The Strange and Terrible Hell of Akumal, Mexico

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“Hmm…” he leans back and rubs his terrorist beard thoughtfully. “I need to see the movie or read the book.”

The conversation has lead to this- this… well, pivotal moment doesn’t give it the weight needed to indicate how very vital this is.

I lean forward and clench my Crangore Sweet between two fingers. The cigar smoulders slowly.

“You want me to tell you about books?” I ask, looking him square in the eye.

“Uh… no, actually,” he says, still leaning back and contemplating the sheer cognitive joy that could result from a book.

“I’ll tell you about books,” I say, the smoke from the Swisher beginning to nag at my eye.

It waters a bit. I blink it away.

“Back in ‘99,” I start, taking a drag off the dwindling tobacco. “A few buddies and me were down in Oaxaca, cruisin’ ’round Mexico, looking for a good time. We stop into some hole-in-the-jungle gas stop town called Akumal and check in at the local posada–”

He glances at me quizically, still rocking back and forth on the chair’s rear legs.

“Inn,” I explain. “Anyways, we hear this fella, Jiminez, a local, has the hook-ups, y’know? Some sweet dealies. So we’re sitting around and he brings out two lines of crack and Moby Dick on a tray- all he’s got but he’s willing to share.”

I take a short drag off the cigar and let the smoke linger before almost spitting it off to the side.

“My buddy Jake didn’t hit the crack and I won’t touch any of that shit- I know better ways to have a good time. Jake… he didn’t. He picked up the book, read two pages and started fuckin’ freakin’ out.“

He stops rocking and eyes me incredulously.

I nod sagely.

“Started screaming about bats eatin’ his skin,” I said. “Of course there weren’t any bats, we were well out of bat country. But he didn’t know that and ran out of the hut, just screaming, ‘Sweet Jesus, what are these Goddamn animals?’… and ran straight into the bay.”

“So… what happened?”

His expression betrays his captive attention.

“Water bears,” I say.

The cigar is burning past the ring and the heat is growing uncomfortable on my fingers. I extinguish it on the bottom of my shoe and contemplate it before looking back at him.

“Skin-eating water bears, the worst kind. They’ll skin a man like a piece of KFC in the hands of a voracious six-year-old. That time, he wasn’t just imagining his skin getting eaten,” I tell him, leaning back and looking up towards the ceiling. “If you’re smart, you’ll stay away from books.”

He may have pissed himself for the fun of it. Maybe he was too lazy to go to the bathroom. Or maybe he was just cold.

But I like to think I got through to him.

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