Eight months ago, my daughter and her boyfriend decided to get married.
“And we want to get married in the Bahamas!” Leah said.
“Wow,” I said. “That could be complicated”.
“Oh no,” said Leah. “It’ll be a destination wedding. People have them all the time”.
The wedding is Saturday the 12th. Today is the 8th. Last night I had a dream.
Fontaine, the wedding planner, and his assistant Delwyn met us at our house.
Fontaine was the largest Bahamian I’d ever seen. He was coal black. At least 6’9” and 350 pounds. He was covered in brightly colored, intricately patterned fabrics. They might have been beautiful as individual pieces, but together they had an unsettling effect. I think he wore a sari, a dashiki, and some sort of bhurka. Only his eyes were exposed. Delwyn was short and chubby—and wearing only a swim suit. A bikini.
“De welcome party be at you house. For dat we roast pigs and udder stuff. We have Grouper Nantua—dat much I know. Next night de restaurant handle everything. Next night wedding be over de top. We have much stuff fer dat”, Fontaine said. And then I swear he twirled in a ballet type move with his hands clasped over his head.
“Let go now, Delwyn. We gotta prep pigs for de party”.
My wife and mother had listened to Fontaine’s delivery, never coming close to speaking.
“Mother of God,” whispered Carla. “Do you think he’s some sort of Arab?”
“Well, if he is,” my mother said, “he’s definitely an outlier. I don’t think he’d fit in well with those people.”
The welcoming party was set. The pigs had been cooked in a hole in the ground. They looked like really skinny pigs. Even covered in a heavy tamarind sauce, the pork was gamey.
“Fontaine, those pigs okay?” I asked. “They’re not the kind we’re used to”.
“Oh yes, boss,” he said. “Dey good pigs.”
“You know up the islands where the tourists go see the swimming pigs?” he asked. “Well, dey’s two less pigs den dere was. Delwyn gone and git ‘em last week.”
“Whoa, Fontaine,” I said. “I don’t think that’s cool.”
“Dis what you people want,” he said. “Dese not just free range pigs, dese free swimmin’ pigs. Dey skin already crispy from swimming in de salt water. Dey organic, too. Dey never get no vaccination or medicine. I seen ‘em eat dey own babies. How ‘bout dat for organic.”
“Lord,” I said. “Our guests seem to sense something. They’re not overly fond of the pork. Also, that Grouper Nantua tastes off. It’s just grouper salad with Parmesan cheese on toast. But it doesn’t taste right.”
“Well now,” Fontaine said. “In order to stay in budget we substituted for de grouper. No one should tell any difference.”
“What did you substitute?” I asked, fearfully.
“Dat dere is barracuda and parrot fish mashed up togedder,” he said. “We chummed ‘em up wid de pig guts. We likes to use all parts of de swimming pigs. Nose to tail. And guts. Heh, heh.
“Number one rule in da Bahamas, Boss,” he continued. “Don’t panic!”
By the end of the party, there were numerous guests spitting out mouthfuls of ice-cold beer.
“What the hell is going on with that?” I asked Delwyn.
“I tell that crazy Fontaine not to use de parrot fish,” he said. “Dem Americans get the ciguatera—where cole things taste hot and hot things taste cole. An den they fingers and toes get numb. An den dey get real nauseous.
“And tell you da truth, Boss…ain’t so sure bout dat pig either. It look funny to me when I capture ‘em. Sickly. Dey cause dat ting dey call trichinosis. You get dat, you wish you had ciguatera. Tingling toes ain’t nuttin compare to dat.”
“You short on baffrooms, Boss,” said Fontaine, rushing up out of breath. “And long on peoples. Dey 200 peoples here, bwoy. Dey’s all squattin’ in the shrubs and bushery.”
“What he short on be water,” Delwyn pitched in. “Dat cistern is bone dry and de water pump burnt up. Look at dat smoke ober dere.”
“Without no water, dem baffrooms be nasty, man,” said Fontaine. “This one big mess.”
Evacuations began the next morning. Ferries commissioned. Special flights chartered. Hospitals in West Palm Beach notified.
“We having much problem wid de ferry boats” said Fontaine. “We not just evacuating yo people—dey evacuating jus’ ‘bout everybody on de island. Dat storm number 99 dey been watching not a number no more. Now it called ‘Henry’ and it building strong and fast. Could be Cat Number Four herrican by Saturday.”
The government dock in the settlement was teeming with masses of pale, sickly people. Almost all elderly.
“Jesus, Fontaine,” I said. “These people look pitiful, and there’s none of our young guests.”
“Dey no room for the younguns,” he said. “Not enough evacuation boats for everybody. Parliament orders. Only peoples over 60. Younguns handle dis illness bedder den ol’ folks. Dem ol’ folks over dere doesn’t look so good.”
People were huddled in small groups. The ones not actively sick—those who could hold their heads up and focus— were glaring at me. Friends I had known my whole life looked angry.
“Well, I’m 62. I better pack my bag,” I said.
“No bother, Boss,” Fontaine said. “Not a good idea. De magistrate file charges on you. You under house arrest. You being detained.”
“Well, then somebody get me a lawyer,” I said.
“Don’t work dat way here, Boss,” Fontaine said. “Dey don’t have no habeas corpus, no right to no barrister, no due process, no Miranda ting down here, Boss. Dey probly take you straight to de Fox Hill Prison in Nassau. Oh, lord. Oh, lord.”
I woke. Shivering. Light convulsions. Covered in hard sweat.
It was just a nightmare.
The wedding is going to be a beautiful celebration for Leah and Matt Amitrano. We’re excited and not the least bit nervous. The island of Guana Cay— where Leah spent summers as a child— will be full of friends and family.
Dispatches of the week’s events and the wedding will follow in the next issue of Beachcomber.