2008/10, October 2008 Photofictional, A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

Bridges forded a few of the interior streams
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Pink Ribbon
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Nora Samuels drove back from college because her brother's daughter, her niece Becky, was lost. Her brother, Bill, greeted her at the front door of their long departed parent's house.

"What happened?" Nora asked. "Did someone take her?"

"The forest," Bill said and waved his hand loosely toward the back of the house. His eyes were red. He'd been crying. "She went for a walk, the police said. Then never came home. It's been two days now. There was a big wreck on the Interstate. They had to stop looking. But they'll be back soon to look again. Real soon."

"Where's Linda?" Nora wouldn't have asked about his ex wife, but the situation seemed to call for it.

"Still in Europe. I called her but she didn't care. She said Becky was probably hiding. Can you imagine such a callous thing to say?"

Nora hugged her brother. He smelled like their father used to smell. She smiled an encouraging smile and walked with him back into the old house.

"I got lost in the forest when I was a little girl," Nora told her brother. She decided a story might take his mind off his worries for a moment. "There's a winding path that goes out a ways, then a low bridge over a creek. The other side of the bridge the path splits, then splits again. It seems to split over and over and can get very confusing."

Nora saw her brother's eyes grow large. She was starting to frighten him. That wasn't her intent, but she plugged ahead anyway.

"I took ribbon with me. I think it was bright pink, the same ribbon Mom used to make me my summer dress. I took scissors too, the old blunt kind kid's used. Anyway. As I walked, I cut and tied strips of ribbon to bushes along the path. To help find my way back, you see."

Bill's attention appeared to be drifting, but then he asked, "Did it work?"

"No. When I started back I discovered that all the ribbons I'd cut were gone. That's why I got lost. Back then I blamed you for taking them down but you always denied it."

Bill shook his head sadly. "It wasn't me."

"Anyway. I was lost for two days. It was only by luck I found the bridge again."

Bill looked at her. "Was that supposed to cheer me up?"

They heard the front door open.

"Dad! You home?"

It was Becky's voice. Nora gazed at her brother. The disbelief and happiness on his face warmed her heart. He looked at her as if asking if she'd heard his daughter's voice too. Nora nodded.

Together they rushed to the front entry. There they found Becky. She was filthy and muddy. Weeds and leaves were stuck to her clothing. But the oddest thing of all was clutched in her hands. She held a crumpled ball of pink ribbons.

Becky held the ribbons out proudly. "I found these," she said. "I followed them home."

Nora watched her brother pick up his daughter. He hugged her and swung her with pure happiness. Bits of pink ribbon fluttered as they spun. Fluttered and landed on the floor.

Nora picked up one and looked at it. "It's the same," she said. "This is the same ribbon that disappeared all those years ago."

"Daddy?" Becky asked. Her father stopped swinging her.

"What is it Becky dear?"

"Why is aunt Nora crying?"

Jungle Walk Tour, Turtle Beach Lodge   •  Photo Posted Tuesday 7 October 2008 internal link   •  (9 September 2008) Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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During the parade mass was held in the small church
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The Devil assumed the guise of a young boy and stood at the entry of a small town's church.

A man walked up. "Why are you standing out here. Are your parents inside?"

"I fear grace," whimpered the boy.

"That's silly. Why in the world would you fear grace?"

"You have to die to get grace."

"That's not so. You have to die to go to heaven, but you can have grace anytime." The man took the boy's hand. "Here, I'll take you in."

But the man dropped the boy's hand. He looked surprised. "You're burning up. Do you have a fever? Are you sick?"

The man knelt in front of the boy and felt his forehead. "Yes. You're definitely sick." The man stood. "Here." The man took the boy's hand again. "Let's get you to the hospital."

The next night the Devil stood in front of the same church, this time in the guise of a young girl. Unlike the night before, this night he controlled his temperature.

A twenty-something woman walked up. "Why are you standing out here? Why don't you go in?"

"I fear grace."

The woman rubbed the girl's hair. "Me too," the woman said. "I fear grace too."

The woman entered the church and left the Devil standing there.

The next night the Devil found the church closed. He assumed the guise of an old woman.

A young couple passed. They were clearly in love and held hands.

The old woman reached out with a single hand and stopped them. She asked, "Why is the church closed?"

The girl answered. "Haven't you heard? The priest is sick. I thought everyone knew that."

The old woman let her hand drop to her side. "I fear grace."

The girl put her hand on the old woman's shoulder. "If I was your age I'd fear not having grace too."

The man spoke up. "That's why the priest is sick."

"Why's that?" asked the girl.

"He fell from grace."

The girl punched her boyfriend in the arm.

The old woman smiled. "I did it."

But the couple had walked off and the old woman had spoken to no one.

Parade of Lights   •  Photo Posted Thursday 23 October 2008 internal link   •  (14 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The boat trip ended with the start of a car trip
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Len Svinsk sat in the third row back, next to the taciturn girl from the States. What was her name? Nancy?

The van bumped and rocked over a gravel road on its way uphill. Len typed a message into his mobile phone. It was an update for his Twitter account. "Left lake Arenal," it read. "Sitting next to taciturn girl from States. Lunch next."

Len pressed send, then dropped his phone into his shirt pocket.

"Why'd you call me taciturn?" It was the girl next to him.

"You're Nancy right?"

"Yeah. So why did you call me taciturn?"

"You snooped on my text message?"

"You typed it in public view. So why taciturn?"

Len looked at her. Maybe she wasn't taciturn. Maybe her look was just shallow? "You know what taciturn means?"

"You know what asshole means?"

"You want me to edit my message? Change taciturn into asshole?"

Nancy turned and spoke over her seat back to the person behind her. "May I switch with you?"

Len looked away while Nancy and the man behind her struggled to trade luggage and places.

Len pulled out his cellphone and typed another text message to his Twitter account. "Hold on," it read. "Now sitting next to the man from Japan." He hit send and dropped his phone back into his shirt pocket.

"Why did you say 'the man from Japan'?" the man asked. "Why not just 'a Japanese man'? Oh hell. You're so rude. Why didn't you just say 'a Jap'?"

Len ignored the man next to him. He knew when it was best to say nothing. He dug out his Ipod, stuck in his ear buds, and tuned the man out.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw the Japanese man give a thumbs up to the girl behind him.

This, Len concluded, was going to be a long ride. A long ride indeed.

Leaving Port San Luis by car   •  Photo Posted Monday 20 October 2008 internal link   •  (13 September 2008) Lake Arenal, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The classic thatched hut was found at the end of the trip
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Then and Now
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Noah Fitzlander was a photographer of the old school. He shot large format stills of classic buildings using an antique 4x5 view camera. Of course, negative film was a thing of the past, so he begrudgingly used a 4x5 digital back instead.

He lifted the old photo and contrasted it to the thatched hut as it appeared that afternoon. "I wonder why they left the wire in the shot?"

Noah's wife Ami shrugged. She too was a photographer, but favored nature shots over buildings. "Maybe they were purists."

"I don't think so. I mean back then Photoshop was all the rage."

Ami pointed at the thatched hut. "The wire is gone."

"I know, but those silly solar cells still ruin the view. I mean I'd have to get out into the water to get a clean shot."

"Don't be so prissy. Take off your shoes and roll up your pants. I really don't understand why you insisted on long pants today."

Noah handed the old photo to his wife, then carried his tripod to the edge of the lagoon, but not into the water. "This will do. I mean I'll have to crop. Sure."

Ami followed. She looked back and forth from the picture to the hut. "The angle is wrong. This won't work in your book. The 'then' was taken from up there," she pointed up the beach. "But your 'now' is down here. All wrong."

Noah snatched the photo from her hand. "But the wire. I mean how can I show solar cells? They're so now."

"But that's the point."

Noah looked at the photo again, then back at the hut. He sighed. "You're right." He started to fold up the tripod. "I mean, let's pack up and head back to the lodge."

Ami kicked him. A kick was a sure sign she was getting angry. "We didn't rent a canoe and paddle all the way out here so you could just turn around and go back. Digital film is cheap. Take the shot the way it's supposed to be shot."

Noah mumbled something unintelligible and carried the tripod back to where he'd first set it up. The place from which the original shot had been taken. Bone white solar cells lined the near side of the hut. "Happy?"

Ami leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Very."

Kayak/Canoe trip, Turtle Beach Lodge   •  Photo Posted Saturday 11 October 2008 internal link   •  (9 September 2008) Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Hummingbirds in silhouette against the forest
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Ed Saloux rested in a rocking chair on the back porch of the Senior Home. Over his lap spread a small knit blanket donated by good folks he didn't know. Ed sighed.

"Look Ma," a young boy's voice intruded. "Hummingbirds."

"Don't shout," the mother's voice was a throaty whisper. "There's old people here. We don't want to disturb them."

Ed thought about that. He tried to remember the last time somebody talked to him. Aside from the nurses, of course. They were polite, but didn't count. Ed sighed. He couldn't be certain. Perhaps his sister three, no five years ago? Or was that before he moved here?

Ed felt something scratchy on his head. Ed didn't move much, not anymore, so leafs or twigs sometimes fell on him. He sometimes felt like a piece of old furniture. A nurse would come by and dust him off. Not right away, of course, but soon enough.

"Look Ma," the boy's voice sounded excited again. "A hummingbird landed on that man's head."

Ed thought about that. Some guys always had the luck. Not him of course. Ed remembered his brother who received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Of course he had to die to get that award. So maybe his brother wasn't so lucky after all. But still, the rule of thumb, he felt, was a sound one.


The boy stood in front of Ed. Ed looked at him. The boy was well dressed, a nice shirt with a matching sweater. His pants were pressed with a crease. His shoes were black leather and shined. The boy pointed at Ed's head.

"There's a hummingbird on your head."

Ed thought about that. He remembered being lucky once. He once won a hundred dollars at the lottery. He'd taken his wife out for dinner and dancing. Then she died, of course, that wasn't so lucky.

The boy was still there. Ed cleared his throat. "What's your name?"

"Eddy," said the boy. "I like Ed better. But adults call me Eddy."

Ed tried to un-hunch, to straighten, to sit up straight. He felt bones crack and pop. He felt his skin move like parchment stretched over a drum head. Ed couldn't remember when he'd last straightened. He watched the boy. "I'm Ed," he told the boy. "Ed's my name too."

The boy jumped and pointed. His arm swung away from Ed's head. "Look," he shouted. "The hummingbird flew that way."

Ed looked. Not with his head, but with his eyes. He saw it. Bright green, like an emerald. He watched it fly to the plastic feeders hung from low tree branches near the lunchroom.

Ed looked back at the boy. The boy's mother stood next to him now too, her hand on her son's shoulder. To Ed she said, "I apologize for my son." She looked at the boy. "Tell him you're sorry Eddy."

Ed reached out his hand. His arm felt like a ten ton log somehow attached to his shoulder. It moved like an iceburg through the great ocean. It approached the boy. Ed said, "Pleased to meet you Ed." Ed made it a point to say Ed not Eddy.

The boy took his hand in both his own. His boyish hands felt warm. The boy looked at him with a broad smile. "Thanks!" he said. "Nice to meet you too, Ed."

"We better go," the mother said. "Your Granny may not be around for much longer."

Ed felt the boy's hands leave. The boy looked up at his mother. "I like Ed better than Granny."

"Maybe we'll come back. Maybe next time. Maybe we'll visit your Ed again. Next time, maybe."

"Look," said the boy. "He's asleep."

Ed thought about that. He was really just resting his eyes. He seemed to do that more often these days. He felt his arm in his lap again. He felt as if he had moved back to square one.

A half hour later, or maybe it was an hour, Ed sometimes couldn't tell. Ed felt a hand on his arm. "Mister," it was the boy. "See you next week."

"Come on, Eddy," the mother's voice sounded distant. "We have to meet your dad."

Ed thought about that. Ed thought about next week. Ed tried to remember the last time he'd thought about the future. He couldn't remember. Maybe things would change. Maybe here at the end of the road a small path might appear, a dirt path without too many weeds. But he knew better than to get his hopes up. Oh yes, he'd learned the hard way, long ago, not to get his hopes up.

Ed hunched down again. Ed thought about things. Ed sighed.

Hummingbird Garden, Bosque Nuboso   •  Photo Posted Thursday 30 October 2008 internal link   •  (15 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The beach was vast and littered with drift wood
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Her Bob
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Barbara Roberto, when a child, found a bottle on the beach and inside that bottle a note. That note read, "Having a great time. Wish you were here. Bob."

Ever since then, Barbara fantasized that some day she would find her Bob. When she finally married, it was to a man named Bob. Not the Bob from the bottle, of course, but a good Bob anyway.

Barbara and Bob walked the beach every morning and every sunset. She said it was for her health. Bob believed her and said, "All this walking keeps you in great shape."

Barbara's secret, of course, was that she searched the beach every day for another bottle, another note from her fantasy Bob. But in all the years and all the bottles, she'd never found another note in one. It was as if the gods were laughing at her.

"Look," said Bob. "Another piece of purple glass." Barbara enjoyed their walks most when Bob found valuable glass. He made jewelry and sold it over the Internet.

Bob nudged a green wine bottle out of the way with his sandal. "What's this?" He picked up the green bottle and looked at it. "Look Barb," he said. "There's a note inside."

Barbara realized she'd been holding her breath. She breathed deeply.

"Are you winded? We weren't walking all that fast." Bob picked up a stick and used it to push the cork into the bottle. Once freed it made a soft pop.

Barbara realized she was holding her breath again. This time she breathed quietly.

Bob worked the note out using the stick. The note was rolled.

Barbara remembered her note had been rolled too.

Bob unrolled the note and read, "Having a great time. Wish you were here. Jenny."

Barbara watched Bob flip the note over. He looked at her and said, "Nothing on the back." He re-rolled the note and stuck it back into the bottle. "Imagine that. Junk mail. I mean here on the beach. Junk mail!"

Bob tossed the bottle away with a flip as if it were trash hardly worth the effort. Then he bent and picked up the fragment of purple glass.

Barbara watched the bottle land in the sand. It was a green bottle. Her bottle had been a green bottle. She looked at Bob. "Don't you want to meet this Jenny?"

"Who? Oh you mean the bottle. A silly name, don't you think. Is it short for Virginia? Look at this glass. It's only purple in the middle."

Barbara looked at the purple glass. Then she glanced up at Bob. She remembered her bottle. She remembered her search for Bob. She looked at her Bob and wondered.

But her Bob just turned and continued his search for purple glass. She followed him and looked back. After a while she couldn't see the green bottle anymore.

Barbara took Bob's hand as they walked. "You're the best Bob ever," she said.

Bob smiled then said, "Look. Another piece of purple glass. This is a good day."

"It is indeed," Barbara said. "It's a good day indeed."

Turtle Beach Lodge, Tortuguero National Park   •  Photo Posted Wednesday 8 October 2008 internal link   •  (8 September 2008) Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The town was built on a hilly area
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Tom Tillywalker lifted his sunglasses with one hand and peered at the GPS held in his other hand. "It looks like we need to walk downhill first, then uphill again."

Barb, his more travel-companion than girlfriend, pointed across the valley. "But the Insect Museum is right over there. Isn't there some street that goes straight from here to there?"

Tom fiddled with the GPS. "Ah, it looks like a creek divides here from there, but that little line might be a path and a foot bridge."

"Let's do that." Barb bounced in place, ready to go.

Tom led the way a little ways downhill to a break in the jungle-like growth. A bare stick once held a sign but the sign was gone. "Maybe we should stick to the road."

Barb pushed past him. "I'll lead," she announced and quickly disappeared into the jungle-like forest.

Tom took a moment to smear his arms with bug juice and remove his sunglasses before following Barb.

Just like the GPS illustrated, the path led to a footbridge and then uphill a short ways to the street with the museum. There was no sign of Barb. She wasn't waiting at the museum. He paid and went inside. But Barb wasn't inside either.

Tom's cellphone vibrated. It was a text message. He brought up the message. It was from Barb.

"Tom," it read. "Ur too slow. See U in US. Bye."

"Huh," Tom said. He dropped the phone back into his pocket. "I thought we were on a tour together. How's that going to work?"

"Shh." It was a short man standing next to him. "We listen."

Tom crossed his arms and listened. He learned much that day about insects. But learned nothing that day about relationships.

Photo Posted Wednesday 22 October 2008 internal link   •  (13 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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He searched for change at the checkout counter
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

"I tell you," Rodney Weighter said to the checkout lady. She didn't appear to speak English but that didn't deter Rodney. He felt that everyone should speak English. "I'd lose my head if it wasn't attached to my neck." He laughed.

The checkout lady heard his English. She deftly pressed a button on the register and the amount was automatically translated from colones into dollars. She pointed at the dollar ammount.

"I know I put my money here someplace." Rodney hefted his backpack onto the counter. He didn't notice that the scale showed his backpack weighing 15 kilograms nor would that have made sense to him had he noticed. Rodney only had enough room in his brain for pounds. "That's right, I put the money in a ziplock in my swimsuit."

The checkout lady waited politely. It was a slow day and there was nobody waiting in line. She crossed her arms.

Rodney took the gesture to mean, "Hurry up."

"I'm looking as fast as I can," he whined. He unzipped the large compartment of his backpack and pulled out a wet beach towel. He unrolled it there on the counter.

The checkout lady quickly moved her pile of paper sacks out of the way.

Rodney found his swimsuit in the center of the towel where he'd placed it. With a smile of conquest, he pulled a ziplock back from the swimsuit pocket. The ziplock bag contained a wad of dollars. "How much?" he asked. Then he did the unusual. He asked again in Spanish, "Cuánto?"

The checkout lady pointed again at the dollar readout on the register.

Rodney counted out the money for her. Rodney figured she couldn't count American money. "There," he said. "I assme I get some change."

Rodney stuffed his bathing suit and towell back into his backpack and zipped the whole mess closed.

The checkout lady handed Rodney change in colones.

Rodney looked at them and said, "I guess this is right. I mean, how can you tell?"

The checkout lady smiled calmly and pointed at the register. A column on it showed the change to give.

Rodney stuffed the change in his pants. Then he gathered his backpack under one arm and his sack of groceries under the other and made his way out of that store without a thank you.

After Rodney was gone, another checkout lady leaned across and said to the first, "Lo que un idiota!"

They both laughed.

Photo Posted Saturday 18 October 2008 internal link   •  (12 September 2008) La Fortuna, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The actual downtown finally came into view
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Mr. Blanque
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Mr. Blanque wandered the city. He didn't know why he wandered nor did he remember how he came to be in the city in the first place. In fact, his last name, Blanque, was made up. He couldn't remember his own last name, so he adopted one from a sign above a beauty parlor. He smiled when he remembered that, because it seemed so perfect. Today, he decided, he would use the first name James.

He awoke a year ago in an alley behind the train station. His head hurt bad and his hair and shirt were crusted in blood. His pockets were ripped open and empty. Even his shoes were missing. He gradually, over the rest of that first day, discovered he didn't have a clue.

James. Yes, the name felt right. James felt good for a change. The night before, folks in red uniforms had found him curled on a bench. They'd given him a plastic bag filled with clean clothes and a hot meal. James stood on the rise of a hill, wearing those fresh clothes and watched the city slowly awake.

"Where's the train station?"

James looked.

Two tourists, a young couple, sparkled next to him. They pulled those silly suitcases on wheels. The boy was surprisingly tall. He towered over James reminding him of a tree. The boy leaned and asked again, "Do you know how to get to the train station?"

The girl remained silent. She appeared to be staring at his face. James twirled one finger in the end of his long beard and said, "I did. Once. But now I don't remember."

"He's a bum," the boy said to the girl. "Let's ask someone else."

The girl ignored the boy. "What's your name?" she asked James.

James stopped twirling in his beard. He tried to remember but couldn't. "James," he said, giving her today's name. "James Blanque."

The girl appeared to scrunch up her face. James felt as though she had x-ray vision and was trying to see right through him. Her stare made James self-aware of the bold scar running across his left cheek.

The girl frowned and shook her head.

"She's searching for her missing dad," the boy explained. "That's why we are looking for the train station. The last thing he arranged was a train trip."

James stared blankly at the boy. Why was the boy telling him this? James realized he was hungry. "You have a dollar I can have?"

"He's just a bum," the girl said. She wasn't looking at James anymore.

The boy dug in his pants pocket and handed James a U.S. $5 bill. James took it. It was crisp. That was good. He looked up to say thanks but the couple was already walking down the hill.

"Nice kids," he said.

James folded the $5 bill and tucked it into a pocket in his fresh clothes. He spotted a open Soda just up the hill and decided to eat.

But he didn't move right away. There was something about the girl that seemed familiar. The afterimage of her face floated in his mind. But it was elusive. He just couldn't remember.

James patted the pocket with the money. Then he walked slowly uphill to eat a little breakfast.

Road from SJO Airport into town   •  Photo Posted Saturday 4 October 2008 internal link   •  (7 September 2008) San José, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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On the shore was seen a Green Basilisk
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On Water
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Hank and Steve were the brothers Timberlane from Seattle. This was their first nature cruise ever and they were already one sheet to the wind. Needless to say, the others on the tour disliked the brother's manners.

The tour guide had pointed at a lizard on shore. Hank noticed the other tourists were all looking that way. He pulled a silver flask from his pocket and took a swig.

His brother Steve elbowed Hank and took the flask.

"Hey," Steve called. "What kind of lizard is that?"

The guide spoke up smoothly. "To repeat for those in the back. This is a green Basilisk, also known as a Jesus Christ Lizard."

Steve elbowed Hank again. "Oh yeah," he said to the tour guide. "Why is it called a Jesus Christ Lizard?"

"When frightened," the tour guide appeared pleased someone had asked. "It can use its webbed feet to run on top of the water."

"Did you hear that," Hank said, a bit too loud. "That lizard runs on water."

"Remember that huckster that swindled dad?"

"Yeah. He had a car that he claimed would run on water."

"Yeah," Steve continued. "And you remember when we had that tornado come through?"

Hank snapped his finger. "That's right. There was a run on food, and a run on water!"

The brothers laughed a bit too loud and a bit too long.

The boat was backing away from the shore. Hank guessed the other tourists had taken all their photos.

One of the tourists, a Japanese looking gentleman, pointed a camera at the brothers. Hank was surprised when a flash popped in his face.

"Hey," said Hank. "Why'd you shoot our picture?"

The Japanese gentleman just smiled a mysterious smile then sat back down, his back to them.

Steve looked at his brother. "You think my mouth ran off too long on the water?"

The brother's laughed.

Hank was pleased to notice the Japanese gentleman slap his head in frustration.

"Look," the guide pointed up at the tree tops. "Up in the tree. A toucan."

The brothers looked at each other, then laughed.

(also known as a Jesus Christ Lizard)   •  Hotel Lomas del Volcán, Caño Negro Wildlife Cruise   •  Photo Posted Sunday 19 October 2008 internal link   •  (11 September 2008) La Fortuna, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The driveway appeared less friendly at night
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Liam Whistled
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The rain. The night. The warmth in Costa Rica was magic. If he could dance, he would have danced in the rain. If he could sing, he would have sung his youthful heart out. Liam Samosa could merely whistle, and whistle he did, in the night, in the warmth, in the rain.

Lately Liam whistled the Third Man Theme, although he had never seen the movie. He whistled low and slow, a measured and paced ode to the night and being alone in the rain. The ripple of water in the gutter became his rhythm accompaniment.

Footsteps. He paused and glanced up the road. A sloped driveway. Street lamps, one green, one yellow, backlit legs walking down the driveway.

Tack tack, hard shoes, not sensible he thought, in the rain on concrete. It was a woman. She held an umbrella and walked carefully gazing at the driveway, watching for slippery spots.

Liam began to whistle again, this time a high calling tune. He didn't remember its name but remembered listening to it while lying on the floor as his dad danced with his mother, long ago. It was a song that said, "Come here," come to me.

The woman stopped and looked up. In the darkness he saw her smile. She pursed her lips as if to throw him a kiss, but whistled instead. She whistled the same song. She whistled the duet part, the role he couldn't whistle himself. She knew the old song and whistled it back to him.

A car beeped. It brushed by Liam splashing water on his legs. It pulled past rudely like a bull loose in the rain. The car pulled past and stopped at the foot of the drive. The passenger door pushed open and hard rave music poured out. Liam stopped whistling.

The woman folded her umbrella and got into the car. She seem to smile quickly at Liam. Then the door shut and the street became quiet again.

Liam watched the car pull away. He began to whistle again. This time it was a dirge, a sad slow song to the dead. He remembered how his dad suffered after his mom died. He thought he felt a bit of that now.

Liam stood in the rain, in the night, in the warmth, alone. Liam whistled.

Arco Iris Hotel   •  Photo Posted Friday 24 October 2008 internal link   •  (13 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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He watched a friend on a motorcycle drive off
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Mo Sousa watched his older brother Dan ride a motorcycle out their drive. Mo had a look of envy on his face. His brother rode a new motorcycle.

Mo bumped the soccer ball with his foot and said to his two younger brothers, "You guys play. There's something I need to do."

Inside, Mo found his sister at her computer. "Lynn," he said to her. "I need a job."

"I thought you were going to college?"

"You know. A summer job. I need a motorcycle."

"Now Mo," she used the same voice their mother used. "You know that envy is a sin."

"Wanting what I don't have is not envy."

"But wanting what Dan has is envy."

"No, you got it wrong. I don't want his motorcycle. I want my own motorcycle."

Lynn turned her chair to face him. "Look," she clearly didn't like using her computer time like this. "You go talk to Dan. If you really don't envy his motorcycle, maybe he'll help you get one too."

Mo scratched his head. "Never mind," he told her. "Talking to you gives me a headache."

Lynn laughed a wry laugh and turned back to her computer.

Mo walked back outside. "Hey," he said to his younger brothers. "You got room for one more in your game?"

The ball was kicked to him. Mo looked at it. He realized this was exactly where he was mere moments before. "Life stays in one spot," he muttered.

Mo looked up. His younger brothers had no idea what he meant. For some reason that made him feel good, made him feel superior. He had fun the rest of the morning practicing soccer with them.

Road to Monteverde   •  Photo Posted Tuesday 21 October 2008 internal link   •  (13 September 2008) from Lake Arenal, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Little remained of the creature's breakfast snack
(13 of 31) (27848 views)


Not Eating
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

"That's so fake," Ed Planque said. He and his girlfriend, Goldie Zuckermann, drank cheap wine and watched TV. They drank straight from the bottle because Ed hadn't thought to buy glasses yet. Ed knew his life was a mess but didn't know how to fix it.

Goldie set the bottle down with a thunk on the chipped coffee table. "Yeah," she said. "That's why I like this show. It's so bad it's good."

Ed shifted uncomfortably. They sat on pillows from the bed, a poor substitute for a sofa or even chairs. He was receiving unemployment from the state so had too little left over after rent to buy furniture.

Goldie looked at him. "You want to go for a walk?"

"I thought you wanted to watch this show."

"I did. But you look too uncomfortable trying to sit on that pillow."

Ed sensed an opening. "Let's move the TV into the bedroom."

Gloria pushed his shoulder. "You know I'm not ready," she told him and laughed.

Ed felt the moment flee. "Okay," he said. "Let's go for that walk."

Gloria rolled smoothly to her feet then helped Ed stand. "I swear," she told him. "You're in worse shape than any guy I ever dated."

"Not enough money for food." Ed hiked up his pants. They'd been feeling loose all week.

"I know," Gloria said, trying to engender enthusiasm. "I'll buy you a pizza. That way you'll have leftovers."

Ed picked up the bottle of wine and looked at it. There was just a bit left at the bottom. "You want this?"

Gloria shook her head.

Ed finished the bottle and set it with a clunk back down on the lone coffee table. "Let's go," he said.

"You don't really want to do you?"

"Sure I do."

"No you don't. I'd better go."

"What? How come? I have another bottle of wine in the kitchen."

"Bye," Gloria said and kissed him on his cheek. She walked to the door, opened it, then looked back at Ed. "Eat something," she told him, then stepped through and pulled the door shut behind her.

Ed heard the door click shut. He stared at it, then looked back at the TV. The movie had started. It looked bad. "I better get that wine," he said. But his heart wasn't in it.

Instead he laid down on the floor. He fluffed the two pillows and stacked them. Then he put his head down and watched TV from under the coffee table. The top of the table clipped the top of the TV image. In the movie, a head fell and came to rest. It stared back at Ed. Ed stared at it. Ed felt a pang of friendship with the head, then loneliness.

Carnival Parade, 24th Street   •  Photo Posted Monday 6 October 2008 internal link   •  (2008) San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Kids loitered just outside the general store
(14 of 31) (27645 views)


The Flu
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Wendy Mendoza had a bad hangover and it was four in the afternoon. The night before was fuzzy, but she remembered a white beach and a new moon. Now she hunched over, arms crossed, and sat on a cold concrete box. She rocked slowly forward and back.

Wendy sat near but not in front of the grocery store. Mack got off work soon, she knew, and could be talked into buying her something to drink. She liked Mack. He had muscles because he worked in construction, not like those skinny guys that worked as turtle guides.

"Your sister is a drunk."

Wendy looked up and saw four young boys, her brother among them.

"No she's not. Tell 'em Wendy."

Another boy yelled, "She gets drunk and runs naked on the beach."

"I don't drink," Wendy feigned interest but didn't feel any.

"Do too," said another boy. "And now you have a hangover."

"I'm sick, that's all. I think I'm getting the flu."

Her brother's three friends called, "Liar, liar," and ran off.

Her brother stayed. "Thanks for sticking up for me," he said.

"I didn't."

Then he said, "Thanks," again, and ran off after his friends.

Wendy bent over to wait. She wished Mack would hurry.

Wendy felt a hand on her shoulder. "Mack?"

"How do you feel Wen? You don't look so good." It was her Dad.

"I think I'm getting the flu." She looked up at him. "What are you doing out so early?" He worked as a turtle guide at night too.

"Early? It's six p.m."


"Here," her dad helped her to her feet. "Let's walk home. I'll fix you a nice bowl of soup. You'll feel better, I know it."

"Thanks Dad," she said to him.

She walked home, her Dad helping her. But her mind remained sitting on the cold concrete box. Her mind hung behind and waited for Mack. Her mind stayed there and waited until she finally fell asleep that night. Then it snuck back inside her room and gave her dreams.

Photo Posted Friday 3 October 2008 internal link   •  (8 September 2008) Tortuguero, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The snake took a shortcut through a Y in the plant
(15 of 31) (27548 views)


Lucky Stick
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Billy Fallon was an eleven-year-old with a lucky stick. Well not a stick exactly, more like a twig. It wasn't strong enough to use as a cane and was too short for a walking stick. It was, however, just right to whack weeds and tall grass, and about the only stick the family dog Rex would chase.

Billy was out that afternoon with his friend Ed Hardly. They loved to wander the edge of town where folks threw away junk. Ed found a butane lighter and used it to burn the end of Billy's lucky stick. Then they used the burned end to write naughty words on the sidewalk.

"Hey!" Ed squeaked out. Ed tended to squeak when he was surprised. "Is that a snake?" He pointed at a nearby bush.

Billy peered into the bush. "It looks fake."

The snake was thin and green with a big head like a jungle snake. It was resting on a Y between two stems.

Ed tossed a rock at the snake but the snake didn't move. "Yeah, it's fake."

Billy heated up the end of his stick with the butane lighter. "Snakes like warm things." He poked the snake with the warm end of his stick.

Quick, like a spring loaded toy, the snake leaped forward and bit the end of Billy's stick.

Ed was surprised. He squeaked, "Yikes."

Billy flicked his stick left and right, trying to dislodge the snake. Then he felt the weight of the snake vanish and watched the snake arc gracefully through the air and in the direction out of town.

The two boys were too excited to contain themselves. They ran together back to Billy's house.

"Dad! Dad!," Billy shouted as he burst into the front door. "We found a snake."

Billy's dad looked up from the book he was reading. "Really? What kind? Where is it?"

Ed squeaked, "It was this big," and held his arms wide.

Billy held up his pinky. "It was thin like this, and was green. It bit the end of my stick."

Billy's dad stared at the boys thoughtfully. "We don't have green snakes around here. There used to be rattlesnakes years ago, but they were brown and I haven't seen one in years. It must have been a pet that someone threw out."

"Yeah," Ed said. He was starting to calm down. "It looked like a zoo snake."

Billy's dad stood. "You say it bit your stick?"

"Yeah, my lucky stick."

"Where's the stick now?"

Billy pointed outside. "I gave it to Rex."

Billy's dad led the two boys back outside. The three of them saw the dog at the same time and stopped there on the porch. The dog was dead.

"Your stick," Ed squeaked again. "It killed the dog."

Somewhere up the street came the sound of a woman screaming. "My dog!" she screamed. "Somebody killed my dog."

Billy scanned the yard with his eyes. There was no sign of the stick. "Oh no," he muttered. He took a step backward. He would have kept moving but his dad put a hand on his shoulder.

His dad said, "We'd better find that lucky stick of yours before more dogs die. Or, heaven forbid, a kid should get sick."

Billy mumbled.

"What?" His dad squeezed his shoulder. "What did you say?"

Ed squeaked, "He said, his stick wasn't lucky anymore."

Reptile and Amphibian Museum, Selvatura Park   •  Photo Posted Wednesday 29 October 2008 internal link   •  (15 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Sugar cane in one end and sugar water out the other
(16 of 31) (27581 views)


Sugar Water
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Born the same year as the fall of civilization, Noah Featherman worked and lived in the Commune, the only life he had ever known. His job was to turn the huge crank on the machine that ground sugar cane into sugar water. He did his job well, day after day, rain or shine, with never a day off, and never stole a drop of the precious sugar water.

Noah loved the widow Fane but she spurned his advances. "You're a sourpuss," she would say to him. "How can I love someone who is never happy?"

Noah knew he was grouchy, but he didn't know why. His mother lectured him about his job. "You make sweet things all day. How come you're never sweet yourself?"

Noah tried many activities to change himself. He briefly studied with the circus group, learned to juggle and ride a horse. But it didn't help either, so he quit.

Next Noah tried fishing. He thought that time in nature would make him more chipper. But it didn't help so he quit fishing.

Today, after work, Noah had an appointment with the fortuneteller. Fane agreed to meet him there. Noah presumed that meant she might care a little after all.

The fortuneteller had them sit, then dealt cards. "Aha," she said. "This is most interesting. A queen and two threes, one's a club."

"What is it?" Fane asked before Noah thought to.

"Noah," the fortuneteller asked. "Have you ever tasted the sugar water you make?"

Noah thought about it. "No. Never. It is for the Commune, not for me."

"You see what I mean," Fane said to the fortuneteller. "He's too uptight. That's why he's such a grouch."

"I agree," the fortuneteller told Fane. "You must get him to steal a bit of sugar water."

"But that's immoral," Noah objected.

The fortuneteller took his hand. "But isn't it a small price to pay for your own happiness?"

Fane took his other hand and said, "Please."

The next morning Noah arrived at the cane grinder early. While nobody was looking he ran his finger along the spout and tasted the sugar water collected there.

He was seen, of course, by the High Priest himself. Noah was lectured to and forced to take the Walk Of Shame.

The walk of Shame lasted a year. When he finally returned he found Fane married to another man. Noah was disappointed and angry. He went to visit the fortuneteller.

"You lied to me. You made me steal sugar water. I lost a year of my life because of you. I lost Fane. I can no longer work at the cane crusher. I am ruined."

The fortuneteller pulled a deck from the shelf of decks behind her. "This is your deck," she said. "I saved it from that day." She dealt the three cards that he'd seen before. A queen and two threes. Then she dealt a fourth card. It was a joker.

"What's that mean?"

"This is very rare. Not all decks have jokers." She picked up the card and handed it to him. "You must eat it."

Noah took the card. It smelled odd. "What's that smell?"

"Just a bit of mint."

Noah grunted and took a bite. The card was difficult to chew but not bad. He finished it in four bites.

"Now go outside and stand in the sunlight," the fortuneteller told him.

Noah wasn't angry anymore. He couldn't think of anything to say so he just shrugged and stood. "Okay," he said as he turned and walked outside.

The sun was high in the sky. The sky was clear and blue. Noah stood in the sunlight. He felt good, he felt relaxed. He chuckled. He chuckled again. Then he laughed.

Noah laughed out loud and at nothing in particular. He just felt happy. A woman from the Nursing group approached. He'd noticed her once, long ago. He continued to chuckle.

"What's so funny?" the woman asked.

Noah just couldn't stop chuckling. "I don't know," he said. And he didn't. He chuckled at her smile, he chuckled at a dog scratching in the dirt, he chuckled at the call of a bird in the trees.

Noah had eaten his joker and become one. Noah, it turned out, lived happily ever after.

Don Juan Coffee Plantation Tour   •  Photo Posted Sunday 26 October 2008 internal link   •  (14 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A crowd of exicted zip liners were ready
(17 of 31) (27651 views)


Like A Bone
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

"Only in Berkeley," Duff spit as he said it.

"Not a fan of Berkeley I take it?" Fred asked.

Duff Cartel and Fred Regale were long time friends that were also long in the tooth. Both were over eighty. Both were healthy. Both sat in wheel chairs on the back patio of the group home.

Duff held up the magazine picture. "Berkeley," he shook his head as if the town were sorrowful. The picture showed several bicyclists all wearing orange helmets.

Fred pushed his glasses up on his nose. "What's the problem. So they all have the same color helmet. So what?"

Duff tossed the magazine down onto the brick walk. "As if you don't know. Berkeley made it a law that each activity had to wear a specific color helmet."

Fred smiled as if he sensed a good conversation. "You mean the color helmet had to match the activity? Wow. Imagine that. What color were skateboard riders?"

"I just threw the article on the ground. Why don't you pick it up if you want to know."

"I bet skateboarders were blue. I like blue."

"Actually I think they were pink. The wanted to discourage skateboarding."

"Backfired I bet."

"You guessed it. A bunch of gay skate boarders from all over the state invaded Berkeley and they wore rainbow helmets."

Fred laughed. "I can picture it. I can picture it."

Duff scooted over to the magazine on his wheel chair. He tried to reach down to the magazine but his arm wasn't long enough. "Damn."

"If I lived in Berkeley I'd want to protest. I bet protesters there all wore American flag helmets."

"Now there. That's why I don't like talking to you." Duff sat up straight in his wheel chair. "You take a concept and chew on it like a dog eats a bone. You don't stick to what really happened. To the facts."

"You threw away the magazine. How do you know what's in or not in the article?"

"I read it didn't I. I mean I read it before I threw it away. I'm no simpleton like you."

"No need to insult me."

Duff grunted and rolled his wheel chair back to his table. "Isn't it almost lunch time?"

"If we had to wear helmets what color would they be."


"No. I think blue."

"Who the hell cares?"

"I do. I like blue."

Duff shook his head. "Like a dog. I swear. Like a dog with a bone."

Canopy Tour, Selvatura Park   •  Photo Posted Tuesday 28 October 2008   •  (15 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The tour began from a tall park building
(18 of 31) (27727 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

"There's the house," Bess told him. Bess was his girlfriend of one month.

Ed had never been there before but thought it an awfully showy house for an artist. It stood surrounded by forest, almost remote, yet just outside of town. "It wasn't as far here as I thought. I guess we shouldn't have left so early."

Bess glanced at him. She gave him that withering glance. The one that made him feel stupid.

"We're a half hour early," Bess said. "We might as well go up. I mean we'll just be socially early. Simple."

Ed shrugged. He led the way up and rang the doorbell.

A woman in a bathrobe answered the door. She looked sick. She held a crumpled kleenex and sniffled. "Yes?"

"We're here for the party." Ed announced.

The woman studied them. Then she sneezed at Ed, and blew her nose. Finally she said, "I'm Del, Zipper's wife. The party's next week."

"Oh god," Bess said. "We're so sorry." She hit Ed. "Now see what you've done."

The woman peered at Bess. "Do I know you."

"Nope!" Bess said. Ed felt she had spoken a little too fast.

"Well you're here," the woman said. She stepped back and swung the door wide. "You might as well come in. Zipper can use the company." The woman pointed down a long hall to a closed door that spilled light from underneath. "His studio."

Ed tapped on the studio door. There was no answer so he swung it open. Inside he found a typical artist studio. Canvases stacked around the walls. Zipper, his friend from work, stood behind an easel, brush in hand, touching up a painting.

"Come in. Come in," Zipper said. "You must be here for next week's party."

"It was faster to get here than I thought," Ed said.

Bess laughed a wry laugh.

Ed looked around at the paintings. There were all of feet. Or rather, each was a painting of a foot. "Why feet?" he asked.

"Why not?"

Bess had wandered to the wall and picked up a painting. "This is my foot," she said.

"No it isn't," Zipper said. Ed felt Zipper too had spoken a bit too fast.

"Sure it is," Bess carried it over to them. "See here. The way my little toe curves under and the scar from where I had that tattoo removed."

"No," Zipper said a bit too strong. "It's not your foot."

Bess looked at Zipper. She blinked. "Oh. I forgot. Yes, you're right. This isn't my foot."

Ed began to feel uncomfortable. "We'd better go."

"Nonsense," Zipper told him. "I have lots of booze and lots of drugs, good stuff too. We might as well make a night of it." He dipped a rag in some clear fluid and began to clean his brush. "You know. I've never painted your foot."

Ed found the idea of having his foot painted uncomfortable. "No. We really should go."

"Oh go ahead," Bess squeezed his arm. "It's fun." She let go and carried the painting back to the wall. "Not that I've ever done it myself of course. Not me."

"Okay," Ed said. He disliked himself when he didn't stick to his guns. "Where do I sit? Or stand?"

The next morning Ed awoke alone with a headache. He recalled the night before. It began with him having his foot painted. Then there was a trip into town by car and dancing to a heavy beat. Something happened at a fountain. He remembered trees flying by the open top of a convertible at night. Somehow they arrived at a beach. Finally a ride on the back of a motorcycle behind a helmet painted with a gorilla face.

Then Ed was awake with a headache and a bad case of the sniffles. He was home. "Damn," he said. "I caught Zipper's wife's flu."

Treetop Walkway, Selvatura Park   •  Photo Posted Monday 27 October 2008 internal link   •  (15 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The Jeremiah O'Brien was out that day
(19 of 31) (27502 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Norma Dey, wrapped in the blanket she'd wisely brought, sat on deck and waited for the Blue Angels to perform. There was no wind that afternoon on the Belle cruise, but the air felt chilly just the same. And at her age, she didn't dare take chances.

"You cold?" crooned the silky voice of a man to her left. She glanced idly sideways with just her eyes. She saw a smart day jacket and pressed white shirt.

"A little," she said, careful to sound neutral.

"Not me," the man said. And with such a voice! Smooth, like 500 year old brandy. He pointed at his own chest. "I take vitamins. Dozens of pills a day. Mostly B but multiples too. And I drink wheat grass. So I'm certainly not cold."

Norma looked politely at the man. He was clean shaven and his hair was white and neatly combed. He smiled. She did not smile back. "Norma," she said and held out a hand. "Norma Dey."

"Like that ship over there," the man said without taking her hand. "The Jeremiah O'Brien. It was part of the invasion of Normandy on D day in WW II. Like your name. Norma Dey, Normandy. That fits don't you agree?"

Norma let her hand fall to her lap. She looked at the boat. It was a large, grey military ship. Wide and pudgy. Nondescript. Plain. "Did you just tell me I'm like that ship?"

The man laughed a genuinely jovial sounding laugh. "No no," he slapped his leg. "Just your name. You're attractive in different ways than the ship. You don't have a boiler in your innards, for example. Nor do you have booms and guns bristling around your topside."

Norma wasn't ready to move to a different part of the boat. She glanced at the man again. Rude in manners, but dapper in appearance, almost handsome. She held out her hand again. "And you are?"

The man noticed her hand, took it in a firm but polite grip and shook it once, then let go. "Jerry," he said. "Now don't laugh. Jerry O'Brian."

"Like the boat?"

"No that's Jeremiah O'Brien. I'm Jerry O'Brian."

"You made a tactical blunder didn't you?"

Jerry blinked. He clearly didn't understand.

Norma lifted the blanket from her lap and began to fold it. She felt sad that she had to move.

"I get it," Jerry said. He was looking at the other ship again. "You didn't like me having sport with your name, yet I didn't want you to do the same to mine." Then he chuckled. It was a friendly chuckle.

Norma stopped folding her blanket. She looked at Jerry. Her face, she felt, was stern but with a small smile. "Let's start over," she said and held out her hand again. "I'm Norma Dey."

Jerry smiled too. He took her hand again and this time held it. "Pleased to make your acquaintance," he said. "I'm Jerry O'Brian."

This time they both laughed at the same joke.

Blue Angels Air Show, Fleet Week, San Francisco Bay   •  Photo Posted Monday 13 October 2008 internal link   •  (11 October 2008) From Hornblower's San Francisco Belle   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The hot tub had curved steps
(20 of 31) (27552 views)


The Miracle
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Henna Wanyson swam daily for exercise, without knowing how. Even on her trip through Costa Rica, she maintained her daily routine. Twenty minutes of dog paddling followed by a hot tub to relax her muscles.

"You swim every day?" a surprisingly fit older woman dipped a toe in the hot tub. Henna noticed goggles and a snorkel in her hands.

Henna laughed. "I don't know if you saw me, but I really wouldn't call what I do swimming."

The older woman stepped gingerly into the hot tub and sat. "I couldn't swim either," she said and leaned back. "I couldn't turn my head and breathe, you see. I have asthma."

"So that's why you have a snorkel?"

"That mostly. Oh. Excuse me," the older woman held our her hand. "I'm Nora Figgiroa. I'm here with a Gap tour."

Henna shook her hand and smiled. "Me too. This is my seventh day."

"My first."

Henna looked at the goggles and snorkel. "Does that really work?"

"You want to give it a try?"

Henna swam using the goggles and snorkel. She was surprised. They allowed her to see and to breathe normally. Because she no longer had to hold her head up, she could swim normally. She didn't have to dog paddle anymore.

Now Henna wasn't religious at all. But had she been, she would have felt less foolish. She returned the goggles and snorkel and said, "It's a miracle!"

Lomas del Volcán Hotel   •  Photo Posted Friday 17 October 2008 internal link   •  (12 September 2008) La Fortuna, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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He waved to the bus while waiting for a bus
(21 of 31) (27533 views)


Feeling Good
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

John Wensloda was happy that morning.

"Why are you so happy?" his neighbor asked as John locked his front door.

John looked across the railing at his neighbor standing in robe and slippers. His neighbor's nose was bright red. The man needed a shave. John laughed and said, "I don't know."

John waited at the bus stop for the bus to take him to work. He smiled. He couldn't help himself. A tour bus drove past and he waved. The tourists waved back. John laughed.

Bess, who worked in the same hotel with him, said, "Hey. Why are you acting so silly today?"

John looked at her in her grey outfit. Her hair was done up for work. John laughed and said, "I don't know."

John boarded the bus when it came. He stood, hand held over the paying slot. He looked at the bus driver. Dapper hat. Starched shirt. Expectant eyes. John smiled and laughed.

The driver said, "You going to pay or what?"

John looked at all the passengers in their seats. He saw them sitting and waiting so sadly. He smiled at them.

They frowned back.

John laughed a happy laugh. He laughed with true merriment.

John stopped laughing. The passengers still frowned at him.

The bus driver said, "Pay so we can go."

John let go of his coins. They fell from his hand and tumbled into the machine. With each clink of each coin John felt his happiness fall too.

John frowned. He found an empty seat and sat.

At the next stop. John got up and walked forward to get off the bus.

"Where are you going?" asked Bess, his co-worker in gray. "We're not there yet."

John paused. He thought about it. "I don't know," he said.

The thought made John smile. He laughed.

John got off the bus. The door closed behind him. The bus roared and left him standing by the side of the road. John laughed. A tourist bus passed. He waved. They waved back.

John felt good again. A man standing nearby asked, "Why are you so happy?"

John looked at the man. He wore a wicker hat and baggy pants. The man's beard was grey. John laughed and said, "I don't know."

Road from San José to Tortuguero National Park   •  Photo Posted Sunday 5 October 2008 internal link   •  (8 September 2008) North eastern Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A large domed area stood in the center
(22 of 31) (27531 views)


Girly Hair
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Young Joey Louga sat on the steps below a huge dome and wept. His older brother had called him a sissy. "Girly boy," his brother had taunted. "With long girly hair."

Joey's older brother, Don, dressed as if he would go on a date at a moment's notice. He always wore silk shirts and denim pants and pointed toed boots. And he kept a thick roll of money in his pocket. His brother would pat that money and strut.

Joey, on the other hand, liked to sing. He sang in the shower. He sang when alone at home. He sang in the school choir. He let his hair grow long because singers in the old photos always had long hair.

Joey dried his eyes with his sleeve. He stood and looked around to see where he was. He gazed overhead and found himself under the familiar dome in the park just down the street from his house.

"I hate you Don," he shouted. Then he paused. He heard his own voice echo.

Joey looked up. He was dead center under the dome. He tried to sing the first few words to Corizon el Diablo. It sounded good. The dome gave him a natural reverb. It felt like singing in a large hall.

Joey closed his eyes and sang. He sang his way through an entire song. He heard himself sing and was transported by his own voice into a place of fame.

He finished his song and heard the tinkle of metal.

Joey opened his eyes. A small crowd had gathered around the dome. The people were all clapping. Some threw money. Coins hit and tinkled and rolled around his feet.

Joey bowed, a little embarrassed. Then he got to his hands and knees and began to gather up the coins and stuff them into his pockets.

"Joey!" a voice called. A woman's voice. His mother's voice.

Joey looked up and saw his mother and his brother. His mother held his brother Don by his skinny arm and shook him. She made Don speak.

"Tell him," she said.

"I'm sorry for calling you a sissy."

"Tell him the rest."

"I like your hair long. It makes you look like a singer."

"Now throw it."

Don tossed his roll of money onto the stage.

It rolled and stopped when it hit Joey's hand. Joey picked it up and looked at it. He'd never held the roll of money before.

Joey got to his feet. Coins fell and tinkled from his overstuffed pocket. He walked to the edge of the dome and down the steps. He stopped in front of his brother.

Joey held out the roll of money. "You dropped this," he said.

Don took the money and stuffed it into his pocket. Then he muttered, "Thanks," without looking Joey directly in the eyes.

Joey took another step forward and hugged his brother. He hugged him hard. He hugged him with love.

Joey felt his brother hug him back. Joey smiled. His brother's hug reminded him of a song. He wanted to sing, but didn't. He just stood there hugging his brother and feeling at home again.

Parque Morazan, just north of downtown   •  Photo Posted Wednesday 1 October 2008 internal link   •  (7 September 2008) San José, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Terry and Bryan took the far way around a tree
(23 of 31) (27592 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Sometimes on Sundays, young Jerome Wrinkson would pull open the bottom drawer of the china cabinet and look at old photos haphazardly arranged. He looked at photos mostly when he was bad and his TV time was taken away. After the move he no longer seemed to have friends to play with on Sunday.

Jerome smelled his Mom making lunch in the kitchen. Grilled cheese today with lots of butter. He felt his stomach gurgle. He looked at another picture.

This one showed his Mom and Dad riding horses. "Hey Mom!" he shouted. "How come we never go horseback riding?"

"We never do lots of things," his Mom shouted back from the kitchen.

Jerome dropped that picture back into the drawer and selected another. This photo showed his dad in uniform. "Hey Mom!" he shouted. "Was Dad in the army?"

"That was before we were married," his Mom shouted back.

Jerome looked at the back of that picture. Just the date, 1982. "Hey Mom!" he shouted. "I miss Dad."

"I miss him too," his Mom shouted back. "Now go wash your hands. Lunch is almost ready."

Jerome dropped the picture back into the drawer. He was almost ready to shut the drawer when he noticed another photo. He picked it up. It showed him as a baby, and sitting next to him a young girl. He turned the photo over. It was labeled "Jerome and Nancy."

"Hey Mom," he shouted. "Who's Nancy."

"Wash your hands young man. And I mean now," his Mom shouted back. "I'll tell you about your sister after you eat your sandwich. Not before."

Jerome dropped the picture back into the drawer and shut it. He stood and ran into the bathroom to wash. "I had a sister," he said. He stood on his tiptoes to look at himself in the mirror. "I had a sister named Nancy."

Horseback ride to the falls   •  (12 September 2008) La Fortuna, Costa Rica   •  Photo Posted Wednesday 15 October 2008 internal link   •  Photo taken by one of the guides using Bryan's camera   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A bullfrog hung out on a leaf
(24 of 31) (27465 views)


Just A Frog
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Only in a fairy tale is a frog supposed to have once been a prince. Virginia Sackson knew well that fairy tales were just stories, of course. Made up words to raise her desires then dash them.

"That's one frog you must never kiss," the guide said. He tapped the glass to get the frog's attention. "His skin is poisonous."

"I've known men like that," one of the other women in the group, Polish perhaps, said to her companion.

Virginia peered at the frog behind its protective glass. Frogs here in Costa Rica were prettier than frogs back home. Their skin was smoother and some came in pretty colors. This frog was plain green but still quite handsome. "I like this frog's looks."

"Carl Jung would have had a field day with you," a man's voice said right behind her.

Virginia turned to confront the rude fellow. It was the young man who'd arrived late. But up close he didn't look so young. His face appeared her age. His features were detailed and mature. It was his attire that had fooled her, the colorful t-shirt and baggy shorts. And his hair, tinted an odd bright-orange.

Virgina asked, "Are you one of the men like that? Are you poison to kiss?"

"Isn't every man? I mean until you get to know him?"

"Where's the fairy tale?" Virginia asked him. "Where's the magic transformation? Why do women always have to grow into a relationship?"

One of the Polish women interjected, "Yes. She asks a good question."

Quickly, like a snake striking, the man took Virginia's face in his hands and kissed her fully on the lips.

Surprised, Virginia closed her eyes. She flashed guilt, then fear, then pleasure and acceptance. She kissed him back. Then his hands and lips were gone.

"How did that frog get out of its case?" the guide asked.

Virginia opened her eyes. The man was gone. The group was backing up around a bright orange frog on the floor.

The guide pulled on a glove the reached to pick up the small frog. "And this is one of the most poisonous of all," he said as he coaxed the orange frog onto his gloved hand.

Virginia was confused.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned. It was the man.

"No," he said. "Contrary to appearances, I didn't turn into a frog."

Around her, the tour group laughed. Then the man laughed. Then Virginia laughed.

The orange frog was dumped uncerimoniously into a glass case. It didn't understand what had just happened. It was supposed to have kissed the woman. Its story was supposed to have been the fairy tale. It was supposed to have been turned into a prince. Its transformation was foretold. But its story had been turned on its head. In this modern world, the frog concluded, a frog doesn't become prince. In this modern world, he thought as its mind reverted into a frog's mind, a frog must remain ... just ... a ... frog.

The Frog Pond   •  Photo Posted Saturday 25 October 2008 internal link   •  (13 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The steps were amazingly uneven in height
(25 of 31) (27632 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The descent into Hell isn't so bad. Or so Tim Nonan thought. Tropical and warm sure, but no flames. No devils with pitchforks. Just stairs. Lots of stairs.

"Hurry it up," said a woman behind him. "We've only got an hour."

Tim stopped and turned to face her. He intentionally blocked her descent. "What's your hurry?" he asked. "You have all time to spend down there."

The look on the woman's face reminded Tim of the look he got from teachers whenever he said something extremely dumb, which was all the time.

"Excuse me," the woman said without making eye contact. Then she brushed past him and continued downward.

"The same to you lady," he called after her. But the insult felt weak.

Tim started walking down again.

It was bad enough they sent you to prison, Tim thought. But on this planet they make you walk all the way down into the crater on your own.

A man came up behind Tim. "Excuse me," the man said and brushed past.

"They'll lock you up soon," Tim yelled at the man's back.

The man made a gesture with his hand that made Tim blush.

A voice crackled at Tim's waist. It was his Mom's voice on the walkie talkie.

"Hurry up Tim dear. The water's nice and cool and the waterfall is pretty."

That's right, Tim thought. I remember now. 400 steps down to swim.

Tim stopped. He'd forgotten to count. He looked up. Should he go back up and start over?

"You don't need to count," his Mom's voice said. "Just come right down."

Tim smiled. His Mom always knew what was best for him. He pushed the button on the walkie talkie and said, "Okay Mom."

Tim walked down the rest of the steps without mistaking them for a descent into Hell or the way to a prison. He parked his imagination and just walked. Simple and direct.

And at the bottom he got to swim.

Reserva Ecologica Catarata Rio Fortuna   •  Photo Posted Thursday 16 October 2008 internal link   •  (12 September 2008) The Falls, La Fortuna, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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An empty water bottle had washed up on the beach
(26 of 31) (27579 views)


Joe Alaska
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

They called him Joe Alaska, the folks on the island that is. Joe was from Alaska, a long, long time before. That's why he took his daily walk in the darkness an hour before dawn. It was the coolest part of the day, and reminded Joe of those few precious Alaska days when the sun never came up. Of course, on the island, the sun always came up.

The beach was littered with trash blown in from the Caribbean. Joe had cut his foot on glass twice and wanted to sue. But apparently the beach wasn't owned by anyone. Not the little town. Maybe the country, but that was not the kind of owned that allowed him to sue. So Joe remained poor. He remained stuck on the island.

Joe was on the return leg of his walk as the sky to the east began to lighten. He could finally just make out the beach. What he saw made him stop. The beach was clean. Not a sign of trash or driftwood anywhere. Clean and smooth, almost as if it had been groomed. His were the only footprints anywhere. A damned abnormal sight if there ever was one.

A few paces ahead Joe spotted a flattened water bottle. The only piece of trash left. The bottle appeared to glow. Joe was curious so he took a step toward the bottle.

"Hey you!" a voice called to him.

Joe stopped.

"He probably doesn't speak English," another voice said clearly.

A third voice spoke to him in Spanish.

Joe looked up. A dozen or so people stood at the edge of the beach up against the dark jungle. Joe called, "I speak English."

"Come directly here," said a man in a baseball hat. "Hurry now. We're losing the light. That's it. Hustle."

Joe moved as fast as his aging legs could carry him. As he walked, he noticed men with brooms on the beach. They were erasing his footprints.

"What's going on?" Joe asked.

A man took him by his arm and led him a short way away from the beach. "We're making a movie. You're welcome to stand here and watch. Just try to be quiet, okay?"

Joe wasn't sure he wanted to watch. He was getting hungry and wanted to get home and fix himself a breakfast. He thanked the man then tried to figure out where he was. He thought there might be a path home nearby. But before he could move, another man stepped in front of him.

The man was tall and smelled of cologne. The man held a cup of coffee and the smell made Joe all the more hungry.

"You're perfect," the tall man said. Then he asked, "You ever acted?"

Joe thought about that. "Once. A long time ago in high school."

"You don't get stage fright do you?"

"Me? Never."

"You want to be in a movie. Have a small role in today's scene?"


"It pays a thousand dollars."

Joe thought about that. A thousand dollars was almost exactly what a plane ticket back to Alaska would cost. Joe knew that because once a month he asked at the tourist place in town. Joe looked up at the tall man. "Sure," he said. "I'd like that."

The tall man clapped Joe on the shoulder then yelled, "Wardrobe!"

"Alaska," Joe said.

"What?" said the tall man.

"Joe Alaska. That's my name."

"Hurry and get in costume, Joe," said the tall man. Then the tall man yelled, "Let's get moving folks! The dawn waits for no man!"

Joe felt another hand on his arm. It was a short woman. "Come with me," she told him. "Let's get you fitted."

"I'm going home," Joe said.

"Not yet. First you're going to act."

"Yes," Joe said. "First I act. Then I fly home."

Beach by the lagoon of Turtle Beach Lodge   •  Photo Posted Thursday 9 October 2008 internal link   •  (9 September 2008) Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A much later tour boat passed by
(27 of 31) (27568 views)


The Secret
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The water bus sped past without stopping. Mona Whaye jumped and shouted and waved her shut umbrella like a sword. "Damn bus," she half said to the bus and half to her boyfriend Dil Rommas. "It didn't look full. I saw a couple empty seats."

Dil remained calm. His hands were stuck in the pockets of his shorts. He rocked a bit and said, "I bet it's policy. I remember hearing somewhere that they'll only stop at regular bus stops now."

Mona stomped her foot. "Yeah. Well its the long way around for the bus stop."

Dil looked at her. "So what's the big hurry. You got someplace to go?"

"It's a surprise."

"Will it wait for us to walk around?"

"Yes, but."

"Don't pout. Here," Dil took her hand. "Let's walk the long way."

The door used to be part of a balcony of a condo complex. The long way around passed through that door, up stairs, across a homemade bridge to the next building, then back down again.

Mona stopped at the door. "I have a bad feeling."

Dil stopped and let go of her hand. "You always balk here. What's up with that?"

"You know that's a secret."

"Oh yeah, a secret and a surprise."

A loud bang followed by shouts and a crash made them both jump. They hurried back out to the water's edge and looked.

"It's the bridge," Dil said. "It's collapsed." Then Dil shrugged. "Doesn't surprise me. It was really badly built."

"That's my secret."

"What do you mean."

"I dreamed the bridge collapsed."

"Cool." Dil said. Another water bus came putting by. Dil shouted and waved and pointed at the fallen bridge.

Mona touched his arm. "I dreamed it while I was awake."

The water bus's driver saw the collapsed bridge. He turned the boat and pulled to shore to pick them up.

Dil took Mona's hand. "We can go for my surprise after all."

But she resisted. "I had another dream."

"What was this one about?"

"A wave," she said "A big wave."

Dil looked at her. Then he looked at the fallen bridge. "Never mind," he said to the water bus driver. "We're going to head up to high ground instead."

Mona smiled.

Together, hand in hand, they went in search of stairs.

A boat tour down the Canal of Palms   •  Photo Posted Friday 10 October 2008 internal link   •  (9 September 2008) Turtle Beach Lodge   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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An example of a collecting tent
(28 of 31) (27653 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

They broke through the ice, just to find someplace out of the wind. Stone's wife was with-child and she appeared to suffer when the icy wind gusted. The others of the tribe thought it a waste of energy and moved on. But Stone swore to protect his wife, Snowflake, so he dug.

Behind the ice, Stone found a thin layer of frozen dirt covering rotten wooden planks. Using the stout branch that doubled as his walking staff, Stone battered a large hole thought the boards. Behind the boards he found a cave, a large cave without wind.

Stone lead Snowflake into the cave. "We'll be warm in here."

"What's back there?" she asked. "Something shiny?"

Stone rummaged through his carry-roll and found his one precious candle. Using his flint, and much patience, he managed to light the candle. Stone left Snowflake the flint with which to start a fire. Then he walked further into the cave to investigate.

First he found a table filled with odd metal things, and a hard hat. He tried the hat on and it fit. "What a lucky find," he said.

"What is it? What did you find," Snowflake called from behind.

Stone lifted the candle. Above the desk were pictures, mostly of people. And above the pictures were hundreds of dead insects. "Bugs!," he said. "Many bugs. Many big bugs. Dead bugs."

The back of the cave brightened as Snowflake piled bits of wood on her growing fire. "I've never seen bugs," she said. "Just the ones that live in our hair. But never big bugs."

Stone moved further back into the cave. Beyond the table he found rows and rows of wooden shelves. Using his candle he explored. Mostly he found plastic boxes of more bugs. But here and there he found tins of food. He checked them carefully for signs of leakage or rust, but found nothing to fear.

Walking back toward Snowflake and the fire he announced, "I found food."

"Come," said Snowflake. "Come sit by the fire and be warm."

Stone blew out the candle and sat cross legged next to Snowflake. "Food," he showed her the tins.

Snowflake took one and shook it. "Water inside."

"Today we are lucky," Stone said. He took off the hat and banged it with his knuckles. "Metal. We can cook in this."

Snowflake leaned against Stone. "We are lucky," she said. "Warm and lucky."

Insect Museum, Selvatura Park   •  Photo Posted Friday 31 October 2008 internal link   •  (15 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Sunset heightened the drama of the nearby volcano
(29 of 31) (27645 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Raul Guerro and his wife Irma strolled hand-in-hand through the small park at sunset. They'd been married only one month and were on their way to celebrate at the local Soda. Raul was trying to grow a mustache.

"I wish you would shave it off," Irma said with a light squeeze of his hand. "I expected it to tickle but it scratches."

Raul stopped walking. He laid his arm around Irma's shoulder and said, "You see the volcano? Romantic isn't it?"

The volcano had belched a tiny cloud into the clear but darkening sky. In the red of sunset it seemed all the more majestic than usual.

Irma asked, "You see that tree?"

Raul searched with his eyes. They were surrounded by trees. "You mean the big one between us and the volcano?"

"Yeah. That one." Irma slipped her arm around her husband's waist. "If that were a mustache it would spoil the look of the volcano. Don't you think?"

"But it's just a tree. And besides. Doesn't that tree give scale to the volcano? You know. Make it look bigger and stronger?"

"No. It makes the volcano look silly."

"Imagine that," Raul said. "A silly looking volcano."

Irma looked at Raul. "Don't be silly," she said and kissed him on the cheek. "Ouch. Scratchy."

Raul looked at the volcano. He reached with his free hand and rubbed his mustache with his finger. It was still awfully small. He'd been growing it for a week yet the mustache was still thin and rough. More a shadow than a mustache.

"Okay," Raul said. "After dinner I shave."

The volcano belched again. A tiny puff of smoke into the setting sun.

But Irma now gazed at her husband instead of at the volcano. She asked, "Romantic isn't it?"

Road to Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna town   •  Photo Posted Tuesday 14 October 2008 internal link   •  (10 September 2008) La Fortuna, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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David relaxed and marveled at the passing jungle
(30 of 31) (27431 views)


Safe Life
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Randal Graybeard experienced his first big scare when he was twenty. He was almost killed in a motorcycle accident. He swore off motorcycles and after that, only drove big cars.

Randal's second scare was in his thirties when a bum liver made him tired and pale. He swore off alcohol after that and turned instead to food for solace.

In his forties, Randal was scared again when young doctor told him to lose weight or die. Randal went on a crash diet, after that, and became a vegetarian.

Randal spent his fifty-first birthday alone sipping tepid tea and watching the adventure channel on TV. An interview with a man his age surprised Randal. This other man had traveled the world. The other man showed scars from a tiger bite and where muscle was missing from his leg following a shark attack. Asked if he had any regrets, the man said, "I only wish I could have lived life more fully."

Randal was shocked. He turned of the TV to think. In the fading light of the day he saw his reflection on the TV screen's glass. He saw a paunchy, aging man. A man who couldn't seem to smile. A sad, lonely man. He lifted his cup to toast his reflection. But the gesture made by his reflection seemed insincere.

Randal set down his tea. He stood. He scratched his head. He made up his mind to do something about his life.

Randal leaned back in the seat of a boat. One his fifty-second birthday, he was on a tour of Costa Rica. He decided to begin his adventures safely. A tour seemed just right. But an "adventure" tour, for that hint of excitement.

Randal watched the jungle slide past. He felt good.

Randal remembered the TV show that had changed his thinking. He remembered the question. He asked himself if he had any regrets.

"None," he whispered. "I did the right things to live this long. I was right to make sure I could begin my life now."

A woman sitting next to him asked, "Did you say something?"

Randal looked at her. "Just muttering," he said. "I must be getting old."

Boat trip from San José to Tortuguero National Park   •  Photo Posted Sunday 12 October 2008 internal link   •  (8 September 2008) Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A bus and an ice cream vendor passed by
(31 of 31) (27517 views)


Bad Penny
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Nick Moore had received a text message from his sister, so he snuck out to meet her at Parque Esplaña. He was early, so he sat on a bench in the shade and thought about how dumb his Dad was.

Nick's sister was named Dime. Their Dad wanted to name her Déme, but his writing was sloppy, so the name Dime stuck. As young kids they joked that Nick's original name must have been Néck. Nick smiled.

"Hi Nick," it was his sister. She was older by five years and already out into the world. She sat next to him on the bench.

Nick looked at her. She was well dressed and seemed collected. "Mom and dad will be pissed you're back."

"I know. Like Dad says. A bad penny."

"I thought you moved to San Diego in the States. Weren't you going to marry that guy. What's his name? Frank?"

"Frank's stuck on himself."

"But that job. I thought they were going to make you a manager."

"I couldn't do it. It was just too boring. You know. I sat at a desk all day and told drivers where to go with a walkie talkie. It was dull. Dull, dull, dull."

"They don't know you're back, do they?"

"I was hoping you'd lay the foundation for me. You know. Grease the wheels."

"I would, but Dad's not speaking to me right now. And Mom's taken his side. It was that Mora girl, you remember."

"Oh yeah. I remember. I always thought she was bad news."

An ice cream wagon pulled slowly past. "You want an ice cream?" Nick asked.

"No. I should go."

"Where will you stay?"

"With one of my girlfriends. You know. Fran or maybe Donna."

"You haven't asked them yet?"

Dime stood. "No not yet. I'll stay with whoever will have me. You know. Or maybe you don't." She smiled. "You'll grow up too. Some day."

Nick shaded his eyes and looked up at her. "Good luck."

He watched Dime walk away. She stopped after a few steps and turned. She waved good-bye, then pretended to sock herself in the jaw like they did when they were kids.

Nick laughed. When he stopped laughing she was gone.

"She'll be back," he said to himself. "Like dumb Dad says. A bad penny." Then he stood and went in search of that ice cream.

Parque España, near downtown   •  Photo Posted Thursday 2 October 2008 internal link   •  (7 September 2008) San José, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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