The beach on Caldida Island was beautiful. Palm fronds swayed in the slight, early autumn breeze. The mosquitoes were gone as a slightly chilled breeze wafted around the group of young bohemians camping just in front of the tree line. The five had decided earlier in the week to pack their tents and drive out for a weekend of lounging and drinking. They weren't exactly roughing it. Caldida was a fully inhabited island, with restaurants and shops dotting the entire length. The group had intentionally parked at the end of the island and hiked the final mile to the secluded tip. The police were extremely liberal about letting people camp there as long as they did not disturb the neighborhoods, and picked up after themselves when they left.
It was late in the evening and the campfire was still going strong. Two or three conversations were being held simultaneously as Jorge returned from the car with another case of beer. He was the macho one of the bunch. His shirtless and naturally bronzed Latino chest shone like the sun in the reflection of the camp fire. His sunglasses were also never far removed from his face, even at night. He began passing out beer to the awaiting group.
"Here you go, mija," he said, handing the first one to Rosa. Although she was 22 she was a waif of a girl, barely over five feet and 90 pounds. Her large doe eyes and full lips displayed true, classical Latina beauty.
Sitting cross legged in the sand, Rosa leaned forward, reached out, and grabbed the beer. With a click and hiss she took a sip then handed it to Eddie, sitting beside her. Eddie was stout but not muscular. His naturally red hair and extensive freckles immediately identified his Irish lineage. Rosa had never met anyone like him before and became immediately attracted. They had been introduced to each other a few days prior by Tony. Tony was the solo component of the trip, sitting across the fire from everyone with the acoustic guitar. He had spent the previous fifteen minutes on a ditty about having sex with all the moms from 1980s television sitcoms. While not the typical class clown, Tony had a strange sense of humor that always seemed to revolve around sex. That humor was displayed in his art.
"I gotta go… you know…" Rosa said suddenly, as Jorge dumped the rest of the beer into the empty cooler.
"I'll go with you," Jenny said, standing at the same time. Jenny was the responsible one in the group. She had a look that was difficult to explain: she was neither plain nor frumpy, fat nor thin. Her clothes fit her well and she had a friendly face. The most accurate expression could be that she was "sensible."
Rosa grabbed the small, folding shovel sticking out of the ground next to the two side-by-side tents. She reached in one of the tents and grabbed a roll of toilet paper as she and Jenny headed off into the woods to take care of business.
"Awww, man, I'd like to tap that," Tony said, pointing the neck of his guitar in the direction of Rosa. He knew that Jorge and Jenny were together so he didn't dare comment on her. He also knew that he wasn't Rosa's type, he had to be satisfied just being friends.
"Hey, dude, that's my cousin. Cut that shit out, esé," Jorge retorted.
"Well, she sure has taken a real shine to "Old Red" over there," Tony retorted.
"Yeah, well, she can do what she wants, just don't talk about it. She's old enough to make her own decisions. I just don't wanna hear about it. But if anyone fucks her over, I'll kill 'em." Jorge looked at Eddie, then over to Tony, and back to Eddie.
"I'll take another one," Tony said, tossing an empty can into the flame. As the keeper of the cooler, Jorge reached in the ice water, retrieved a dripping can, and tossed it over the flame. Tony caught it and opened it with one hand, finishing most of it in one drag.
Eddie hadn't said anything in the last ten minutes, looking visibly spent, he lifted his head up from between his knees and stated emphatically, "Well, I'm getting tired guys. I think I'm about ready to head off."
"Aahhhh! The first soldier down!" Tony shouted through the fire, tossing his newly empty can into the flames. Jorge followed, with his spent can. Tony held his hand up high over his head. Jorge reached in the cooler and, with a flip of the wrist, he spun a beer up and into Tony's hand. He reached in and snag one of his own. A simultaneous click, hiss added accompaniment to the sound of the crackling fire.
"Hey, Rudolph, one more before bed time, pendejo?" Jorge was smiling, as he reached in the still open cooler and grabbed a third beer. He held it in his outstretched arm, looking at Eddy's red head sinking between his knees.
"Naw, thanks. I'm spent." Eddie said wearily.
Jorge shrugged and put the beer back in the cooler.
"C'mon guys, we gotta get up in the morning and watch the sunrise!" Jenny shouted as she and Rosa exited the woods between the tents and an old picnic table. "Change of plans too. Tony, you're sleeping with us in our tent."
"You mean it's gonna be Jorge and you, and me and Rosa in your tent?" Tony said, smiling.
"Don't be ridiculous, Tony. Rosa wants to spend some private time with Eddie in the other tent so you get to shack up with me and Jorge for the night."
"Aw, shit," Tony responded disappointedly. Jorge gave a look Tony's way but said nothing, then turned and looked intently at Eddie. Tony got up to retrieve his sleeping bag from his former sleeping quarters while Rosa did the same. They glanced as they passed each other, arms full of sleeping bag, each heading to their new residence for the evening.
"All right. I guess it is late, and you all need your beauty sleep. Especially, Jorge," Tony snickered, looking Jorge's way.
"Fuck you," Jorge responded as they all go to their feet and began cleaning up their respective areas around the fire.
Eddie opened the tent flap to find Rosa completing the task of zipping the two sleeping bags together to form one double-sized bag. Eddie suddenly felt less tired as an anticipatory surge of blood ran through his body. Rosa said nothing; she just looked up and shyly smiled.
While the tent provided shelter from the elements, it did little for sound insulation. The last of the evening's conversations could be heard as clearly as if he and Rosa were in the middle of them. Eddie stripped to his underwear while Rosa removed her bra from under her t-shirt, and then her shorts. They smiled as they looked each other in the eyes and climbed into the oversized sleeping bag as the others cleaned up and began crawling into the other tent.
It took a few minutes for Jorge's tent to settle in for the night. Jenny finally stepped in and scolded both of the boys. The raucousness subsided shortly thereafter. Silence finally entered the compound. The fire outside formed shadows on the inside of the tent and provided enough of a glow to see the outlined forms of each other.
Eddie and Rosa lay snuggled together, facing each other, whispering softly so as not to arouse suspicion from the other tent. Suddenly, Eddie felt Rosa's hand move from his side, down his stomach, and slide inside his underwear. She grabbed his member and slowly began twirling it between her fingers. He could see a smile cross her face as they gazed at each other in the half light. As excited as he was, he could not help but think of the the possibility of being heard. They may as well all have been sleeping in the same tent. Were the others asleep? Were they wide awake, listening? He did not know.
After minutes of silence and stroking, Eddie sat up half way and pulled his underwear down, and kicked them off to the bottom of the sleeping bag with his feet. Rosa arched her back as he slid her panties from her slender body. He rolled on top of her and mounted her missionary style. He propped himself up on his elbows so as not to crush her, he slowly edged his swollen cock inside her. She immediately responded and wrapped her legs around his freckled body. Her soft moans became louder to the point that Eddie knew that the people in the other tent could hear, if they were awake. He cupped his hand over her mouth to silence her, while continuing to thrust his lower body into her for what seemed an eternity. She reacted excitedly. As the strokes got faster she began to quiver, her arms and legs shook violently as he continued to cover her mouth. The act ended in a burst of activity; Eddied thrust hard one final time as Rosa became rigid, wrapping her arms and legs around him. He removed his seemingly oversized hand from over her mouth and they both deeply exhaled as he rolled from the top of her. The conclusion was greeted with a serenade of snickers and snorts from the adjacent tent.
"Remember what I said earlier, esé." Eddie clearly heard Jorge's voice.
Eddie smiled as he lay there on his back, staring straight up, exhausted and jubilant. He had just had sex with the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. The fact that she had sex with him, shocked and amazed him even more. He waited a few minutes for his heart rate and breathing to slow before turning to face Rosa. She was motionless, in the same position as when he dismounted. He could see her eyes were open, staring at the ceiling of the tent.
"So?" he whispered, smiling and nudging her a little with his left hand. His brow furled a bit at the lack of response. She just lay there quietly, staring. He nudged her again. No response. He sat up a bit, putting his weight on his elbow, hovering over her to get a better look. She did not move, continuing to stare into space. Concern swept over Eddie as he waved his hand in front of her face. Nothing. Concern turned to slight panic as he reached for her wrist to check for a pulse. This feeling turned to full on panic when he couldn't find one. He grabbed her right shoulder and shook her lightly, then more violently. No response. He put his ear to her nose in an attempt to hear her breathing. Nothing. He didn't know why, but he took his hand and pinched her nose closed. Maybe, he thought, she was just passed out and her subconscious mind would restart the breathing process. After a few seconds there was still no response and he removed his hand.
Oh shit! Oh fuck! Oh shit! he thought to himself. He replayed the last twenty minutes over and over in his mind. Did he really suffocate her? His hand was only over her mouth, right? Was he just keeping her quiet? He could not remember. What now? Oh shit! Oh shit! Not only did he just kill someone, now, Jorge was going to kill him. If Jorge didn't kill him, he was going to jail for a long time. Shit! What the fuck! he thought as he turned his head in the direction of the other tent and then back to Rosa. He rolled onto his back, staring skyward, mimicking the lifeless girl. His heart was racing twice as fast as it had during sex, his breaths came in short, staccato bursts.
Eddie began to weigh his options. He could run away and leave the party. He decided that would not work because it would look like he had done it intentionally and left in order to not get caught. The authorities would find him and he would be convicted of murder. What if he just stayed there and got up with everyone else? That would be creepy, and the others already knew that they had sex. What if she disappeared? This option sounded reasonable in his state of mind. What if she just wandered off and no one knew were she went. Obviously, she couldn't just walk away. She was dead. He needed to make her disappear. How do you do that without arousing suspicion? What if she wanted to go for a walk? It would be her decision to leave. He decided he would take her for a walk. Once away from the tents he would decide what to do next. Yeah, that sounded rational.
He snagged his underwear with his foot at the bottom of the sleeping bag and pulled them up to his reaching hand. He slid them on and reached outside the sleeping bag for his shorts and t-shirt. Once fully dressed, he found Rosa's panties next to where his underwear had been and slid them back onto her. The process made him feel as if he were dressing a mannequin.
"Okay, sure I'll go with you," he finally said out loud so the others could hear him, in an attempt to give the illusion that she had initiated the request. He unzipped the sleeping bag and threw back the top one exposing their bare legs. He stared at her lifeless body for what seemed an eternity. What the hell am I doing? he thought to himself, as he slid his hand under her back. She was still warm. He propped her up to a sitting position as he placed her left arm over his shoulder. He grabbed her around the waist and stood on his knees, pulling her up with him.
"So far, so good," he thought, as he moved forward and pushed the tent flap outward. He dragged her from the tent and stood, holding her up. The fire had dwindled but continued to glow enough to see the immediate surrounding area with clarity. Eddie surveyed the area. He noticed the picnic table sitting off to the side and decided to place her there, face in her arms, until he figured out what to do. Satisfied that she looked natural at the table, he moved to one of the lawn chairs by the fire to decide his next move.
Barely a minute after sitting down, the flap of the other tent opened and Tony appeared, stretching and looking drowsy.
"What the fuck's up?" he said, looking around.
Eddie's heart rate immediately doubled and his eyes shot wide open.
"Nothing…nothing, Rosa just wanted to take a leak and get some beach air, so I walked her out." Tony looked at Rosa, seemingly passed out at the picnic table.
"Dude, what was it like to tap that shit?" Tony smiled, looking back from her to Eddie. Eddie just smiled and looked down. "Well, gotta drain the weasel as well," Tony said, as he wandered off into the trees. It was then that Eddie noticed the portable shovel at the corner of the other tent. He knew what he had to do. He could say that he went back to bed and she had wandered off. He also had Tony as a witness that Rosa was up, head in her arms, at the table. Quickly, he ran over, grabbed the shovel, and ran to the picnic table. He hovered over Rosa's body momentarily, picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, then headed in the opposite direction Tony had gone.
He hugged closely to the tree line and stopped when he could no longer see the glow of the fire then turned into the trees. He set Rosa on the ground, propped her up against a giant palm, and began digging close to the base of it. He was happy that the sandy soil provided little resistance and digging was easy. He occasionally stopped to gaze at her and try to understand what he was doing. Am I being rational? Is this right? He didn't have an answer but it was the best he could think of at the time.
An hour of digging only yielded a hole two feet deep. He decided that it was deep enough. He only needed to bury her deep enough to elude suspicion. He finally walked over and picked up her lifeless body. He laid her down in the hole carefully so as not to disturb a single hair on her beautiful, fragile head and began filling the sand back in. He scraped and scooped until he thought his arms would finally give out. She was just about covered when he had to take a break. Turning, he walked towards the water, fell to his knees and began to cry. What the fuck am I doing? He thought to himself. In his mind, the truth was no better than fiction. She was dead. It doesn't matter how it happened. Who are they going to blame? Me. It's not my fault. He sat there looking out to the ocean until he was convinced that he had no other choice. He got up, turned, and continued with what he had to do.
When he was finished scraping the last of the sand on to the hole. He was amazed that there was no excess sand left over. What come out of the hole had replenished the hole. It was as if he had just buried a baby sparrow.
Exhausted, he noticed the faint glow of daylight on the horizon. He smoothed the last of the sand, satisfied that no one would be able to tell what was below, he headed back to the compound. He was glad to see that everyone was still asleep inside the tent. He threw the shovel in the vicinity where he had retrieved it and sat on the picnic table, placing his feet on the seat. He put his head in his hands and began to cry again.
"Uhhhh…" Jenny grunted as she exited the tent in her panties and t-shirt. She reached both arms upward and arched her back, stretching with all her might. Straightening up, she looked and saw Eddie sitting on the picnic table.
"What are you doing up so early?" she asked.
Not having an answer he said, "Rosa needed to go to the bathroom so I came out with her."
"So, where is she?"
"What do you mean?" Eddie replied.
"What do you mean, what do I mean? Where is she?" Jenny asked excitedly.
"I don't know."
"Well, how long has she been gone?"
"I don't know; ten, fifteen minutes, maybe." Eddie was taken aback by the questioning.
"What's going on, esé?" Jorge yelled from inside the tent to no one in particular.
"Rosa went off somewhere and he doesn't know where she is!" Jenny replied excitedly. "Which way did she go?" she said, looking directly at Eddie.
"What's the big deal?" He said, as he nervously pointed in the direction Tony had taken off to earlier.
Jorge stuck his head out from the tent, "Dude, she's got this thing called like Brady Bunch Syndrome…"
"It's called bradycardia, Jorge. She gets seizures and her heart almost stops. She looks like she quits breathing too. That's why we always have someone go places with her, so nothing bad happens. I thought you knew." Jenny looked at Eddie quizzically.
Eddie's heart sank. What did he just do? He just buried a girl he had sex with because he thought she was dead. Was she still alive? He knew she couldn't be. He had covered her with two feet of sand. He needed to remain steadfast to his story. She wandered off and he had not seen her.
Tony followed Jorge out from the tent and deposited himself flatly on the sand. "What the fuck's the problem now?"
"Rosa is gone and this dumbass doesn't know where she is!" Jenny shouted.
"Alright, we'll just go find her," Tony said bleary eyed, "Which way did she go?" Eddie again pointed in the opposite direction of where he had buried her.
"C'mon, Jorge!" Jenny exclaimed, "You guys go wander around in the woods or something."
Eddie's mind was swirling. He wanted to curl up in a ball and explode, but that was not an option. Was she alive when he buried her? He could not take Tony by the burial site, but he had to get there somehow.
"Shit!" Eddie exclaimed as he turned and saw Rosa exiting from the tree line, her arms extended, moaning, her head cocked off to one side. She was staggering slowly towards Eddie. Her t-shirt was heavily stained brown from the earth, and her hair was full of sand. "Oh. Fuck!"
"Whew, Rosa, you scared us," Jenny said, as Rosa continued to move forward. "Rosa?"
"Oh, shit, she's a zombie!" Eddie screamed, his heart felt as though it would burst through his chest.
"What the fuck do you mean she's a zombie, pendejo?" Jorge said, cocking his head, as he walked toward Rosa. Tony and Jenny had the same confused look on their faces.
"No, I thought she was dead," Eddie said. Rosa continued forward, teeth snapping, arms outstretched. "I mean...she was just lying there. I didn't know."
"What did you do?!" Jenny screamed at Eddie.
"I...I...thought she was dead so I took her into the woods and buried her." Rosa moved closer as Eddie fell to his knees.
"What, you took her in to the woods and buried her. You fucking buried my cousin alive? And now she's a fucking zombie. I'm gonna fucking kill you, man!" Jorge moved toward Eddie.
Rosa was about six steps from Eddie as Jorge closed in on Eddie. Everyone seemed to forget about Rosa as they stood and anticipated Eddie's throttling. Rosa suddenly bent forward and grasped her stomach. She closed her eyes, fell to the ground and convulsed again. Eddie jumped up, ran to her, and stared down at her once again lifeless body, facing skyward. As he hovered over her she opened her eyes, smiled, and broke into a deep laugh. The crowd was more confused than ever now.
Rosa looked directly at Eddie. "I can't believe you tried to bury me, you bastard." she said as she continued to smile. "That was sweet."
"What the fuck?" a confused Eddie looked from side to side and back at her.
Laughing, Rosa continued, "I came to while you were carrying me down the beach. I didn't know what was going on but I went along for the ride. You were very caring to make sure I wasn't hurt. I liked that. I'm surprised though that you didn't realize that I was awake. I watched you dig the hole and peeked at you a billion times. Sheesh. I wanted to see how far you would actually go. When you left half way through, I thought you were done so I sat up. When I saw you were just taking a break I climbed out and hid in the woods. You didn't even notice that I wasn't there when you came back and continued to fill the hole."
Jorge looked viciously at Eddie. Eddie still looked like he was seeing a ghost and ready to pass out. Still smiling, Rosa reached up and wrapped her arms around Eddie's neck to pull herself to her feet.
"Even though he tried to bury me, he was gentle about it. So, leave him alone," she told Jorge. "It's good to know he'll take care of me when the time comes."
Tony smiled and started laughing. Jorge muttered to himself and turned toward the tent.
Eddie still had his heart in his throat, having been part of the cruelest practical joke in history, just exhaled loudly as his heart continued to pound.
"C'mon, let's go watch the sunrise," Jenny said, turning toward the water. "You guys are sick."
A.N. Writing this, I was reminded of what a British scholar determined was the funniest joke ever:
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?"
The operator says, "Calm down, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."
There is a silence then a gunshot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says, "OK, now what?"