While on Vacation

Current temp: 76 degrees

P.S. So, uh, this other thing happened while we were on vacation. I wrote it up.


Day 3. We were having a great time here at South Padre. Yesterday, I ran on the beach in the rain. The girls played Marco Polo and Sharks & Minnows in the pool. That afternoon, I took them shopping, and then John took them shopping some more so I could interview my wedding couple for the magazine. Then we went out to eat so I could finally have shrimp and a beer, and we saw the most gorgeous sunset. I haven’t seen any sunsets in I don’t know how long. About 8:45 p.m., we got back to the condo, and John told the girls they could walk on the beach until 9:30, even though we’d originally set their curfew at 9 p.m.

I brushed my teeth and put on my pajamas.

And then, we heard screams. I don’t know how to convey the sound in text. It was almost like, “Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack!” It was odd. It didn’t sound dangerous. I went into my default mode for things I don’t understand—It must be drunks—and sat right where I was, in bed.

That’s when John left the bedroom and headed for the door.

“Did something happen?” I called after him.

“I think something very bad happened,” he said, and the door shut.

That’s when I remembered the girls were out walking on the beach. I looked at my phone: 9:22 p.m. I couldn’t go to bed until I knew the girls were safe.

First I went on the balcony, just to see if I could see them, but it was dark. I looked down at our pool area, which is well lit, but it was empty.

I walked outside and saw all these police cars lined up in front of our condo. There were guests like me, looking out over the stairs. John was nowhere in sight, so I assumed he was getting the girls. I sat in one of the chairs that overlooked the bay side. I was wearing my pajamas, but I didn’t care and no one else cared because they were watching the police.

In just a couple of minutes, my daughter tapped me on the left shoulder. (She’d been calling, “Mom!” but of course, she was on my left side, so I didn’t hear.) She and her friend walked up together.

“Oh, thank God,” I said. I texted John, “They’re back.” Just in case they had come back on their own and he didn’t know and was still looking for them.

Before I could even ask, our daughter seemed to know what happened: “Some guy shot himself.”

“Here?” I said. It was a Monday night, not a weekend night. It was 9:30 p.m., not 3 in the morning.

Both the girls started to talk at once—what they knew, what they’d heard, how a person can easily survive a bullet wound to the head because they don’t feel any pain but they might be, you know, kind of messed up a little after this.

A cop came by, a young guy.

“What happened?” our daughter asked him.

“A guy shot himself is all, but he’ll be OK,” he said. He looked like he was saying that just to calm us down. The girls took his statement as gospel truth since he was a cop, but I took it as a nice thing to say so we wouldn’t worry and would please just go back inside and let him do his job.

I guess about this time John walked up, but I really don’t remember when he got there, other than that it was after the girls.

The fire truck drove up, and John told the girls he wanted them to go inside so they wouldn’t see the guy being pulled from his truck. It looked like every cop in town was parked outside our little condo building. I suddenly realized that South Padre is just a small town that gets a lot of tourists—kind of like Fredericksburg, only more so. We always joke that at a time like this, when all the cops are in one place, it’s the perfect time to commit a crime. It was early on a Monday night. There was probably nothing else happening on the island.

When we got inside, I asked John what happened with getting the girls. He said they’d already come up to the pool area, and he told them a guy had been shot and to walk around and come up the other side of the building. My text to him finally came in while he was telling me this.

The girls were … fine. They’re 14, so they were kind of excited. Besides, they knew they were safe. It wasn’t personal. Some guy just shot himself is all.

“We’ve seen so much on TV that nothing really bothers us,” our daughter said.

Her friend kind of laughed. At dinner, she’d told us the long, convoluted story of her family. She was very matter-of-fact about the whole thing. She’s pretty careful about what she eats and doesn’t approve of drinking and says she’ll never wear booty shorts.

“When bad things happen, I get very calm. I just get completely calm. It’s weird,” our daughter told her friend.

I told the girls goodnight, but after I’d only been in bed a few minutes, I realized we’d have to tell the friend’s parents. Like, right then. It isn’t the kind of thing we could say when we brought her home: “Hey, some guy shot himself outside our condo, and all the cops on the island came, but everything’s OK. Sorry we forgot to mention it until now.” So, I got up and told her that we needed to tell them, even though I didn’t want to worry them.

It was almost 10 p.m., and she said they’d be in bed, but she could text her dad.

“He just wants to know I’m safe. That’s all he cares about,” she said.

He texted back pretty quickly. “You OK?”

She read me his text. “See?” She texted back, “Safe and sound.”

“Have fun swimming with the sharks,” her dad texted back.

I don’t know where to put this story into the story of this vacation. Because it really has been wonderful. It reminds me of coming here every summer when I was growing up. It’s a nice condo. Our neighbors told us about it. The people are friendly, and it’s all parents and kids or grandparents and grandkids. No drunks. No trash on the beach. It’s been quiet at night. Peaceful during the day.

Some guy shot himself is all.



  1. You are such a good writer, Megan!

  2. Wow. Just…wow.

  3. Yeah, so this is sad and scary . . . and weirdly attractive at the same time, right? Like slowing down when you go by a car accident. We’re curious creatures and when potentially tragic things happen quickly and suddenly, we need somehow to remind ourselves that WE are okay. When I was a newlywed, living in a furnished apt. in Santa Monica while I finished college, my husband was out one night, pursuing a possible job opportunity for the six months left of my education, before we left for two years of work in Africa. I heard a shot and shouting and went to peek out the window over our tiny shower. A guy shot and killed his estranged wife not 30 feet from that window. I was terrified, but I stood there in the dark and watched as police came, ran after the guy, caught him and carted him off, and as the ambulance came and took away the woman’s body while her young children cried for her. It was awful. Within 24 hours, I had to face into the reality that my husband was not going to get a job for six months in the economy of 1966 and he would be GONE for four days each week until I finished school. (Without employment, he had to start his alternate military service earlier than planned – he was a conscientious objector by conviction and family religious history, so he worked at a camp in the mountains about 150 miles east of us as caretaker.) We survived (obviously) and I had my best GPA ever. But I was nervous every single night. So sorry this happened, but also very glad you all are okay.

  4. There is so much in this Megan. You’ve drawn me into the story, and I feel sort of sad that somehow tragedy is fairly easily shrugged off.

  5. It can happen anywhere, people shooting themselves. Out of nowhere, completely unexpected, while teen girls are just hanging out texting and laughing because they never saw it coming.

    This story is so full of suspense, even though you give me some places to catch my breath.