Author: R. J. Erbacher

Another excursion. Another plane flight. Another jungle.

He called Stacy his heedless girlfriend because she didn’t care what anybody thought. Probably not even him. She didn’t want vacations like your average girlfriend. Never a weekend in the Hamptons or trips to Disneyland or a relaxing cruise. No. Stacy wanted African bush tours, third world village slogs, and deep tropical rain forest treks. Places he had to get shots to go to. Shots! The only shots he desired were shots of ‘Jack.’ Not hypodermics. Then, they had to get exams when they got back to get checked for diseases. Vacations shouldn’t require a doctor’s referral.

But here they were again waiting on line in some remote location, worlds off the beaten path, with a bunch of other nutty tourists waiting to cross a brown river in a pole pushed skiff, operated by some half-ass native boat captain. Where were they even going? He couldn’t remember. Stacy had made it sound so thrilling when she showed him the pictures of their little getaway on her laptop.

Oh, I can’t wait for you to actually see this ancient ruin or some monkey habitat or the like.

Well, he could wait.

An awful lot of people had already gone across and they all shuffled about waiting their turn, at the end of the queue, for the boat to pull up to the rocky shoreline. The thing appeared to be a flimsy means of transport and the other side of the river looked none too inviting either. Something over there would probably bite him, stab him or sting him and then he’d be rushed to a backwater hospital. Another doctor. Another shot.

Not this time. He was going to tell his heedless girlfriend that he wanted to go back to civilization. Back to a legitimate hotel, take a shower, have a drink, sleep in a regular bed and have coffee and tons of free bacon at the continental breakfast in the morning.

Just then the boat beached itself onto the river bank with a horrendous screech and everybody started chain-gang walking forward and he followed…with trepidations. The first person to get on was a guy in a gray pinstripe suit. What was his deal? Next an elderly couple, old-style camera in hand. Then a family; mom, dad, and two kids. There was a woman in a blue jumpsuit, name tag on the upper left breast, with a yellow kerchief knotted loosely around her neck. And it was right then and there as they all gingerly stepped into this flat-bottomed canoe that he got up his nerve and decided, ‘No way, man.’

He was about to tell Stacy that he wasn’t going, and at this point, it probably wouldn’t matter to her, when she took the proffered hand of the local and climbed aboard. She thanked him for his help, tipped him a coin and joined the others on the wooden pews. The boatman hesitated and looked him dead in the face, waiting for him to choose his path.

‘No’ he decided and started moonwalking away. Unconcerned the guy shifted his posture, dug his pole into the ground and pushed off from the shore and began punting to the other side. He watched Stacy vanish into the mist that shrouded the river and he felt an icy chill and he turned away.

And opened his eyes; still strapped into seat 23D, on a burning mountainside strewn with ripped aluminum and shredded fiberglass batting, seated next to his headless girlfriend.