18 November 2012

Shock Me Like an Electric Eel

Sometimes, very rarely, I just like to do nothing. To be clear: nothing for me means swimming, reading, writing, hiking, dining, sightseeing and drinking Mimosas at 9 in the morning.

Yesterday I swam the length of Playa Hermosa, which takes about a half hour to walk. I cheated a little, catching a wave when they looked irrestible, and pausing twice when I got stung by something. The first was a real jolter: it struck me on my back (pictured above) but sent shock waves through my left arm, suggesting a cardiac connection. Read: an eel not a jellyfish. The second was I believe an errant petite Barco de Guerra Portugeuse tentacle, painful at the time but not enough to dissaude me from completing my journey.

To the other swimmers who asked me where I was going, I said that I had originated in Bahia de Drake, about 300 miles to the south, and was swimming the length of the Costa Rican Pacific Coast. By the time I was asked the second time I was on a Guiness Record swim from Santiago de Chile to Vancouver, Canada, begun when I was 23 years old.

I don’t know why I’m such a terrible liar. Actually, I’m a good liar. People actually believed me.

I was going to go down to Tamarindo, about an hour and a half to the South, but have been dissuaded by seeing what has become of Playa del Coco: a cross between Coney Island and Atlantic City. My friends tell me Tamarindo is worse. So I think I will just savor the memory. I used Tamarindo as the setting for one of the closing chapters of my novel ‘Blood Brothers’ (published in El Salvador as ‘Hermanos de Sangre’). One of the characters, Billy Del Sol, a landlord who has murdered two Americans and a Salvadoran peasant farmer union leader the year previous finds himself unable to sleep without the aid of much booze and drugs, haunted as he is by the ghosts of his victims. He spends every night, alone, drinking rum and trying to engage the bartender in conversation. It was my way of getting revenge. I don’t know if, in reality, the man I based the character on was ever troubled by what he’d done.

My goodness, it’s almost noon. Time to head down to the pool.

Rupert Scofield


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