Wednesday, October 11, 2017

21. Mutiny on the Island

Derek was not at the shore and his campsite was deserted.  "Where is that crazy boy?"  Michael was a little worried.  "Derek!"

The Californian appeared from behind the large olivewood shrub that concealed the path to the spout.  The rifle was balanced on his shoulder and from his hand dangled a kiskadee missing much of its head.

"Oh, is that breakfast?" Michael asked, jovially.

"No," Derek answered.  He didn't look at them.  "Just another victim of Dead-eye Derek." 

He was no longer in the mood of last night's radio call, and seemed wary of Mimi, as if she might snub him in front of Michael. 

He does hate me, she thought

He placed the carcass in a plastic bag to keep it safe from the ants until after breakfast, applied a twist-tie, and tossed the bird into the cooler.  Then he pushed the rifle far back into the tent and walked to his shower, where he rinsed his hands of invisible bloodspots in the thin trickle that remained.  Wiping fingers on his shirt, he slowly approached, glancing briefly at Mimi from above his glasses.  He extended his hand to Michael.

"Oh for goodness sakes!" Michael exclaimed.  He set down the fresh radio and turned to Mimi, "Excuse me, Sweetheart," he said.  He scooped her up again.

"Wha?" she exclaimed.

"Derek, stop being an ass."  As Reginald had done with him, he pressed Mimi against Derek's chest.  Derek reluctantly curled his arms around her, and Michael backed away.

"Uh," said Derek.  Mimi was embarrassed too.

Michael took yesterday's radio, which was lying near the stove, and waving it, said, "Call me at 4:30 if you want to stay with us tonight."  Then the Mid-Ocean Love God spun, twirled a hand over his head as though accepting applause after hitting a home run, and jogged downhill into the palmettos.

"You can put me down, now," she said.

"Sorry," said Derek.  He bent his waist and lowered his arms.

She screamed, "No! Not here!"  She tightened her grip on his neck, choking him, and writhed to keep her bottom from getting any closer to the ground.  Derek staggered and something in his back made a worrisome pop.  He grunted.

"There!" she cried, hanging with one hand from his tortured neck.  The stretchy backs of her knees were twisting in his palm.  She was pointing at the tent with its flaps pulled wide open.

After hastily dressing, Mimi grabbed her backpack and hurried to the dig site.  She wished she had brought a sanitary napkin.  Potent Derek was leaking into her underwear.  At the rampart she opened her clipboard and sketched out a quick diagram of the area.  Next to the rectangle representing the barracks she shaded in blocks to indicate the excavations of the students.  On them she wrote their names.  Then she walked around the old house, and after studying the walls, window spacings, and the surrounding soil, drew several rectangles on the page indicating where new excavations were to be made.  She heard the sloop approaching and hurried to finish.

The students surprised Mimi by not being upset that she had decided to broaden the dig to include the officers' quarters.  She had not understood that they were bored with the barracks.  But they cautioned that the Admiral might not like it.  He had told them at breakfast he was expecting they would soon find something very important at the barracks.  He had encouraged them to dig furiously.

"Furiously?" said Mimi.

They nodded.

She asked if they cared.  No, they said.  They wanted to do whatever would provide the best material for their reports.  They said they thought the Admiral was crazy.

"Daft," said Stew, enjoying his newly Anglicized vocabulary.

"Dangerously daft," said Shana.

*   *   *

Derek crawled from his tent at noon, scratched his stomach and waddled to the rampart to eat with the students.  Like Derek, the rock lizards reappeared for a free meal.  This time, in addition to the usual adults, a hatchling emerged.  The humans made cooing noises and admired the color of its tail.

"Looks like someone painted it blue," said Brian.

Mimi was captivated.  "Oh, cute," she said.  She called it, "a little waif," then looked to Derek and said, "I hope he doesn't get eaten," unaware her passionate activities on the rampart some days earlier had led indirectly to the death of an identical waif.

"We can only hope," said Derek.

The students finished lunch quickly, keen to get back to their new pits, which seemed to hold promise.  Stew had already found half a button.  Brian had unearthed part of a bottle.  They worked diligently, almost furiously, the entire afternoon

Derek was inspired by the industry of the Canadians and decided to resume skink-censusing, this time in the densest, hottest part of the palmetto grove.

The students continued working as the Admiral chugged past, toward the notch.  They were in no hurry to trade their time with Mimi for his unpleasant company.  Several times she told them to stop and she hustled them, because she wanted to be alone with Derek now.  More urgently, she didn't want the Admiral to come ashore to find out what was detaining them.  "Hurry, please," she said, from her perch on the wall.  "We don't want to keep him waiting!"  But they dawdled.  She was on the verge of losing her temper, about to yell, when the Admiral appeared on the path.

There was something immediately terrifying in his slow approach.  It was a myopic crabbing stalk, like the suspicious advance of a rhino catching the scent of a lioness.  He saw her and made a bilious noise, between a belch and a curse.  Then he surveyed the site.  "What's going on here?" he asked, just loud enough for her to hear.  Louder, he asked, "Why are they digging over there?"

Mimi put down her pen and explained softly and nervously that the previous spots were exhausted and non-productive, and there was no point in digging deeper.  "I moved the students next to the officers' quarters to see what different sorts of artifacts might be found 'dere -- there," she said.

The Admiral was aghast.  "You what?  You don't have the authority to do that!"

The students looked up.

Mimi said, "No, I do."

He strode to where she was sitting and said, crossly, "You're no longer in charge here!  I'm taking over this dig until my nephew returns."  He clamped a hand around her left arm and held her firmly where she sat.  She wriggled but couldn't slide to her feet, which dangled childishly above the ground.

Several students conferred hastily and volunteered Brian, the largest, to inquire what was going on, and, more importantly, make the Admiral release Mimi.  Shana pushed him.

He advanced several steps, until the Admiral turned and glared at him.  Brain looked back to his friends and Shana made a shooing motion.  He cleared his throat, "Hi," he said.  "We, uh, were wondering what you're doing."

The Admiral flared his nostrils. "Go away!" he said.

Brian looked back.

Shana shooed him again.

"Uh, is something wrong?"

The Admiral dragged Mimi from the wall, scraping the backs of her thighs.  He held her low, at arm's length, forcing her to stoop with legs half-bent.  Her face was contorted from the scrapes and the python-bite of his rough hand.  "Let go of me," she said.

He ignored her, and bellowed to the group, "As I told you, there are going to be some changes around here.  The first change, I'm happy to say, is this person here is, as of now, relieved of her responsibilities."  He jostled her.  "I'll be supervising this exercise until my nephew returns."

"Ohfuckno," Stew murmured.

"No way," mumbled Shana.

Molly looked around worriedly for Joanne.

"This young woman is unqualified to teach this course!"  He shook her like a kitten.

Brian did a little dance.  He wanted to rescue her.

"Don't be stupid, young man," the Admiral growled, but was sufficiently distracted that Mimi was able to deliver a smart kick to his left kneecap.  He cursed and lost his grip on her.  She ran to Brian, snagged his arm and dragged him backwards to Shana as if removing him from an explosive danger.  Then she ran away.
The herpetologist was deep in the palmettos, in the dead-still heart of the island, listening to his ears warring with the flies that were a permanent addition to his sardine aura.  He had been digging a series of holes for a new trap line and was sitting on the ground, using a rock to bang the locking ring on the collar of the spade back to its proper shape.  It had been bent by his exertions, and the blade tended to pop loose when he pried at the soil.  Mimi's brown legs flashed past at a distance, filtered from the sight of his good eye by fallen and drooping fronds.  They flashed past again in the opposite direction.

He skinned the base of his thumb with the rock and cursed loudly.  Hoping there was at least one Band-Aid remaining in his overused first aid kit, he left the spade lying on the forest floor like a severed arm broken at the wrist and set off to repair himself.  Mimi heard his expletive and noisy tramping and ran lightly through the trees to him with wide eyes.  "Hey-there," he said, happily, before quickly realizing something was wrong.  "What is it?" He gripped her arms as if she were a child, then let go, thinking she probably resented being held that way.

She didn't care what he was doing with his hands.  "He's here!" she said, almost in tears.  It was past 4:30 and Derek assumed the students had departed.  "Really? Just one of them?"

She frowned at his nonsensical reply.  "The Admiral!" she said, and frustrated and hurt, she cried, "Ruining everything!"  Derek's heart sank. 

"All right," he said, trying to calm her, fighting to remain calm himself.

"We have to do something!  He says he's taking over!"

He absorbed her worried face, her twitching lips and eyelids, and knew he was the only person on the island who could do anything about the Admiral.  She was scared and she looked very small, and the students were in no position to oppose the ogrish old man.  He remembered his spade on the ground and considered going back for it, but she jiggled his arm.  "Damn it," he muttered, brushing past her, crashing angrily through the ensnaring vegetation on his way to the rampart to confront the ogre — the demon — without any plan at all.
It was as if she had seen a ghost, now vanished, because there was no ogre, no demon, no Admiral.  The students were standing together, talking quietly, when Derek charged from the forest.

Stew was grinning.  "Hey Derek, where's Mimi?"

"Is she okay?" asked Shana.

Derek hurried past them and spun in a bewildered circle.  He almost tripped into Joanne's grave-like pit.  "I thought that old sonofabitch was here," he said.  He was puzzled, and his fury was now transforming into a feeling of foolishness.

"He's gone," replied Brian, cheerfully.  "We got rid of him."

Derek approached them.  “You what?”

"We told him to go to hell!" Joanne announced, proudly.

"Well, you did," Stew said to her, "several times."

"I don't believe this," said Shana.  "Now what are we going to do — what about our stuff?"

"We had a fight with him, Derek," Molly explained. 

"Me, mostly," said Joanne.

Mimi appeared on the path, wary at first, then relieved to find the Admiral gone.  She stood next to Derek and listened with him to the story.

Joanne had been in an embrasure, observing the sex-changing fish below when the Admiral arrived.  She watched him mistreat Mimi, then listened while he verbally abused the others, criticizing them for their insufficient efforts.  Then the Admiral moved to the edge of her original pit, a source of some pride to her, and demanded to know, "Which mongrel among you is responsible for this woeful effort?"  She approached silently from behind as the rest watched.  She came at him, slowly at first, then, running flat out the final few steps, bowled him into the hole.  Ass over Tea Kettle.

"He really pissed me off," she said.

Stew continued, "God it was funny.  The old guy jumps back out, beet red, and we're trying not to laugh — so, naturally, we do — and he starts screaming all kinds of stuff and pointing at everyone, and he comes up to each of us, including even Molly, and screams that we're worthless, and that we've got no respect for anything, and that he was only going to give us one more chance before he 'terminated this exercise and sent us all home.'"  Stew mimicked his accent perfectly.  "And we're just amazed, like we can't believe anyone can seriously behave like such a complete maniac, and then he stops, and Shana says in a haughty voice, "We don't have to listen to you.'"

"It wasn't haughty."

"And then Bri' says, 'Yeah, fuck you.  You're not the professor.  You're just the boat guy.'"  Stew dissolved in laughter.

"Just the boat-guy?" Derek repeated.

"Oh boy," said Mimi.

Stew gathered himself and said, "So, naturally, he went completely apeshit again, and he stormed away just two minutes before you got here."

"You should tell them what else he said, about Derek," said Shana.

Uh-oh, Derek thought.  "What?"

"He said if we want to go back to his place, he might consider accepting our apology, but first we have to get you off the island."

"So we told him to go to hell!" said Molly, almost loudly.

Everyone stared at her.  "I mean, Joanne did," she said, quietly.

They heard the Admiral's boat.

"There he goes," said Stew, “The boat-guy's taking off without us."

"Fine with me," said Shana.

Derek dropped his head and sighed.  Without checking his watch, he knew it was well past 4:30. 

Fortunately, Michael was in his departmental truck with the radio on.  Derek explained that there had been another altercation with the Admiral, a serious conflict ending in a sort of mutiny, and now he had five more co-conspirators.

"No," said Michael.

Derek told him there was nowhere for the students to sleep on the island, and it looked as if it was going to rain.

"Yes," said Michael.

Derek said he didn't have enough food for them either.

"No, I suppose not," said Michael.

"Help," said Derek.

Michael arrived, smiling and chuckling.  He shook hands with all of them as Mimi introduced them formally.

Derek enjoyed Michael's expression when it was Joanne's turn.

Molly squatted and peered into the water next to the shore, looking for something interesting, and the others chatted while Derek and Mimi recounted what had occurred between the Admiral and the students.  Michael wasn’t pleased.  He had been hoping there would be no further problems with the Admiral.  "I better go have a word with him," he said, quietly.

Derek was surprised.  Michael looked almost afraid.  Why should Michael be afraid?  How could this huge man be afraid of anything?  Did the old demon's connections reach into the Fisheries Division too?  He said, quickly, "Why bother?  You can't reason with crazy people.  He'll probably just go nuts again.  It might make it worse."

Michael squinted at Derek, his head half turned away. He reached and touched his arm, saying, “You're right, Derek-boy.” Then he explained the arrangements he had made for the students.

Originally, he had thought of taking them all to his place, but then correctly decided Evie would brain him if he did.  "The poor woman's still recovering from the other night," he said.  So he called the Biological Station, a mile down Ferry Reach from the Fisheries Division.  Throughout much of the year, universities rented out space at the station for the teaching of courses on various aspects of marine biology.  It was now late in the summer session and the dorms were only half-filled, so there would be no problem accommodating the archeologists.  The students would have to pay board, but not very much, only a few dollars a day, which could be worked out later.  The only problem Michael had not yet solved was how to retrieve their belongings from the Admiral's house.  He turned to the students and asked if they were sure the Admiral wasn't bluffing, that he really didn't expect them to return.

"No way am I going near him again," said Shana.

"To hell with that old dork," said Joanne.

"He's daft," said Molly.

"Dangerously daft," said Stew.

"What set him off the first place?"  Michael asked Mimi.

She told him she had changed the dig-sites, away from where the Admiral wanted them to dig.  " he attacked me," she said.

Michael winked at her, and said, "Clever," which puzzled Derek.  Then with a gesture toward the boat, he asked, "You coming back?  There's room for all."

"Is this the fringe of the hurricane?"  Derek was looking up at the high, dirty sheet of clouds that had been pulled across the sky during the afternoon.

"No, not for a few days, if at all," answered Michael.  "But you're right — we'll be getting some weather tonight, in a couple of hours I reckon.  Messy little system from the northwest."  He bared his teeth at the clouds.

"Well, thanks as always, but I think I'll stay again."

"Me too," said Mimi.

He had expected as much, and it pleased him.  "Give my regards to the boys."  Then the big man patiently helped the students into the pitching, yawing whaler, and after assisting Molly with her life jacket and making sure the others were securely holding on to something, turned the key in the ignition.

Derek and Mimi sat on the fireworm rocks and waved as the boat plowed away slowly through the turquoise bathwater ocean.

Shana waved back, the latest letter to Roy flapping in her hand.

"Michael's fantastic," said Mimi.  "How can a person be so good?"

Derek put his arm around her and the fireworm pulse returned.  "Almost balances things out, doesn't it?" he whispered through her hair.

She brushed a tear from his chin, and rested her face against his shoulder.  They sat like that long after the whaler had disappeared north of St. David's, until Derek noticed spreading dampness on his shirtsleeve.  "Hey," he asked, "what's wrong?"

"Oh, this is just all too much, isn't it?"

Derek didn't answer, because he wasn't sure where he fit into that question.  His stomach knotted, and strangled the spark.

"I'm sorry you got involved," she said.

Again, he was afraid what she meant.

"I wish I were bigger," she said.  "Just once I'd like to be as big as Michael."

Even Michael is afraid sometimes, thought Derek.

During supper, consisting of canned chili and rice, a cloud unlike any Derek or Mimi had ever seen rolled in from the northwest.  It was a towering, roiling wall, as dark as oil-smoke, but with a sickly greenish caste suggesting something dead and bloating.  The top of the wall raced beneath the high, grey layer that had appeared earlier, and the bottom, lagging behind, dragged a foaming curtain of heavy rain across the surface of the ocean.  With lightening flashing deep within, the cloud looked like the prow of a titanic, murderous ship.  Mimi called it a devil-cloud.  Derek wondered if she was being poetic, or using a Filipino expression.

Before the cloud-base crossed the island, the wind, which had been gusting irregularly but with increasing strength and frequency over the previous several hours, became a heavy blow.  Soon it was at better than thirty knots and threatening to take down the tent.  Mimi crawled inside to put rocks in the corners while Derek fought to secure the lines and poles.  When the sky split, he peeled off his shirt to throw it inside and was about to remove his shorts too, but then decided there were other items more crucially kept dry—his camera, binoculars, and notebooks.  He ran in circles gathering them, and then dove into the tent.  They crouched at opposite ends, bracing the corners to keep it from collapsing.

After twenty minutes the wind dropped and the tent seemed steady.  They met atop the midpoint of the air mattress.  She gleefully helped him remove his shorts and lay laughing as he threw her legs over his shoulder and peeled off hers.

This time he would take the lead, which was not always the case.  One of the great things about sex with Derek was his willingness to let her decide how to proceed.  If there was something specific that she wanted him to do to her, or that she wanted to do to him, he would happily go along.

That morning, after Michael unceremoniously handed her to Derek and he carried her to the tent, she helped him pull off his shirt and pants, but batted his hands away as he tried to start undressing her.  She pushed him onto his back on the air mattress and sprawled half across him in a reversed position, thrusting her knee onto his chest to keep him down.  “Don’t move, don’t talk,” she told him, and she propped the bottom of her foot against his chin to make a point: she was in charge this time.  He was unshaven, and his chin stubble tickled her arch.  She liked how it felt when she rubbed her foot back and forth.  From the happy noises coming out of him, he seemed to like that too.  He was making other happy noises, but mostly because of what she had started doing with her hand, and was now doing with her mouth.  She worked up and down, swirling her tongue around the tip, thinking, here I am on a squishy air mattress in a tent, teasing a herpetologist’s ti-ti and squeezing his bayag.  A few days ago I didn’t even know what a herpetologist was.  She imagined being with him on a real bed, with bedposts, and using his neckties to tie him down.   He didn’t seem the kind of guy who would have a lot of neckties, but would he have at least four?  She imagined him having only three, and buying him a fourth, a really ugly one, and watching his face as he unwrapped it.  She would say, “It’s not for your neck.  It’s for your other ankle.”  She would have him take his clothes off and would tie him down for a good long tease, and then have him do the same to her.  She had never suggested anything like that to Adrian.  There were many fantasies she had hidden from him, and now, at this moment, she wasn’t sure why she had—here, now, with a guy who would probably let her play them out, add to them, make them even better.

She was frustrated that she couldn’t tell him what they were.  If she did, he would want to be in them.

The violent way he had begun to tremble, almost shaking her off, arching his back and kicking his legs, suggested he was about to come.  “Not yet,” she said, releasing him.  She wriggled out of her shorts and spun around to be on top, face-to-face. He laughed as she forced his shoulders down, grabbed his face with both hands, and bit and held his lower lip in her teeth.

That was this morning.  This time he was leading.  He was big on foreplay, would nip at her ears, her lips, and then kiss her eyes, nose and mouth, before moving down her body, playing with her breasts, his mouth on one, fingertips caressing and tickling the other, and then switching sides, before moving down her body, probing her navel with his tongue as he scooped beneath to lift and squeeze her bottom, and then lowering it to continue down, further, much further, to the soft dips below her kneecaps, which he had discovered where very sensitive, and then, after she laughed from what he did to them, lifting her legs and pushing them to one side to backtrack to her ass, fondling and kissing it, coming dangerous close to making hicky-marks, before continuing on south, licking her thighs, the tender backs of her knees, her calves, her ankles and the soles of her feet, and once at her feet, grasping her ankles and spreading them wide apart and then either slowly pulling her onto him, carefully penetrating her, or as he did this time, pushing her legs up over his shoulders as he leaned forward to bury his face between her legs and, oh God, his tongue.  All she could do was gasp, her fingers entangled in his long, soft hair, his flaxen hair, she now knew what flaxen hair was.

He was so different from…she didn’t even want to think his name again.  Derek was a sexual one-man band, using his hands, his fingertips, his legs, his lips, his tongue—that tongue, all at once.  He was constantly moving around, and moving her around.  In his steady, purposeful approach he was like a machine, except that he was an attentive machine, sensing when she wasn’t keen on a position or action or the degree of pressure or speed of motion, and adjusting whatever he was doing to make it better, or moving on to something else.  He reacted to her vague vocalizations and her breathing, her taps on the shoulder, and her simple commands, “More, too much, no, yes, too hard, harder, stop, don’t stop!” and did as she wanted. 

This had been the most intense session thus far, magnified by the wild weather outside, heavy rain splattering against the nylon fly like gravel sprayed from a hose, and frequent lightning strikes, some close enough to hear the sizzle of the air, with less than a breath between flash and boom.  The tent held, and they kept going, switching places, trying new positions.  They jumped and laughed nervously at the loudest strikes and held each other tighter, as if defying the storm to pull them apart.  When she thought he would never come he finally did, deep inside her from behind, the deepest she had ever felt a man inside.

“You’re so deep,” she said, just before he finished.

He paused and pulled back.  “Too much?”

“Keep going!”

Hovering above her, his arms shaking on either side of her head, he thrust forward one last time, and held.  He made a sound, almost of desperation, and then, at last, breathed out and collapsed on top of her, nuzzling her hair and inhaling deeply, as if he were trying to suck as much as he could of her into his lungs.

He slowly withdrew, stepping his hands down the sides of her body.  He leaned to lick the sweaty center of the small of her back, which made her shiver.  He crawled forward to lie beside her.

She rolled onto her side to face him.  “What did you do?” she asked.

“What did I do?”
“My whole body feels like its vibrating.  I’ve never felt this before.”

“Me too,” he said.  “Maybe we were struck by lightning, but were too busy to notice.” There had been a fleeting instance of concern when he had thought about the aluminum tent poles and the fact that the tent was pitched on one of the higher elevations of the island, but it was a very fleeting instance.   He held up her arm to look at it.  “I think we would be crispier if we were though.”  He kissed her fingertips and put her hand down.

“The rain stopped,” she said.  “It gave up.  It couldn’t keep up with you.”

He smiled.  “But you could.”

They listened to the water dripping off casuarina trees, and the whispering of their branches in the weakened wind, and fell into a peaceful, dozy state.

After a while, Mimi cleared her throat.

He opened his eyes.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question, about Laura?  You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”

It took a few seconds for him to respond.  “Okay,” he said.

“You haven’t told me anything about her except that she sold cookies.  What I was curious about was, was she by any chance a small Asian woman like me?  I know some men have a certain type.  Sometimes I catch a Caucasian guy checking me out, and guess who’s standing beside him—a small Asian woman, his girlfriend or wife.”

He said, “Oh.  No.  She wasn’t.  She was a very different type, mostly Mennonite Dutch.  She was a blue-eyed, fair-haired Caucasian woman, almost exactly the same height as me.  She could wear my shirts.  She stole half of them when she left.  Why do you ask?”

“I’m just wondering if sex with me is like sex with her.  It’s like you understand my body really well already.”

“No, it wasn’t at all like sex with you, apart from the general mechanics of the procedure. It was nowhere near as much fun.”

She laughed.  “The general mechanics of the procedure?  You switch from sex-machine to scientist just like that?”

“It’s all the same thing—exploring, experimenting, playing, and every so often things work out.”

“And you have an orgasm?”

“Or you do.  I hope you did.  It sounded like maybe you did.”

“Don’t worry about that.” 

He rolled onto his back and she nestled beside him.  The tent fly luffed in a lazy, post-coital way. 

Derek resisted an urge to bat himself when a late thunderclap set off his ears, because he was afraid to move, or say anything.  He knew time was running out and his present physical position, lying next to her, arms and legs entwined with hers, was something to be cherished.  He couldn't help but think ahead to the upcoming days, weeks and months, when he would almost certainly be alone somewhere, remembering this moment, missing her, whose hand was again burning his neck.

He wished she would whisper something to help him.  He wanted her to tell him that this thing was not going to end as if it had never happened, that it had been important to her, that he was important to her.  He wasn't expecting a momentous announcement, say, for example, that she had decided to forget Adrian and wanted to move to California with him.  That was unrealistic, a dream.  But at that moment he thought, It would be nice, just once, if she would tell me she loves me.  He wasn't sure how the memory of those words would be helpful in his empty future, but he wanted to hear them, now, in her sweet voice.

Her chest expanded next to his and he heard the tiny pop and the soft rush of air through perfect white teeth.  He closed his eyes.

"Derek, honey?" she asked softly, "you awake?"

"Mmm?"  He held his breath.  He heard the little smacking sounds as she moved her lips, warming them up to say something difficult.

A laugh bubbled up in her voice and she asked, "What do you suppose happens to ghosts when it's raining?"

He opened his eyes.  Obviously, their minds hand been wandering along different paths.  "What?"  He was too baffled to be disappointed.

"I thought they might dissolve if they get wet," she said.

"What, in a little fizzing puddle, like the witch at the end of the Wizard of Oz?"

"Yes, kind of like that."

“Maybe we should buy them some raincoats.”

“We should buy them something.  New clothes would be nice, something appropriate to the climate.”

“Hawaiian shirts?”

“And flip-flops.”

They kissed gently for a few minutes, but then stopped as things started speeding up again.  Both were too tired for more.  She shifted so that she could rest her head on his upper arm.  She reached to circle fingertips on his chest, above his heart, and whispered, “You make me very comportable.”

"I feel that way too," he answered, hopefully, but not truthfully. 

"God bless you, Derek," she said, abruptly.  She placed a soft hand on his forehead.

This had a worrisome finality to it.  He hesitated, then reached to hold her hand and press it harder to his skull.  Don't leave me! his mind screamed, pushing the thought into her palm.  Oh God, please don't leave me!  He whispered, "You are unlike anyone I have ever met either."


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