“What the character wants” must be simple. It must be clear. It must be compelling. The character must want it badly.
This, from HST, I feel, fits the bill.
There was, however, a kink: I had just come back from “vacation.” It was the first one I’d ever attempted, or at least the first one I’d tried since I was fired from my last regular job on Christmas Day in 1958, when the production manager at Time magazine ripped up my punch card in a stuttering rage and told me to get the fuck out of the building. Since then I had been unemployed — in the formal sense of that word — and when you’ve been out of work for 14 years, it’s almost impossible to relate to a word like vacation.
So I was extremely nervous when circumstances compelled me, in the late winter of ’72, to fly to Cozumel with my wife, Sandy, in order to do nothing at all.
Three days later I ran out of air in a rip tide, 90 feet down on Palancar Reef, and I came so close to drowning that they said, later, I was lucky to get off with a serious case of the bends. The nearest decompression chamber was in Miami, so they chartered a plane and flew me there that same night.
I spent the next 19 days in a pressurized sphere somewhere in downtown Miami, and when I finally came out, the bill was $3000. My wife finally located my attorney in a drug commune on the outskirts of Mazatlan. He flew immediately to Florida and had the courts declare me a pauper so I was able to leave without legal problems.
I went back to Colorado with the idea of resting for at least six months. But three days after I got home, this assignment came in to cover the fishing tournament. It was a natural, they said, because I was already familiar with the island. And besides, I needed a change from politics.
Which was true, in a way — but I had my own reasons for wanting to go back to Cozumel. On the evening before my near-fatal scuba dive on Palancar Reef, I had stashed 50 units of pure MDA in the adobe wall of the shark pool at the local aquarium next to the Hotel Barracuda — and this stash had been much on my mind while I was recovering from the bends in the Miami hospital.
So when the Cozumel assignment came through, I drove immediately into town to consult with my old friend and drug crony Yail Bloor. I explained the circumstances in detail, then asked his advice.
“It’s clear as a fucking bell,” he snapped. “We’ll have to go down there at once. You’ll handle the fishermen while I get the drugs.”
Hunter S. Thompson
The Great Shark Hunt