That night in the restaurant at Cambridge Villas, I met Ted Goldsmith whose company provisioned mom-and-pop stores on the island. Goldsmith was a Jew from Miami who spoke in a gentle raspy voice. He talked about the lingering effect of Andrew. “You know, it's really sad, these poor people being blown away like that. They had it hard enough before the storm.” He shook his head. “was cruel, what happened. Many of them lost everything. “Since then it's been almost impossible to collect on accounts.”
I wondered if Goldsmith ate their food. For a week we'd feasted on spiny lobsters and conch. He said “I carry my food with me,” and changed the subject. “But I love with these people.”
He pointed in the direction of two drunken pilots, neither of them Eleutherans, who flew planes to the island from Ft. Lauderdale. One was an overly friendly sot who claimed to have graduated from Oxford with an English Lit degree, called me “professor,” and spat when he spoke. He quoted Shakespeare and Keats imperfectly, and thought they'd been contemporaries. His companion was a wiry man called “Hollywood” who looked like Richard Prior in a ball cap. The night before, he'd told me he graduated from Cambridge, wrote children's stories and made movies, speaking with the deliberateness of a seasoned drunk.
The last day of our trip Hearty discovered a fossilized beach 70 feet above sea level, the first evidence of a sea-level marker at the stage nine period, a glacial meltdown some 400,000 years ago. It was the most important discovery of the week. “I'm finished,” he shouted triumphantly. “Enough science!”
Late that afternoon, as bells called women in flower print dresses and children in white shirts to vespers, a Magnificent Frigatebird soared over Cambridge Villas, its ruby throat lit up by the sun. We were thrilled by this pterodactyl of the modern age, so large that it never touched down on flat land.
In the middle of the night we awoke to the most violent electrical storm I've ever seen. Thunder literally shook the building. Lightning flashed like a strobe, lighting up our apartment so that we could walk about without flashlights. Out back, oleander bushes and bougainvillea writhed frantically, and rain blew diagonally in sheets across the pool. At one point the landscape was lit up like a halogen light, revealing green stripes on towels whipping on a clothes line.
The next morning, as our Bahamasair flight to Nassau banked over the island, I strained to get another look at Gregory Town but couldn't see it. I thought of that frigatebird but swore one day I would touch down again on Eleuthera.