dinner at the same restaurant, I would see the same beautiful girl. My dad kept saying, “Go talk to her. Go talk to her!” I just couldn’t do it. Just the thought of it would cause my face to flush deep red and my vocal chords to lock up. I was too damn shy. Three nights in a row we saw her there, and I still couldn’t bring myself to talk to her. She wasn’t coming to me, either, but it was obvious we were looking at each other.
The next morning I was out walking toward the beach and there she was, cute as could be in a little pink bikini, walking alone by the surf. I don’t know if she saw me first or what, but I followed her at a distance until she suddenly jumped and started screaming. I ran over to see what was the matter, and at her feet was a tiny, harmless sand crab. “Hey,” I told her, “it’s okay, they don’t hurt.” I picked up the little creature and let it scuttle across my hands. Oddly enough, she was no longer frightened. It was only a few minutes before I had it crawling over her delicate hands, and she was laughing about it.
She handed it back to me, then turned and walked away. I remember staring after her, not knowing what to do, but then something just kicked in and I went trotting after her. “Oh no,” I told her, “you’re not getting away from me that easily.” I introduced myself and learned her name was Linda, and we went walking up and down that beach just talking, getting to know each other, and then I took her to the hotel room and introduced her to my mom. My mom seemed genuinely pleased to meet her, and then Linda and I went over to her hotel room where she introduced me to her grinning mom.
We were constant companions for the next week or so, and she even thought my collection of lizards was cool. Actually I had lost interest in the lizards, and her and I ended up letting them go. I don’t know if it was because we were the only two English speaking kids of the same age, or if we were truly compatible, but we got along great and we were instant best friends. It was funny, too, because the hotel manager had a pretty daughter my age and he had her all dressed up in her Sunday best, and was introducing her to me every day, and I barely even looked at her.
One day a red tide came in so we couldn’t go swimming, so my dad said he’d take the two of us out on the boat. We were going to head out to a nice beach he’d discovered, but when we got to the mouth of the bay we were shocked to see the swells were three times as high as the boat. We quickly turned around and went back, but it was too late; Linda got seasick. A couple of days later she had to leave.
I remember being very sad that she was going, and she was crying about it. She hugged me and kissed me and everything. We traded addresses, and her parents packed her up in their station wagon and they drove off. I moped around the rest of the day, but by the next day I was out catching as many lizards as I could, knowing we’d be leaving soon too. The auto part had come in and the Cadillac was almost fixed. I had to make sure to have plenty of these exotic lizards to show my other lizard hunting friends back home.
We packed up and left. We towed the boat back up to California, and I was able to smuggle the lizards across the boarder. At home I took the lizards to school, which my teacher actually encouraged. My friends were all impressed but no one believed the stories I told about whirlpools, upwellings, and giant fish.
I wasn’t home a week before I got my first letter from Linda. Poor sweet girl, she wrote me letter after letter, and I was glad to get each one. But back then I wasn’t much of a writer, and despite my mother’s insistence I never wrote her back. I have no idea why. Finally the letters stopped coming, and after a few years I threw them away.
Sad, isn’t it? I should have answered those letters. She probably turned out to be a fashion model or a brain surgeon. Even now, my friends tell me I really blew it.