They Went Home for Christmas

She read the racy pulp-fiction as she sat in the saloon listening to jazz. Up above, a motorboat approached. She heard the motor slow, then stop. A voice, “Hello? Hello?”

There were two men, both in gray shirts and dark dungarees; one stood holding Sea Dragon’s rail. The other sat at the wheel of the speedboat.

She didn’t recognize either of them. This was up the Essequibo River from Georgetown, Guyana. “Are the ladies here?”

“No, they went home for Christmas.”

“So you are alone, pretty lady?”

She wore shorts, had ankle bracelets, tan legs, a tank top. “My boyfriend is below working.”

“We were happy to see you. Would you like to go for a walk?”

The current tugged at Sea Dragon’s bow. The wind blew.

“I never go for walks with strangers unless they have a C-1296-50 filled out in triplicate and stamped with a red stamp, dated by a bloke in a glass office with blue or black ink. And besides, we’re out here on the water. No place for a walk.”

The men exchanged looks, turned to her and one spoke in a forced tone very softly, “We could ride the boat to the point over there, there’s a trail, a jungle walk, see many exotic birds.” His tone lifted at the end.

“Rules are rules, good sirs. Nice of you to visit, but no walks for this girl without first establishing some basic ground-rules. The right forms must be observed, and that starts with the C-1296-50. And then of course it must be properly filed, after it has been initialed. You know the drill.”

The taller man at the front of the boat looked down. He looked at the awning over her, studied her face. “You have pretty eyes,” he said.

“Thank you, sir,” she said. But, I have work to do and you haven’t observed any proper protocols, “First off, it’s how is your day going? Are you having a good afternoon? Happy New Year! Then there is the matter of forms. I’ve explained this twice. No sloughing. Either you do the job right or you go somewhere else to work.”

“But, I love you,” he said, “and I’m giving you a chance to walk with me. I’ve not got the proper form, but, I have a cool cigarette lighter and I’m good with my hands.”

She turned her face to the wind, held a hand in front of herself with the palm flat to the river. “Good sir, I have work to do below.”

The man holding the rail stood, and said, “But, he loves you.”

She stood very still, felt the hair rise on the back of her neck. This had gotten beyond form and matter. A conclusion became necessary. “I must go,” she said. And trailing sparks and bits of flame, she stepped through the hatch out of the wind.

Carson_Under the Sea-Wind

Words & sketch of Eddy Grant’s Island by Steven Paul Lansky, sailing from Guyana to Trinidad this New Year!