The Symbiotic Club

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This work contains adult themes and is not intended for children.

Chapter 20 - The Floating Game

Rituals must have served humans well because we continue to perform them. During June, 1976, I spent much time thinking about the ritual of marriage. Somehow, a ceremony would place society's stamp of approval upon the union that Mary and I had already made, and thereby give it legitimacy and reality, social reality. Our social nature demanded that our union be shared; it would only be complete through the ritual. The ritual would mark a major change in our relationship with others.

However, there wasn't just one ceremony. The number of receptions, showers and teas hosted for Mary illustrated the Miller's prominence in the local society. I can't explain why their status came as such a surprise to me. Clyde had been at the college for 25 years; Mrs. Miller was a charming and sociable woman. Attitudinally, they were more liberal than the community, but, in other ways, they reflected its finer aspects. They had contributed to it and were accepted by it.

I was surprised that there had been no announcement of the Drake-Martin wedding. I mentioned that fact to Mary.

"You shouldn't be surprised," she said. "It looks like the engagement is off. According to Bev, Rooster's opinion of your friend has slipped considerably. She's become heavily involved in the Carter campaign and that hasn't set well with Rooster."

"I thought he was a Democrat."

"Yeah, but, I don't think the issue is politics. She may have seen the possibility of moving on higher, to Washington even."


"Speaking of Rooster, have you asked him to be in the wedding party? You need a third person, you know. You really don't want to offend him now that he's your big boss."

The church was full for our wedding on Saturday. I felt good because I actually knew many of the people. Mother and Dad, who had come down the day before, sat on the front pew. Coach and Rooster served their role well. O. Henry performed the role of Best Man to perfection. The attendants were beautiful. Mary was radiant and angelic in a simple white gown.

At the reception Mary and I shared the first dance across the club's hardwood floor. After which, many of the men danced with Mary including Rooster and Mitchell. We posed for pictures, Mary threw her bouquet, and we left for Atlanta where we had a room waiting. The next morning, we caught a flight to Miami.

In Miami, we boarded a cruise ship for Nassau, Bahamas. We would sail directly to Nassau and stay there for 24 hours and then have one day at sea before returning to Miami. I selected this package because it seemed to combine romance, recreation and the opportunity to gamble. The ship provided amply for romance and recreation. Our room was intimate; its bed inviting. That evening we dined on a seven course Italian meal and strolled the deck in the Caribbean moonlight. The light echoed across the waves to infinity, and the water had the transparency of an emerald. I thought of the healing properties of the Pacific a decade earlier. It had represented a new beginning even as this voyage did.

When we awoke the next morning, we were in Nassau. Mary wanted to go on a guided tour of the historical highlights of the city in the morning. The tour took us to the old prison, which suggested we were becoming more humane as a species. Then, we went to the fort strategically located to oversee the sea lanes and to protect the city. A gentle breeze rolled in from the sea and the security I felt was independent of the fortress.

After lunch, I thought that we might visit one of the casinos, but Mary wanted to shop in the open markets while it was day. The markets provided an interesting flavor of the culture.

Mary wanted a hat, and hats were everywhere, but none was THE hat she desired.

We bought her two beautiful hand-dyed dresses. Then, I selected a wide-brimmed hat for myself, but still no hat suited her quite enough.

As we were passing a small shop on one end of the little alley down which we had inched our way, Mary stopped and peered into its window. Through the window it was possible to see every corner of the small shop, which was filled from floor to ceiling with woven goods. The shop owner, a small Caribbean woman, shook her head as her lone customer, a middle-aged American man, ravaged through a stack of her baskets.

"Let go in here," she said. I followed.

Inside the little woman looked away from the other American who was ignoring her anyway to greet us with a nod. I smiled at her, but she did not return my smile. Mary walked to the far wall and studied some object obviously near the ceiling.

"See something yo lik, Honey?" asked the proprietor

"Could I see that hat on that top shelf, the one with the big brown ribbon? I hate to ask you to climb up there, but I think it's the hat I've been looking for all afternoon."

"No problem, Honey. It is a cute hat. You see it from the window?"

"Yes, as I said, I've been looking for something like it all afternoon, and so when I saw it, I had to get a closer look."

"You have a keen eye that's all I can say." By now, she was climbing a ladder to fetch the hat.

The other American called out, "How much for this basket?"

"Seven U. S. dollars," said the little woman as she climbed carefully back down the ladder.

"There is one just like it at the other end of this alley, and they only asked five," the man snorted.

"Well, Mon, why didn't you buy it there?"

"I wasn't sure I wanted it then, now I am. I'd give you five dollars for it."

"The basket is seven dollars, Mon."

"You mean you're going to make me walk all the way back down there for two dollars?"

"Just wak, Mon, wak! It won't bother me none."

Mary and I smiled, and she bought the cute little hat with the big brown ribbon from the perky little woman.

We went back to the ship and cleaned up in anticipation of an excellent French dinner that was soon to be served in the dining room. I thought that after dinner we would take a cab to the casino and test our skill against the odds.

"It seems such a shame to come here and not spend any time on the beach," Mary said walking down to dinner.

"Yes, I thought that a couple of times this afternoon. There are no beaches in this area that I could see."

"Probably we'd have to go up to where the hotels are.

"Do you think they'd mind?"

"I doubt that they would. We could put our swimsuits on under our clothes and strip down once we get there. I could carry towels in my bag; they need never know. The beach is so romantic at night. We could ride one of those precious little folk buses up there."

We walked down through the town looking for the buses. They had obviously stopped running. We walked toward the hotels, not sure how far they were from town. We thought that we might be able to hail a cab, but all the cabs going in our direction were full. When we reached what appeared to be the edge of the town, we stopped and decided that we would have to walk back to get a cab. At that point a standard size bus came by, and we waved it to a stop.

"Yo goin to the casinos, Mon?"

I nodded yes and he motioned for us to sit down behind him. I looked for some indication of a fare. There was no coin drop or any indication of the fee.

"There are the hotels, Mon, the casinos."

"How much?"

"Three dolla."

We entered the hotel through the casino. There was activity at most of the tables. From the distance, a calypso beat sounded. Excitement filled the air.

Mary stopped and looked around. "Yes, this looks like a fun place; I'd like to come back here before we go back to the ship."

"Yes, we'd have fun!"

"How do you think we get to the beach?"

"Let's try down that hallway and look for an exit."

The exit led to a wooden walkway, at the end of which was a large pier. On the pier, a Latin trio entertained the patrons of a fully stocked bar.

"Now, that is atmosphere personified. I want to come back here for a week sometimes," Mary said as we walked down the gangplank to the lounge. She led the way through the people and down three steps to the white sands of the beach.

Directly in front of us was a large sign stating that this beach was for use of hotel guests only. We walked past it. The beach was deserted save for a lone walker and another couple. We walked along the beach, holding hands, for a hundred yards or so before we stopped and kissed.

"Wouldn't you love to come down here and make love?" she asked.

"It's a little too public for my tastes."

"No, I mean late at night, on our next trip."

"We'll see."

"Let's test the waters," she said.

"You can see the bottom even in the moonlight."

"It's beautiful, but it's too cold. I don't think I want to go for a swim after all. It's so peaceful here. Let's just sit on the beach for awhile."

We toweled each other off and hugged to get warm. The idea of making love on the beach became more appealing as we lay there. Then some teenagers came by and broke the mood.

"Perhaps we better be getting back."

We walked back around the timbers which held the lounge. We enjoyed the music and each other as we walked back up a sidewalk to a rear entrance to the hotel.

Inside, the hall led to our left to an exit which went to the front of the hotel, except on it hung a warning sign, "No exit after dark except in emergency: for protection of the guests the door is locked."

Thinking we could simply exit the door we had just entered and walk around the hotel, I led Mary back outside only to find that a ten-foot security fence blocked all passage around the building.

Mary led the way back into the building. "They will let you use their beach for free but you have to pay dearly to get out."

This time we went to the right, expecting to find the casino we had passed through on our way to the beach. Instead we found another door with the same warning sign. Mary said, "Now this is getting a little scary!"

We walked back past swinging doors to a stairwell. I pushed them open but the stairs went only up. "We are on the ground floor. We entered on the ground floor. That casino should be back through that locked door."

"No, Russ, this is not the hallway we came down. The hallway we came down had little shops along it on one side, and you could see the beach out the windows on the other side. It has to be above us." We went up the stairs to find little shops in front of us and the ramp leading down to the pier behind us.

We walked back to the casino. I asked, "Do you want to play some?"

"I think not. I've got sand all in my hair, and this bag is getting heavy. It's been a long, full day. I just want to clean up and go to bed with my husband."

The taxi driver preached to us on the trip back to the ship. We must have looked as sinners who would use someone else's beach when we weren't their guest.

Our last day at sea was romantic and the food was delicious; I wasn't very disappointed that I hadn't been able to gamble on the cruise.

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