Every winter Jimmy and I took our vaca in a different tropical location, where it became instant summer the moment we stepped off the plane. Sometimes the euphoria was so intense we would bow and applaud Mother Nature for her infinite wisdom in keeping at least part of the world warm at any one time.
This year our vaca was to be in Tahiti. As I made our reservations and chose the excursions we wanted to participate in, I was intrigued by the name of one of them and read it aloud to Jimmy: “The Papaya Scorpion Dance” (PSD.) Reading further, in the description, it said, verbatim, “dancers perform scorpion ritual involving papayas.”
Jimmy said, “That sounds strange but exciting. It costs how much?”
“Cost: $500 per person.”
“Holy sh**! It’s got to be really something for that price. Should we take a chance or stick to the usual snorkeling and swimming with the dolphins?”
I had just gotten a quarterly bonus and so had a few extra dollars to squander so I said, “Let’s do it!”
We flew in on a Thursday. The dance was Friday night. We got settled in to our cabana then headed over to the Tiki Bar. Part of us wanted to know what the dance was about but another part wanted to be surprised. After our tongues were loosened with a couple of Mai Tais we asked the bartender, Don, who we had learned earlier had lived on Tahiti his whole life, about the PSD. With a straight face, Don said, “By law, I can’t tell you.” and that’s all he said. Now our curiosity was off the charts.
Friday at 7 we were waiting at the dock for the dugout to pick the few of us up who were going to the special excursion. Many could not afford or would not pay that much for something nobody would talk about. We were paddled along the shore for a good 2 miles.
Where we stepped off was dense jungle, which made us both excited and anxious. Monty, our captain and guide, motioned for the 6 of us to follow him. He went around a boulder and there was the path. Soon we came to a clearing with a large circle, with a set of drums in the center, surrounded by stumps carved into seats; we were directed to the tree-seats. It was amazing how comfortable they were, formed to our bodies as if custom-made for each of us. The 6 of us looked at each other and smiled. We knew we’d made the right decision to choose the PSD.
Within 5 minutes Monty came back and began to speak. “You have paid a lot of money to be here today. You’re not even sure what this is all about, but a part within you needs to know. Because of the sensitive nature of this sacred cultural ritual that most outsiders never get to see, we must ask each of you to sign a waiver stating you will not speak of this ritual to anyone else and that you will not hold us liable for any accidental injuries resulting from the ritual. Does anyone have a problem with signing the waiver?”
As all 6 of them were used to living in the legal world, signing waivers was just a standard practice of doing business, so nobody raised their hand. Monty handed out clipboards and pens to each of them and instructed them to read the waiver completely before signing. Seeing the usual fine print, each skimmed and signed, but none read it all. They didn’t notice another gentleman, Gordy, who had been standing off to the side of the path, but once all were signed, he stepped forward and went to each person to confirm their ID’s with their driver’s license, then stamped and signed each waiver at the bottom. Gordy was a notary public, which gave the waivers more strength. As he notarized each one, the 6 looked around at each other with some sense of foreboding. Why all of the formality?
When the last waiver was signed, as if on cue, Monty began beating the drums. Deep, resonant sounds, as if calling to someone – or something.
The wind began to blow through the palm trees, which made a soft rustling. As the drum pattern began to get more complex, they heard another sound, a small clicking noise that continued to grow. It made them nervous, and Jimmy tried to get up. He realized that the carved seat held him tight. “What the…..?????” he said as he began to “dance” in his chair. One of the others screamed. They looked at her, then followed her eyes. Coming from the jungle was a wave of scorpions, heading for the drum. When the space between them and the drum was filled with scorpions, Monty stopped. As if mesmerized, the scorpions didn’t move.
Gordy came out of another area of the path with a bowl filled with papaya. He lifted up a necklace fashioned from slices of papaya on a string and said, “The scorpions are hungry and they are omnivorous. They prefer fruit, but will eat flesh if needed. Each of you will wear a papaya necklace and the scorpions will eat from it until they are full. If you wiggle too much while they eat they will sting you. If they are still hungry and the papaya is gone, they will bite you. Any questions?”
As soon as he finished speaking all 6 began to “dance” in their seats, trying to get out, to no avail.
Gordy said, “I’m sorry, but the ancient jujuba stumps are charmed to hold the dancers until the ritual is complete. I’m sure you must understand, you are far from home and our ways have been just so for thousands of years.”
Gordy proceeded in placing a necklace on each person, who at this point was out of their heads with terror. Once each had a necklace, Monty began drumming again. The pattern was different, and the scorpions began to jump and wrestle with each other as they turned around and began clicking their way to the papaya. It didn’t take the swarm long to be covering the humans trapped in their jujuba seats, fighting over the ripe papaya slices. One of the men screamed and was instantly stung. He curbed the impulse to scream again.
All in all it took a good half hour for the scorpions to finish their papaya. Praise God, it was enough papaya to satiate their hunger. Monty began a different pattern with the drums. Just as quietly as they had arrived, the scorpions disappeared back into the jungle. The stumps loosened on the six and they each stood up. Monty and Gordy walked them to the bathrooms and the tiki hut that was a mere 10 yards away but had been hidden by the jungle. Each cleaned themselves up as best they could, then came out and drank Mai Tais. Monty led them back to the dugout, then paddled them back to the resort’s dock. All were speechless until they watched Monty paddle away from shore.
Fandango’s FOWC is verbatim, the Word of the Day Challenge is applaud, Paula’s 3 Things Challenge words are scorpion, drum, papaya , and Teresa’s Haunted Wordsmith Daily Prompts are the summer season, the sentence, “It cost how much?”, and the photo.