The Host

He slept with the dogs. His name was Willie and no-one seemed to know his last name. He wore nothing but blindingly white Y-Front underpants and he washed in the sea on Portsmouth Beach, Dominica. The beach was a tropical paradise to me but simply 'home' to him. He took pride in sleeping behind the open bamboo bar to guard it from imagined raiders in the night. The smell of the frangipani on the island was, itself, so intoxicating that I couldn't imagine anyone feeling the need to raid the bar for booze, but Willie guarded it nonetheless. The owners said they found him curled up with the dogs one morning and that he had remained there ever since. We presented him with a T-Shirt with the word 'Bodyguard' emblazoned across the chest - a market stall find - but he took no notice and sauntered, shirtless, down the beach to continue his slow motion life. The heat enveloped him as he went and his haze-outlined silhouette melted into the dark, volcanic sand when he was a mile or so away. I once saw him catch two silver fish in what looked like a pair of white underpants. Thankfully he was wearing some at the time. I thought, incongruously, 'Willie has a spare pair of undies' as I fanned myself with a banana leaf that would later serve as my dinner plate. Dinner was a primitive affair - rice, plantains and fish caught by Willie. One morning I went to the bar with a view to commencing my morning ritual: lazily dragging my deck chair to the water's edge to devour my daily mango. Willie was cleaning the bar and offered me a bowl of what looked like rice pudding with milk. His monosyllabic grunt made no sense but his gestures left me in no doubt that to refuse, would offend. I accepted the porridge with a smile and poked it with a spoon. I recognised the rice as leftovers from the previous day's meal and it appeared to be moving. 'Willie there are maggots in the rice.' He shrugged and continued to polish a large green bottle on the bar. I watched a lizard dart up one of the pillars on the veranda as Willie paced about. The lizard stopped above his head and I imagined it dropping into his porridge bowl, convinced he would shrug and scoop the creature up and eat him whole, grateful for the added protein with his feast. I took my seat at the edge of world and sucked on my mango pip for a good hour or so before the first drop fell. I saw the rainbow before I felt the rain. Back home I would doubtless have run for cover but the droplets were warm and I reclined even further into my chair - face to the heavens, feet in the sand. When I opened my eyes Willie was standing in front of me with his arm outstretched and a cup in his hand. 'What now?' I thought, 'Blood from a bat?' Raindrops collected in the cup as Willie smiled and spoke the only words I ever understood from him. He looked towards the sky, then at the cup before pressing the cool china into my hand. The cup was three quarters full of rain. I held it to my lips and drank. 'Liquid sunshine.' he said - and liquid sunshine it was.

L Bauer

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