Thursday, July 18, 2019

Island of the Sequined Love Nun Chapter 42~43

PART THREE Coconut Angel 42 Bedfellows Just before dawn, Tuck crawled through the bottom of the shower like a homesick cockroach, scuttled out of the bathroom under the mosquito netting and into bed. There were things to do, big things, important things, maybe even dangerous things, but he had no idea what they were and he was too tired and too drunk to figure them out now. He had tried, he had really tried to convince the Shark men that the doctor and his wife were doing horrible things to them, but the islanders always came back with the same answer: â€Å"It is what Vincent wants. Vincent will take care of us.† To hell with them, Tuck thought. Dumb bastards deserve what happens to them. He rolled over and pushed the coconut-headed dummy aside. The dummy pushed back. Tuck leaped out of bed, tripped in the mosquito netting, and scooted on his butt like a man backing away from a snake. And the dummy sat up. Tuck couldn't see the face in the predawn light filtering into the bungalow, just a silhouette behind the mosquito netting, a shadow. And the shadow wore a captain's hat. â€Å"Don't think I don't know what you're thinking because I'll give you six to five I do.† The accent was somewhere out of a Bowery Boys movie, and Tuck recognized the voice. He'd heard it in his head, he'd heard it in the voice of a talking bat, and he'd heard it twice from a young flyer. â€Å"You do?† â€Å"Yeah, you're thinking, ‘Hey, I never wanted to find a guy in my bed, but if you got to find a guy in your bed, this is the guy I'd want it to be,' right?† â€Å"That's not what I was thinking.† â€Å"Then you shoulda taken odds, ya mook.† â€Å"Who are you?† The flyer threw back the mosquito netting and tossed something across the room. Tuck flinched as it landed with a thump on the floor next to him. â€Å"Pick it up.† Tuck could just see an object shining by his knee. He picked up what felt like a cigarette lighter. â€Å"Read what it says,† the shadow said. â€Å"I can't. It's dark.† Tuck could see the flyer shaking his head dolefully. â€Å"You know, I saw a guy in the war that got his head shot off about the hat line. Docs did some hammering on some stainless steel and riveted it on his noggin and saved his life, but the guy didn't do nothing from that day forward but walk around in a circle yanking his hamster and singing just the ‘row' part of ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat.' They had to tape oven mitts on him to keep him from rubbing himself raw. Now, I'm not saying that the guy didn't know how to have a good time, but he wasn't much for conversation, if you know what I mean.† â€Å"That was a beautiful story,† Tuck said. â€Å"Why?† â€Å"Because the steelhead hamster-pulling ‘row' guy was a genius compared to you. Light the fuckin' lighter, ya mook.† â€Å"Oh,† Tuck said and he flipped open the lighter and sparked it. By the firelight he could read the engraving: VINCENT BENNIDETTI, CAPTAIN U.S.A.F. Tuck looked back at the flyer, who was still caged in shadow, even though the rest of the room had started to lighten. â€Å"You're Vincent?† The shadow gave a slight bow. â€Å"Not exactly in the flesh, but at your fuckin' service.† â€Å"You're Malink's Vincent?† â€Å"The same. I gave the chief the original of that lighter.† â€Å"You could have just said so. You didn't have to be so dramatic.† Tuck was glad he was a little drunk. He didn't feel frightened. As strange as it all was, he felt safe. This guy – this thing, this spirit – had more or less saved his life at least twice, maybe three times. â€Å"I got responsibilities, kid, and so do you.† â€Å"Responsibilities?† Now Tuck was frightened. It was a conditioned response. â€Å"Yeah, so when you get up later today, don't go storming into the doc's office demanding the facts. Just go swimming. Cool off.† â€Å"Go swimming?† â€Å"Yeah, go to the far side of the reef and swim away from the direction of the village about five hundred yards. Keep an eye out for sharks outside of the reef.† â€Å"Why?† â€Å"A guy appears out of nowhere in the middle of the night saying all kinds of mystical shit and you ask why?† â€Å"Yeah. Why?† â€Å"Because I said so,† Vincent said. â€Å"My dad always said that. Are you the ghost of my dad?† The shade slapped his forehead. â€Å"Repeat after me – and don't be getting any on you, now – one and two and three and ‘Row, row, row, row, row†¦'† He started to fade away with the chant. â€Å"Wait,† Tuck said. â€Å"I need to know more than that.† â€Å"Stay on the sly, kid. You don't know as much as you think you do.† â€Å"But†¦Ã¢â‚¬  â€Å"You owe me.† Two armed ninjas followed Tuck to the water. He watched them, looking for signs of microwave poisoning from the radar blasts, but he wasn't sure exactly what the signs would be. Would they plump noticeably, perhaps explode without fork holes to release the inner pressure? That would be cool. Maybe they'd fall asleep on the beach and wake up a hundred times larger, yearning to do battle with Godzilla while tiny people whose words didn't match their mouth movements scrambled in the flaming rubble be-low? (It happened all the time in Japanese movies, didn't it?) Too good for them. He pulled on his fins and bowed to them as he backed into the water. â€Å"May your nads shrivel like raisins,† he said with a smile. They bowed back, more out of reflex than respect. The far side of the reef and five hundred yards down: The ninjas were going to have a fit. He'd never gone to the ocean side of the reef. Inside was a warm clear aquamarine where you could always see the bottom and the fish seemed, if not friendly, at least not dan gerous. But the ocean side, past the surf, was a dark cobalt blue, as deep and liquid as a clear night sky. The colorful reef fish must look like M to the hunters of the deep blue, Tuck thought. The outer edge of the reef is the candy dish of monsters. He kicked slowly out to the reef, letting the light surge lift and drop him as he watched the multicolored links in the food chain dart around the bottom. A trigger fish, painted in tans and blues that seemed more at home in the desert, was crunching the legs off of a crab while smaller fish darted in to steal the floating crumbs. He pulled up and looked at the only visible break in the reef, a deep blue channel, and headed toward it. He'd have to go out to the ocean side and swim the five hundred yards there, otherwise the breaking surf would dash him against the coral when he tried to swim over the reef. He put his face in the water and kicked out of the channel until the bottom disappeared, then, once past the surf line, turned and swam parallel to the reef. It was like swimming in space at the edge of a canyon. He could see the reef sloping down a hundred and fifty feet to disappear into a blue blur. He tried to keep his bearing on the reef, let his eye bounce from coral fan to anemone to nudibranch to eel, like visual stepping-stones, because to his left there was no reference, nothing but empty blue, and when he looked there he felt like a child watching for a strange face at the window, so convinced and terrified it would come that any shape, any movement, any play of light becomes a horror. He saw a flash out the side of his mask and whipped around in time to see a harmless green parrot fish munching coral. He sucked a mouthful of water into his submerged snorkel and choked. He hovered in a dead man's float for a full minute before he could breathe normally and start kicking his way up the reef again, this time resolved to faith. Whatever, whoever Vincent was, he had saved Tuck's life, and he knew things. He wouldn't have gone to the trouble to have Tuck eaten by barracudas. Tuck ticked off his stepping-stones, trying to gauge how far he had come. He would have to go out farther to see past the rising surf and use the shore as a reference, and besides, what was above the water's surface was irrelevant. This was a foreign world, and he was an uninvited guest. Then another flash, but this time he fought the panic. Sunlight on something metal about thirty feet down the slope of the reef. Something waving in the surge near the flash. He rested a second, gathered his breath, and dove, swooping down to grab the object just as he recognized what it was: a set of military dog tags on a beaded metal chain. He shot to the surface and hovered as he caught his breath and read: SOMMERS, JAMES W. James Sommers was a Presbyterian, according to the dog tag. Somehow Tuck didn't think that a thousand-yard swim was worth finding a pair of dog tags. But there was the swath of fabric still down there. Tuck hadn't gotten a good look at it. He tucked the tags into the inside pocket of his trunks and dove again. He kicked down to the swath of cloth, holding his nose and blowing to equalize the pressure on his ears, even as the air in his lungs tried to pull him to the surface, away from his prize. It was some kind of printed cotton. He grasped at it and a piece came away in his hand. He pulled again, but the cloth was wedged into a crevice in the reef. He yanked and the cloth came away, revealing something white. Out of breath, he shot to the surface and examined the cloth. Flying piggies. Oh, good. He'd risked his life for Presbyterian dog tags and a flying piggies print. One more dive and he saw what it was that had wedged into the crevice: a human pelvic bone. Whatever else had been here had been carried away, but this bone had wedged and been picked clean. Someone wearing flying piggies boxers had become part of the food chain. The swim back to the channel seemed longer and slower, but this time Tuck forgot his fear of what might lurk behind the vasty blue. The real danger lay back on shore. And how does one, over dinner, proffer the opinion that one's employers are murdering organ thieves? â€Å"Stay on the sly,† Vincent had said. And so far he seemed to know what he was talking about. 43 Boiling the Puppets â€Å"Oh, come in, Mr. Case. Sebastian is out on the lanai.† She wore a white raw silk pant suit, cut loose in the legs and low at the neck, a rope of pearls with matching earrings. Her hair was tied back with a white satin bow and she moved before him like the ghost of good housekeeping. â€Å"How do you feel about Pacific lobster?† â€Å"I like it,† Tuck said, looking for some sign from her that she knew that he knew. There was no acknowledgment of her appearance in his room last night or that she had any suspicion of him at all. Tuck said, â€Å"I feel like I'm taking advantage coming to dinner empty-handed. I ought to have you and the doc over to my place some evening.† â€Å"Oh, do you cook too, Mr. Case?† â€Å"A few things. My specialty is blackened Pez.† â€Å"A Cajun dish?† â€Å"I learned to make it in Texas, actually.† â€Å"A Tex-Mex specialty, then.† â€Å"Well, a fifth of tequila does make it taste a little better.† She laughed, a polite hostess laugh, and said, â€Å"Can I get you something to drink?† â€Å"You mean a drink or some liquid?† â€Å"I'm sorry. It does seem constraining, I'm sure, but you understand, you might have to fly.† She had a large glass of white wine on the counter where she had been working. Tuck looked at it and said, â€Å"But performing major surgery under the influence is no problem, right?† That was subtle, Tuck thought. Very smooth. I am a dead man. Her eyes narrowed, but the polite smile never left her lips. â€Å"Sebastian,† she called, â€Å"you'd better come in, dear. I think Mr. Case has something he wants to discuss with us.† Sebastian Curtis came through the french doors looking tall and dignified, his gray hair brushed back, his tan face striking against the gray. To Tuck he looked like any number of executives one might see at a yacht club, a retired male model perhaps, a Shakespearean actor finally finished with the young prince and lover roles, seasoned and ready to play Caesar, Lear, or more appropriately, Prospero, the banished wizard of The Tempest. Tuck, still in his borrowed clothes, baggy and rolled at the cuffs, felt like a beggar. He fought to hold on to his righteous indignation, which was an unfamiliar emotion to him anyway. Sebastian Curtis said, â€Å"Mr. Case. Nice to see you. Beth and I were just talking about how pleased we are with your work. I'm sure these impromptu flights are difficult.† â€Å"Mr. Case was just suggesting that we keep an eye on our alcohol consumption,† Beth Curtis said. â€Å"Just in case we might have to perform an emergency surgery.† The jovial manner dropped from the doctor like a veil. â€Å"And just what kind of surgery might you be referring to?† Tuck looked at the floor. He should have thought this through a little more. He fingered the dog tags in his pocket. The plan was to throw them on the table and demand an explanation. What had happened to the skel-eton, the owner of the tags? And for that matter, what would happen to Tucker Case if he threw this in their faces? Mary Jean used to say, â€Å"In ne-gotiations, always leave yourself a way out. You can always come back later.† Go slow, Tuck told himself. He said, â€Å"Doc, I'm concerned about the flights. I should know what we're carrying in case we're detained by the authorities. What's in the cooler?† â€Å"But I told you, you're carrying research samples.† â€Å"What kind of samples?† It was time to play a card. â€Å"I'm not flying again until I know.† Sebastian Curtis shot a glance at his wife, then looked back to Tucker. â€Å"Perhaps we should sit down and have a talk.† He pulled a chair out for Tucker. â€Å"Please.† Tuck sat. The doctor repeated the gesture for his wife and then sat down next to her, across the table from Tuck. â€Å"I've been on Alualu for twenty-eight years, Mr. Case.† â€Å"What does that have to do†¦?† Curtis held up a hand. â€Å"Hear me out. If you want answers, you have to take them in the context that I give them.† â€Å"Okay.† â€Å"My family didn't have the money for medical school, so I took a scholarship from the Methodist Missions, on the condition that I work for them when I graduated and go where they sent me. They sent me here. I was full of myself and full of the Spirit of the Lord. I was going to bring God and healing to the heathens of the Pacific. There hadn't been a Christian missionary on the island since World War II, and I was warned that there might be a residual Catholic influence, but the Methodists have liberal ideas about spreading the Word of God. A Methodist missionary works with the culture he finds. But I didn't find a Catholic population here. What I found was a population that worshipped the memory of an American pilot and his bomber.† â€Å"A cargo cult,† Tuck said, hoping to move things along. â€Å"Then you know about them. Yes, a cargo cult. The strongest I'd ever heard of. Fortunately for me, it wasn't based on the hatred of whites like the cargo cults in New Guinea. They loved Americans and everything that came from America. They took my medicine, the tools I brought, food, reading material, everything I offered them, except, of course, the Word of God. And I was good to them. The natives on this island are the health-iest in the Pacific. Partly because they are so isolated that communicable diseases don't reach them, but I take some credit for it as well.† â€Å"So that's why you don't let them have any contact with the ship when it arrives?† â€Å"No, well, that is one of the reasons, but mainly I wanted to keep them away from the ship's store.† â€Å"Why?† â€Å"Because the store offered them things that I couldn't or wouldn't give them, and the store only accepted money. Money was becoming an icon in their religion. I heard drums in the village one night and went into the village to find all the women crouched around a fire holding wooden bowls with a few coins in the bottom. They were oiled and waving their heads as if in a trance, and as the drummers played, the men, wearing masks fashioned to look like the faces on American currency, moved around be-hind the women, copulating with them and chanting. It was a fertility ce-remony to make the money in the bowls multiply so they could buy things from the ship's store.† â€Å"Well, it does sound better than getting a job,† Tuck said. Curtis didn't see the humor. â€Å"By forbidding them to have contact with the ship, I thought I could kill the cargo cult, but it didn't work. I would talk of Jesus, and the miracles that he performed, and how he would save them, and they would ask me if I had seen him. Because they had seen their savior. Their pilot had saved them from the Japanese. Jesus had just told them that they had to give up their customs and taboos. Christianity couldn't compete. But I still tried. I gave them the best care I could. But after five years, the Methodist Missions sent a group of officials to check on my progress. They cut my funding and wanted to send me home, but I decided to stay and try to do the best I could without their support.† â€Å"He was afraid to leave,† Beth Curtis said. Sebastian Curtis looked as if he was going to strike his wife. â€Å"That's not true, Beth.† â€Å"Sure it is. You hadn't been off this island in years. You forgot how to live with real people.† â€Å"They are real people.† As amusing as it was to watch the perfect couple illusion go up in flames before his eyes, Tuck put out the fire. â€Å"A Learjet and millions in electronics. Looks like you did pretty good with no funding, Doc.† â€Å"I'm sorry.† And he looked as if he was. â€Å"I tried to make it on what the islanders could raise by selling copra, but it wasn't enough. I lost one of my patients, a little boy, because I didn't have the funds to fly him to a hospital that could give him the care he needed. I tried harder to convert the natives, thinking I might get another mission to sponsor us, but how can you compete with a Messiah people have actually spoken to?† Tuck didn't answer. Having spoken to the â€Å"Messiah† himself, he was convinced already. Sebastian Curtis drained his glass of wine and continued. â€Å"I sent letters to churches, foundations, and corporations all over the world. Then one day a plane landed out on the airstrip and some Japanese businessmen got out. They wouldn't fund the clinic out of charity, but if I could get every able-bodied islander to give blood every two weeks, then they would help. And every two weeks the plane came and picked up three hundred pints of blood. I got twenty-five American dollars for every pint.† â€Å"How'd you talk the natives into it? I've given blood. It's not that pleasant.† â€Å"They were coming on a plane, remember? Airplanes are a big part of these people's religion.† â€Å"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, huh?† â€Å"They always brought something on the plane for the natives. Rice, machetes, cooking pots. I got all the medicines I needed and I was able to get the materials to build most of this compound.† Beth Curtis stood up. â€Å"Oh, as much as I love hearing this story, I think we should eat. Excuse me.† She went to the kitchen area, where a large pot was boiling on the stove, reached into a wooden crate on the floor, and came up with a large live lobster in each hand. The giant sea bugs waved their legs and antennae around looking for purchase. Beth Curtis held them over the pot, puppeting them. â€Å"Oh, Steve, you got us a room with a hot tub. How wonderful,† she made the left lobster say. â€Å"Yes, I'm very romantic,† she said in a deeper voice, bouncing the bug with the words. â€Å"Let's go in now. I'm a little tense.† â€Å"Oh, you're wonderful.† Then she dropped the lobsters into the boiling water. A high-pitched squeal came from the pot and Beth Curtis went to the crate for another victim. â€Å"Beth, please,† the doctor said. â€Å"I'm just trying to lighten things up a little, ‘Bastian. Be still.† She held the second lobster over the pot, then looked at Tucker as she began her narration. â€Å"This is the crazed doctor talking. There's always a crazed megalomaniacal doctor. It's traditional.† Sebastian Curtis stood up. â€Å"Stop it, Beth!† She affected a German accent. â€Å"You see, Mr. Bond, a man spends too much time on an island alone, he changes. He loses his faith. He begins to think of ways to improve his lot. My associates in Japan came to me with a proposal. They would send me to a seminar in San Francisco to brush up on organ transplant surgery. I would no longer be selling blood for pocket change. They would send me specific orders for kidneys, and I could deliver them within hours for a cool half-million apiece. A dying man will pay a lot for a healthy kidney. In San Francisco I met a woman, a beautiful wo-man.† Beth came out of character for a moment, grinned, and bowed quickly, then went back to terrorizing the lobster. â€Å"I brought her here, and it was she who devised the plan to get the natives to comply with having their organs removed. Not only beautiful, but a genius as well, and she had a degree as a surgical nurse. She used her abundant charms on the natives† – she held the lobster where it could have a good view of her cleavage – â€Å"and the savages were more than happy to donate a kidney. Meanwhile, I have become rich beyond my wildest dreams, and as for you, Mr. Bond, now it's time for you to die.† She dropped the lobster into the pot and began to shake with a diabolical laugh. She stopped laughing abruptly and said, â€Å"They should be ready in about ten minutes. Salad, Mr. Case?† Tuck couldn't think. Somewhere in that little puppet show of the damned was a confession to cutting out people's organs and selling them like so much meat, and the doctor's wife not only didn't seem to have any regrets about it, she was absolutely gleeful. Sebastian Curtis, on the other hand, had his head down on the table, and when he did look up, he couldn't make eye contact with Tuck. A minute passed in uncomfortable silence. Beth Curtis seemed to be waiting for someone to shout â€Å"Encore!† while the good doctor gathered his wits. â€Å"What I'd like you to understand, Mr. Case, is that I – we – couldn't have taken care of these people without the funds we've received for what we do. They would have no modern medical care at all.† Tuck was thinking again, trying to measure what he could say and what he wasn't willing to reveal. He couldn't let them know that he knew any-thing at all about the Shark People, and, as Vincent had implied, he'd better find out more before he threw down the dog tags and Pardee's notebook. The doc was obviously stretched pretty tight by the situation, and Mrs. Curtis – well, Mrs. Curtis was just fucking scary. Play it chilly. They'd brought him here because they thought he was as twisted as they were. No sense in ruining his image. â€Å"I understand.† Tuck said. â€Å"I wish you'd been a little more up front about it, but I think I get all the secrecy now. But what I want to know is: Why can't I drink if you guys do? I mean, if you guys can perform major surgery when you're half in the bag, then I can fly a plane.† Beth said, â€Å"We wanted to help you with your substance abuse problem. We thought that if you weren't exposed to other drinkers that you'd relapse when you went back home.† â€Å"Very thoughtful of you,† Tuck said. â€Å"But when exactly am I supposed to go home?† â€Å"When we're finished,† she said. The doctor nodded. â€Å"Yes, we were going to tell you, but we wanted you to become used to the routine. We wanted to see if you could handle the job first. We're going to do the operations until we have a hundred million, then we will invest it on behalf of the islanders. The proceeds will assure we can continue our work and that the Shark People will be taken care of as long as they are here.† Tuck laughed. â€Å"Right. You're not taking anything for yourself. This is all a mercy mission.† â€Å"No, we may leave, but there'll be enough to keep someone running this clinic and shipping in food and supplies forever. And then there's your bonus.† â€Å"Go,† Tuck said. â€Å"Go ahead.† â€Å"The plane.† Tuck raised an eyebrow. â€Å"The plane?† â€Å"If you stay until we finish our work, we will sign the plane over to you, plus your salary and any other bonuses you've accumulated. You can go anywhere in the world you want, start a charter business if you want, or just sell it and live comfortably for the rest of your life.† Tuck shook his head. Of all the weirdness that had gone on so far, this seemed like the weirdest, if only because the doctor seemed so earnest. It might have had something to do with the fact that it was one of those things that a guy hopes all his life he is going to hear, but convinces himself that it's never going to happen. These people were going to give him his own Learjet. He didn't want to do it, he fought not to do it, he strained, but nevertheless, Tuck couldn't stop himself from asking. â€Å"Why?† â€Å"Because we can't do it without you, and this is something that you can't get any other way. And because we'd rather keep you than have to find another pilot and lose the time.† â€Å"What if I say no?† â€Å"Then, you understand, we'd have to ask you to leave and you would keep the money that you've already earned.† â€Å"And I can just go?† â€Å"Of course. As you know, you are not our first pilot. He decided to move on. But then again, we didn't make him this offer.† â€Å"What was your first pilot's name?† The doctor shot a look at his wife. She said, â€Å"Giordano, he was Italian. Why?† â€Å"The aviation community is pretty small. I thought I might know him.† â€Å"Do you?† she said and there was too much sincerity in the question for Tuck to believe that she didn't know the answer. â€Å"No.† Sebastian Curtis cleared his throat and forced a smile. â€Å"So what do you think? How would you like to own your own Learjet, Mr. Case?† Tuck sat staring at the open wine bottle, measuring what he could say, what answer they not only wanted to hear, but had to hear if he was going to leave the island alive. He extended his hand for the doctor to shake. â€Å"I think you've got yourself a pilot. Let's drink to the deal.† An electronic bell trilled from the bedroom and the doctor and his wife exchanged glances. â€Å"I'll take care of it,† Beth Curtis said. She stood and put her napkin on the table. â€Å"Excuse me, Mr. Case, but we have a patient in the clinic who requires my attention.† Then the whiplash mood swing from officious to acid. â€Å"She presses that buzzer so much you'd think it was attached to her clit.† Sebastian Curtis looked at Tuck and shrugged apologetically.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

FSU Essay Topics

<h1>FSU Essay Topics</h1><p>FSU exposition themes can be extremely testing, however you should make it simpler for yoursel...