El Ultimo Recurso
by Martin Bolton
“Welcome to El Ultimo Recurso.” The waiter sang the words in a ludicrously thick Spanish accent as he somehow managed to keep his tray horizontal whilst bending double in a needlessly low bow. As the waiter’s face approached his knee, Tarquin was presented with a perfectly round bald spot on top of his head, the black hair smeared back over his skull failing spectacularly to conceal it.
“Compliments of the house.” The waiter resembled a stubby leather thumb stuffed into a red silk shirt several sizes too small and unbuttoned down to his pot-belly, allowing an obscene thicket of curly black hair to sprout forth from it. His legs seemed to be wrestling inside a pair of impossibly tight, black, flared trousers which were nearly as shiny as the shiny black moustache lounging lasciviously on his twitching top lip.
The tray held the most gaudy, extravagant looking cocktail Tarquin had ever seen. Chunks of exotic fruit carved into pretty shapes adorned the rim of what looked like an obese wine glass. Umbrellas of various sizes jostled for space with a collection of long, curly straws. The drink itself was bright green and completely opaque. It was grotesque.
“I am Manuel,” continued the waiter as he leered at Tarquin, pausing briefly to noisily lick his lips,“if there is anything you need,” he leaned closer, lowering his voice to husky whisper, his mouth in line with Tarquin’s eye, lips curled back over pure white teeth, “do not hesitate to ask.”
The warm stench of cheap cigars and chorizo wafted over him. Manuel grinned at him for a moment, somehow managed to transfer Tarquin’s complimentary drink to the table without seeming to move, then glided away backwards until he was out of sight.
Tarquin moved into the shade beneath his parasol but he was still uncomfortably hot and he could feel his skin burning. He applied more sun tan lotion to his reddening skin and gazed out to sea, trying to relax. The view was painful. The sun blazed so brightly on the water that it looked like an ocean of fire and he squinted at it, his eyes watering.
He had been all over the world on business – Thailand, The Philippines, Dubai, the list was endless – but never anywhere this hot. It was almost unbearable. He lifted a chubby, well manicured hand and undid the buttons on his vast Hawaiian shirt, but it didn’t bring any relief. Sweat ran down his man-boobs and collected in the crease where they met his fat belly. A pool was forming in his heaving naval. He wiped a handkerchief across his forehead.
The heat was making his already sizeable ankles swell and ache, and he began to pant like an obese dog. His heart was pounding hard, the sound resonating up his spine and rattling his brain.
He put his head back and took a deep breath. This was the first holiday he had had on his own in years. Normally he’d be on some business trip or other, meeting other fat, rich men and negotiating deals, playing golf, networking – always networking. Then there were the children. He loved the young boys. He had paid good money for them in almost every country he’d visited.
So hot. He cold feel the warm air catching in his throat. With a rare thirst coming on, he reached for the opaque green cocktail. Breathing heavily and doing his best to avoid getting a tiny umbrella in the eye, he eventually managed to get one of the straws to his lips. But before he could suck on the thing Manuel suddenly appeared in front of him clutching a laminated menu.
“A snack,” said Manuel, “maybe some tapas for you?”
“Water,” Tarquin croaked, “iced water.” He put the cocktail down without drinking.
“Of course.” Manuel dropped the menu on the table and was gone in a heart beat.
Tarquin closed his eyes again, making another pass of his slick forehead with the sodden handkerchief. As he looked up again he saw Manuel standing with a tray holding a large of glass of iced water. A slice of lime floated in it and it sparkled in the sun.
Tarquin grabbed the water and gulped greedily.
As he drank he peered over the rim of the glass to see Manuel’s face, eyes wide and mouth stretched in to a gaping grin. Searing pain shot through Tarquin’s mouth and down his throat. His tongue was ablaze, writhing like a worm in a fire.
He spat out the fiery liquid, dropping the glass and setting fire to his legs. He dropped to his knees, making a strangled gurgling noise, his throat too dry and painful to scream.
As he looked up he saw that the sea was shining even brighter. In fact, the sea was now just flame, and all around him the hotel smouldered and smoked. Manuel looked down at him and began to laugh, one hand on his hairy chest, his mouth wide, his tongue dancing behind his brilliant teeth, his belly jiggling as he chuckled.
As Tarquin sank onto all-fours and puked blood between his hands the tapas menu floated down and began to curl and blacken as it burned. He stared down at it in sick horror. The menu didn’t have tapas on it at all, but the faces of countless children staring back. Children he recognised well.