Skip to main content


The Price of Paradise

By January Gordon Ornellas

My husband, Steve, and I were recently involved in a hostage situation.

It didn’t involve guns or terrorists.

It did, however, involve intimidation tactics, guilt, and mind games.

Tom, our captor, led us down a hallway to a small room.

He gave us water.

Sparkling water, because we were high-end hostages.

Tom told us to sit down.

In a little bit, he’d be taking us somewhere else, but for now, he just wanted to get to know us.

Tom didn’t want to hurt us.

Tom wanted the best for us.

Tom wanted to sell us a timeshare.

Of course, we had no intention of buying, as we told the salesperson who first contacted us.

“I think you’ll change your mind when you see what we have to offer,” the salesperson replied.

Then he offered us four nights at a beautiful Hawaiian resort, with the agreement that we attend a two-hour timeshare presentation.

But timeshare hours do not move at a normal pace.

One timeshare hour = one gazillion regular hours.

Before the presentation, Steve and I roleplayed different scenarios and practiced our assertive NOs!

“No means NO!” I shouted.

“Maybe a little less crazy,” Steve said.

“We’re not interested,” I stated firmly.

Steve gave me the thumbs up.

“And don’t forget,” Steve added. “The salesperson is going to try and connect with whichever one of us he thinks is the weakest link.”

Steve and I both pointed at each other and then spent the next 20 minutes arguing over who was the weakest link.

We weren’t off to a great start.

Ten minutes into the presentation, Tom turned to me and said, “January, I can tell this location is going to be perfect for you.”

Steve coughed, Weakest Link.

We headed over to the two-bedroom unit that Tom thought would be ideal for our family. Taking a seat at the kitchen table, Tom pointed to one bedroom. “Now, January, that’s the master for you and Steve.” He then pointed to the other room. “And this one would be perfect for Quincey and Colby.”

I gave him my children’s names?

Please don’t tell Quincey.

“It’s a nice timeshare,” I said.

“January, this is not a timeshare, this is VACATION OWNERSHIP,” Tom stated. “There’s a big difference.”

Then he went on to NOT explain the difference, but he did continue to use my name in every sentence.

Did Tom think I didn’t know my own name?

As he spoke, Tom locked eyes with mine with such intensity that I couldn’t look away.

Was Tom a Timeshare Wizard?

“January, you know who’s really going to enjoy this place,” Tom said, pausing dramatically. “Holland!”

I told him about my granddaughter? 

Definitely don’t tell Quincey.

“We have an amazing pool,” Tom said. “Holland is going to love the waterslide!”

“She’s only 15 months,” Steve said.

“17 months,” Tom and I both corrected him.

I looked at my watch. 

Just one gazillion hours to go.

Tom walked us back to the main office. “January, this really is an unbelievable opportunity,” he said. “EVERYONE who has come in today has bought a place!”

Not everyone, Tom.

“Why don’t we go look at some numbers.” He led us down a series of stairways and through a maze of intricate halls. 

Clearly, Tom was taking us to the cavernous depths of timeshare vacation ownership Hell.

Steve and I took a seat in the office. Tom pointed to the people on his computer enjoying their luxurious vacations and added that we were “just a signature away!”

Steve and I shared a sideways glance.

Tom didn’t intimidate us. 

Sure, he was tall and most likely a wizard, but it was 2 vs 1.

But there was no way he was going to talk us into buying.

Then the door opened…

A tall, aggressively beautiful woman appeared. 

She took Tom’s chair. Tom took a seat in the corner.

Was Tom in trouble?

The woman introduced herself as Fiona (no relationship to Shrek) and gave us a bone-chilling smile.

Fiona had the air of Cruella de Vil, but without the fur.

Or puppies.

(Sidenote: I could use an emotional support puppy right now.)

“January and Steve, I’m sure Tom told you how quickly these units are selling, and we don’t want you to miss out,” Fiona said.

She whipped out a notepad and began scribbling a series of numbers, many of which she circled and underlined at a ferocious pace like some deranged accountant.

“You can pay the full amount (Circle!), or we can do a payment plan (Underline!), and let’s not forget about all the bonus points (Two circles and an arrow!).”

“Thank you, but we’re going to pass,” Steve said.

Fiona didn’t miss a beat.

At a rapid-fire pace, she threw out names of other places where we could own. “The Big Island! Oahu! Orlando!”

“Holland will love the waterslide there,” Tom interjected.

(Hey, Buddy, Holland can’t even swim, so stop sending her down the waterslide.)

“And if you go in May or October, it’ll cost you less points,” Fiona said.

“Of course, you’ll have to take Holland out of school,” Tom said.

Now Holland’s a truant. 

Thanks a lot, Tom.

“I don’t think so,” Steve said.

“However, for a much lower price, you can just purchase points that gives you access to our amazing hotels all over the world.” Fiona wrote down another number.

I looked at my watch.

Two gazillion hours were finally up!

I turned to Steve, We’re Free!

But Steve was looking at the number. “Hmm,” he said.

Fiona smiled. Tom leaned forward. 

Like sharks, they smelled blood.

Steve looked at me.


I glared back.

Are you insane?

Fiona handed Steve a pen, but before she could get his signature, I said, “Hon, you’re retiring soon, so this wouldn’t be a good idea.”

“We’re not interested,” I told Fiona.

Ignoring me, Fiona started writing again, “I shouldn’t even do this but I’m going to offer you EVEN MORE POINTS (Circle! Circle! Underline! Arrow! Arrow! Arrow!)…”

Tom was still yelling about waterslides.

The room was spinning.

I was on the verge of a timeshare-induced panic attack.

I stood up and hollered, “NO MEANS NO!”

The room became quiet.

Fiona stopped writing. She pursed her lips. “Okay, then.” 

What followed was a long awkward silence. 

After that, Fiona let us know that although they weren’t angry with us, they were disappointed. She also said she hoped we wouldn’t regret this decision. But we probably would. 

Before handing us our timeshare detention sheet Fiona said, “Just like Darryl.”

Tom nodded. “Poor Darryl.”

The two of them looked to the Heavens.

Oh, God. Did they kill Darryl?

Are they going to kill us too and bury our bodies in the spacious two-bedroom with the partial ocean view?

“Darryl had an opportunity to buy a prime ocean view unit in 2017, but he didn’t,” Fiona explained, her eyes boring into mine. “Now all he can afford is a garden view at the Best Western.”

But he’s alive!

Reluctantly Fiona handed over the pen.

The Weakest Link and I frantically signed our Timeshare Detention Sheet.

Tom walked us down the hall.

He wasn’t as chatty as earlier.

Steve and I stared straight ahead, our hearts pounding. I had visions of Fiona finding a loophole in the contract, chasing us down, and making us return for another presentation.

It wasn’t until we opened the exit door, and warm air touched my cheek, did I finally breathe.

Tom called out, “Have a good day!”

Or was it…


— January Gordon Ornellas

January Gordon Ornellas is a comedy writer whose stories include everything from colonoscopies to triathlons (equally torturous). Her article, “Rookie’s Triathlon Lessons,” appeared in the LA Times (June 2019). Two of her other stories, “Gobble, Gobble” and “Almost Taken,” were recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Laughter is the Best Medicine (April 2020). She is currently working on a book, Confessions of a Crazy Softball Mom. January also enjoys writing for her blog (, traveling and spending time with her husband and two adult daughters.

Previous Post

Who's Publishing What: Fast Fierce Women

Fast Fierce Women: 75 Essays of Flash Nonfiction, edited by Gina Barreca, will showcase the work of at least 10 writers affiliated with the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop.
Read More
Next Post

Who's Publishing What: Scenes from Isolation

Cathy Guisewite's new book, Scenes from Isolation, was created when Cathy lifted her head from the ice cream carton during pandemic lockdown long enough to start dumping some of her angst on paper.
Read More