I JUST SAW another one! Cool, windy night. The air this afternoon was hot and dry, but not anymore. Now, the ocean is restless out there. It is dark like a swarming beehive.
Make a quick wish as the beam of speckled light runs across the vast sky — otherwise illuminated by motionless constellations that do not shoot. There goes another one! Pointer finger traces the sky, but not fast enough as the sparkle shoots and dies from sight. At least I think that was another one. Another shooting star, I think. If not, I’m unsure as to what it could possibly be. Not sure about that last one at all. Just flew out of the corner of my eye that time. But I’ll make a wish anyway. Just in case.
MOST OF ALL I WISH to be rescued off this bastard island. That’s what I wish for. God up above (I address you presently), I must have been here — stranded and cast away — no less than 4 years. Well, at least as long as it takes a mighty, gnarled mane to grow down to the rump of my ass. As long as it takes for a beard to grow to the pit of my navel. I’m not altogether sure it’s been 4 whole years, however 4 years is a nice round number and a good place to start.
Not really sure how I got here. I’m not positive where this island is geographically located either. This could just be a strange state of consciousness, a dream, and one I’m surely to wake from at any moment.
Close to the equator, I’m thinking — because it’s hotter than I’ve ever known any day to be. I’m under a gigantic magnifying glass here and the rays bent through set fire to humble cows as though they were ants; burns sand like it was a brown grocery sack.
How I came to be deserted here? A respectable query. Well, what can I say about that story? I’m a former heavy drinker, of the alcoholic nature of course, as many of us disturbed geniuses are. And when I’d drink… I’d binge for days, weeks, months. And I’d lose time and place, like one loses nickels and rubber bands. I’d wake up in undesirable places: ex-girlfriends’ apartments, jailhouses, breezy bus stops, backalley trash heaps, detoxification institutions, or upon inner-city curb lining. Coming to, I often found pigeons pecking at whatever was in my hand from the night before. As if I’d ever consider holding onto a sandwich.
…you get the picture…
Well, this last time, the gods must’ve intervened and plucked me right up. The last thoughts in my mind that fateful eve were:
“I’m drinking whiskey (not a good brand at all) in the Wrigleyville district of Chicago at a hot spot called the Cubby Bear. I’m dancing to a not-so-musically-gifted band called Snarly Face, and they are so terribly loud and they are so goddamned angry. That guy is looking at me strangely. I may get into another brawl tonight. My feet aren’t working correctly. I may vomit before this is all said and done. That music is too loud. I’m getting a terrible toothache. Those girls over there are very attractive. But they are not nice. I plan to finish my drink even though I am sure it’s giving me stomach cancer. Where’d my drink go anyway? I need a cigarette. I’m lighting a match. I have finally gone blind! It sounds as though somebody has picked up a long and heavy object and is preparing to swing it at my head.”
The next thing I knew, I knew nothing.
Except that when I woke up, I did so face down in cold, wet sand. I woke up here, and here is where I’ve been captive ever since. As the hair gets a little longer each day, it seems, as do the gums recede.
I PATROL THE BEACH EVERY DAY. That’s my primary occupation. And so far, no boat has arrived for my rescue. No airplane either. As well as neither helicopter nor emergency lift blimp. Not even a fish has jumped to break wake in the last few weeks within a 14-mile radius, which is, a fishing boat captain once told me, about as far as the eye can see on the horizon before the Earth begins to slouch off at the edges due to its curvature.
For the most part I’d say, “I’m stranded.” But there’s no one to say this to. I’m forgotten in a land that has yet to be discovered. Too much time on my hands for development of confusing concepts, contorted thoughts, rash generalizations, uncomfortable conclusions, unfounded theories, and ignorant understandings. Most of which I carve onto the walls of my cave.
I look forward to daylight, away from those shooting stars, which mock my humble wishes. While the sun is high I recline in heavily shaded jungle areas and sip the juices out of assorted strange-colored fruits and draft much of my poetry employing a unique style.
It took a couple of months to develop my system. At first it started with a stick, scratching into the sand. I’d create these abundant manuscripts of maddened genius, and return the next day for a bit of proofreading, only to find them washed away with the latest series of tropical winds. A reluctance to write ensued. But this question prodded me: What is a society, even as incomplete as mine, without an advancement of the written word? Answer concluded: A grim society indeed. So the chronicles continued. With an important message to convey, the medium will always present itself. And it did!
I eventually settled into my present writings, further developing my already rich voice, on freshly shucked coconut husks using red clay pencils I excavated from a very successful dig up the beach in what I now refer to as the “Hidden Red Clay Mine.”
By now I’ve created volumes upon volumes of novellas, textbooks, screenplays, encyclopedias, travel books, and collected essays of criticism of my own literature. I have set up a thatch library that compiles every title. I have established a crude, but effective, card catalog that pinpoints exact shelving locations. I have taken measures to develop library cards, so as to ensure that any onrush of castaways coming this way will have their thirst for knowledge immediately quenched. I started to grid out a percentage chart upon which late charges could be assessed to delinquent book borrowers, however I decided that I was getting a little grandiose for even myself.
I leave the library early some days, as a cleansing process. I clear my head by tossing conch shells and non-poisonous jellyfish, ones that have washed up on shore, returning them to the belly of the ocean.
ANOTHER ONE. Another night laced with shooting stars, empty wishes, and not a whole hell of a lot else.
THIS MORNING I’m walking along the beach as the “Mighty Ball of Flames” (a phenomenon I used to take for granted and merely refer to as the “Sun”) begins to emerge from below the quiet horizon. Its brightness chases away nightfall and early morning, slowly turning it to day, and as it does I notice a glass bottle riding the surf up toward my sun-blistered bare feet. I reach into the shallow wave as it begins to roll back down the beach into the sea and wrap my hand around the bottle. I close one eye and look into the bottle with the other which is wide and alert. There is paper rolled up in there. “I need a short stick!” I scream at full volume, “I need a short stick!”
Later, a stick is in my hand and I’m using it to drag the moistened message out of the bottle. It does not tear. The brief message reads in its entirety:
Thank you for sending us your manuscript. We have read it carefully but have decided that it does not meet our editorial needs at this time. Although we would like to comment individually on each submission, the large number of manuscripts received at our office makes this impossible. We do appreciate, however, your letting us see your work.
I immediately rip the message into evenly shaped shreds and allow curses to leap from my infected lips in the general direction of those tall, bastard palm trees. I litter the beach with tiny paper shreds, though I’ll probably be back down to remove them later because, after all, I am environmentally conscious, but for now I’m just mad.
TOMORROW: Part 2.