The place is called Coconut Cove, which is just about all Bob knows about the coral pink abomination of a hotel in front of him.
Well, actually, he knows that Chuckler dragged him out here along with the rest of his hooligan friends because Bob was, quote unquote, overworking himself and needed a break from the city and the noise.
So here Bob was. Standing in front of the flamingo colored lobby entrance with creaky sliding doors. He could practically hear the salt and sand crackling every time they opened. He had a rolled up towel under one arm, sunglasses loosely held in his other hand, and a Hawaiian shirt he didn’t remember putting on. Either the green board shorts were the worst part of the whole ensemble, or the fact that the shirt had a garish bright pink, yellow, and orange sunset scene printed all over it.
“Hey, Lucky, grab some fuckin’ luggage why don’t ya?”
Bob was wrong. The worst part had to be the company.
Chuckler, from inside the car, was very quick to shush Runner. “He’s on vacation! He can’t be made to do any work yet- that comes at least three days in!”
His face popped out of the trunk where he was helping Runner unload the suitcases and bags. The whole time, Runner had been complaining about how he was supposed to be the one crawling around the car picking up every little thing they could possibly miss and that he wasn’t strong enough to carry Chuckler’s four overstuffed backpacks. Hoosier had walked past Bob and into the lobby to get their room with a smirk and a pat on the shoulder.
Chuckler gave Bob a giant smile. Bob glowered back at him. “So,” he started, twirling around to face the car and leaning against one of the columns that framed the doors, “what brought us here?”
Chuckler ducked back inside. “I thought I told you!” he exclaimed. “You are overworking yourself, Hoosier needs a tan, and Runner needs some fun in his life while working his terrible, boring office job,” (he didn’t pause as Runner scoffed) “and I am the fairy godmother that will deliver these gifts,” he paused as he hopped out of the car, “unto you.” He finished with another flawless smile.
Bob rolled his eyes. “I mean what are we doing at this specific eyesore?”
“Oh,” Chuckler began pushing the cart of luggage as Runner gave a sigh of relief and slammed the trunk closed. “I told Runner to choose between A, B, and C, and he chose B.”
“Ah, so now I know who to blame,” Bob said. Chuckler pushed the squeaky cart past him and Bob had no choice but to follow. Runner started the car and pulled a face at Bob as he drove through to the parking lot. Bob flipped him off.
A blast of cold air hit him as soon as he passed the threshold and the hum of the air conditioner was so loud it almost left his ears ringing. There was a giant tropical themed fountain in the middle of the lobby sporting various exoctic animals and huge fake leaves that were tattered around the edges, likely from age. On one of the tiki torches that encircled the fountain, a sign was posted reading “No sleeping in lobby” in bright, colorful letters. The place did seem like the type to have random people come looking for a place to stay late at night, so maybe this was just a precaution against loiterers. The ambient music playing softly really fit the faded and ocean-worn atmosphere of the place that was so opposite to what Bob was used to.
Hoosier was still at the desk talking to some woman in an impressive updo and even more impressive makeup. Chuckler was rolling his way over the elevators. Bob sat down in one of the plush chairs and pulled out his phone to check his emails. It was promptly plucked out of his grasp.
“Nuh uh,” Bob looked up to Runner’s smug grin. “No devices! Chuckler’s orders, not mine.”
Bob sighed. “Yeah, of course you gotta pander to everything that man says,” he grumbles and gets a hard shove for his troubles. He stretches up high and both feels and hears his back pop. He looks around and sees Hoosier already over at Chucklers side trying to get the luggage cart all the way in the cabin.
They had gotten a room on the fifth floor and thankfully, on their long ride up, the elevator only creaks and sways for half the time. Chuckler looks a little green by the time they make it to their floor and Bob feels a little sick himself. If they end up taking the stairs the whole time, groceries sure are going to be a bitch to carry.
Hoosier gets the key card to their room and fumbles with it for a bit, muttering curses under his breath until a swipe finally takes and the door is pushed open, revealing an actually quite nice room. There was a little kitchen corner to the direct left of the door and straight ahead led to the living room area. The floor was nicely carpeted and the walls are a nice ocean-y blue color that goes well with the green curtains. There's even a balcony with reclining chairs and Bob just knows Hoosier will claim that at some point in the night to take a smoke break and play solitaire on his phone while Runner and Chuckler are inevitably wreaking havoc in the kitchen. Chuckler brings the cart into the room after they’ve all filed in and it squeaks so loud they all wince.
“Well the living room and kitchen seem nice enough,” Hoosier announces, “I’m gonna check out the bedroom.” Runner scampers after him, making himself scarce once Chuckler begins to unload the cart of their bags.
He’s struggling with three bags at once when Bob asks: “You want some help with that, don’t you?”
Chuckler sags with relief. “Yes please,” is all he gets out before Bob grabs two and places them on the kitchen bar with a huff of a laugh that Chuckler echoes. They get about halfway through when there’s a squawk and a thump that shakes the floor with loud, bursting laughter following immediately after.
Chuckler looks at Bob, eyes wide. He drops his bag and makes his way quickly to the bedroom and Bob follows, wondering if they can;t even make it one day without injury or disaster. The door is wide open and Bob sees Runner in a heap on the floor, spitting curse after curse through his laughter at Hoosier whose bent at the waist with his own. They’re both breathless and red-faced.
“What the hell happened?” Bob asks.
“Runner here decided he wanted to jump on the beds again like kids. Dumbass slipped and fell,” Hoosier explains, slowly regaining his breath.
“Hey!” Runner cuts in, “you were about to join me before I fell!”
Hoosier looks so betrayed by this that they all burst into peals of laughter once more.
Dinner that night, they decide, will be take-out pizza.
“Why can’t we get it from one of these nice “mom-and-pop” type shops?” Bob complains from his seat on the passenger's side. Hoosier lost the rock-paper-scissors and is driving his damn worst in the tiny lane. “Do we have to get it from Pizza Hut? Shouldn’t we be trying to support local businesses?”
“You know how Chuckler gets when he doesn’t get his greasy shit for the day, and Pizza Hut is the greasiest and closest place there is. DId you see any other pizza shops around this town or were you too entranced in your romantic porno novel?”
Bob regrets ever telling these assholes about his guilty pleasure reading habits.
“For the last time,” he sighs, “I don’t read them to enjoy them. I read them to critique them and wonder how anyone has so few brain cells that they think buying this mushy-gushy shit is a good idea.”
Hoosier swerves into the parking lot so hard Bob bangs his head against the window.
“That’s how.” is all he says before turning the car off and climbing out.
The Pizza Hut is very much empty when they get inside and Bob’s shoes stick to the floor when he walks to the desk. Hoosier hangs back by the door, looking at his phone. Bob orders and sidles back up against him, head on his shoulder, watching Hoosier play phone scrabble against his grandma. Bob wishes he could say Hoosier was winning, but he didn’t make a habit of lying.
Their food was made quickly, probably because it was so empty, and they left with a “you two make a cute couple!” thrown their way that they didn’t feel like correcting. It happened so often between the four of them that they were numb to it, or, at parties, they played into it.
Back at the room, Chuckler was standing squat in front of the TV fighting with the remote. Runner was stretched out on the sofa with his eyes closed, his chest rising and falling as gently as the waves outside.
Bob slammed the boxes down on the table and Runner jerked up with a gasp, blearly rubbing at his eyes and stumbling over himself to get up from the couch. Chuckler sighed in frustration, and was in the middle of setting the remote down on the coffee table when Runner snatched it up and slapped it against his palm a few times and then once more for good measure. It worked at the first press of a button.
They settled down with their pizza at the little dining room table that they pushed away from against the wall. The TV was on some Animal Planet show with the volume only at a murmur. The yellow of the lights cast the room in a bright golden glow while outside, the sky was getting darker and darker. The curtains were wide open, allowing Bob to peer over Runner’s shoulder periodically to check out the waves and the reflection of the setting sun against the water. They ate in peace and turned in soon after.
Day one meant the beach came first.
They barely paused to eat breakfast before sweeping their belongings into a bag, slathering themselves in sunscreen, grabbing the umbrella, and tromping down to the sandy, half hidden wooden trail that led to the beach. It was around nine in the morning, so they had plenty of spaces to choose from. They chose a spot not far from the water and Hoosier threw down the blanket he was carrying. He waited until Bob had toed off his flip flops and had taken off another one of the stupidly patterned button up Chuckler bought him to grab his wrist and drag him off to the water, leaving Runner and Chuckler to do the heavy lifting.
They stopped just before the waves could hit their toes; Hoosier took tentative steps forward, checking the temperature. Bob looked around. There were a few people setting up shop- far enough away to not be a bother but close enough that they didn’t feel completely alone on the sand. Speaking of, the sand was littered with glitter shells and bits of sea glass, gleaming in the early morning light. The sun was barely over the horizon line. Bob breathed deeply for the first time in what felt like ages.
Hoosier bumped his shoulder as he took a few steps past him, turning his head to meet Bob’s eyes. There was a question there. A “is this nice? Is this good for you?” that Bob appreciated more than he would ever admit. As much as his friends could suck, he loved them beyond anything he had ever loved before. He nodded.
Hoosier gave a quick nod back before promptly getting lost in the surf. He dunked his head into the next wave that came crashing down, white foam spraying everywhere and swirling around Bob’s legs, and sunk down so only his head and the tops of his shoulders were visible. The sun hitting his golden head at just the right angle to be positively blinding. When Bob closed his eyes, spots of colors danced in the darkness.
“Ahhh, there’s our ocean beauty!” Bob jumped when he heard Runner’s voice suddenly call out from beside him.
“Jesus, when the fuck did you get out here?”
“Right around the time I decided to abandon Chuckler to some lady and her poor husband who needed help setting their tent up,” Runner shrugged. “Not my fault you didn’t hear me.”
“Dick.” Bob mumbled, throwing an arm around Runner’s shoulders. They watched Hoosier flop around in the waves and float on his back during the small moments of peace. The water lapped at their legs in rhythmic motions, like the rocking of a boat.
He did hear Chuckler coming upon them; he turned his head to watch him stomp through the water until he finally reached where they stood.
“‘Tis a fine day, gentlemen,” He commented. He lifted a hand to cover his eyes as he looked up at the clear blue sky above them. The sun was now at the perfect height that every glance an inch above the water line didn’t leave Bob blinded for a full minute.
“Might've been better if we had gone to the pool first.” Runner picked at his nails and Chuckler reached around Bob to slap at his shoulder. When Runner dropped his hands, Chuckler left his arm there, a heavy and welcoming weight.
Yeah, well, you lost the rock-paper-scissors on that one, Bud.” Bob huffed a laugh. He must’ve missed that in the haze his mind had been clouded in while he was packing. The whole reason he was even at this beach was because Chuckler caught him a bad and sleep deprived time, told him he was getting a mandatory vacation, and basically kidnapped Bob while he was too tired to say anything against his plan. Bob had slept for about three full hours on the ride here.
Bob was thrown out of his reverie by Hoosier shouting at them; this time he was a considerable distance away and was more likely to be swept out in a rip current than heard.
Runner threw Bob’s arm off and took off in a run. Well, it would’ve been a run if he hadn’t been knee deep in water and already short enough to be barred from some roller coasters. Chuckler laughed loudly from beside Bob at the sight of Runner launching himself out of the water at Hoosier, causing them both to tumble backwards into the water- Hoosier with a yelp and Runner with a loud, joyous laugh that had Bob smiling.
They came back up to the room crusted in salt and sand, pruny from hours in the water, and soaked in sun. Runner won the first shower in a game of rock-paper-scissors to Chuckler, who tried to save his pride by claiming Runner was so small it made sense for him to go first because there was less to wash and thus it would be saving water. Hoosier smacked him upside the head and said, “That would happen in any order we went, stupid,” but then ruffled his hair and gave him the last piece of their pizza brownie from the other night as a quiet apology.
When Bob was taking his shower third, Chuckler decided to throw together a fruit salad of sorts, with oranges and bananas and grapes and some cherries. He was worried, though, that it wasn’t “tropical enough” for a beach getaway and took the car with Runner to go to the grocery store. Bob emerged from the bathroom with a cloud of steam and a look of confusion.
“Went to go buy pineapples and watermelons and coconuts and shit,” Hoosier shrugged. He was sprawled out on the bed with the remote to the tiny little fizzly TV held loosely in one hand, picking his teeth with the other. His hair was wet from his hard won second place shower and his shirt was mottled with damp spots. A towel was thrown on the floor. “I forgot to ask for mangoes and my phone is in the other room, so I guess we’ll have to live without a staple of tropical fruits in our dinner, like the bunch of tourist assholes that we are.”
Bob smirked as he continued to dry off his hair. He threw his towel down on top of Hoosier’s and took a running leap at the bed. He landed in a heap and got a knee to his kidney for his troubles. Hoosier grumbled as he rearranged his limbs to fit with Bob on the bed and eventually settled on hand in Bob’s wet curls.
Bob fell asleep in the next instant.
When he awoke, hours later, it was to Chuckler’s rhythmic snores. Hoosier was still leaned up against the pillows, head tilted back, while Runner was curled into Bob’s side. Chuckler was at the end of the bed, but his long arms were splayed out over Runner’s side to connect with Bob’s back.
The room was dark, the curtains were closed, and Bob had never felt more warm or comfortable in his entire life. He settled back into sleep and didn’t wake again until morning.
On their second day, they had a lie in. Chuckler and Hoosier had some sports game on and were arguing about points and penalties and other shit Bob didn’t care about. What he did care about, though, was that they were being loud as hell and Bob had been trying to read for the last half hour with little to no success.
“Hey,” he called. “You mind toning that down a bit? People,” he gestured to himself, “are trying to actually enjoy their time here. If I have to listen to you two bicker like the hundred-year-old married couple that lives next to me who haven't been able to work out their lingering problems from a failed marriage in a practical way because one might get too excited and die of a heart attack, I myself will die of a heart attack on this very floor and haunt your asses until the end the end of time.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence in our immortal livelihoods but,” Hoosier paused to pop a piece of watermelon into his mouth, “now that I’ve been promised a viewing of your inevitable heart attack, I don’t think anything can stop me from bickering my lips off.” Chuckler just gave a loud laugh and turned the TV volume down. Thankfully, that seemed to turn their volume down as well.
Bob read peacefully until the door was slammed open, and he nearly threw his book down in frustration and fear. Chuckler jerked so far over to the left that he nearly knocked the lamp off the table.
“Didn’t mean to have that open like that,” Runner mumbled as he put his stuff down. It had been a pain listening to him complain about not having a good place to do his morning run until Bob discovered there was a free gym included in their hotel and it had treadmills. The only way this trip would be bearable in the long term would be if Runner had a way to work off his energy.
The door to the bathroom closed with a little less force, but not by much.
“You think he's ok?” Hoosier asked, eyeing the door. His eyebrows were knit together in the way they always were when he was truly concerned.
“He should be fine, right?” Chuckler said. “I mean, he got to go on a run still.”
Bob hummed. “We’ll just have to see.”
The shower exploded into action and it was loud enough to drown out the sports game.
When Runner came back out, pruney and wrinkly and a thousand times less sweaty, Hoosier and Chuckler had decided to put on some hallmark movie after the game had ended. He flopped down onto the sofa, curled up with a pillow on his lap, and sighed.
Bob closed his book. No reading would be done today, it seemed. “What's up with you?” He asked.
“Don't seem like nothing to us,” Hoosier added. He turned around to face Runner properly and propped his head up against the back of the sofa.
“Well,” he started, then stopped. He picked at a thread on the pillow. “It just wasn't the same.”
“The floor was disgusting and you could tell it hadn't been cleaned in a while, and the treadmill worked so slowly I was practically running in place, it was ridiculous!” His voice grew louder with every sentence and Bob could tell this shitty hotel gym actually upset him. A complaint would definitely be filed, whether Runner wanted it or not.
“But, it worked fine enough I guess.” The “I guess” had been spoken in such a small voice that Bob truly felt like a puppy had been kicked in his vicinity.
“Why don't we go out tomorrow and scout some places outside to run. I mean,” Bob spread his arms out wide. “There's no way this place doesn't have some quiet back roads for people to at least jog, right?”
The corner of Runners mouth curled up. “You would think so,” he drawled. He let the pillow go and fell sideways so his head landed in Hoosier’s lap, and he brought his feet up into Chuckler’s. The brat was absolutely spoiled. “But I'm not sure this town has one brain in the entire population. I swear we passed three tourist shops with the same name on our way here.”
“That's just the beach bumpkin style.” Hoosier said in such a sage voice that Bob couldn't help but laugh.
“Yeah,” chuckler added. “It's a way of life out here. I think it's so visitors get lost and stay forever. That's their marketing ploy.”
They moved past the topic of shitty beach towns and eventually started talking about shopping. Runner and Chuckler, like the idiots they were, only bought fruit for the salad at the store the day before, which left them with what was probably week-old pasta and clumpy sauce for dinner and fruit salad for dessert. They decided on grocery shopping the next day. This time, they would all go to avoid calamity and general abhorrent behavior.
When dinner time rolled around, Bob shook the sauce jar too hard and it exploded all over his front. They had an early night that night, and dined on gently sauced pasta like the kings they weren’t.
“Did you know they had giant inflatable ducks with sunglasses?”
Bob paused from where he was perusing the plastic shovels and turned to look at Runner. “Huh?”
“They've got a load of inflatable shit here, Mr. Charms, I was just asking if you knew about the Cool Duck.”
“Can't say that I do,” Bob said, wandering over to where Runner stood.
“Wow,” he commented. “Only fifty-two dollars, huh?” He raised his eyebrows at Runner.
“Oh I'm sure we’ve got that kind of money hanging around.” He looked up at the wall of boxes containing inflatable toys the likes of which Bob never would have imagined. It was truly more than any one store should have.
“I think we should get at least one,” Runner said from where he was crouched down to examine more of the boxes. “Just for fun?” he phrased it like a question but Bob knew they would be leaving with a new inflatable.
“Alright, fine.” He said. He snatched a box at random and was happy to find that at least he got a respectable banana floatie instead of some other bullshit.
“D’you think Hoosier managed to sneak some ice cream into the cart, or do you think Chuckler caught him and made him put it back?”
“He probably hasn’t caught him yet, which means we got at least five minutes before he does, and then makes him put it back.”
They looked at each other for a beat.
“Race ya!” Runner called as he took off like a shot down the aisle and made a hard left. Not one to be outdone, Bob started after him.
Many apologies and many startled old ladies later, they made it to the cart just in time to watch Hoosier lower a carton of ice cream into the cart as Chuckler’s back was turned to inspect some frozen fruit. Immediately, Runner strolled up to Chuckler and began talking animatedly about some frozen meal that looked super good on TV and he desperately wanted to find it and try it out. At Chuckler’s protestations, he grabbed his hand and dragged him down the aisle, throwing a wink over his shoulder.
“Okay, so I got vanilla, rocky road, and some cherry. Anything you want?” Hoosier asked, still half in the frozen pantry, letting all the cold air out. Bob shivered.
“I’ll need a whole thing of moose tracks to myself if I plan on surviving this trip.”
“Oooh, you love us,” Hoosier said. He was smirking at the ice cream as he reached and shuffled the cartons around until he let out a little “aha” and retreated with the ice cream in hand. He closed the door with his foot as he turned around and presented it to Bob like it was a magic sword and Bob was some fantasy princess about to work her magic and grant the knight before her enteral honor.
Maybe Bob had been reading too many romance novels.
They had hidden the ice cream under some towels and boxes of poptarts, which were the only junk food Chuckler would allow to be bought with his own money for whatever reason, so Hoosier had taken it upon himself to put approximately ten boxes in the cart. Most of them were the strawberry kind which Bob hated.
They stood by the cart in silence, listening to the tacky music on the radio playing. Bob recognized the tune well enough as That-One-In-Grease, and began humming along.
When Runner and Chuckler came back, they separated again, this time Hoosier and Runner ran off to the movie section and Chuckler grabbed Bob’s arm and forced him to follow, so Bob really had no choice but to accompany him to the clothing section.
“If you make me buy hawaiian shirts and sandals, I’ll suffocate you in your sleep.”
“Not if I get to you first,” was all Chuckler said in reply. He was idly thumbing through the rack of floral muscle tees, and started to hum again. Bob decided the disgusting clothes were enough of a reason to wander off, so he turned over to the regular clothing side of the store.
He looked at some of the t-shirts before realizing he didn’t actually need any more clothes. He instead took it upon himself to retrieve some alcohol and fixings for the rest of their stay. Nothing said “beach vacation” like a pina colada.
He hummed along to Uptown Funk playing faintly in the background as he strolled down aisles, winding and finding his way around the Walmart. He had never before been to this place in his life, but at the same time felt like he remembered it from somewhere. All Walmarts were the same in his book- if you had been inside one, you had been inside them all.
He eventually wandered around enough that he found what he was looking for and made his way back to their cart, now in checkout. Chuckler was proudly placing their loot, unfortunately including what must look like six cartons of ice cream shared among four men, three whole bottles of different brands of sunscreen, and at least twenty new and horrifically patterned Hawaiian shirts. Hoosier was nowhere to be seen and Runner was hanging back behind Chuckler surveying the candy and gum.
Bob squared his shoulders, walked up, and put his shit next to the embarrassing pile of garbage Chuckler was now balancing DVDs on top of.
The smile he got in return almost made the entire collection of Airbud movies being unloading worth it.
By the time they made it back, the sun was almost setting. They brought their groceries up and unloaded them as quickly and haphazardly as they could, pulled on their trunks, and practically threw themselves into the pool.
Bob waded over to Hoosier who was floating on his back.
“What movies did you get? Besides those Airbud movies, of course. I’m exempting you of that because I’m certain it’s a joke at our dear Runner’s expense”
“Ah, thank you kindly for the pardon, your majesty. Princess Bride, some cheesy monster flick, and a fuck ton of comedies that Runner dumped into the basket.”
“Ah. I took you to be men of taste.”
Hoosier snorted. “Surely not Runner. That boy’s taste buds have been burned completely off from all that spicy shit he eats.”
The sun turned everything gold here, and Bob couldn’t tear his eyes away. The lighting from the pool had yet to turn on and the water was a stark contrast between goldwhiteblack with every swish of his hand through the stillness. He looked at the bright yellow of Hoosiers hair. They held eye contact. Despite not being cold at all, Bob felt goosebumps rise across his arms and he had to suppress the stupid urge to shudder.
was the last thing Bob heard before a giant wave came crashing down over his head and whatever energy that had been present was effectively killed. Hoosier went under with wide eyes and a gargle of chlorine water.
Chuckler came up laughing, and Runner was quick to jump in after him. Hoosier was sputtering and frantically blowing his nose out; his hair covered his eyes and the fair color of it practically blended in with his skin. The disgusting sight of snot being blown from his nose, his clenched eyes being barely visible behind the curtain of hair was so absurdly ridiculous Bob just had to laugh.
And suddenly, he couldn’t stop himself. He meant to cut it off quick before anyone more than Hoosier noticed and would in turn try to drown him, but Runner, who had climbed onto his back and clung, with arms almost too tight around his neck and legs definitely too tight around his waist, heard (and most likely felt, due to how he was now attached to Bob like a limpet) his chuckles that he lost control of.
Hoosier had paused the nose blowing and pushed a piece of hair out of the way of his eyes, the blue of them wide and piercing. Chuckler had one of his constant wide smiles on his face, but this version was one of wonder. Runner kicked him in the stomach.
“You know, that's the first time you laughed on your own out here?”
Well, no, he hadn’t. He didn’t do much laughing these days. Between all the work and family business and groceries and general life struggles, there just wasn’t much room for it. There was always a fleeting moment when one of his friends sent something funny that got a quick huff out of him, but that was usually it. He had gotten so used to that quick joy, that he didn’t even notice he didn’t laugh like he used to. If there was something funny, he would usually laugh first; nowadays, he waited for others.
“Maybe you guys just aren’t as funny as you think,” he replied, and threw himself back-first into the water with Runner scrabbling at his back for purchase as they tipped into the water.
The darkening sky was a blur above him, and the cool water closing over his head was as welcome as any summer evening spent with friends.
Bob was startled awake the next morning by Runner deciding to take a running leap onto the bed and landing on his chest. He wheezed so hard tears sprung up in his eyes and the air in his lungs left in such a great rush that he felt lightheaded. The nipple light on the ceiling spun.
Runner was unconcerned. “Did you know it rained at the beach? Like, what the fuck?”
“Jesus Christ-” Bob mumbled, slamming his palm down on the bed next to him in search of his phone. He lost his hand to the tangle of blankets and sheets. Runner continued as if nothing was happening.
“Its fucking raining! We’re here, here at the beach, to hang out outside! And it's going to rain on us? Unbelievable.”
“Well, maybe God just had to take a piss,” Bob blearily mumbled, not really paying attention to the tirade Runner was going on about how unfair it was that they were finally on vacation, and it decided to rain. Just then, a loud crack of thunder rumbled around in such a way Bob felt it in his chest seconds after.
Runner lowered himself to lie down on Bob’s chest, and said, “I mean, now we have an excuse to watch those movies we bought.”
“I think you mean I bought!” Chukler called from outside the room. Runner huffed.
“It was a joint effort!” he yelled back and Bob winced. He got a softly mumbled “sorry” for his trouble and a pat on the chest.
Eventually, they made their way into the living room where Hoosier had the TV on a muted news channel and Chuckler was peeling fruits in the kitchen. He had the blender out and the wide assortment of alcohol Bob so graciously picked arranged on the counter. Runner went to the stack of DVDs while Bob dropped himself onto the sofa so close to Hoosier he was practically on his lap. He reached over and pinched Hoosier’s nose for no reasons other than he could and he felt like it, and Hoosier pinched him back in the side. Hard.
“So, fellas,” Runner asked the room at large. There was a flash of lightning outside. “What movie are we feeling today? We have a choice of basically any Airbud movie to ever exist, the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid that I think Hoos chose, and some shitty comedies I picked out at random.”
“Oh!” Hoosier sat up so suddenly Bob was pitched forward and almost fell off the couch. “I vote Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I wanna talk about your crush on Roderick.”
Runner immediately went red.
“It’s not a crush!” he cried, at the exact same moment Chuckler exclaimed gleefully from the kitchen: “wait, what the fuck?”
“It’s not a crush! I mentioned once that I thought the actor was kind of hot and now Hoos thinks I have some hard on for him!” he whirled on Hoosier before he could even open his mouth. “Which I don’t!”
Hoosier leered instead. “Well, if it ain’t that a big a deal, why don’t we watch it? Some fine family entertainment.”
Runner groaned, long and loud and not at all in the sexy way, dragging it out all the way over to the DVD player and all while he inserted the DVD and pressed play. Bob didn't think he took a single breath.
Chuckler started the blender the moment the movie actually started.
“Hey!” Bob yelled. Hoosier’s head fell onto the back of the sofa. Bob was pretty sure Runner began thanking the heavens. “Hey, Genius, We’re trying to watch a movie here.”
“Yeah, well, I’m trying to make you guys some drinks to get through this storm and the inevitable bickering Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are gonna get into. Might as well thank me now!” He yelled back, not even trying to hide the grin on his face.
“Hate this fucking family,” Hoosier rolled his eyes.
“Did I ever tell you guys about how I almost died?”
“What the fuck? No?”
“I really didn’t? Wow, I can’t believe that, I tell you guys everything.”
“Well, I’m sure we’re all wide awake now to hear your fantastical tale of almost-murder.”
“Okay, well, I was looking for a lawn mower for my mom, right? I was on Craigslist-”
“Oh, god, not fucking Craigslist, Chuckler! You know how dangerous that is, right?
“Bud, the man is more than six foot and has abs of steel. You think anyone could get the jump on him?”
“Well, Hoosier, maybe I just worry about my friend, okay? What’s wrong with tha-”
“Can he please get back to his story? Maybe it’s good enough to go in my novel.”
“Thank you, Lucky, Jesus. Anyway- I found this one for pretty cheap and it seemed to be in good enough condition, so I bought it and agreed to meet the dude around some shopping mall,”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
“I get there, and first of all, I agreed to meet at, like, eight at night, okay? So it’s pretty dark and the guys is like an hour late, and I’m about to just go home when I see these headlights. I see these headlights and I see the car, obviously, but the car is just driving straight at me, not slowing down, not pulling to the side, I was so startled and confused I couldn’t even move.”
“Is this why you didn’t answer my calls about your plumber? You were busy getting almost-murdered at a lawn mower sale?”
“I don’t even remember that, so probably, but I finally moved over and the guy is still going! Just when I think he’s about to hit my car, he stops so sharply I swore he nearly flew through the windshield. I’m starting to think hey, maybe this lawn mower isn’t worth it, but it was such a good deal and my Ma’s been so nice to me lately I wanted to get her something nice for Mother’s day, or whatever.”
“This is when you first thought maybe this wasn’t worth it? Not even once in the hour you spent doing god-knows-what waiting for him to show up?”
“I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, is that a crime? I spent that time playing Candy Crush, for your information?”
“Oh, like that makes it so much better-”
“So, Chuckler, going back to the time you almost died, did you ever get that lawn mower?”
“No? Did you even talk to the guy?”
“He got out all frantic and I’m pretty sure the mower wasn’t even in his truck, so I just got in my car and hightailed it the fuck out of there. I also think he had a crowbar in his hands.”
“So, the moral of the story is…?”
“I’m only buying lawn mowers from Home Depot from now on. No more taking chances with Craigslist.”
“Y’know, maybe Leckie could become a horror writer and write about the man who kills people with crowbars and chops ‘em to pieces in his evil lawn mower.”
Who the fuck would read that shit?”
“Alright! Enough talking. If I’m not asleep in the next five minutes I’m hanging all your asses out to dry tomorrow.”
“Yeah, love you too, Hooser.”
Hoosier did more than tan.
Hoosier more resembled a lobster than a human at this point, and Runner absolutely refused to let it go
“Not my fault I don't tan so well,” Hoosier grumbled, eyeing Runners golden skin that only seemed to look healthier under the sun. They all sat out on the balcony, keeping the towels company while they dried.
“Have you tried having better skin?”
Hoosier didn’t dignify that with a response and instead just pulled out a cigarette and his lighter. Bob sipped at the drink Chuckler made earlier. It was something fruity and sweet and he barely tasted the alcohol, but he was at the beach and being at the beach meant caring about jack shit.
“I think we got some aloe at Walmart? Maybe?”
Chuckler got up to go check their stash of sunscreen which was most likely where any possible aloe vera was hiding. Runner reached over and poked Hoosier’s shoulder. His finger left a pale spot that quickly faded back to the offending red. Hoosier hissed.
“Hurts,” he said, rubbing his shoulder. Bob thought back to the times his own family went to spend time at the beach. He didn’t know if he couldn’t remember those times because they either happened too long ago, or if they were so few and far between they blended in with every other day of his life. The moments he does remember are fleeting, but personal; helping his sister peel the skin off her nose, rubbing aloe onto his mom’s shoulders, carrying the cooler down to the beach from their car.
“You want me to help rub the aloe?”
Hoosier turns to look at him. There's discomfort written all over his face and his body language is wrought with it. “Please,” he says, lowering himself onto his front just as Chuckler pushes the sliding doors open, aloe in one hand and a radio in the other. Bob takes the bottle and gets to work, sliding the gel across Hoosier’s burnt shoulders. He can feel the heat of his skin rush up to the roots of his hair.
Runner gets up and slides back into the room. Bob sees him digging around the freezer for a bit until he emerges with a carton of ice cream. He comes back to the balcony with two spoons and straw, sits his ass down on one of the beach chairs, and gets to work.
Chuckler’s messing around with the radio, twisting knobs and slapping it against his palms until there’s a slight click. He must be satisfied because he pushes another button and the sweet, sweet sounds of Escape (The Pina Colada Song) come blasting through. He lowers it down onto the table, turns the volume down to just above a murmur, and stares out at the sea.
Bob squirts more gel onto his hands and rubs further down Hoosier’s back. He can’t stop noticing every new freckle and mole. He likens them to shells on the beach and decides, right there, he won’t ever leave this place. The sky is a bright, brilliant blue, with not a cloud to be seen. The back and forth rhythm of the waves weaves into Bob’s massage and before he can say “pina colada,” Hoosier is asleep and snoring.
It’s hot, blinding, peaceful, and perfect. Bob’s arms don’t even get tired. His drink melts beside him as a breeze blows by and Bob couldn't care less.
They scramble to wake up early the next day to begin packing. Breakfast is a hurried affair with toast, cereal, spilled orange juice, and apologetic grunts. They dump the movies into one of Chuckler’s backpacks that had been emptied of supplies two days in. Clothes are washed and folded and towels are returned to the lobby. Runner and Chuckler conspire to get the weird and skinny vacuum cleaner functioning, but to no avail, and they end up dusting it all into the trash bin as best as they can. Hoosier takes a cat nap on the sofa around noon, and Runner collapses on top of him, dozing.
Bob allows himself one indulgent photo as Chuckler comes back from returning the DVD player.
“You want to grab some lunch? We have some time before check out. We’ll let them rest and get the goods all to ourselves.” He says this with a triumphant grin on his face and beyond charming glint in his eye and it’s all Bob can do to keep himself from swooning.
“Lunch sounds heavenly, right now. I thought I’d die here, starved and shriveled.”
Chuckler’s driving is miles better than Hoosier, and Bob is able to fully enjoy the hot air blowing right into his face from the open windows Chuckler insists on keeping down. Its terrible, and his legs stick to the seat where they’re exposed from the baby blue shorts Hoosier bullied him into wearing, but the drive is short and talking to Chuckler helps the time go by.
They stop at a small diner literally called Paradise Palace. Bob gives Chuckler a Look, to which Chuckler answers with a loud, brash laugh.
“So, “ he asks, looking at the five item menu. “What are you thinking?”
Chuckler snorts, flipping to the back. There are three drinks listed. “Gee, I don’t know how I’ll ever manage to choose.”
“I’m stuck between ‘Lizard Lunch’ and ‘Tropical Tuna Salad’, personally. I’d love to know what the hell gator and peaches taste like together.”
“This just says “Green Pina Colada,” Chuckler says.
They settle on the safest looking options, purchase their meals, and wait an hour for them to arrive.
“When’d you say check out was?” Bob asks, but Chuckler is already looking at his watch.
“Four,” he says. It’s currently 2:30.
A harried woman throws herself through the doors of the kitchen with two stuffed plastic bags. She thanks them in a heavy southern drawl and pushes them out the door, slamming it shut after them. The open sign flips over.
“Well,” Chuckler drawls. Bob looks back over to him, incredulity written all over his face. What the hell just happened? “At least they got the order right.”
“It’s the least they can do, after that wait,” Bob mutters, but he happily crunches on fries all the way back to the hotel.
“I hope you learned something from this trip,” Chuckler said once they were all settled into their seats. Bob looked at him out of the corner of his eye.
“What, like not going on vacation with you three stooges?”
That got a laugh out of Runner.
“Stupid,” Chuckler muttered affectionately. “I mean about how it's okay to take breaks. It's even more ok to spend time with your friends. You can't just survive off of sports editorials and sparkling water.”
Watch me, Bob thought, but deep down he knew chuckler was right. They truly had no idea how good for him this impromptu and inconvenient vacation had been
A pair of feet settled onto the console to his left. He turned around to meet Hoosiers' challenging gaze, and raised an eyebrow. Hoosier innocent look turned smug. Bob turned back around.
Instead, he looked over at chuckler. He was adjusting the rear view mirror, so it took a second for him to realize Bob's smile, but once he did, he met it with blinding happiness and the air that he knew he had done a job well done.
They pulled out of the parking lot and turned in the direction of home.