Package Holiday | A Short Story

Damien’s tatty book blotted out the near-noon sun. He held the yellow block aloft with a pallid white arm, elbow locked. His stomach reflected heat skyward, and he held the pages between his face and the light to shade himself while he read. The page was in shadow, but enough light reverberated back up off the hot sand to illuminate things, the beach baking with such intensity he could hear it. The heat hissed and fizzed in his ear like television static, and the horizon wobbled to the thermal buzz.

Framing the page was the royal blue of sky, cloudless except for reedy threads of white cast by passing aircraft. With a sea breeze yet to fill in, the hot air hung dense and still for miles upwards. Heat blocked out all real noise. Only mildly aware of the other beachlife, the hawkers and their prey, Damien glanced at his two companions, slumped like belugas  on sun loungers. Both lay facing away from him on their left sides, turning pink, and glistened with the sweat of a deep hangover. He could wake them, he thought, but probably only for a moment. They would turn like sausages under a grill, and would at least cook evenly on all sides. He imagined the two-tone effect of sunburn on the right-hand sides of their body and decided to leave them. It would make for some fun that night. They had press-ganged him into this hellish holiday, so he was owed a few laughs.

What they had seen of the island of Gran Canaria was predictably shite.  Within it festered Puerto Rico – a noxious, sandy armpit of a town. It wasn’t a town, it was an ‘urbanizacion’ , a word which suggested it had imposed itself on the island forcibly. It’s concrete clung to the volcanic rock against the island’s will. Where there were rocks and shrubs, now there were shops and pubs.  Puerto Rico heaved with flourescent beachwear, junk food and cheap beer, day and night, in and out. It reeked of low-grade excess. Its heartbeat was hard house. Its eyes were lit with neon. For Damien, a self-possessed snob, this was his personal hell.

During the day, the slow-running river stank its way down the valley, a mass of fetid air above it building with the heat and crawling up the hills towards the hotels to be swept away into the mountains beyond by the sea breeze by noon. At night, the town howled and glowed neon. Everything screamed ‘get me drunk, fuck me carelessly and forget it all in the morning’.  The town had grown like fungus in a humid cranny, feeding on the abundant sludge of cheap tourism. Its bulging, sticky visitors wore tattoos and the scarlet badge of sunburn like war-wounds, pulling at short legs to compare scorch-marks. Pubs advertised football, pies, mushy peas and beers from home. Cheap, cheap, cheap. Nightclub touts offered free shots and the prospect of equally cheap sex. Kebab shops, pizza restaurants and pet-broiling Chinese takeaways clustered in a fear-inducing huddle within sight of McDonalds, Burger King and KFC.

The lads’ hotel was perched high on the northern headland, the balconies facing in toward the valley. At night the view of the action was spectacular. They had a birds-eye view of whatever spilled onto the streets – carnal, lager-fuelled lust and hate. They were close enough to town to hear most of the screams of anger but, thankfully, not the throaty moans of passion or the pebble-dash splatter of intermittent vomit. Continue reading “Package Holiday | A Short Story”