21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
New Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
News Analysis
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Dreamscapes Two
More Original Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living



The International Writers Magazine: Family Vacations

Flashbacks, Fear, and Flamingos
• Tyrel Nelson
It’s the summer of 1987. We are on a family vacation in Wisconsin Dells. My little brother Jay, who is only six, is beside my parents’ boat, or Mercury Grand Marquis, bawling—his tears full of fear. My mom rushes to him on the edge of the parking lot, not only to comfort him, but to avoid the ominous threshold of the haunted house as well.


The fright on their faces naturally makes me scared too. I turn to join them when I am immediately yanked into the dark. There was no way my dad was going to let two wasted tickets become three. What occurs next is a shadowy blur. In truth I have no recollection of the actual interior of the haunted house. All I do remember is Pop’s firm grip, his pissed-off pace, and that I continuously cried, “I wanna go home!”
A quarter-century later I am contemplating another eerie entrance. But I’m without the fam on this occasion, visiting the Sunshine State rather than America’s Dairyland. Even though I’m much older now, part of me is still that eight-year-old who’s afraid to proceed. I take a deep breath. My shaky hand grabs the metal handle, and I cautiously step inside. I want to take flight the second the creaky door closes.

I’m instantly in a Hitchcock film. Several birds circle above me. I hunch. Others waddle uncomfortably close; their soulless shark eyes cause mine to bulge. I back up. A cacophony of caws, cackles, and cries raise my hair on end. My heart is racing! I desperately reach for the handle. I clench it. Spinning around, I pull with all my might. I run! The door slams behind me. WHAM! I don’t dare glance over my shoulder. Composing myself, I appreciate the sudden silence. I gaze at the palms, exotic plants, and dangling vines directly in front of me. I can’t believe I’m in Davie, Florida, of all places, exploring the Flamingo Gardens (a nonprofit arboretum and wildlife refuge west of Ft. Lauderdale) and not the Amazon.
Flowers Croc
I also wonder if anyone has ever toured all 25,000 square feet of the Everglades Free-flight Aviary I just fled. Someone much braver than me I decide. Wishing what lies ahead to be easier on the nerves, I venture into the boscage. I think about the last time I was alarmed by animals.

It’s the spring of 2007. I’m on a Habitat for Humanity trip in La Ceiba, Honduras. After getting a beer, my co-leader Val and I start for our hotel. We are in the middle of the street in the middle of the night when a couple of Doberman pinschers abruptly roadblock us. They’re foaming at their mouths. They snarl viciously. The dogs then pounce, ferociously barking all the while. Val and I frenziedly backpedal down the empty avenue. While retreating, we also wind up, wildly pretending to throw rocks—a futile tip we had recently heard—at our enemies. But our fast-approaching attackers aren’t fazed in the slightest. So we opt to drop the imaginary stones in order to protect our faces, putting our arms up like boxers on the defense. We frantically fall back for no more than half a block when, for some reason I still fail to comprehend, the dogs pull up. It was as if they ran into an invisible fence. Perplexed and grateful to be intact, Val and I bolt for the hotel.  

Cat “Meow!”
Snapping out of my daze, I see, of all creatures, a cat now staring me down.  It curiously ogles me before wandering into the thicket. I refocus on the path. Sunlight occasionally pokes through the dank hammock. A musty odor fills the air. I constantly swat away bugs. The swerving trail leads me through a labyrinth of overgrown ferns, towering oaks, and bright orchids. I stop frequently to investigate my jungle-like surroundings … and to pluck the webs from my sweaty face. I notice one of the arachnids that spun the endless strands looming over me. The black and yellow spider looks bigger than my camera. My anxiety from the aviary instantly returns. I pick up the pace.

Peacocks cross my path before I discover pink flamingos and white ibis. These birds are much calmer than those I saw earlier though. In fact, they don’t care that I’m there. They simply go about their business, posing by the pond. I move on. With tiny iguanas scampering alongside the walkway, I visit a much bigger reptile. I amble by the Alligator Lagoon. The sole occupant is clearly beaten by the heat, searching for shadows along the bottom of its shallow cement pool.
Next I observe freshwater turtles of many designs and sizes. They gawk at me with their wide-open peepers. I happen upon a tortoise too. The recluse, however, seems more interested in the underbrush than anything else.  

I finally board the tram. Its Easter colors leap out from the woodsy background. The ride is sporadic, furiously zigzagging for stretches, creeping across the terrain during others. I’m in awe of the varied landscape while a man with a mic describes the wetlands, citrus groves, and rainforest slapping against the turquoise railings and pink roofs of the trolley cars. And I listen intently as he talks about the sanctuary’s sixteen Champion trees. These sixty tucked-away acres are unique indeed.

I exit the tram about a half hour later. The guide informs me that one of the panthers in the nearby exhibit is visible. I press my face against the glass. I scan for a few minutes before locating Florida’s state animal. The feline is nestled in the long grass beneath a shade tree, taking a siesta.

Worn out from the day, I promptly head for the hotel. It’s time for me to do the same.
scary tree

© Tyrel Nelson Jan 2013
Views of Vizcaya
Tyrel Nelson

It’s me, the trees, and Juan Ponce de León. Never before did I think I’d be face-to-face with such a famous man. Not only was he Puerto Rico’s first Governor, but he also named the state beneath my feet

Share |
More life stories


© Hackwriters 1999-2013 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.