Friday, October 13, 2017

19. Blowne Up, Burnt, and Damnified

Derek was in the Spencer’s small back garden, moving slowly along the leafy hedge growing against the back fence.  He didn't know what species it was and hoped it wasn't allergenic, because he was grabbing and flipping branches to examine the undersides of leaves, looking for whistling frogs, the thieves of his sleep.  One reason was to wake them, to repay them for last night's torment.  But in addition, he was curious about the little creatures, as he was about any animal new to him.  He wanted to see them, because he liked them.  He was expressing the drive that made him everything he was, ringing ears, draw-string burns and all.

The frogs had vanished completely.  There had been so many calling — hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands — he couldn't understand how they could all be gone.  He was as much pleased as puzzled by their absence.  It provided the delicious sensation craved by scientists, the discovery of a mystery, a new question.  Where do whistling frogs go in the morning?

Almost resigned to the futility of the frog-hunt, he looked at his watch.  The morning sun was leering through the branches of a magnificent Poinciana in the yard next door.  He lifted a pot of tiger lilies to inspect the circle of dampness beneath it.  No frogs.

Anna must have been reading his actions.  She ran into the yard and clamped onto his left leg.  "I'm a giant whistling frog.  I'm sticking to you forever!"

Derek was annoyed, but tried to be avuncular.  "Uh-oh," he said. "I better go find a kiskadee to eat you."

He limped into the kitchen where Evie was packing her lunch. "Missing something?"

Evie sighed, and pried Anna from Derek's leg.  She patted her daughter on the back of her head and said, "Hurry up, Anna, we're late, go wait for me in the car."

She scooted out the door, laughing crazily.

God help the future young men of Bermuda, Derek thought.

"I'm sorry, Derek," Evie said.  "Thank you for being so patient with her."

Derek said, "It's no problem, I ...” He wanted to tell Evie how grateful he was to her.  He ran his hand along the countertop.

She squeezed his wrist and pecked his cheek.  "Got to go."  She hurried out, pausing to peck Mimi too as she came down the stairs.  "Watch out for this boy," she said, pointing at Derek.  "He gets into trouble."

Mimi laughed.  The front door closed and they were alone.  "Where's Michael?"  She pressed against him and he stumbled back to the counter.  She stood on tiptoes, bit his lower lip, and pulled.

"Out." Derek tried to say.  He had never been held quite this way.  It hurt, but he liked it.  "Ah d'a offih, mee-ing ith is saff."  She dragged him to the floor.


The big man took them to the island.  The low tide made it necessary to elevate the engine as they neared the shore.  Mimi bounced out like a leafhopper.  "Thank you, Michael," she called.

Derek landed heavily beside her.  "Thanks, Michael.  We'll see you tomorrow?"

He was revving the cock-eyed engine to ease the boat from the rocks.  He had a peculiar, perplexed expression.

"Something's wrong?"

Michael pressed a switch and a whining motor lowered the engine to its customary angle.  Still he scowled.  He revved the engine again and reversed, turning.         

"Michael?"

He snapped alert, smiled at the two, and set off.
  
The students were on the island, already digging.  They worked very hard the entire morning.  Molly shook the big sieve until it blistered her hands.  Stew discovered the edge of a new food midden.  Joanne continued to lead the burrowing competition, with Brian and Shana vying closely for second.  Mimi moved among them, encouraging and teasing.

Derek saw an anole and had a rapid debate with himself whether or not to kill it.  It wasn't its fault it was here.  He imagined that as a boy he would have loved having one as a pet — so nervy, fast and colorful.  A beautiful thing, really.  It did a push-up, and he crushed it.  Then he whacked another.  After the third he swung at a fourth, but checked his swing.  "Enough," he said.  "I can't do this."  But to his great regret, while dissecting he found the remains of a baby skink, more corroboration that this introduced species was as sure a destroyer of the Bermuda rock lizard as a nuclear bomb would be -- if slower and more insidious -- like a virus multiplying within the tissues of the island.  Frustrated, he forced himself to go and kill more.  The morning was gruesome.  He spaded eleven, then, tired of the intimacy of splattering guts, shot four more from the upper leaves of the palmettos.  It was less unsettling to shoot them.  They would simply disappear from their perches, as if the bullet had carried them straight to the afterlife, whatever it would be for a displaced lizard.  Two of the victims he was able to retrieve contained remains of baby rock lizards.  He cut them all into the handle of the spade, along with a big notch for the fat man Michael had clubbed.

During lunch on the rampart, Derek saw Molly staring intently into the water.  Wondering what the observant girl saw now, he asked, "What'cha got, Molly?"

She pointed at a shadow flickering among the rocks, breaking apart and reforming against the turquoise background.

"It's a kind of wrasse," he told her.  "It's called a pudding-wife."

Molly smiled at the strange name.  "How do you spell it?"

"Exactly as it sounds," he said.  "With a hyphen."

She took a pocket-sized spiral-bound pad from her knapsack and wrote the name, which pleased Derek.

Derek explained wrasses.  He said that in some species, one individual, a dominant one, would become larger and more brightly-colored than the others.  It was called a "Super-male."  It was believed that super-males were sex-reversed females.  When a super-male died, another female would alter her hormone balance and turn into a new super-male.  He pointed to a larger, darker shape farther out that Molly hadn't seen because she wasn't wearing glare-cutting sunglasses.  "There's a midnight parrotfish," he said.  "Fantastic, huh?"

Molly saw it and nodded.  She wrote its name.

"Some parrotfish are thought to do it too," he said, "change sex, from female to male."

"Cool," said Stew, "cross-dressing fish."

Derek laughed.  "They're not transvestites.  They're trans-sexual."

"No way," said Brian.  "That's too weird.  You're making this up."  He found it impossible to accommodate the existence of so different a mode of life. 

The others resumed digging, but Joanne continued to stare down at the water.  "Of all the dumb luck," she said.

"What do you mean?"  Derek asked.

She didn't answer and kept frowning at the wavery shapes.  Then she looked at Derek, at Mimi beside him, and back at Derek.  She tromped back to her pit and disappeared.  Shovelfuls of grit started flying everywhere.

Derek turned to Mimi, bewildered.  She squeezed his hand.

After the students departed, Mimi met Derek at the beach.  She tore off her shirt and shorts, revealing the blue bikini.

“Oh wow,” he said.

She laughed, and ran splashing into the water. He pulled his shirt over his head and waded in after her.

She swam out from shore, but flamingo-like, he stayed in the shallows, using Stew's borrowed mask to look for creatures within the thick mat of turtle grass that rose almost to the surface, half-way between the base and opening of the notch.  He was being careful not to immerse his eye or the abrasions on his neck, but eventually became excited over a glimpse of a golden-spotted eel, lost his footing on the soft bottom and fell.  Seated in water up to his nipples, he felt sand creeping into the leg-holes of his shorts.  It was an interesting sensation, not entirely bad.  He stood to hurl Stew's mask onto the beach, and then stepped backward until crouching was in water up to his shoulders.  Mimi approached and circled him, brown and fluid like an otter.  Her legs wrapped around him and she kissed him.

Balancing her like an egg on his prominent bulge, he asked himself, Really, how can she weigh nothing?   And then it happened again.  "God, I love you," he said. 

She tenderly readjusted her grip on his neck, careful not to touch the raw spots, and said, "You know, I want to say that to you too, but it wouldn't mean what you want it to mean.  It's not simple."

He asked, "Not simple?"  But he knew.  "You can’t tell me you love me because you’re in love with Adrian."

She slipped from his arms and floated in front of him.  "I don't know," she said, frowning.  "I once was, and,” she hesitated, “I guess I should be.”  She turned her eyes away and said, “The truth is we’re engaged."

A flame was snuffed within his body.  "Engaged?"  He stood, sloshed ashore to his sunglasses and beached himself.  His head sank into the sand, but not deep enough.  He wanted the beach to swallow him, absorb him like spilled beer.

She followed, reclined onto one hip, and looked down.

"Derek?”

"Yes?"

"Are you okay?"

He closed his eyes and listened to the sirens in his head.  He was lying on the sidewalk with blood pooling in the creases between his fingers.  It clotted and dried and the bloody webbing became fouled with the yellow down of dead kiskadees.  The longtails laughed overhead.

"Derek?"

"Mmm?"

"I'm very sorry about this.  I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t tell you."

He lay motionless, waiting for the sirens to diminish to something he could speak above, and then said, "What are you going to tell him, about us, about the last few days, about why you stayed here?"

"I'll tell him I stayed here to keep away from his uncle, whom I don’t like and who doesn’t like me.  I'll tell him you're a very nice person and he'd better not badmouth you anymore."

"Anymore?"

"He calls you 'Drek'".

He snorted and said, "That's hardly original.  It’s also one of my most frequent typos."  Then he asked, "Don't you think he'll find out?"  Derek thought he would.  The thugs had caught them as they were tearing off each others’ clothing, and were bound to inform the Admiral, no doubt using colorful, local expressions, and the Admiral would tell Adrian.  End of story.  "What are you going to tell him, every night we had stimulating conversations?"

"I could," she said, "and it wouldn’t be a lie. They’ve been very stimulating." She jiggled the front of his shorts.

He lifted his head from its depression.

"Sorry, I'm kidding."

He reached for his sunglasses and sank back into the beach.

She reclined beside him, trying to find an angle beneath the curved lenses, and once able to glimpse a sliver of eyeball said, “Derek, please think this through.  We have to be realistic.  In two weeks I'll be in Toronto, and you'll be in California.  It makes no sense to be in love.  It can’t work out.  How can you be sure you’re really in love with me anyway?  Maybe you just think you are, because of all the weird stuff that's happened to us here, and, well, the fun sex we've had."  Then she threw in another thought, to lessen the moral load on herself.  "Maybe you’re still partly love your wife, and aren’t yet ready for someone new.  It hasn’t been very long, has it?  Maybe you think you’re falling in love because I’m the next person you’ve been with.  That happens a lot, doesn’t it?”

He said, his chin in his chest, “That person is not my wife.  She is gone and will never come back.  I know that for sure.  You are not just someone I met.  You are a miraculous person and I love you.  I know that for sure too.  Losing you now, after all this, would be far worse than losing her.”  

She caught herself before saying that he could not lose something he never had, which would have hurt him more.  She shifted around to kneel beside him and held his wrist, and said, “No.  Listen.  We're from different worlds, and we have to go back soon.  We've had fun.  It's like a gift, for both of us, but it can't go further.  We have completely separate lives."

"It doesn't feel separate to me."
 
"Derek, honey, I'm sorry.  I will always remember how special this was.  And you’re miraculous to me too." 

He was quiet. 

"We can stop now, if you want."

"Hmm."

"Or we can make the most of the remaining time."

"How long is that?"

"Three more days."  On hands and knees she looked directly down at her multi-colored reflection. "Until Adrian gets back from England."

"And then?"

"And then we'll still be able to see each other on the island every day."

"Oh, I see," he said.  Then, angrier, "You think that will actually work?  I have to pretend none of this happened?  That we've been spending the evenings having nothing more than interesting discussions?  Are you kidding?"  He was tempted to explain that her future uncle-in-law had hired a gap-toothed orangutan to assault her, but had the presence of mind to recognize that this was not entirely relevant or proven either.  Instead, he began speaking a dream, because once again the real world was not working out.  "You could come to California for a while, maybe even transfer to a program at Berkeley."

She said, “I don’t see how that would work.  I probably couldn’t afford it even if I were accepted.  Besides, aren’t you supposed to be moving on to somewhere else?  Kansas?”

“Nebraska.  I don’t want to think about that.  I’ll find something else.  I could stay in California.”  He had an idea.  “You could stay in Toronto, and I’ll move there.”

She rolled her eyes.  “And do what?  More to the point, how?  Americans have this weird idea they can move to any country they want.  It doesn’t work that way.  Immigration into Canada is a long, complicated and expensive process.  It’s much more difficult than back when we came.  The only way for you to immigrate easily is for you to be married to a Canadian.’

He looked at her.

“Don’t even think it.  We are nowhere near that point, and you are still legally married to someone else.  I am not single either, not really.  I have a commitment to Adrian."

He took a few breaths before saying,  "You do know what that word means."

She was instantly angry.  “Don’t you go there!  You are as much responsible for this as I am!”

“I didn’t seduce you.”

“I didn’t seduce you either!  Think about it.  It just happened!”

He thought about it.  He said, “He’s going to find out.”

“Yes, and he’ll be angry.  He’ll get over it though.  He knows I have a strong sex-drive, and that I’m angry at him.”

“So this was mostly you getting back at him?”

“Of course not!  This was a real thing!”

"Do you do this often?  How often?"  He sat up as if a spring had been released.  Derek was suddenly panicked by a thought almost as dreadful as the realization that he was simply one more in what he imagined was a chain of fiancé-spat lovers for Mimi.  For the first time, he wondered what sorts of organism might be romping happily within her bodily fluids.  They hadn't been using condoms, because Derek didn't have any.  There had been no reason for years for him to buy them, and he had not entertained the possibility that he might become fortunate enough in Bermuda to need any.  The first time they'd had intercourse he expressed a worry, for the sake of contraception, not disease, but she had said not to worry, that everything was okay.  He had assumed she meant the pill.  "How often?" he repeated.

"Do what? Sleep with some guy when I’m angry at Adrian?  I’ve never done that before, and not this time either.  That is not what this has been about!”  She brushed her hand across the sand.  Its softness calmed her.  She said, of Adrian, "I cannot pretend that he has not been a big part of my life for more than four years."   She added, in an attempt to find something Derek couldn’t refute, "At this point, he’s the key to my financial security too.  I can’t just throw that all away."  She knew when she said it, it was a mistake.

Derek sank back on his elbows and looked her over.  "That sounds pretty sad.  You’ll be marrying someone for his money.  You’re just going to be his appendage."

"No, I mean..."

"Unless you’re happy just being someone’s appendage."

“Look, you don’t know that much about me, really, or what I need, or what my family needs.  It’s more complicated than you think.”  She was trying not to become angry with him because she knew he was hurt.  She waved a hand about.  "Look, he doesn't compare with you.  He's not as kind to students as you are, and he isn’t mindful of animals and other natural things, and well, he's not like you when it comes to, you know..."   She remembered the point — “but you don't compare with him either.  He's..."

Derek fell back and put his arms over his eyes.  He said, "That guy criticizes and mocks your accent.  He makes you feel small by doing that.  It’s a cruel and ignorant thing to do, especially from a person with the most pompous, stupid-ass accent I’ve ever heard."

She sprang to her feet, which sprayed him with sand.  Snatching up Stew's mask and snorkel, she ran into the water, wrenching the mask over her hair as she went.  After a pause for a quick adjustment of the strap, she plunged forward.  She needed to escape, to think, to collect herself and find a way to make Derek understand.  She found herself in the shallow, warm layer above the turtle grass.  Reaching down, she gripped a handful of the soft-bladed seaweed and discovered that by tugging on it hand over hand she could propel herself forward slowly, away from the beach and the sulky herpetologist.  Ahead was a school of hundreds of tiny, shimmering, blue-white fish.  She tried to join it, enter the heart of it, but the fishes split into two groups and flowed down her sides as though she were merely another rock rising from the bottom.  She looked behind.  They had vanished into the murk she had generated.  Face down, breathing through the snorkel, she continued to pull herself back and forth across the grass.  She asked herself,  Why did this have to happen?  What had she done wrong?  She had never promised him anything.  She wanted to speak to her sister, who was her love coach.  She was very good at identifying all the things she had done wrong. 

Derek sat morosely on the shore and watched her very fine bottom tack to and fro across the surface of the endless blue ocean.  He had gotten nowhere in that conversation.  He had become angry and said things that and made things worse.  He felt his heart breaking, and couldn't watch anymore.  He wandered away, trusting and hoping she wouldn't drown.

He was relieved when she returned to his campsite but tried not to show it.  As she showered, he glanced at her.  He tried to become a parade balloon, to float above her, to pretend again this was his beautiful wife, but he couldn't become airborne.  He was an addle-brained, flightless creature who had lived on an island too long, a dodo, a Bermuda rock lizard.

She saw his glance and smiled, but he turned away.  "Derek!" she said in exasperation.  She closed the valve of the shower bag and picked up her towel and held it to her face.  She wanted to scream into it.  This was not the first time a man became disappointed that he couldn’t have her, that she wouldn't love them the way they wanted.  Other men had fallen in love with her, even some to whom she had scarcely spoken a word.  When she didn't love them back, some would turn angry and send her hateful letters, and some, it seemed, just silently hated her.

She remembered that her sister had told her that she had a tendency to give men the wrong impression. "You touch them too much.  You’re always touching people, or hugging people.   You might as well be declaring that you’re in love with them."

"You touch everybody all the time, too," Mimi said back to Ruby.

"Well, for one thing, I’m a nurse, and people expect me to touch them.  And another thing, when I’m not being a nurse, I’ve learned to be careful.  Men who aren’t used to that kind of thing will get the wrong idea.  It’s like they are speaking a different language.  Something that is casual to you is very serious to them.  And another thing – the more they need to be touched, the more you have to hold back."
           
She now saw that Derek was a man who needed desperately to be touched, a man whose only daily physical affection was a cat who rubbed against him when he came home, and she had done all the things her sister warned against.  Derek was different, maybe harder to deal with than the other men Mimi had touched, because he was not just disappointed — he was wounded.  Right now he seemed the most wounded person she had ever met, and she didn't feel she deserved the blame for very much of it.  She wrapped her towel around herself and went to him.  "Please don't be like this," she said.  She couldn’t help herself – she touched his hair.  He put his hand over hers.  A tear oozed from his eye and rolled half-way down his cheek.  She reached for it but he blocked her hand and brushed it away himself.

"Oh," she said.  "I hear a boat coming." 

Derek stood.  "Sounds like Michael.  I'll go see why he's here.  You'd better put your clothes on."

Michael drifted in and Derek kept the hull away from the rocks.  "What brings you here this evening?" he asked, trying to sound happy.

Michael threw the bowline, which Derek looped over the usual spire.  Michael handed up the radio, the gun and the ammunition.

"Two things," Michael said, bent over to remove two quarto-sized, cloth-bound books, one dark blue, the other lighter blue, from within the binnacle.  He leapt from the boat, which sent it out to the end of its line.  "Forgot to give you that." He was pointing at the radio, which he had taken from the island the day before during the police investigation and had neglected to return.  "Two very interesting developments. Where's Mimi?" 

"She's starting dinner I suppose.  Want to join us?" 

"No, can't," said Michael.  "I didn't tell Evie I'd be taking this detour, so I ought to be heading home soon."  He held out his hand.  Derek shifted the radio so they could shake.

"Did the suspects confess?"  Derek asked on the path to the redoubt.

"Not that I know of."

"Then what is it?"

Mimi met them on the path. "Hi Michael!" she called, too cheerfully.

"Hello, Sweetheart," he said, with a hug that crushed her head into his chest. 

"Ouch," she said.

Michael grinned.  "First off," he said, "our friend Dexter is still building, already Category Two, which means wild weather for us no matter where he goes now."

"Really?" Derek perked up a very little bit.           

Mimi looked at the water and sky to the east, where only a faint line of distant low clouds interrupted the blue.  "It's hard to imagine what it would be like when it's like this."

"Just you wait, my dear," said the big man.  "Wait two days, maybe three, when Dexter's ground-swell arrives.  He's turning into a monster, pumping out a lot of energy.  The ground-swell will hit hard even if the storm tracks far to the south, which is what they're predicting it'll do.  It will be impressive even if the eye misses us by two hundred miles. Enjoy the beach for the next few days, because after the waves from this storm, there won't be much of it left."  He said he would be monitoring the weather closely.  "If necessary, I'll drop everything to come get you, if you will want to keep staying here after my next little piece of information."

"Well", Derek said, discouragingly, "if it comes this way after Tuesday, it will only be me to get.  Mimi won't be here."

"Oh? Why?"

Looking again at the eastern horizon, Mimi said, quietly, "I'll be staying with the group when Adrian returns."

"I see," said Michael.  He tried to read their faces and body language.

Derek asked,"Why the books?"

Michael opened one to the title page and handed it to him.  He gave the other to Mimi. 

Derek read, "A Military History of Bermuda: Colonization to 1914."  He riffled the pages as if to demonstrate he understood how books worked.

Mimi read the second title, "A Soldier's Life in Early Bermuda."

"Why'd you bring these?"

Michael said, "Let's sit." 

He told them that he had taken the afternoon off after dropping them at the island.  He spent a few hours in the library in Hamilton, because something had been bothering him since the assault two nights ago, something he had been afraid to share with them, or the police.

"What?" asked Mimi.

"In a minute.  Read this first."  He took Mimi's book and turned to a particular page.  After scanning the text, he said, "here, read.  Start at the top."  He handed it back.

She read, "'It was, however, always a troublesome task to replace the armaments, and the majority of them were usually in dire condition.  One notable incident was the death of two Bermuda troopers, Robert Murchie and Reginald Chambers from the company on Tea Kettle Island.  At the discharge of a twelve-pounder cannon in celebration of the return of a privateer, there occurred the detonation of the spark with the sequence of the gunner and mattross being 'blowne up, burnt, and damnified'Later there were far greater disasters from guns bursting.'

"That part is a quote from somewhere else."  She continued, "'According to legend, the spirits of these two fatally injured soldiers can be encountered on Tea Kettle Island, on the ramparts and near the enclosed water tank.'"

She lowered the book, and said "Nooo..."  Her mouth hung open.  "You're not saying they were ghosts I saw."

"And now look at this."  Michael took Derek's book and flipped to a series of color plates.  He inserted a finger and closed the book, and like a magician at a children's party, said, "Now Derek, tell me again what the men you saw were wearing."

"Um, I'm not sure.  They were way at the other end of the island, standing against the sky.  All I could see for sure were the hats."

"What kind of hats?"

"They looked like straw hats, with a round brim."

Michael turned to Mimi, "Tell me again what the two men you saw looked like."

"They wore dark coats and pale pants and leather boots."

"Like old-fashioned British Soldiers?"

"No.  I know very well what British uniforms used to look like.  I saw them every day at Fort York.  The way these men were dressed was very different."

"What year are the soldiers at Fort York supposed to represent?" 
"1812 era."

"Well, this is a Bermudian soldier about one hundred years earlier."  He opened the book to a picture of a wax museum figure dressed in the uniform of a Bermudian soldier from the early eighteenth century.  The accompanying text read, "He wore in 1720 a navy shortcoat trimmed with scarlet and a scarlet waistcoat and white breeches, the whole to be fastened by gilt buttons, with a palmetto straw hat trimmed in scarlet ribbon, and black leather boots."

Mimi nodded.  "Yup.  They were dressed like that."  It sank in and she blurted, "Ohmygod!" Her voice became high-pitched and scratchy, "I saw ghosts?  Real ghosts?"

"Gulp," said Derek.  He took the book and studied the picture, searching for obvious differences between the picture and the men he had seen.  There weren't any.  "I guess it could be," he said.

"No, mate, it is."

Mimi said, “Wait.  Who was carrying me before you came?  I was being carried by a ghost?”  Mimi put a hand to her mouth.

“Yes.”


Michael proceeded to tell them how he had found Mimi, how he was met by a man dressed as in picture, who was carrying her.

“Did you not hear him refer to someone named 'Robert'”?  Michael recounted his conversation with Reginald, which he had replayed in his mind hundreds of times.

She asked, “He wasn’t just someone in a costume?”

“When I turned my back, and then turned back, he had vanished.  No sound, no footsteps, no trace.  He had put his coat on the ground to place you on it.  It vanished too.  I know it's the strangest thing in the world.  But don’t forget this:  It was he and the other one named Robert who rescued you.  They protected you."

"This isn’t believable," said Derek.  "Holy shit."  He batted himself.

Michael smiled at him.

"I don't believe it," he said.

"Believe it," said Michael.

"Okay," Derek said.  "I believe it.  No, I can't believe it.  He just disappeared?"

"Explains the other mysteries too, doesn't it?"

"This freaky place," said Derek. 

"So, do you still want to stay?"

Derek sobered up.  "I do.  Being surrounded by ghosts will help keep my mind off other things."  He added to his answer quickly, because he didn't want to share his heartache with Michael.  "Besides, I still have a lot of work to do.  The rock lizards come out very early in this hot weather you know, before you can get me here, and we've already lost a couple of days with all the nonsense.  And the whistling frogs at your place, they drive me nuts.  Maybe Mimi wants to go, though."  He turned to her, "I think you should go."  He asked Michael, "Can she stay with you again?"

"Of course," Michael said.

"I can decide for myself."

"Well, I think you should go," said Derek. “You seem to be some kind of ghost magnet.”

Michael ignored the low-grade squabble and said, "I think you should both come.  Come on."  He wanted to get them back to his house where he could exercise a little romantic control over the situation.

"Okay," Mimi relented, expecting Derek would also.  "I don't know if I could ever sleep here again anyway."

"I'll stay," Derek said.  "They've not bothered me yet, and they seem to be good-hearted - if they exist.  They can't possibly be worse than what I've encountered back home.  I just won't go down the hill after dark."  Then he said, "I can't believe it."

Mimi was exasperated.  "Please come.  This is too strange.  You have to come with me because we have things to talk about.”

This sounded hopeful to Michael.

“No, I believe I should stay,” said Derek.  “I’m staying.”

"You're sure?" Michael said.  “C’ mon, mate.”

Derek nodded.

Mimi gathered the belongings she would need and started walking to the shore.

Michael stood with hands on hips, wondering what was going on.  This was becoming more difficult than he had anticipated, but he knew there was still time to fix it, that the answer would come to him.  "You sure you'd rather be here?" he asked, shaking his head, "with ol' Bob and Reggie?"

"I'll let you know at 9 o'clock," said Derek, tapping his watch.


After the Whaler disappeared north around St. David's, Derek crawled into his tent to sulk, and found a long, black hair coiled like a cannon fuse on the lining of his sleeping bag.  He pinched the ends and pulled it taut.  He pulled harder, and it stretched.  Its elasticity was surprising.  When he pulled a little more, the hair snapped.  Its broken ends curled up as if in pain.   

Continued...

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