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This showcase will feature 19 amazing writers, each having their own special day of being featured on multiple blogs. I, along with the other supportive hosts, ask that after reading the written work of art by each RWISA Author, that you click on the link designated to take you directly to that author’s profile page on the actual RWISA site. On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.
Today’s special guest:
and his piece is entitled:
Afternoon cycle ride by Robert Fear
Ibiza, May 1977
As I set out on my cycle ride, the streets of Es Cana were busy with pale-faced holidaymakers exploring their new surroundings. I almost collided with a couple who looked the wrong way as they crossed the road.
The hire bike was a boneshaker, and as I headed out of town to the west, the road surface was uneven. The ride became rougher, and I swerved to avoid potholes. Shocks vibrated through the handlebars and I lost my grip twice. Despite this, the breeze in my face and the sun on my back felt good.
Roads twisted and turned as I followed the coast around Punta Arabi and through the outlying villages. I passed pine tree fringed sandy beaches and caught glimpses of the sea. New tourist developments dotted the coastline, in between the traditional houses, shops and bars.
After a while I came to the dusty main road that ran from the north of Es Cana. Cycling westwards towards Santa Eulalia I soon found myself in the main square where I had changed buses when I first arrived from Ibiza Town in April.
My parched throat led me in search of a drink. Opposite the Guardia Civil offices, I spotted Fred’s Bar and decided it was a good place to quench my thirst. With the bike propped against an outside wall, I walked into the gloomy interior and blinked after the bright sunshine.
At the bar I ordered a draught beer. As I stood and sipped it, I glanced around and saw groups of men sat at the wooden tables. English was the main language being spoken, and the newspapers were days-old copies of The Sun. I felt out of place amongst the rustling of papers and whispered conversations.
Chalked on a board was a small menu of English food. I ordered Shepherd’s Pie with my next beer.
‘Take a seat at that corner table and I’ll bring it over in a few minutes,’ commanded the gruff Yorkshire voice from behind the bar. I assumed that was Fred.
‘Cheers mate,’ I smiled and walked over to the seat he had indicated.
Sat on the hard, wooden chair I placed my drink on the table.
I looked up and saw a man limping from the bar. A large glass of whisky and ice almost slipped from his hand. Without a word he slumped down opposite me. He shouted greetings to others but ignored me. His voice was slurred, and he had a distinct American accent.
My food arrived, and I dug into it with a vengeance. The cycle ride had given me a good appetite. As I polished off the plate, my table companion burped and glanced towards me. I smiled at him and he grinned,
‘Looked like you enjoyed that.’
‘Yes, it was great,’ I replied, ‘have you tried it?’
‘No man, I’m not into food much, I prefer this stuff,’ he slurred and pointed to his drink.
He pulled out a pack of Camel cigarettes, flipped back the top and offered me one.
The bright neon lights of Las Vegas did nothing to improve Jack’s self-loathing. He walked the Vegas strip with head hung down and his shoulders slumped, ignoring the people rushing past him. He was desperate as he fingered the five coins in his pocket, knowing they were the last of his money
The hot, bright sun did nothing to lift Jack’s spirits. “What am I going to do? Where should I go?” His questions went unanswered. He did not know how long he had been walking, but he soon realized how hungry he was. He stopped at the intersection looking in all directions, not knowing where he was and not caring. The crosswalk signal changed, and the crowd of laughing and drunk people, pushed him out into the street. Jack looked down as he stepped onto the curb and saw a wallet. He picked it up and looked around. The people that had once surrounded him had dispersed in different directions moving far away from him.
Jack slipped the wallet into his coat pocket and walked into the nearest casino and entered the men’s room. He went into the first open stall and with shaking hands he opened the wallet revealing a large amount of one hundred-dollar bills. “This can’t be. I must return the wallet.” He searched further and found a driver’s license for a Stephen Richardson from New York City. There were credit cards plus a family photo of a man, woman, and two young girls. “I suppose this is his family.”
“I will get hold of Mr. Richardson and tell him I found his wallet.” Jack put the wallet back in his coat and left the stall. He stood in front of the mirror looking at the unshaven face and unkempt hair. He washed his face and ran his fingers through his hair. He pulled his tie up and tucked in his shirt. “Well, I look a little better. Maybe I could use one of these bills, get a shave and haircut and have enough left over for dinner and a room for the night.” Jack reasoned that Mr. Richardson will never miss one hundred dollars out of the thousands in the wallet.
The lights of the casino were less intrusive, and the noise lifted his spirits a little. Jack walked past the slot machines and gaming tables out into a hallway. He walked past clothing stores and gift shops until he came upon a barber shop. The shave with the hot fragrant towels followed by a shampoo and haircut were what Jack’s weathered appearance needed. He hardly recognized the face in the mirror looking back at him.
“Perhaps a new shirt, slacks, and jacket would not be too expensive.” Jack reasoned that he would pay Mr. Richardson back every penny once he gets back on his feet.
The memory of his gambling habits which caused the loss of his marriage, job, and friends had faded. “I will never become that person again. I will change for the better.”
The new clothes and filling steak dinner with all the trimmings, relaxed Jack, and he confidently made his way back through the casino. The slot machines were well occupied and occasionally Jack heard the screams from a winner while the lights and sirens of the winning machine blared. “I would rather play poker than throw my money down the one-armed bandit.” He stopped at a Texas Hold ‘Em table where there was one vacant seat. “A few hands won’t hurt anything. I can play with Mr. Richardson’s money and pay him back with my winnings.”
The free drinks, the smoke, the cocktail waitresses and the sound of the cards being shuffled were magic to his ears. With each hand dealt, Jack became more determined to win the big one. He eyed each of the players trying to read their body language. On the fourth deal he opened his hand to reveal two queens. The flop showed a queen, seven, and a five. Jack made a modest bet. The dealer placed another card up which was a ten. Jack called the bet made by a player across from him. They placed the final card up revealing a seven, which gave Jack a good hand of two pairs. He raised the bet from another player and watched as other players either folded or called.
“I must have a winning hand because no one is aggressively betting,” he reasoned. “I’m all in,” he announced as he pushed all $500.00 of his chips into the middle. Players folded one after another except for the man sitting across from him. Jack tried to remain calm and put his shaking hands in his lap. The noise in the casino seemed to become louder and perspiration ran down his face.
“I’ll call.” The man turned his cards over to reveal two sevens.
“That can’t be. I had you beat.” Jack felt weak and nauseous. “Hold my place. I’ll be back.” He knelt in front of the commode and vomited up his lunch. At the sink he washed his face, straightened his tie and took another $500.00 out of the wallet. At this point he did not care and had convinced himself it was his money. “I found it. Finders, keepers.”
The evening turned to long hours. There were no windows or clocks in the casino, so Jack had no awareness of the hours slipping by in the same way the money was slipping away.
Jack’s luck and poker skills did not change. He won a few small hands, but he never recouped what he lost. He took his last $100.00 bill out of the wallet. “All I need is one good hand. Just one more.”
The big winning hand never came. Jack threw the empty wallet into a trashcan and walked out into the bright, sunny and hot day. He could not adjust his eyes to the brightness as he staggered down the street. “What am I going to do? Where should I go?”
Jack did not have one more game to play. He was found on a park bench late that night, alone, penniless, and without any life force in his body, still dressed in the new clothes.
accepted it and gave him a light. We both took a deep drag on the rough taste and exhaled plumes of smoke. He moved closer and I could make out a mass of scars on his face and arms.
‘Do you live in Santa Eulalia?’ I asked, ‘you seem to know lots of people here.’
‘Yea man, been here ages now. Came to Ibiza in ’73. I’ve got a small apartment just outside the town, overlooking the sea.’
I looked at him with curiosity, ‘so you work here then?’
He threw back his head and laughed. All eyes turned in his direction as the raucous laugh subsided into chuckles.
‘No man, I’m pensioned off from the Army. I was in Vietnam. Halfway through my second tour I got blown to smithereens and was lucky to survive. They shipped me to the States, filled my body with metal and stitched me up. I was in hospital for months and still go there twice a year for check-ups.’
My jaw dropped, and I looked at him with a new respect. He continued,
‘The climate here helps my aching bones, and the booze is cheap. I’ve made friends, although most of them think I’m crazy. I suppose I am sometimes!’ he mused.
‘Did you want another drink?’ I asked him, to break the momentary silence.
‘A large bourbon, with water and ice would be great, thanks man.’
Back at the table I clinked my glass against his. ‘Salut!’
We chatted a while longer and I told him about the work I was doing. His eyes glazed over. He nodded as I talked, but I sensed his mind was elsewhere.
‘I have to go now,’ I said, as I stood up and offered my hand.
‘Nice talking to you man, all the best and hope to see you again.’ He gave me a weak handshake from his seated position.
‘Yes, me too, my name’s Fred.’
‘I’m Michael, or Mike, also known as Mad Mike by my friends. Take care on your ride back to Es Cana.’
He waved over as I headed out of the door.
The bike had fallen over, but it was still there. I had not thought to secure it two hours before when I entered the bar. I figured it was safe parked opposite the police station.
With a slight wobble I set off along the main road towards Es Cana. A car came straight at me and I had to swerve. Out of habit, I had started out on the left-hand side of the road. With a wrench of the handlebars I switched to the right and just avoided a collision.
That could have been nasty!
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