Mechanically Separated Chicken.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003


We've been on this island so long I barely remember what life was like before. If I sit and concentrate really hard, with the hat pulled over my eyes, I see a room with model aeroplanes and a broken ship-in-a-bottle. There's a girl in pink cashmere, who smells like vanilla coke. Sometimes there's a voice - announcing the weather or reminding me that Winchesters Peanut Butter is the crunchiest peanut butter there is - but that's pretty much it. The sea air has a way of wiping you clean, and I never was much of a brainy type person anyhow.

Some of the others remember more, but then, they left more behind than me. Maybe if I'd had an audition to go to, or an invention to build, or a stockholders meeting to chair, I'd be unhappier about being stuck here. But I don't mind it. I like our cosy, thatched huts, and I like coconut cream pie. I never have to worry about numbers or money or the alphabet, plus there are two pretty girls here who mend my clothes and don't slap me and call me stupid like the others used to.

We've built rafts. A dozen, at least. Something always seems to go wrong with them. The professor keeps coming up with blueprints and I keep spilling soup on them or accidentally using them to start the campfire. I'm so clumsy. I guess I've always been that way.

Actually, there are a few other things I remember from before. A sound: something whipping through the air. And a dark room, stinking of camphor and cider apples. Sometimes I wake up at night and my fingers ache like I've been holding onto something awful tight, but I try not to think about it.

There's a breeze that sweeps through the palm trees. Late at night, I crawl out of my hammock and go listen to it. It's like silk rustling, or hands rubbing together. In the moonlight, sea spray shaped like a genie rises from the lagoon, wearing harem pants and holding a scimitar above its head. It whispers that one day there will be another storm like the one that brought us here. It says one day a plane will fly overhead and see a smoke plume or the wreck on the beach. I stare at the genie in silence until I'm too tired to stand up. Open sesame, it says, and tune in next week.

Not long ago, the professor repaired the radio transmitter with seaweed and oyster shells. Powered by bamboo bicycle, it filled the air with scratches of noise; static; fragmented voices. Howls. An army of ghosts. When I first heard it, a stream of pee ran down my leg and puddled in my sneaker.

Anyhow, silly old me, I confused it with the desalination machine the professor had built the week before and when he came back from lunch I'd already poured half a bucket of seawater inside. His eyes popped like crazy and the skipper chased me around the camp, bellowing and slapping me with his hat. He hit me so hard my shoulder turned blue.

But in the end, no one was really that surprised. I can't help being me, after all, and in no time, Ginger was scolding the professor and clutching me to her bosom like an Emmy. The skipper called me 'Little Buddy' and we got to eat clam chowder for supper and play canasta, just like usual.

I still have the bruises, and Golly do they smart. But it was worth it.