I suspected the college man would be difficult even before I could emit my first full-throated “Halloa, the ship!” He was already babbling to our captain about high winds and churning froth, though anyone could see it was a glorious sun-drenched day in this tropic port. He brandished a barometry reader, astrolabe, whatever it was, and prophesied dark-skied drenching instead. Golly, I will never understand where these pointy-heads get their “scientific” ideas. Perhaps too much “teaching” of Mister Herman Melville!
The captain – a rotund chap whose sea-garb appeared plucked from a “ditty-bag sale” at the local five-and-dime – was listening intently, his brow furrowing like the soil beside a newly-laid pipeline. He was actually reconsidering the shove-away, even though his man had already informed me that there were only five passengers registered for this excursion! I strode up, proffered a kind word, and silently thanked my father once again, for as Daddy always said, “Thursty,” he said, “you can get much farther with a kind word and an envelope full of ten thousand dollars in cash than you can with a kind word.” At the same moment, a statuesque woman accepted the first mate’s tentative helping hand and strode aboard, her heels clicking against the deck, and the “Professor”’s attention was irretrievably diverted whilst I made the necessary pecuniary arrangements to salvage our sojourn.
Moving our sea-chests demanded more man-power than we had expected (I was momentarily reminded of those age-old, glistening Egyptian lads), but Daddy’s admonition prevailed once more, and the mate coaxed them into the horrifically filthy “bilge.” Lovey has been distraught ever since that moment, for as Daddy always said, “Thursty,” he said, “even a stopped timepiece happens to knock it on the noggin precisely twice per day,” and so did our ivory-towerer: the perfect tropical sky succumbed to something the fey collegiate sneeringly terms “meterology.” As the weather started getting rough, it occurred to Lovey that she would be woefully underdressed by 6 p.m., for she had only prepared for a three-hour tour. A three-hour tour! After the slashing torrent calmed, we were frightfully far asea, our exact location a mystery even to our nautical hosts. But at last we could finally look around.
The handsome gowned woman is a model, or actress, or music-haller of some sort. Though I have never strayed from Lovey and her trust fund, the other three men aboardship have become near-constant oglers who rush to her rescue at the first stiletto-heeled wobble. Then there is a fresher-faced young lady, but only in comparison: the scandalous cut of her Scout-length trousers is provocative enough to identify a probable single mother, doubtless here to escape her drear shoreside routine.
Finally, the mate. A member of the untaxed half if ever I beheld one. As sweet as a Guernsey cow, and just as dim and helpless. He waits for orders and essays them, for he knows no richer life. Certainly, Daddy would have hired him for the assembly line in an instant. But today, protected by the archaic maritime system (the Skipper even calls him his “little buddy”), we can expect no more than institutionalized indolence. Still, it was he who spotted the circling sea-birds that heralded our damned beaching.
This uncharted desert isle is unspeakable. There is no phone. There are no lights. There are no motor cars. There is no Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion 1955 except for the case we brought along, and we can almost see it aging distastefully before our eyes in the unrelenting island sun. Even at its peak, it does not well receive the sting of cocoa-nut meat. I weep for the brave Bordelais who transported this bottled poetry sub rosa to a way station in the Caymans for us. I believe its ultimate fate, still in the tropics, might be considered ironic by some, but as Daddy always said, “Thursty,” he said, “never underestimate the power of a well-deployed corkscrew.”
Our odyssey may actually last past night-fall! Lovey worries about the cloak of darkness; after all, she says, on this cruise we do represent the privileged 28.6%. For all his protestations, it is the Skipper upon whom responsibility falls. When is he going to get us out of this mess? Lovey says for all the good he’s done us, I myself might as well be the Skipper: after all, I have the cap for it, the blazer. Mister Steven Spielberg himself could not have better cast the role, avers Lovey. And she is not alone! “Thursty,” Daddy always said, “as long as you look the part, the details will surely follow.” One can only hope. In fact, as my shadow recedes, hope may be the only thing left! Right?