Aaaah, it’s nice to be back at Hickatee. (I know I’ve linked to them a couple of times before, but I really do recommend them heartily. Especially if you live in the US, cos it’s such a short flight from Miami or Houston; and Punta Gorda – and what I’ve seen of the whole Toledo district – really is a lovely place to come.)
There’s another American couple staying here at the moment. Again, from Northern California. Bill and Robin. They’re a fun couple to be around. Mid-fifties. They are looking to buy somewhere around here, and, within an hour of my arrival, had invited me along for the ride to go and see a piece of land in a village called Big Falls.
We all piled into the pick-up and set off. Bill’s a cattle farmer, owns a ranch. I’ve never heard the word “acres” so much in one day. He has a very nice lilt to his voice; puts me in mind of Bob Ross. I like how they use each other’s names all the time when they talk to each other: “Would you look at that, Robin?” “Isn’t that something, Bill?” And when Bill wants to say something is broken or finished he uses the phrase “ready to take a shit.” For example, he lost his glasses in the jungle and said, “It doesn’t matter, they were ready to take a shit anyway.”
We took a few coconuts from a tree ’cause nobody lives there so they’d have just gone to waste, and we drove into the main part of Big Falls. I say “main part” but really it just seems to be a few houses on either side of the highway near the Rio Grande crossing. We stopped next to the river and had a couple of beers at the bar (a simple place: concrete floor, wood railings, thatched palm roof) and chatted with four cute-as-can-be Mayan girls who came along when they saw the gringos and asked if we wanted to buy any arts & crafts. They stood around, just smiling at us, asked our names, and then asked for money.
Back in Punta Gorda, and we went with a couple of other guests and Ian (the co-owner of Hickatee) to Mangrove Inn. You may recall that this is the place with excellent food where you walk through their living room to get to the terrace dining area.
The guy who lives there, John, warned us that his pet kinkajou wasn’t in the house, so if we saw him, to let him know. Kinky Jew? No, Craig, “kinkajou.” A couple of minutes after we all sat down, the kinkajou appeared. Kinkajous are part of the same family as raccoons. But they’re a lot cuter. He seemed nice and inquisitive and, cautiously putting a paw on my shoulder and sniffed my armpit. He then went over and put his paws on Robin’s shoulder and sniffed at her hair. Over he went to Bill and licked at his beard.
He then came back to me. Seeing he was a friendly little thing, I leant back and he sat on my lap and had a good sniff of my groin before climbing up my chest to sniff and lick my beard. I started to try and put my hand on his back and – in that super slow-motion you get, like when you see a car accident – he hissed and his head reared back and then: aaaaaaaarrrgh! His two big fangs are plunged deep into my cheek. My glasses go flying and he gets in a couple more vicious bites.
Blood is pissing in rivulets through my beard. John and his daughter whisk me off to the bathroom with a bowl of ice cubes and load of serviettes. I’ve never seen someone as apologetic as John at that moment. He over-apologised in that way that people do; rephrasing the same set of words to emphasise again and again that they are so very sorry. Dinner was on the house.
When the worst of the bleeding stopped, I went back to the table, found my battered specs (which have been held together with super glue for the past few weeks, anyway), and the conversation went into that weird lull that happens when something unexpected has occurred. Lots of concern for my well-being, lots of re-telling of the event from all angles; there was in fact, a shot heard from the grassy knoll.
Thankfully, with the kinkajou being a pet, I don’t need to get any shots, John reassured me emphatically; and anyway, I’d had a rabies shot before I left Berlin, so there’s no need to worry, Mum.
I spent the rest of the evening with my glasses resting forlornly on the table. It’s very rare that I’m without my specs. The world closes in around me. I can only see about seven or eight inches of clarity without them. And when I’m in that bubble, I tend to quieten down. I think my quietness dampened the spirits around the table a touch, which was a shame as it was – kinkajou attack aside – a nice evening.
But, apart from a few red marks and a bit of bruising, I’m fine, and because of the last-minuteness of my return to Punta Gorda, there’s no free rooms for me here at Hickatee for the next five nights, so, I’ll be getting back on the bicycle, and staying in one of the guest rooms back at Mangrove Inn. And I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on the bloody kinkajou.