We returned to Vieques in late April, just in time for my birthday. I couldn’t imagine a nicer way to mark the passage of another twelve months of my life than returning to our new island retreat.
This time Rod met us at the airport.
He was quieter than Daniel, and seemingly more pleasant. When I thanked him for picking us up he smiled and said, “All part of the service.”
This sounded good.
But the conversation went downhill from there. When I asked him how things were going, he launched into a rant about all the horrible guests he’d had to deal with so far that season.
“Yesterday one lady actually complained about insects!” he moaned. “I told her if she doesn’t like bugs she’s come to the wrong place.”
This didn’t sound particularly encouraging. From my days as a hotel concierge on Nantucket I’d always been taught that you treated guests like, well, guests.
“Maybe no one warned her,” Michael suggested. “The mosquitoes can be pretty fierce here.”
But Rod just laughed. “I took her a can of bug spray, but she said she didn’t like covering herself with chemicals. I felt like spraying it in her ugly face.”
I was beginning to realize that maybe Rod wasn’t a kinder, gentler Daniel after all.
We arrived at the house. After watching us wrangle our suitcases up the back steps (and not lifting a finger to help), Rod unlocked the door and stood aside for us to enter.
Everything was exactly where we’d left it in February. The only change was that the walls had been painted—the wrong color.
I walked through all three upstairs rooms before commenting. I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight. Not that the facts were particularly difficult to comprehend—the walls had been painted light orange instead of yellow.
When I came back into the great room, Rod was standing near the glass doors along the front of the house, looking toward the ocean.
“I don’t think this is the color we chose,” I said.
“Yes, it is,” he said very quickly, without turning around.
Michael spoke up. “Actually the color we chose was yellow. This isn’t.”
Rod turned toward us now, his face flushed. “This is the color the hardware store said you chose. That’s all I know.”
I couldn’t help wondering how many times he’d practiced this little speech.
“But I actually painted our color on the wall,” I said, pointing to the wall that had previously boasted a patch of my favorite yellow but was now painted the color of orange sherbet. “I even left the can of paint with the label on it so there wouldn’t be any mix-ups. I don’t what else I could have done except maybe buy a billboard and post the name of the color up there.”
Rod sighed dramatically and looked around the room. “I like the color,” he said, as if that made everything okay.
I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation. “That’s not really the point,” I said. “I didn’t tell you guys to choose your favorite color. We chose a color. All you had to do was hire someone to slap it on the walls.”
He looked at his watch, a gesture that was beginning to seem like a Daniel/Rod family tic. “You’ll have to talk to Daniel about this. I need to run.”
“This is a serious problem,” I muttered, realizing as I spoke that I was wasting my time.
He smiled pleasantly—seemingly oblivious to my frustration—and headed for the door.
I gave up. It’s pointless to argue with someone who’s reading from a script.
“Ask Daniel to call me,” I tossed toward his retreating back.
“Will do,” he chirped, as if our conversation had been perfectly amiable.