Another summer in the Costa Maya, meant just another hurricane season for Buster. And oh, how he hated hurricane season. Besides the giant economic hit he took from a hurricane, there were days of preparation and hard work that could end with weeks of even harder and more expensive work, fixing and replacing all that can be destroyed in just a few hours of a hurricane’s fury. However, after he had been through a few, not the least of which was his first, the infamous category 5 Dean, storms were really nothing more than just another day at the beach for Buster. Just a really bad one!
On this day, he was reading the Weather Underground web site, something Buster did every day during hurricane season, and from the look on his face, what he read, was not good. He wandered over to the table where the Livin’ and Dyin’ in 3/4 Time Boys were sipping beers, and gawking at pretty young bikini clad beauties, as they strolled past them, ignoring the old fools, as if they weren’t even there. But if an old fool can’t dream, well, what can he do?
“Looks like another storm is heading our way,” he told the Boys, as he pulled up a chair. “Have I told you guys how much I hate hurricane season?’
“Yea, like every time we have a hurricane, as a matter of fact,” laughed Rick.
“Easy for you guys to laugh,” Buster piped back. “You don’t have all the work about to hit that I do. As a matter of fact, every time a storm hits, you guys seem to disappear just as the work starts. Why is that? Hell, I always buy the beer on hurricane prep days. I would have thought you guys would always show for free beer.”
“We drink your free beer most days anyway,” laughed Giles, who knew Buster was always good for a beer or two if you sit and listen to him babble. “Why come when there is all that work being done and just get in the way.”
“Yea, I guess you got me there. You guys thirsty,” he asked, as he motioned the waiter to bring a round for him and the Boys. “This looks like a big storm coming though, so I think I need to watch this one.
“Goes with living in paradise, ” said Ronnie very ‘matter of factually’. “Mother Nature, because she is a woman, is like that. You guys ever thought about that?”
The round of cold Montejos had made it to the table and Giles commented, “Just in time. Jethro here is about to go all Southern Socrates on us. Good thing there are no women present, which ironically enough, is probably because Ronnie is present.”
“I count you as a woman there Tinkerbell, so hush and listen. The way I see it, the tropics are really just Mother nature’s sirens, like the ones in the Odyssey. They are beautiful, with the perfect weather, beautiful beaches and pristine jungles. All that sort of metaphorical junk.”
“Oh please, like you read Homer,” huffed Giles, his amusement beginning to show through finally.
“Read both the Iliad and the Odyssey, several times as a matter of fact,” Ronnie laughed, continuing in his very best redneck accent. “Us southern boys don’t sound all that smart, but that don’t make us stupid. But I’d be willing to bet I’ve read them about twice as many times as you, Senior Giles. But I digress. As I was sayin’, if the tropics are Mother Nature’s Sirens, a hurricane is Mother nature having her period. ”
With that, the entire table burst into laughter. “Fair enough” said Buster.
“Yea, she sits there all year,” Ronnie went on, “the breezes blowing her palm leaves with the warm salt air, the water, perfect blue, and flowers in bloom all around, and she waves and she teases, and just like in the Odyssey, when all those ships full of horny old sailors, sailed by checking out the Sirens, and boom, she starts her period, and into the rocks they went. Same thing now. Everyone is stuck in crappy little offices, and cracker box neighborhoods, sailing by in their minds, and on the computer screens at work when the boss ain’t watchin’, all wantin’ to come and enjoy a little piece of paradise. We can’t resist. Her beauty and her call is way too much for mere mortals. ”
By now, the Buster and the boys, although still laughing, were actually beginning to buy into Ronnie’s line. Maybe it was the Montejos.
“And we do,” he continued, “we flock to her. We enjoy all she has to offer and then, out of nowhere, she changes. Where she was this beautiful thing, there seemingly for our pleasure and enjoyment, and she suddenly becomes this out of control monster for just a few days. She clears anything and everything in her path and hell hath no fury even close. But hey, they see the ads, and look at those old vacation photos, and before you know it, we pack our stuff and moved to paradise. Then boom, here comes a hurricane and into the rocks we go. Stop me when I’m wrong.” With that, he leaned back and sipped from his rapidly warming beer.
From all around the table came a collective grunt.
“No argument here.”
Yea, okay, I can see that.”
“Better not let a woman here you say that, you sexist pig” said Giles. “But then again, as long as Ronnie is sitting here, we don’t need to worry about any women sitting here.”
“Okay, to change the subject just a bit, I got an idea,” said Buster with a funny grin on his face. “It looks like we have a few days before any storm might get here, so what say we start a new game and have some fun with this. We’ll call it “Hurricane Lotto”. Anybody want to play?”
“If we’re gambling, I’m in,” said Rick reaching for his wallet. “What are we betting on?”
“How about $50 pesos to get a choice, and you pick the city closest to where the hurricane hits. Whoever gets closest, wins the pool. Out to sea counts as a location. A tie shares the pool. Bets all in an hour or so.”
The Boys all immediately went to their phones and checked the Weather Underground web page, and sure enough, a new storm had just developed in the Atlantic and was churning west, right toward Costa Maya … and Belize, and Cancun, and Florida for that matter. From that far away, it was still a guess as to where it would hit, but where there is a guess, there is a way for guys to bet on it.
“I lived in Florida for a few years and hated that place,” said Ernie, tossing his $50 pesos on the table. “Full of damn Yankees. Why do you think I moved away from Rhode Island to begin with? So I’m taking Miami. 421 Grand Marlon Avenue to be exact. That’s where that meatball Tony lives, and I hope the eye goes right through his freakin’ living room.”
And away they went, each betting where they thought the storm would hit. Buster chose Mahahual, hoping that with his luck, he would lose and that was well worth the $50 pesos. Others in the restaurant heard the laughter, and also wanted a piece of the action. Terri, from Memphis, made her pick, as did Mike from Portland, and for no other reason than just because they could. That, and perhaps the margaritas. Pretty soon, the neighbor’s waiters and cooks heard about the hurricane lotto, and all wanted in. Finally, after a couple hours, Buster declared “all bets in”, and the bets and locations were posted.
For the next week, the game became the focus all over town. Each day, as the storm’s track became a bit more certain, the group of possible winners got smaller and smaller. Ronnie chose Savannah, hoping anything bad for Georgia, had to be good for South Carolina football. The storm’s southerly track though, quickly put him out of play. Ernie’s bet on Miami soon followed, and as the storm eased about 2 days away from the Mahahual coast, Buster was beginning to think he might unfortunately win his first game of Hurricane Lotto.
As usual, from that point forward, the stupid lotto game was far from Buster’s mind. Boarding windows and moving appliances and inventory to higher ground, became a bit more important. Work and preparation become more intense, as the storm gets closer. Water bottles were frozen, roof top water cisterns were filled, and tops secured. Nothing worse than coming out after the storm and finding your water cistern, that was on the roof with all your water, now down the street in the mangrove. The chores are endless, and as the storm makes its last steps toward the mainland, all are exhausted from the work. Time to hunker down, rest, and get ready to deal with what you find when you come out after.
For this storm, Buster luckily lost the lotto, but he and Mahahual really won, because about a hundred miles out, the storm kicked north, taking the eye into the Northern Sian Kaan Biosphere area instead. Punta Allen was Weather Underground’s official guess as to the location the storm actually came ashore, making Mahahual on the “back side” of the storm, where there was very little rain or wind. All that work, for nothing. “Thank you God for that too,” thought Buster.
The next day, as Buster was pulling down the sheets of plywood and loading them into the trailer, where they were organized and ready for the next inevitable storm, he finally remembered the Hurricane Lotto. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he might remember someone actually chose Punta Allen. He loaded the last sheet and decided he deserved a cold beer, so he went in, grabbed a bottle and found the lotto map.
Sure enough, he had remembered correct. Someone did choose Punta Allen. It was that Terri lady, from Memphis. And lucky for a bunch of local kids too, because she had chosen the local pre-school to get her winnings, if she was not around to collect, which of course she knew she would not be. Buster laughed and grabbed a second beer as his prize for being a double winner. He did not got hit with the storm, and some kids were going to get quite an ice cream and pizza party. Pretty good way to enjoy what could have been, just another really bad day in paradise.
And with that, he went back to work, emptying out sand bags, and getting back to normal, or whatever that is when you are “Livin’ and Dyin’ in 3/4 Time”.