Our meeting with Stoner Steve was wrapping up.
“What about floors?” Michael asked. “Any ideas?”
“I’d definitely go with ceramic tile,” Steve advised.
“Sounds good. Think we’d ever find anything we like on island?”
“Probably not,” Steve laughed in his vacant, bemused way. “But it’s worth looking.”
I glanced around the space. “So what else?”
Steve consulted his notes. “Let’s talk about the kitchen.”
We strolled down to that end of the room. “How about concrete counters?” he threw out.
“I like it,” Michael said.
I wasn’t so sure. Generally speaking, I prefer my concrete in places like driveways and floors, where God intended it.
But considering that our entire Vieques house was built of concrete, my reservations seemed a bit academic.
Steve went on. “So this won’t be a full kitchen, right?”
“No, we thought just a dorm fridge and a microwave. Think breakfast, not dinner.”
“Smart,” Steve said. “If they want to roast a turkey they can do it upstairs.”
There were other details to discuss—which windows would have glass louvers and which would have metal; the style of vanity for the bathroom—but essentially the big decisions were made.
We wrote Steve a big, fat deposit check and sent him on his way.
The next morning we went shopping for ceramic tile. Unfortunately, not many places in Vieques sell this particular item. And when they do, the choice is usually abysmal.
But we spotted exactly what we wanted the next morning in Nales, the island’s biggest hardware store…
…a weathered terra cotta tile in thirteen-by-thirteen inch squares.
We saw it the minute we walked in the door. Perfect.
In fact, it seemed too good to be true.
“It’s great, but they won’t have nearly enough in stock,” I said to Michael in my best doom-and-gloom voice.
“Let’s find out.” He took the sample to the desk and asked about quantities. No one knew.
“Could you tell us who would know?”
Blank stares. Not unfriendly, not unhelpful, just blank.
Michael, looking taller than his already considerable height of six-four, stalked out of the store and into the lumberyard with the tile in hand.
“Hola!” he shouted out to the first person he saw.
This unlucky soul ambled over and listened to what Michael had to say but it was no use—he clearly had no idea what we wanted. Michael, however, isn’t one to give up. He launched into an elaborate ritual of sign language and pantomime until his message seemed to percolate through.
Ah, the man said, thumping his forehead with the back of his hand. “Si,” he said. “We have.”
“Okay.” Michael smiled triumphantly in my general direction, waiting for the man to produce the tile.
But the man just stared back. He was clearly an old hand at this game. “Mañana?” he hazarded. Tomorrow.