"...and that is how I came to have a picture of the Queen permanently stamped into my right buttock."
I came out of the wiggly space flashback effect to discover I was alone. My audience was fled and gone away, leaving me with the bill. I quizzed the waitress, but she wasn't helpful. Best I could make out he'd driven off while I was jumping off a fan tower.
This wasn't as unexpected as you might think. I find it rare that young people have the mental stamina to withstand the unalloyed terror of adventures I've had, on account of their moral fibre being eroded by the internet, Japanese cartoons and the racket that passes for music these days. It was inconvenient that he'd taken the car, but that was kids for you. No consideration.
I paid the bill, which was higher than expected on account of the kid adding a bottle of whisky to the total before departing. The waitress said he'd taken a hefty swig before he'd gotten to the door and by the time he was in the car had drained almost half the bottle. Clearly the lad had a drinking problem. Lesson learned: only breakfast in unlicenced diners from now on when The Boyfriend was in tow.
I wandered outside and used some half-hearted class two Word of Power on principle, and started walking back to Orange Lake Country Club some three miles as the turkey vulture flies up the road.
The first mile or so was along a strip of souvenir shops, mostly offering Disney-themed stuff. Then came a few fruit stands and Cap'n Stays'ls Privateers of the Carribean Mini Golf, where I was severely beaned by a bank shot off the lighthouse made by some sullen 12 year-old who wanted to be playing X-Box. I know because I could hear his whining about it right before my world exploded in a splash of psychedelic lights and I pitched forward into the drainage ditch that ran between me and the highway.
I came to some unknown time later. It couldn't have been long because the half-submerged yearling alligator I had landed on was still unconscious when I regained my senses and, about 1.5 seconds later, the use of my legs, lungs and vocabulary.
I stopped running and telling the world about my consternation and my feelings on the matter of other people's kids after about half a mile, when my legs started to remind me why I was staying home that day and refused to work for a bit until I had had a rest. I checked the ditch for alligators, but you know what they say in Orlando: if you can't see the alligators, they're hiding in plain sight. Working on the principle that they were basically timid animals that would avoid human contact by preference, I began warning them away by whimpering in a high pitch.
After ten minutes or so I felt fit to continue and walked for perhaps another half mile before being overcome by exhaustion. I slumped to the ground and passed out.
I came to some unknown time later with an unacustomed weight on my chest. Opening my eyes I found myself nose-to-nose with a hideous rat-like face and let out an involuntary shriek while my limbs went into The Florida Wildlife Avoidance Windmill.
I count it most fortunate that I am able to warn everyone here that should you find yourself being investigated by a curious Armadillo, it is absolutely essential not to frighten or panic the beast by sudden moves that could be interpreted as an agressive attack, nor should you startle it with sudden loud, high-pitched noises. Armadillos are known for their habit of curling into a ball when threatened, but before they do that they can inflict much damage to one's clothing and skin with their small but extremely sharp claws as they scrabble their own little Windmill of Avoidance.
They also have a large reserve of extremely pungent urine if mine was any indication, though I like to think I gave as good as I got in that department. Unfortunately I was the only one wearing trousers, so all in all I think the day went to the rodent.
The sun had risen quite high in the cloudless sky by now and proceeded to fry my brains and burn my typical whiter-than-white English skin to the color of a lobster and the tenderness of something very tender indeed. I took the opportunity to become a trifle delerious and spent some time walking in circles, crashing into bridge abutments and so forth. I began to hallucinate about the time I had accidentally shorted out Chateau Stevie's main breaker box by inadvertantly cutting a pipe with the water main turned on, then realized the deafening crashes of sound, blinding actinic flashes and sluicing water were, in fact, real and due to the daily Orlando Summer Downpour and Thunderstorm.
I spent some time executing Evasion Pattern Stevie Delta One as the lightning poked the landscape around me, which sufficed to wake me up and empty my bladder again in no time at all, and I also got some practice in the use of some of my vintage class four Words of Power which I had laid down for just such an occasion. Eventually I found an overpass and took refuge from the elements, intending to stay there until it was all over.
I had been under the overpass for perhaps ten minutes when the rotting body of what I think might have been a possum that had been blocking the drainage culvert just behind my shoulders rammed into my back and burst, followed by about five hundred gallons of backed-up drainage from the road overhead. I was sluiced from shoulders to shins in a sludge comprised of rainwater, rotting leaves (I recognised that element of the stench from the swimming pool cover chez Stevie), soggy cigarette ends, bits of presumed possum and a zoo of aquatic insects that had been living in the flooded culvert for some time but were happy to relocate into the various places available on me.
Such was the force of the column of filth hitting me in the back that I was propelled once more into the drainage ditch. This time I didn't wait to see if there were any alligators, and simply let my limbic system deal with the problem of getting the hell out of Dodge while the rest of my intellect bounced around my skull gibbering in fear.
By the time I had reached the other side of the overpass the rain had stopped (robbing me of the chance to avail myself of a timely shower), and the sun went into overdrive, boiling the water out of the ground and pushing it down hard in a blanket of intollerable humid heat Man was not intended to walk about in. However, I was still some distance from Orange Lake and so had no option but to stagger on, cursing fate, begging for death and crying out "Why me?" every so often in my usual stalwart fashion.
Raging thirst set in.
I began to search around for a place I could grab a bottle of water or soda, but there was nothing. I was out of the built-up section and deep in the Orlando Bush. I tried to get my bearings but the thirst and the wounds were taking their toll and I couldn't hear myself think for all the traffic zooming by an the highway some twenty feet to my left.
I wandered around for what might have been hours but was actually about twenty minutes or so according to my watch before stumbling into the car park of the supermarket just down the road from Orange Lake. Glass doors harnessed to Modern Technology whisked open at my approach and I staggered into the blessed cool of the salad and designer cheese section followed by the cloud of mosquitoes that had been lunching on me since the Armadillo Incident, and grabbed a soda from a refrigerator.
I was getting in line to pay when I became aware that everyone was evacuating the store in great hurry. I span round but couldn't see a fire or robbery in progress. By the time I was facing the cashier again there wasn't one - she had apparently joined the inexplicable mass exodus.
Now normally I am a reserved person who toes the line and does what's expected of one without complaining, which in this case would be to replace the unpaid-for soda in the refrigerator and evacuate the store with everyone else, but I was tired and had been dumped by an apparently alcoholic youth in the middle of nowhere, fallen on a sleeping alligator, been rolled by an armadillo, sluced in well-rotted possum, burned bright red by the unrelenting Florida sun and eaten alive by the mosquitoes the size of World War One biplanes. I was thirsty and tired and reeking of ditchwater and fermented possum and armadillo pee, covered in welts left by insect mouthparts the size of a garden hose, and not in the mood for the playful antics of Floridians.
I took a couple of dollars from my wallet and left them lying under a Kit Kat on the conveyor belt in front of the cash register, grabbed the soda and made for the door.
I could hear sirens approaching as I passed the trolley return rack. Clearly the police had been called in to deal with whatever the problem was, and I would only be in the way now, so I cut round the back of the supermarket and across the back of the Orange Lake property, emerging on the fairway of the golf course (dunno which one) and drank my soda while I crouched under some thorn bushes and kept out of the way of the police.
It is likely that had the police gotten close enough to spot me - a happenstance made somewhat more likely owing to the pungent state of my vestements, skin and hair - a serious misunderstanding of the sort so common in my life could have taken place, but as luck would have it the garden landscapers drove past on a modified golf cart towing a fertilizer broadcaster, and the officers decided that getting splashed with what smelled like pig manure was sub-optimal and voted to conduct their search somewhere else.
Once the officers had finished thrashing the bushes round about with night sticks and yelling to whoever it was that he should come out and surrender quietly, it was a fairly simple matter to orient myself and make my way back to the villa, where I stripped off my clothes and fed them to the washing machine, and went back to bed via the shower, and itched myself to sleep.
Later, I was awakened by the shrieking of Mrs Stevie who apparently had returned, opened the washer and found my clothes, but I wasn't in the mood for tedious explanations so I rolled over and went back to sleep.