We bit the bullet the next season and advertised the house as either a one- or three-bedroom, hoping to catch all the couples-traveling-alone business we’d missed the season before.
Our hunch was right.
Come September, the inquiries began pouring in.
We got emails from Washington State, Utah, Colorado, even Nova Scotia, as well as all the usual spots on the East Coast.
One stands out in my memory.
Checking our inbox one day, I found an email with a very familiar area code—that of the vicinity of my hometown, a small-ish town in Tennessee.
Although Michael usually responded to inquiries, I couldn’t resist making this call myself.
A woman answered the phone and immediately passed me along to her husband Kevin.
After exchanging the usual pleasantries I asked what town they lived in.
He sounded slightly surprised by my question. Then he named my hometown.
“I grew up there,” I said.
“No way,” he responded. “Who are your parents?”
I told him. “You’re joking,” he said quietly.
“I’m related to your mother.”
“Oh my god, how?”
“Well…” he began, launching into a long and tortuous explanation of how his grandmother and my mother’s grandmother were first cousins thrice removed.
“I can’t wait to tell my mother about this.”
He laughed. “We sent out lots of emails about houses in Vieques but of course now that I know who you are, there’s no question which one we’re going to rent.”
He told me about himself and his wife Helen, describing the two of them as “professional travelers.” Since retiring five years earlier they had visited sixteen countries.
“Have you ever been to Puerto Rico?”
“What made you choose Vieques?”
“Well, we read an article about the island online and decided since it’s the new hot spot in the Caribbean, we’d better see it before it starts sizzling. At that point, we won’t be able to afford it. We’re budget travelers all the way.”
This sounded reasonable enough.
“Makes sense,” I said encouragingly.
“Yep, we don’t eat out, we don’t take taxis, and we don’t rent cars. Too expensive.”
“Kevin, I’m afraid you’ll need to rent a car in Vieques.”
“Our house is in the hills. You’ll need a car to get to the beach.”
I wondered how carefully he’d read our web page. Even more, I wondered if he regretted having already committed to renting our property.
“Yep, I’m afraid you will. Look, why don’t you sleep on it? If you find something that suits your lifestyle better, no hard feelings.”
“What do you mean, our lifestyle?”
Now I had offended my mother’s long-lost tenth cousin or whatever he was.
“I just meant maybe someplace within walking distance of the beach.”
“We don’t like being near the beach.”
“Not. At. All. Too many bugs”
“It’s kind of a buggy island, Kevin,” I said in a weak voice. “We have bugs up in the hills too.”
I thought quickly. “Well, all kinds of mosquitoes, including the kind that carry dengue fever. And we saw a tarantula in the driveway recently.”
This was perfectly true—we’d spotted a nice, plump specimen edging his way across our driveway one afternoon a few weeks earlier.
“No problem,” he said. “We’ll take it.”
What could I do? This simple transaction had obviously devolved into a Matter of Family Honor.