.ering thought the bejeweled matron sitting at a table next to ours was too old for one.
.bara said. “It looks creepy.”
“Like someone erected a pup tent on her chest,” I said.
“Probably brand-new. Bought just for the cruise.”
“Safety measure,” I said. “The ship goes down, she can use them as flotation devices.”
We were two hours out of port aboard the Royal Star, chugging across the Gulf Stream, Miami just an insolent glow on the pistol butt of Florida.
The bon voyage bash was in full swing. Much popping of ..gers gathered on the main deck.
All in all, a pretty swank crowd. Not that I was much good at recognizing A-list types. That was Barbara’s job.
She pointed out an actor or two or three. A fashion model who had just married a tennis star. A film director chatting up a brand-name heiress. A famous lawyer, a famous artist, .coons who even though the suggested attire for the evening was something called “casual elegant,” had shown up in suits anyway. Some guys are just like that.
A waiter moved in with a long silver tray. Barbara took a big dab of caviar. She scooped up some tempura prawns when they came around a few minutes later. An enthusiastic eater, Barbara. Just one of many things I love about her.
I was saving my gluttonous self for the tray of stone crab claws that was slowly heading in our direction. Much too .son, October 17 to be exact. You couldn’t get claws much fresher than the ones on that tray. Not unless you pulled the pots yourself.
The waiter serving the stone crabs was a compact fellow of Asian extraction with shiny black hair and busy eyes. He stopped at Pup Tent’s table. He saw me watching him and smiled, lips parting just enough to reveal a shiny gold tooth.
Pup Tent and her pals helped themselves to the claws. They spooned out pale yellow sauce from a bowl on the tray, the same mustard sauce they serve at Joe’s in South Beach. .shire, and just a bit of heavy cream. I had the recipe down cold, often used it with boiled shrimp. It is the kind of sauce you can dip your finger into and happily gnaw it to the bone.
I began making room on the table. I managed not to drool, but I did let out a few anticipatory grunts. I do love stone crabs.
But it was not to be. As the waiter started our way, he was intercepted by the maître d’, a short, dark, heavyset man with a mustache and slicked-back hair. The two of them huddled for a moment, then the maître d’ waved for the other four waiters and they all disappeared through a set of double doors.
I thought about chasing them down, but my focus was broken when Pup Tent stood up. She strolled past our table. Everything about her—eyes, cheekbones, boobs, butt—defied gravity. It was like staring at a car wreck. Couldn’t help but.
“Really,” Barbara said. “One shouldn’t be terrified of a tiny bit of sag. It’s only natural.”
I looked at Barbara. More specifically, I looked at her breasts.
“I like natural,” I said.
Barbara smiled. She sat up straight, all the better for me to admire her.
“And what is your position on sag?”
I observed her breasts some more. Lately, there had been an increasing amount of them to observe.
“With you, it is not a matter of sag.”
“What would you call it then?”
“I would call it fullness. I would call it abundance. I would call it plentitude.”
“And I would call you quite full of it.” She stroked my cheek. “But in the best possible way.”
The band was one of those cruise-ship ensembles that can play just about anything and, in the process, suck the soul right out of it. They started in on “What a Wonderful World.” The lead singer was no Satchmo. Didn’t really make any difference. It’s one of those songs that no matter how badly the band plays it, you want to reach out and hold the one you love.
Barbara took my hand.
“Let’s dance,” she said.
We were the first couple on the floor. I held Barbara close. Well, as close as the situation would allow. Dancing cheek to cheek was out of the question. But belly to belly worked just fine.
“Ooh,” she said, “did you feel Critter kick?”
“I did,” I said. “Must like the oldie-goldies.”
Another kick. And then another.
“Critter’s dancing,” said Barbara.
“A regular Rockette’s chorus line.”
“Which would indicate a girl.”
“Not necessarily so,” I said. “Boys can grow up to dance in chorus lines.”
“And that wouldn’t bother you?”
“To have a son who danced in a chorus line?”
“Not in the least,” I said. “However Critter comes out is fine by me.”
.ing. I could waltz through hell with Barbara Pickering and it would be just fine with me.
Truth was, being on a cruise ship, even the world’s most luxurious one, came pretty close to my personal vision of hell. For Barbara, it was just another day at work. She is owner/ publisher of Tropics, the best travel magazine in the world. .ing in the business that she was the only media type invited to join the Royal Star on its maiden voyage. Copies of the most recent issue of Tropics adorned all the tables, the Royal Star gracing its cover.
I’m Barbara’s husband, her chattel and helpmate. I was along for the ride.
My name is Zack Chasteen. And my résumé would include abundant use of the word “former.” I am a former football player (Florida Gators, Miami Dolphins, blew out a .doned on all counts), and a former charter captain/fishing .ing to make money on the water was ruining my love for it).
Nowadays, I am owner and head flunky of Chasteen’s Palm Tree Nursery in LaDonna, Florida. I grow and sell rare .ther, and it includes thirty-some-odd acres along Redfish Lagoon, just south of Minorca Beach, where I make my home.
Let me rephrase that. It’s where Barbara and I make our .tive pronoun thing throws me for a loop sometimes.
In any event, on the evening the Royal Star set out from .brating our six-month anniversary. And she was roughly eight months pregnant. If that upsets your sensibilities, I have three words: Get a grip.
The band segued into “Slow Boat to China.”
“I’m glad we came,” Barbara said.
“You’re just saying that. You hate being on a cruise ship.”
“I don’t hate being on a cruise ship with you.”
“Good save, Chasteen,” Barbara said, settling back into my arms. “Just think, we’re almost parents.”
“More like anxious.”
“Anxious in the sense of not wanting anything to go wrong? Or just wishing Critter would hurry up and get here?”
“Mostly hurry up and get here. But some of the other, too.”
“You’ve just got the pregame jitters.”
“Oh, do I now?”
“I used to throw up before every game. Just like being pregnant.”
“Mmm, yes, just like it in every way.”
“That’s why I always asked to be on the kickoff team. Get in a good lick, lay somebody low, and it got rid of the jitters just like that.”
Barbara looked up at me.
“Are you seriously trying to draw an analogy between your experiences playing football and mine of giving birth to our child?”
“In my own feeble way.”
“You used to wear a helmet, right?”
“So try passing that.”
“You’re not talking forward pass here, are you?”
“No, I’m talking push-push, squeeze-squeeze, out the bottom.”
“Thanks for sharing that imagery.”
“What’s mine is thine,” Barbara said.
Excerpted from A Deadly Silver Sea by Bob Morris.
Copyright © 2008 by Bob Morris.
Published in December 2009 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and
reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in
any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.