Teresa was waiting for us. She sprang like a singing telegram from behind the sofa.
“Ted’s in hospital,” she screamed and pulled at her hair. “He’s gone and broken his ribs.”
“How?” I stared at her, unsure if she was playacting.
“He got stuck.” Her eyes bulged.
“Yes.” Now her eyes moistened.
“In one of those clams?” I remembered Ted’s fascination.
“No, no, no. It was worse.” In a pitchy voice, she explained what had happened. Contrary to his usual inertia, and maybe wanting to please her, Ted had decided to go snorkelling.
But not any old snorkelling. Not in the hotel swimming pool, nor in the sea, anywhere safe. That wasn’t Ted’s style at all. No, he had to go somewhere less conventional. In the Cave Pool at Puila, specifically the three-metre underwater passage that joined one cave to another.
A younger, slimmer, fitter man had egged him on, shown him the entrance and cockily swum through. Ted should have known better, but he let commonsense get overruled by bravado, then pride.
Ted stooped like a walrus into the water. Duck-dived, his big bottom surfacing briefly. Then disappeared. So Teresa told us, her face now red.
She’d rushed to the other cave to find him. But only his head had made it through. The rest of him, his fifty inch girth, all one hundred and twenty kilos, remained in the underwater passage, wedged like a MacDonald’s Angus burger between two pieces of sesame toast.
“You coming or going?” Teresa said to him.
“I’m stuck.” He wheezed and gasped and waved his hands helplessly.
“Serves you right. You eat so bloody much.”
For a while it looked as if Ted’s holiday would be extended – by as long as it took for him to lose enough weight to squeeze through. A passing fire-fighter and his friend the weightlifter tried pulling Ted out, but with no joy. The big man was stuck fast. They couldn’t shift him. Ted was lucky he’d pushed his head through. He could have drowned.
“I’ll come back and see you tomorrow.” Teresa got up to go.
“You’re not just gonna leave me here?”
“I’m not bloody missing dinner.”
“What about my dinner?”
“You won’t be getting any. Or breakfast, or lunch, or any of those mid-afternoon snacks you’re so fond of.”
“That’s the idea.”
Fortunately for Ted, as the sun went down, he gulped and expelled his lunch – and breakfast too probably – into the pool. Creating enough slack for the firefighter, the weightlifter, the Apia tug-o-war champions and a member of Manu Samoa to heave again and dislodge him. He popped out with the force of a whale fart. Disappeared again, just his bare butt poking like a Henry Moore sculpture from the artwork of his vomit. His togs were still wedged in the tunnel, never to be seen again.
“He’s alright though?” said Kate.
“He’ll live.” Teresa looked less concerned. “Wants me to keep his little escapade quiet, but there’s fat chance of that.”