Welcome to the Caribbean


One day, my mother announced, “Stephen, I told my friend Ginny Johnson that you’ll accompany her family to the island of Tobago.”
“You what?” I asked, incredulous. “I don’t want to go anywhere with strangers, Mom. What are you talking about? I’m not going.”
“They need a playmate for their son, Jimmy, and I agreed that you would go, so you are going.”

“I don’t even like to drive to Baltimore. I’m not going,” I said.

One week later I was on my way to Tobago, wearing a pair of bright green slacks Mom had bought me. First, we flew into Port of Spain, Trinidad. At the bottom of the airport escalator, there was a very black man beating on a steel drum. He sang, “Here comes a big boy in green. We welcome him to the Caribbean.”
I gave him a quarter.

The Johnson’s had a little house with a coconut tree in the front yard and little lizards running about. The first night, we grilled some barracuda that we’d caught in the lagoon, served with beans and rice, and fresh baked bread. We went to bed early.

Jimmy woke me up at one o’clock in the morning–he had his father’s rental car keys. He wanted to drive to the other side of the island and go diving for lobsters with flashlights and a spear gun. He also showed me a fifth of rum. I followed him silently to the car.

I felt like I was on a drunken adventure with James Bond, Jr. Everything went as planned.
We were on the way back–a lobster was on the backseat–when Jimmy ran the car off the road and tore off the muffler. The car sounded like a machine gun, and we woke up villages of Tobagans on the way home. The Johnsons were waiting outside when we got back. They told me to go to bed and screamed at Jimmy for half an hour. We snuck out again the next night, but we were on foot.


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