Jack Carter knew he was in trouble from the first moment he tried to open his eyes. At that instant, the very act of moving his eyelids was such a painful experience it rivaled the pain he once felt passing a kidney stone. Given the size of what he instinctively knew to be a massive hangover the early morning symphony of birds and other animals he usually enjoyed coming from the jungle outside his cottage became a tortuous amalgamation of sounds that felt like nuclear bombs going off inside his head. Even through his suffering a small segment of Jack’s mind appreciated the irony that he had originally moved to the small town of Alabama Wharf in the country of Belize in part to escape the insane clamor of daily life in New York City.
“Oh my God, I’m dead,” Jack said to himself when he was finally able to focus his eyes on his immediate surroundings. The mosquito netting hanging down from the ceiling and surrounding his bed had created a surreal, milky hue to the world making it seem unearthly. Adding to the effect was the megaton-sized banging in his head and that the rest of his body refused any command to move Jack momentarily pondered an afterlife condemned to haunting a cheap queen-sized mattress.
As minutes stretched into what seemed an eternity of alcohol-induced anguish Jack’s mind completed the reboot process allowing thoughts that were more complex. After realizing he was not actually dead he became aware of the sun peeking through the slates of the shutters covering his windows and the spin of the ceiling fan in the center of his bedroom.
As sensation slowly returned to his body he came to the realization that he was in bed naked, not his usual way of sleeping but given the degree of his current discomfort it was not a big issue at that moment. With his increasing awareness, there was a nagging feeling that something was just not quite right but he just did not yet have the mental capacity to discover the issue.As best he could, he began taking stock of his surroundings in his one room bungalow.
As Jack lay on his right side facing his nightstand he saw Angelina, his scarlet macaw, just outside the mosquito netting standing on it looking at him accusatorily. “Good morning honey cakes,” the colorful bird said while dancing around on the nightstand. “No food for me, no more loving for you,” it squawked harshly a few seconds later obviously upset she did not yet have her usual breakfast of orange and apple slices.
He could also see Tanner, his German Shepard, still asleep on his pillow over next the couch, probably because the damn dog was as drunk as he was from drinking beer last night. The dog had the strange habit of watching tourists and when one would leave the table he or she was sitting at, quickly run up, knock the bottle to the floor, and begin lapping of the spilled liquid. It was a trick Jack and other locals enjoyed since Tanner had the uncanny ability to target the most obnoxious person of whatever tourist group happened to be visiting at that time, usually a white, middle-aged American male.
With everything in his field of vision accounted for Jack made the sudden realization, that whatever disturbance he was feeling was behind him sharing the bed. Ridiculous visions of a lonely jaguar or amorous python that walked or crawled into his house during the night momentarily filled his head but after slowly turning over Jack knew the situation to be far worse.
Much too his shocked but happy surprise Jack found a gorgeous redheaded woman laying next him sleeping on her belly. The unknown woman was naked from the waist up with a light sheet the only thing covering the rest of her body. The fact that a beautiful woman was sharing his bed not the reason Jack was panic-stricken. Mainly it was the idea that he did not remember bringing her home followed by his immediate discovery that she was wearing a specially designed wedding ring with him realizing he was wearing an exact match.
Both gold rings were molded to look like braided rope with a large an obviously fake diamond mounted on top of each. Imprinted on both fake stones were the same color portraits of a smiling young Elvis Presley looking as if he would begin singing “Love me tender” at any second. Memories of his previous marital disaster caused chills to run down Jack’s spine but seeing the face of Elvis gave him an idea of where last night’s events had to have taken place. At some point, the sleeping lady and he had visited the Graceland-inspired Fast Eddie’s Tropical Chapel of Love, a place catering to the sudden romantic desires of any couple, or larger group, twenty-four hours a day regardless of their state of mind.
Not wanting to disturb the woman who may now be his wife Jack eased out of the bed in hopes of locating his cell phone and calling Fast Eddie and talking him into tearing up the wedding certificate. Feeling a heavy dose of fear and anxiety at the thought of being married again Jack skillfully and quietly cleared the mosquito netting only to have the macaw Angelina jump on his back.
“Cough up the goods lover boy,” the parrot chimed in, which was in effect a cross species mugging and the bird’s way of demanding her breakfast. Fighting an urge to swat Angelina off his back, which Jack knew would only result in a vicious bite from her sharp beak he ambled over to his small kitchen as best he could and began cutting up slices of apples and oranges. Whomever the woman was sleeping in his Angelina’s squawking did not even rouse her in the least, she still lay on her belly with her red hair framing a stunningly beautiful face.
While being held hostage to an impatient macaw pacing the countertop of his small kitchen island Jack racked his brain for some memory of the previous day. It all went blank early last evening after he arrived in the small tourist town of Punta Gorda joining his usual group of malcontents at one of the local bars named the Apache Saloon. After several minutes of cutting apples and oranges, enough to placate Angelina, Jack found a worn pair of cargo shorts and began a desperate search for his cell phone, which eventually lead him outside to his chief means of transportation, an ancient army surplus jeep.
Stepping outside from the protective shade of his screened-in porch the shock of the morning sun and tropical humidity renewed the assault on Jack’s alcohol-idled mind and sluggish body. However, after a few minutes of rummaging through his jeep he was rewarded with not only finding his cell phone but a crumpled up marriage certificate from Fast Eddie’s dated from last night. On it, the bride’s name was listed as Rebecca Huntington of Seattle, Washington and for a brief moment Jack actually believed he had the situation under control. The scream of utter surprise and terror that suddenly came from inside his small house cut through him like a knife and sent nearby birds flying into the air and monkeys deeper into the jungle fleeing for safety.
After quickly running back inside, he was rewarded with the sight of Angelina dive-bombing the naked redhead who was trying to avoid the bird while desperately clinging to the sheet she had pulled from the bed in an attempt to cover herself.
“Evil hussy!” the bird squawked, circling the lady before going into a shallow dive with talons extended like an irate eagle. It was obvious the terror-filled woman had never had to fight off a jealous bird but the sight was so surreal that Jack could not help but chuckle, which allowed both disgruntled females to notice him.
“I don’t know who you are but get this damn bird away from me before I find something that will allow me to kill it.” The woman shrieked while huddled on the floor covering herself with the sheet.
Seeing Jack, Angelina landed and began waddling around on the floor with her wings spread out in victory. “Lover boy is mine,” it said possessively. This allowed Jack to walk over and permit the bird to jump to his left shoulder.“Send the hussy away lover boy,” the bird said while giving Jack playful nips on the head with her beak.
“Be a good bird Angelina,” Jack said while letting her jump to a perch above Tanners’ pillow bed. For added insurance, he attached a safety leash to one of her legs to prevent any further conflict with his new bride. For all the wild commotion, Jack was impressed that the dog, while awake, had looked on oblivious to it all, a testament to how smashed Tanner was and how much he was use to Angelina’s possessive fits.
With the bird secured to her satisfaction, modesty became a more pressing concern with and the redhead wrapped the sheet tightly around her body and began collecting her clothes that were scattered about the floor. “I’m going to assume,” she began, “we had a great time last night but would you mind telling me where I am at and who you are.”
“Well, umm,” Jack said slowly trying to think of a way to break the news, “this is going to be complicated.”
“How complicated?” she said nervously looking at Jack. It was at that moment she noticed the strange wedding ring on his finger and the one she was wearing that matched.
Long before Jack left his South Carolina hometown to attend college and eventually move to New York afterward to become an investment banker he remembered his grandmother talking about something called a conniption fit. According to her, it was the worst of behaviors usually reserved for hopelessly spoiled children who desperately needed a good, old-fashioned spanking with a belt until they could not sit down anymore. As a child Jack had never actually seen the nearly mystical seizure put on by anyone but the woman he believed to be his new wife was surely showing him one now.
After looking at the bizarre wedding ring for several seconds, the new Mrs. Jack Carter stuck out her left hand as if she had just discovered an engorged tick implanted on her finger. In a panic, she began rapidly stamping her feet up and down to the point they had become a blur making her look like she was trying to run a one-hundred yard dash in his house. Jack was increasingly dumbfounded and worried as her eyes became huge and her breathing became panicky, so much that the sheet she had carefully wrapped around herself came loose and fell to the floor without her noticing.
Angelina loved the commotion and was doing her best to fly off and attack the strange interloper but was restrained because of the leash Jack attached. “Crazy hussy, crazy hussy!” the bird would squawk before breaking down into what Jack assumed was fits of macaw laughter.
Even Tanner was finally awaken enough to move into a sitting position on his pillow to watch the perplexing show.“Just what in the bloody Hell is going on here?” the dog seemed to say to him as it looked incredulously over at Jack.
However, the show ended soon enough as the beautiful redhead named Rebecca finally fainted and fell to the floor. Being a decent sort Jack rushed over and gently lifted up his new wife and placed her back on the bed. Jack’s first thought was that as soon as possible he would need to contact Fast Eddie to end this mistake immediately. His second thought was that compared to his first marriage this was actually a good start to the relationship.
(Author's Note: In spite of the near certain accusations that will come my way of suffering from a delusion that I can write there will be a second chapter to this story.)