Pickle and I are both fast typists. Beads of sunblock roll down my arms. The vein in her forehead protrudes as she scowls at her screen. This is more like it.

"This is the way a newsroom ought to be," I observe.

"I say we buy the local paper," she says.

Pickle's face shines like a little moon. I can tell she's actually considering the idea.

It all goes south on our third day. That morning at breakfast, I look up from my Iraq book to see two men wearing pinstripe suits, drinking their coffee, and discussing some kind of merger. In Barbados! Pickle and I are toga partiers by comparison.

And I guess that's when it hits me: Who are we kidding? We don't want to be those guys in pinstripes. We want to be here as a reward for our work. Right?

Pickle peeks out at me from under her blankets as I enter the bedroom. "You gonna­ do some writing?" she asks blearily.

"Maybe later."

She's quiet for a moment. Then: "So much for the structure."

Sure, there had been a lot of big talk. Of pages that would be cranked out. Of documents that would be studied and highlighted.­ Of daily use of the House's fitness room. These were my pledges. But by this, the third day, it's clear that what I'd really like to work on is the same thing Pickle would really like to concentrate on - which is, to say, nothing whatsoever.

On our last night, when we return to the House after dinner, we find the well-tanned British couple who rode the Jet Ski sitting alone in the open-air bar, having a nightcap while enjoying the serenade of crickets. They wave us over. It turns out that he's a tennis pro, she's a personal trainer, and this is their honeymoon. We go through the usual how-did-you-meet-each-other and
who-made-the-worst-toast-at-your-reception.

Then Pickle gets down to business. "I've got to hear what you think of Tony Blair," she says.

The tennis pro laughs. "You must be the one who steals the Washington Post every morning," he says.

Pickle and I are both silent on the drive back to the airport. I know she's thinking what I'm thinking: back to work. We thought we'd never left it. That had been the plan.

Where did we go wrong?



If You Go The House:
Paynes Bay, St. James, Barbados, British West Indies. (246) 432-5525, www.thehousebarbados.com. Rooms start at $500 per couple.