I was on a Caribbean cruise with my mum, her boyfriend, my grandmother, and… Okay, gotta’ stop here for a moment. You, the reader, may be asking yourself, “Who goes on a cruise with their mother, her boyfriend, and their grandmother?” Well, I do! And we had a great time. Granted, I was basically by myself and bored to tears the majority of the time I was on the ship — but I still had a good time nonetheless. I’m pretty sure that it would’ve been much better if my girlfriend could’ve come along, but at that point in my life I didn’t have a girlfriend, so there’s actually no point in pursuing that line of thought.
On the ship we seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time gambling, eating, drinking, eating, dancing, eating, and seeing the shows. Did I mention eating? I think we did more of that than anything else. Well, at least I know that I did — considering the fact that I don’t gamble or drink. And I didn’t see any of the shows or do any dancing because I was too busy missing my girlfriend. You know, the one I didn’t have.
Aside from eating and wandering around there was nothing else for me to do. So I tried to sleep. But the sleeping arrangements were very discombobulating (love that word). We had the cheap cabin. Four of us crammed into a closet with bunkbeds. It wasn’t designed for us to spend any time in. It was strictly meant for sleeping. And therein lies the problem.
When my traveling companions were finally ready to bunk down, I couldn’t sleep in the room with them. My mother makes weird sounds when she sleeps — some type of exasperated huffing, squeaking noise. My grandmother gurgles — sounds like its one long, wet and bubbly gargle. I kid you not. It was so disgusting. I thought she was going to drown in her sleep. But the biggest problem was my mother’s boyfriend. He snored. And I know you’re probably just saying to yourself, “So, he snores. Just ignore it.”
I couldn’t. There was no ignoring the kind of snores he manufactured. It wasn’t something soothing like a tiny kitten purring. No, it was the exact evil opposite. Both inhalation and exhalation sounded like a dull chainsaw chewing through wet wood on a windy day. I had never heard such a raucous racket. With every long, loud, and drawn-out exhale his lips would flutter with sticky spittle. And if there had been curtains in the room, they would’ve been oscillating back and forth with each gasp and gulp. It was like watching a live-action cartoon.
Needless to say, between the huffing squeaks, the gurgling gargles, the snoring and the fluttering, I couldn’t sleep a wink and just ended up roaming the dark halls like a zombie.
And every night was the same. I’d end up sitting in some quiet lounge with my head resting against the cool window and thinking about my non-existent girlfriend as I watched the moon-lit waves roll by. It was depressing as hell.
And what does all of this have to do with my Jamaican Lady screenplay? I’m getting there. Patience.
That was nights on-board the ship. But the days were entirely different. We’d cruise into a port of call, disembark, and get our tourist on. Hated the last part. Yes, we did some of the typical tourist stuff, but none of us liked doing it, so we always tried to get far away from rubbernecking sightseers and actually see the real destinations we were visiting. Go out into the countryside, go to where the locals hang out, go anywhere away from the rude cruise ship excursionists.
And go we did. We visited the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Caymans, Cancun, and lots of other places that just melted into each other. But, in each place we did our own thing. We even chartered a private prop plane to fly us over some distant jungles. I will never do that again. Scared the Be-Jesus out of me. No clue if our pilot even had a license. After an hour sight-seeing flight, he landed us on a run-down dirt run-way carved straight out of the jungle. Said he was just picking up a package and for us to stay in the plane.
He didn’t have to tell me twice. The only problem was once my grandmother woke up from her gurgling snooze, she had to pee. And it was kind of like a yawn. Contagious. Suddenly, we all had to pee and couldn’t exit the small plane quick enough. Our pilot had no idea what was going on and panicked when he saw us deplaning. He and the friendly looking people (I swear they had machine-guns) that he was dealing with took off running — scattering into the nearby jungle.
So what did we do? Nothing. We were alone on an abandoned runway in the middle of a jungle, who knows where. So with nothing else to do, we just sat down and waited. And wait we did.
About an hour later our long-lost pilot, carrying a backpack that he didn’t have before, cautiously emerged out of the jungle. He looked around tentatively, realized nothing was amiss, and quickly loaded us back into the small drug-running plane. Oops, did I type that out loud? With sweat dripping down his neck and stains spreading under his arms he flew pell-mell back to our origination point, threw us out of the plane, and then took off again before the dust even settled.
We were late, our ship was leaving, and we had to pay a cabbie extra to get us back to it in time. We made it in one piece. Thankful to be alive. “Wait. Where’s Granny?”
I’ll save that imaginative story for a later time. In the meantime, she was with us, she was fine, and she didn’t accidentally take our pilot’s backpack — though she did have to pee again.
Oh, Jamaican Lady?
Right. When we were in Jamaica, which was a few port of calls after we became accessories to drug-running, we basically did the same type of things. No, we didn’t rent anymore planes, but we did hire a cabbie, uh, I mean a Contract Carriage to take us away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist areas. And yes, our driver was a Rastafarian, and his name was Jon.
He was a wonderful tour-guide that entertained us with stories of culture and tradition as he drove us to many different locations; beautiful beaches, gorgeous mountains, great places to eat, and yes, we even did the tourist spots.
One of my favorites was Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios.
Truth to the story? Yes, of course. The falls are where I saw my Jamaican Lady. The woman, not the diamond. She was wearing a black swimsuit, had waist-length hair, smooth caramel skin, was elegantly gorgeous, and I was instantly in love. But alas, I would admire her from afar because I was too awestruck and tongue-tied to meet her. Besides, I didn’t need to; her aura, essence, and beauty would forever be a part of my soul.
Oh, and yes, she was the inspiration for the entire Jamaican Lady story.
Back on the ship the nights were filled with me seeking refuge in a quiet lounge where the only sounds heard were my pencil scratching and tearing at the paper as I scribbled ideas as swiftly as I could.
The rest of the voyage became a blur and before I knew it I found myself back home looking through and trying to organize the chicken-scratch of notes I penned while the ship sailed back to our home port. I really wasn’t sure what direction to take the story, so I crumbled and tossed a lot of paper. There were so many different options, but nothing was taking shape until I remembered that they say ‘write what you know.’
So I did, and put myself into the story. Well, not me as I am today, not actually, but my high school self. Or at least how I envisioned my high school self. But which character was I? Matt? Van? Or both?
I always wanted to be the Matt guy in high school — you know, cool and getting all the girls, but I was more like Van. Actually, I think I was a combination of both. So I ended up putting a little bit of myself into both their characters.
As the story was writing itself and morphing from a simple fantasy romance into a caper comedy with elements of adventure, and topped off with a sprinkle of folklore, I started developing and adding in more characters.
Nesha, one of my favorites, was based on my girlfriend who I met shortly after I returned from the cruise. Actually, interesting coincidence, my girlfriend looks just like the Jamaican Lady. Seriously, they could be twins. I really lucked out there. Best part — I don’t have to admire her from afar, and even though I’m still a little awestruck when looking at her, my tongue had untied itself. Well, most of the time.
Anyway, Jessi, Melinda, and all the other characters are loosely based on people that I have known in my life. Which goes to show you that you need to be careful when you’re friends with a writer — you will end up in their stories.
A few months passed before I finally typed ‘The End’ at the bottom of the first draft. Then on the second, third, fourth and fifth drafts. A writer is never satisfied and will write and edit and write and edit a story ad nauseam. My own personal Jamaican Lady (my girlfriend) finally put her foot down and said “Enough! Stop writing and start submitting.”
And I did. But to no avail. I submitted the screenplay everywhere; studios, agents, small business owners, family, friends, you name it. There was no interest, none. But I did get a lot of coffee-stained rejections. You writers know what I’m talking about.
I shelved the script and it sat for about a year. Then out of the blue, a small studio offered to option it. Then another. What the heck? By the time I got a freshly rewritten screenplay to them the first studio was out of business, and the second offer was withdrawn. Oh, well. Back on the shelf the story went.
Over the next few years I rewrote it again. And again, submitted it with the same results. I finally gave up and put it out of sight on the bottom shelf — where it collected dust for a decade, or two, or… Well, let’s not give it a third decade.
Recently, I was thinking about Jamaican Lady and how much I personally enjoy the story. So I dug it out, blew the dust off the script, found the old Word file, booted it up, and decided to once again rewrite it. But this time I was going to change things by updating it to modern times; cell phones, new technology, terminology, etc…
I spent a couple months completely revamping the story — adding all the modern goodies to it and… and, once finished… I didn’t like it. Not at all. It just wasn’t the same. The story had lost its innocent charm. So I took a deep breath, deleted the modern changes, set the story back into its original era, and rewrote it into the version that you’re holding in your hands now.
Maybe one of these days Jamaican Lady will get the attention of the studios, or an up-and-coming filmmaker, and be made into a cute little romantic comedy caper — as it was intended to be. But if not, that’s okay. I hope you enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Lon Casler Bixby is a professional photographer and published author in various genres: Fiction, Poetry, Humor, Photography, & Comic Books.
You can see his writing here — www.amazon.com/author/loncaslerbixby/.