The Lagardo Inn
My parents were part of the first wave of surfers to visit Costa Rica, vagabonds who traveled the Pacific coast in search of perfect left-hand breaks. They settled in Guanacaste Province when their student loan money ran out. Dad repaired longboards, and mom worked at an animal rescue center. I was conceived on a moonlit beach north of Nosara during the annual turtle migration. I was an odd child, born with olive-colored skin and curiously webbed toes. They named me Ridley.
If life is a series of randomly connected metaphors, then I was the hatchling torn from the clutch and thrown back into a restless sea. I spent time in Kazakhstan, tending herds of Slovenox on the western steppe, and nurtured the endangered Galapagoose on an island off the coast of Ecuador. But it was a lonely existence, and I got bored. Someone suggested Paris.
I spent afternoons in the sunny Novotel Les Halles courtyard, reading a food-stained copy of Le Livre Blanc that I found in the garbage. I fancied learning French by matching pictures of comfort foods with strange words. The lessons exposed me to a sensory riot of fragrant smells and zesty flavors. Soon I was cooking for the hostel guests in exchange for rent. They affectionately called me Cheuf de Consomme.
My signature dish is a savory stew made with braised camel flank and fermented goat milk, so delicious you’ll burn your tongue licking the bottom of the pot. My crawfish bisque won a Prudhomme Prize. I made vichyssoise without being able to pronounce it properly. And I’ve been recognized by World Fish Magazine for promoting sustainable seafood cuisine, successfully breeding nurse sharks with geckos to create a shark fin that snaps off and regenerates.
I took the cookbook and traveled south along the Mirage Highway. Barcelona, Marrakesh, Johannesburg, I was the nomad chef with a solar-powered blender and one sharp knife. But I always felt that innate urge to return to Costa Rica.
Fast forward to Playa Grande. It was too hot to surf, so I went to the Ripjack for an Imperial and some tacos. I scrolled through local news on my Tico Times app: Escalating gang violence in Bagaces, spiny sea urchins pestering swimmers at Ocotal Beach, a Canadian who had her wedding ring stolen while she slept—the culprit was actually a sneaky howler monkey. Then I read about The Lagardo Inn Essay Contest.
The owners were elderly and eager to sell, but historic rains washed out the road from Tamarindo. Then, several people got sick from drinking cocktails spiked with bootleg rum. The real estate market looked bleak, so they decided to hold an essay contest and award the business to one winner.
Contest rules: Each essay must be exactly 500 words. All entries must include a reading fee of 120,000 colones. Contestants should describe why they want to run a Costa Rican beach bar.
I emphasized that turtle soup would never be on the menu.
Now I own a bar!
About the Author
Scott Anderson studied creative writing as an undergraduate in the 70’s at The University of Iowa, and also at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. He recently retired from a long career as a 911 dispatcher. His short fiction has appeared in Burst, Word Riot, Marco Polo Arts Mag, Otis Nebula, Cell Stories 2010, Crack the Spine, Fuck Fiction, and Sleet Magazine.