by Clyde on 10, March 2013

The humans have stopped speaking to me. I think they were fed up by my attempts to amuse myself by employing odd idioms that made no sense, like ‘I’ll have no truck with that’ and ‘let’s go cut a rug.’ I don’t blame them entirely. Half the time even I didn’t know what I was talking about, or I was talking about nothing. But a trace of polite indulgence would have been collegial and appropriate, since there is nothing here to talk about anyway. Most of the time we are lounging in our cholera cots or down at the water trying to find conch to cook. Then we mend the mosquito netting, which never works because the mosquitoes are apartment dwellers by now and cohabit our little cinder block box with us, their food supply.

About the cholera cots- no one ever had cholera on the island as far as we can tell. Once in a while however, a UN relief plane will mistake our little speck of rock for some other speck of rock, one in dire need, and out of the blue a chute will unfurl and a crate will crash to the ground. That’s how we ended up with cholera cots. They aren’t too comfy to sleep on frankly, though I suppose if you have cholera you wouldn’t notice as much. Your butt nestles into the hole which locks you into place. Once in a while you might use it as if it were a massage table and plant your face in the hole.

As I said, they fall short of being the ideal bedding, even in this miserable place where nothing is ideal and no pillow ever invented would be fluffy enough to lull you to sleep. Mostly we just lie in them to keep off the cement floor and away from the venomous crickets and biting salamanders that come out at night to ravage our already ravaged bodies. And to think, this is civilization. Yes, that’s right. It may be a bit third world, but there’s an electric light and a propane stove and water out back that we pump into metal pails and slop into a tub to cook with or wash our clothes. Of course the electric light is practically useless, being at night a beacon for blood-sucking winged insects and during the day 75 watts of heat to disturb the pleasant dankness of our indoor shelter.

Did I mention the rice? That was a UN drop too. There was a ton of it. A metric ton. By now it is half rice and half worms that look like rice. That’s the only time to use the lightbulb, when sorting the worms from the grains. It’s painstaking and time-consuming but constitutes a main source of entertainment. It’s what life is all about when you don’t have 100 channels of ESPN.

Miraculously there were lightbulbs from the sky gods too. They are all odd shapes and none of them last for too long. Since we have 5000 this shouldn’t become a problem for some time. When you change one, suddenly there is a new pattern of shadows on the cave owing to the geometry of the new bulb and for a little while that captivates your interest, but soon enough it becomes unnoticeable and you can get back to picking nits.

So I’ve started carrying on conversations with the local mouser, who comes on schedule twice a day to chase down meals in our cube-shaped domicile. If we ever find more cinderblocks I’m building a pyramid. Seriously, 6000 years of human architecture and the first thing we build is a box? I imagine the indoor living experience provided by a cinderblock pyramid would be something beyond mere novelty, though i am not sure what that would be. I am hopeful to have the experience, even if i have to mortar it myself. Besides it would be the only pyramid on the block.

I call him a mouser, but in truth he may never have dined on mouse meat. Several years ago a UN crate of contraceptives rendered all the mice infertile and they died off. Their ecological niche empty, an abundance of other mouse-sized insects, snakes, frogs and snails furiously began competing for the vacancy, and these are what Mouser has on his menu. Mouser’s nasty matted fur is the color of the dirt road. He has a half-bitten ear and squirts little doses of pee on the outside of our domicile to make sure the other felines know the goodies inside are all his.

I’ve seen him eating, though I’ve never been able to tell what he had in his mouth. Usually I’ll just see a pair of wriggling antennae disappearing down his gullet or hear him gagging on some beast that had gained a little traction on the bristly tongue and was mounting an effort to crawl out to safety. None have made it back into the light of day and just as well for that.

I tell him stories that are mostly invented, but, being a cat, he frequently doesn’t respond. ‘I was the bombardier who dropped the H-Bomb in WW3 that ignited the atmosphere and burned out all of the oxygen.’ I’ve grown lazy and my stories aren’t even internally consistent. ‘Luckily the vacuum that was created popped a boulder out of the mouth of an undersea volcano which shot into the sky like a champagne cork, releasing enough pent-up primordial atmosphere to revive humans of upstanding character who could hold their breath while praying for a miracle.’

Ocelot returns. Perhaps my human companions would be more tolerant if I stopped referring to them by animal names, but most likely they would not. He has a couple of eggs he wrangled from the chickens in the backyard. Or maybe they are turtle eggs. I can’t tell when he stands in the shadows over the stove. He pours some cooking oil into a skillet from the tin marked ‘kerosene,’ scrambles the eggs in the pan, douses them with pepper sauce and eats them directly from the pan.

‘You could use the plate. It’s clean.’
‘What for? I’m done already.’
‘So we’re back on speaking terms?’
‘Just for me to say you should come down to the spouting rock. There is some kind of conch convention taking place. It’s not to be explained but they are huddling like they are in town for a sales meeting. It’ll be wholesale murder.’

This is ominous. Not that a conch consortium is by itself any type of omen I can discern, but the implications are all bad. After gorging on as many as possible, the others will expect me to pitch in and pound out the remaining unlucky gastropods into thin strips to dry in the sun into conch jerky. This is by far the most insufferable meal I have had to tolerate and invariably I will seek relief by opening a tin of potted horse meat and making a hash with diced cassava.

One time after a conch jerky week the three of us were hired as crew on a catamaran, under the command of a 15 year old skipper, who paid us in beer and curried pigeon peas. It was an abundance of good fortune, which made you wonder why anyone would ever have wished to invent something as crass as money and marvel at the fact that the same winds which made our sailing possible were keeping the conch offshore, huddled-up somewhere beyond our reach.

‘It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good,’ I said.’

”Shut up” said the others.


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