When they saw the young, dark-haired man frantically waving his hands from what looked like a small makeshift raft, Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont showed amusement rather than alarm. “Oh, it’s one of those boat people, I think,” said Georgina Beaumont. “How exciting!” Douglas Beaumont concurred, peering intently from the aft deck of the Grand Excelsior ocean liner. Only a handful of passengers occupied this deck, and most of them were busy huddled around the bar. No one else had been staring out to sea. “Ah, yes, I presume the brave soul hopes to paddle to our shores,” he said. “Guess he didn’t get the memo. Poor guy needn’t go to so much trouble.”
In celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary, the Beaumonts had been one of the first to sign up for an exclusive, luxury cruise to Cuba. This, following the U.S. government’s renewed diplomatic ties with the country. What a thrill to embark on such a momentous voyage, they thought. A somewhat safe gamble for the Beaumonts, who came from an affluent Pasadena lineage, shielded from much of society’s ills, and generally accustomed to the finer things in life. Their knowledge of the island’s history was hazy at best. “I can’t wait to light up one those great cigars,” said Douglas. “I believe Gloria Estefan has roots there,” added Georgina. And they were familiar with those ‘boat people’, who risked their lives to escape Castro’s oppressive dictatorship and seek freedom in America.
The figure in the raft drifted off, and so did the Beaumont’s attention, due to raucous shouts at the bar. “A toast! A toast! To ending the embargo!” someone shouted. The tipsy travelers hoisted drinks in the air and roared with approval.
Strolling casually towards the front of the huge liner, they basked in the comfortable ease that a ship like this has offered wealthy passengers for decades. They enjoyed the thrill that comes from a majestic, commanding rush as steel hulls churn through ocean torrents. The misty sweep of salty raw sea air tickled their noses and tingled their flesh. All within safe perimeters. It seemed to match their stature somehow, as if the Beaumonts represented an elite sector of society who samples the real world at a comfortable distance, protected by unseen forces. They drew close to each other, momentarily vulnerable to unbridled and unaccustomed sensuality.
When they reached the large pool area, with his its towering slide, a commotion interrupted the Beaumont’s alluring trance.
“The last time I saw him? I’m not sure,” said a panic-stricken woman to a deck hand. A crowd hovered around her. “All he said was ‘I’m going to grab an inner tube and go wild,” she said. “He’s bit of a daredevil, you see.” The deck hand nodded nervously.
“But he’s not here and I’ve looked everywhere. I mean everywhere!”
“Can you describe him for us,” said the deck hand. “Uh, well, he’s about 5 foot 8 inches, 160 pounds, black hair.”
Georgina faltered a bit, forcing Douglas to grab her elbow. Images of a clock, with hands moving fast, like in an old black and white movie, raced through both their heads.
© Copyright 2015 Stephen R. Wolcott. All rights reserved.
Stephen R. Wolcott is an award-winning writer/producer with over 100 television, behind-the-scenes “making of’ and documentary projects to his credit. In addition, he’s interviewed a wide range of celebrities and notable figures, including William Shatner, Richard Gere, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Gary Sinise, Robert Wagner, JPL/NASA scientists, Whoopi Goldberg, and almost every cast member from the Star Trek films and television series. In print, his work as appeared in Emmy Magazine, Now Playing and The Pasadena Weekly. He also enjoys traveling cerebrally to his former Craftsman home in Pasadena’s Bungalow Heaven.