Sailing to the Lagoon
Sailing to the Lagoon
He, of course, hadn’t told her the full truth—that he had been hired by August Howell, Thurston Howell’s brother, as a spy. He had used his contacts in the Navy and several shadier ones he’d made while on tour in
He’d had advanced weapons and martial arts training that went well beyond even what SEALs normally received, and they had saved his life. But the biggest help most times turned out to be something that came quite naturally: the naive, easy, and open smile of his. Years of military training, and then several years as a highly paid merc, didn’t dampen or remove it. People often mistook him as a buffoon, and his somewhat lanky build seemed impossible considering his training, which often bulked his compatriots into looking like weightlifting champions or superheroes. That hadn’t happened with him.
Oh, he built hard muscle, to be sure. But the uncompromising training had supercharged his stamina even more while loosening his ligaments to the point that during any endurance exercise, he almost always finished first. He wasn’t the fastest runner, but over any long-distance stretch, eighty-five pounds of equipment and weapons bouncing on his back and mud up to his goddamned knees, he was unbeatable.
His martial training was excellent as well, a surprising combination of Japanese aikido and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Both complimented his physical stature (he stood just a shade over six feet); together they made him one wiry, tough son of a bitch. Mennon saw the lack of bulk and thought him easy prey.
Mennon, like the fruit fly, was now shark chum.
Did August Howell decide to destroy the Minnow and kill her passengers and crew in a fit of pique? He was world-famous for them. In financial circles he was known as “Turn On a Dime” Howell for his sudden about-faces. Gilligan was a total nobody to him. Killing him wouldn’t even make a tiny dent on his conscience, given of course that he had one. Or a soul for that matter.
The Minnow had sunk in flames in the middle of the
Pacific Ocean, which would make
salvaging virtually impossible. It would, at least potentially, be the perfect
crime. Who else could possibly be responsible than Thurston Howell’s petulant,
temperamental, turn-on-a-dime brother?
Mary Ann had kept the radio on after Gilligan, just as the dark made it impossible to work any more without a flashlight, discovered a small cardboard box heavy with what turned out to be brand-new Eveready double-Ds.
Try as either of them might, they could pick up no other stations. She made them dinner—ham and cheese sandwiches (two each) washing them down with sweetened iced tea as they listened in silence.
“It must be an oldies station,” she said as she started on the second sandwich.
That’s all that it played—oldies. But just ones from the mid-50s to the mid-60s. Its repertoire seemed limited to just that ten-year period.
“We should use it only on a schedule,” she suggested. “We only have a finite number of batteries.”
“Yeah,” he said in the middle of “Love Me Do.” “Let’s turn it off. We need to save those batteries for the flashlight too.”
They finished the meal in silence, washed the dishes, and sat back down. The day’s heat was finally lifting, so he turned the AC off as well. She watched him as he sat. “We really need to do something about getting you some clothes. You’ve only got those pants? That’s it?”
He glanced down at them. Considering that they had endured sixty-five days of brute jungle survival (and no, he thought angrily, he hadn’t fucking hallucinated them, they fucking happened, he wasn’t going crazy!), they were in pretty decent shape. The cuffs at the bottom were a bit frayed, and there was a six-inch tear near the left knee, one he’d noticed when he first woke in the lagoon, and a small hole near the crotch. The black of the fabric had faded from repeated lava stone washings.
“Yeah. This is it.”
She brushed debris off his shoulder. “It’s amazing you aren’t a charred cinder.”
Her touch was almost too much for him. He tried not to stare. “I guess it helps that I’m mulatto.”
She scowled. “Isn’t that term a bit ...”
“Well ... yeah.”
He wanted her to touch him again. But it seemed clear she had no intentions of doing so.
“I’ve never thought so. I’m not Caucasian, and I’m not African. I’m both. I don’t have a problem with it.”
“Well, whatever you are, we need to get you more clothes. Those pants aren’t going to last much longer, and you running around in your underwear won’t do.”
“If I were wearing any,” he chuckled. He saw the momentary look of alarm cross her face and chuckled harder. “But wouldn’t you say these pants are pretty good evidence that I’m telling you the truth—that I’ve been here longer than two days or five days? More like sixty-five days?”
She sighed. “Yes. They do.”
He slept in the entertainment room, but hadn’t bothered switching on the large flat-screen TV or seeing if the Playstation was working. There was a wet bar and another fridge, this one small and tucked into the far left cabinet; to the right were three rows of books and a laptop computer, which he turned on. It quickly booted up but reported “No Internet Access Available.” Frustrated, he turned it off and made for the sofa in the back, which turned out to be a fold-away bed. He stripped off his pants after making it, crawled under the sheets, and fell asleep. He heard water running just before he dropped off; it must’ve been Mary Ann in the shower.
“Ah, imagery,” he mumbled, smiling. “Imagery.”
Next to the iceboxes were a stacked washer-drier set. Mary Ann had already pulled the cabinet doors open, revealing them, as he stumbled out of the room. Once again he had slept like a baby. “Well, good morning, sunshine,” she said with a grin. “Here—”
She tossed him a white ball of clothing—a robe. A woman’s bathrobe. Silky, with light-pink flowers on it. “Put that on and give me your pants. The shower is next to the bedroom. Go on, now!”
He glanced down. “I take it these smell?”
She gave him a sheepish shrug. “Not just those ...”
“I’ll leave the pants on the bed,” he replied, turning back towards the bedroom. “It’ll be safe when you hear me get into the shower.”
“Not too long. There is only so much fresh water ...”
“Oh, we’ve got mega-gallons of it, don’t worry,” he interrupted at the door. “There are freshwater streams all over the island, and even a waterfall in the lagoon. We’re set. I’ll make breakfast when I get out. How’s that sound?”
She smiled. “You’ve got a deal.”
In the late morning, his pants dry and airy-warm from the drier, they hoisted the sheets and began sailing around the island to the lagoon, which, he informed her, “is always calm. The boat will be much safer there; and besides, the water is nice and shallow for a good ways. It’ll make for easy access. The island is loaded with fruit and plenty of wild meat. Since this tub is solar-powered, we can keep the food fresh!”
Mary Ann, though unfamiliar with the workings of a sail boat, was a quick study, and made for a fine first mate.
“I don’t suppose you get many opportunities to sail the high seas in
Kansas,” he chuckled. “Unless of course it’s
seas of corn.”
She shot him a playful scowl and went back to trying to figure out why she couldn’t get the GPS or other electronic gear to work. He was manning the wheel. Since she couldn’t get the GPS or the rest to work, he kept a careful eye out for shoals and rocks. The Lanie was their way off this island and back to civilization—that is, once they figured out where they and civilization were.
Certainly nowhere near where the Minnow was when it sank. There were maps under the captain’s chair, which he had pulled out and taken a long look at. She finally joined him, radio in her left hand, compass in her right. She put both on the dash and looked at the map he currently had open.
“Here’s approximately where we were,” he said, pointing at an open map of the Pacific Ocean west of the
United States and Mexico. “There are no islands anywhere near there. Someone moved us.”
“What I don’t get is why,” she said, grimacing. “Why would anyone move us?”
He shrugged. “We’re definitely in the tropics; my guess is no more than a thousand miles north or south of the equator. But that’s really not helpful.”
He looked up and pointed. “See those rocks up ahead, just to the right of those palm trees sticking way out into the water?”
She glanced out. “Yeah?”
“Just past those is the lagoon. We should be there in an hour or two.”
“Should we turn the radio on, you think, once we get there?”
“Might as well. It seems to be our only link to the outside world.”
Mary Ann’s practical-but-ever-cheery disposition was catching, he thought as she oohed and aahed over the lush scenery as he turned the Lanie hard to port once past the thin, rocky cape. The lagoon was naturally sheltered by sea stacks initially on the right, and heavy tropical forest to the left, and also by its ever-narrowing passage, which wound back and forth gradually, was gorge-deep, and calmed the sea completely. Nearer to the end, with jungle looming closer and closer on both sides, it narrowed just wide enough for the catamaran to get safely through before opening into a two-hundred-yard-wide teardrop ending at a wide band of settled, golden sand.
“This is so beautiful,” she murmured for something like the fifth or sixth time.
“Let’s drop the sheets, and then the anchor. It should be no more than ten feet deep here.”
The lagoon’s bottom was clear as glass, even to a depth of what he estimated to be at least a hundred feet. Schools of brightly colored fish zig-zagged beneath them.
“This is where you woke up? Here? On the sand?”
“Yeah. Half in and half out of the water. Getting pecked at by vultures.”
“There’s no way the current just dragged you in here,” she said. “Someone put you here.”
“Just like someone put you on this boat. We’re shallow enough. Let’s drop anchor.”
“Aye-aye, Captain,” she said with that ever-present cheer, and hurried down to the stern.
She didn’t mind having to jump into the water to swim to shore. She was already wearing a yellow and blue bikini top and denim shorts that covered her (hot) ass. As usual, it was difficult for him not to stare or say anything. She jumped in ahead of him and began freestyling for the shore.
She had good form. She told him earlier that she had competed on the swimming team in high school, “and even lettered my junior and senior year.”
He dove in and followed her. Once on shore, water glistening on her skin and dripping from her hair, she gazed around again. “I cannot believe how beautiful this island is! It’s like paradise!”
“Yeah,” he grunted, “a paradise with fifty-foot snakes and six-foot spiders and stinging insects the size of your fist and big fangy cats looking for an easy meal.”
That wiped the smile off her face. She had wanted to see the tree where he had made sixty-four marks; he glanced down at her bare feet and said, “Just stay on the trail and you’ll be okay,” and walked ahead of her into the jungle.
At the tree fifteen minutes later, she stopped and gawked, then ran her hand over the marks. “I didn’t want to believe you,” she murmured. “I just don’t get how any of this can be true! Sixty-four days for you, two for me, but the radio says five days! Which one is real?”
The size of the Lanie made it impractical to beach her, as was common practice with regular-sized catamarans. Getting her back into the water would be impossible, for one, and he wasn’t sure the pontoons could handle the stress differential between the sand and the water. She looked like a sturdy boat, but he didn’t want to chance it. At low tide there was still a good six feet of water between her and the lagoon’s bottom. That was shallow enough.
A pair of goggles hung from a hook in the bedroom closet; he put them on and swam under the boat looking for signs of damage and wear and tear while Mary Ann, back aboard, put sandals and other wearables into a plastic bin for transport to the shore. “So I don’t have to walk around bare-footed or with water sloshing around my feet in soggy shoes!”
The sun was just an hour from going down, and they were both famished, so he swam back to the beach in search of fresh fruit while she busied herself with cleaning the rest of the blood spatters left behind by the fruit fly.
“Out here!” she heard him call an hour later. She went up to the deck and peered over the starboard edge.
The plastic bin he’d taken with him was full of bananas, mangos, and guava, and floating just ahead of him. She descended the short steps to the pontoon and helped him lift it aboard. “Ooh!” she exclaimed. “These look tasty!”
He hauled himself aboard. “I’ll make dinner tonight.”
“You’ve got a deal,” she replied with a smile.
There were cans and cans of vegetables—mostly beans. He made vegetarian burritos and covered them with jarred salsa, and slices of fruit. In agreement with her plan to save meat supplies, he had thought ahead while fruit hunting and decided Mexican food sounded best. They ate as they normally had to this point: voraciously, and mostly in silence.
“Delicious!” she said when she finished. “Shall we turn on the radio while we do the dishes?”
As he cleared away the dishes, she glanced down once more at his pants. “I sure do wish we could find you a hidden chest full of clothes!”
He’d gotten used to living like this, and had trouble imagining what wearing a shirt all day would feel like, or underwear, or socks, or (he sighed inwardly) shoes. Shoes!
At the moment the radio, which had been playing “I Put a Spell On You,” cut off abruptly, and the radio announcer, who had been utterly absent since the first time they turned the radio on more than a day ago, said:
“This just in: Vicious Mexican drug cartel mobster Pancho Garcia de Perez has escaped Hawaiian law enforcement in a dramatic shoot-out with authorities in Hilo, where he boarded a private submarine and submerged before being apprehended. Six officers lost their lives in the gunfight on the dock. Interpol has launched an all-points bulletin for all coastal cities in the
Pacific Rim. Now
back to the music.”
Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” came on.
Gilligan chuckled. “Mexican food ... Mexican gangsters.”
Mary Ann, however, wasn’t so amused. “The poor families of those officers.... I’m sure glad right now that wherever we are, we are nowhere near
Hilo! Can you imagine running into that
monster out here?”
“Yeah, that would definitely suck,” replied Gilligan, who turned on the hot water and began washing the dishes with her help.
Chapter five will be coming soon!
Chapter five will be coming soon!