TALES FROM THE CARIBBEAN

Dave (everybody called him Shark Boy), finished hoisting the main sail and stretched it tight with one last powerful pull on the spool handle. A careful sailor, he then coiled the halyard, secured it to a cleat on the side of the mast, and returned to the cockpit and coiled the piles of loose sheet lines lying there. The wind was hard from the south, but it was “steady as she goes,” and the Flying Circus was already running at her hull speed before he was finished with the lines. They would soon be approaching Lovango’s dock area, and a few short tacks later he expected them to be in a safe anchorage, from which they would dinghy to the dock.

They were still well offshore when Dave looked toward the top of the island to see what was going on, but it was too hazy to see anything. He moved along the narrow part of the deck forward of the beam and next to the cabin until he came to no-man’s land—that perilous stretch of deck that runs from the front of the cabin to the bow. There are no handholds there, and in rough seas with the rail near under, good footing is hard to find. Most sailors hesitate and wait until the deck is rising before they dash to the head stay, but Dave moved swiftly, deliberately and nonchalantly across the pitching foredeck without wavering. Jini, Shark Boy’s mother, moved him aboard a wooden yawl only a few hours after his birth, so he had lived aboard sailboats most of his life.

While Dave made ready the anchor his mind drifted back to the last days of Santana’s life. Dave wanted to know about the treasure: “Is it still there?” he asked Santana.

The old man slowly nodded yes, but then in a foreboding tone warned, “Evil spirits guard the gold, don’t go there!”

He then whispered in a fainter voice, “powerful spirits live there.”

Dave was hardly superstitious, but in the same breath he couldn’t rationally explain some things, such as Mona and Catrina Analusleiscu’s ability to see the past or predict the future, by simply studying the stars or looking into a crystal ball. Unlike some of the Voodoo Priest’s parlor tricks, the Gypsy sisters’ predictions were the real deal.

One time, Dave caught the Voodoo priest placing a razor sharp eagle’s talon between two of his fingers so when he squeezed it, it would pierce some hapless bird’s spinal cord and cause it to drop dead. Having caught the priest at that deception Dave was even more suspicious about the priest’s claim to be able to predict the future by reading entrails. If he could predict the future, Dave reasoned, he should’ve warned his faithful followers about the volcanic eruption that burned and buried about 90 percent of them as they danced the appeasement dance.

Hocus pocus didn’t apply to the Gypsy sister’s readings, though, because their predictions came to pass. The sisters had recently predicted that the hungry monk Lambini would financially prosper, and already Dave was hearing that the monk’s new line of goat cheese was the finest in the world. And when the sisters had originally predicted that the monk would have many children, it had seemed extremely unlikely to him—Lambini had taken vows of celibacy after all—but the latest coconut telegraph rumor had it that the girl gone missing from the chicken ranch was now hooked up with him. History is full of chaste religious figures overwhelmed by carnal desire, but how did Mona and Catrina know that the monk Lambini would be one of them?

After three quick tacks, Dave’s dad pointed his bow upwind and released the sheet lines, put the rudder hard over, and used his momentum to finish a “J” maneuver. When the bubbles from the bow wake stopped, and before the wind could blow the bow off one way or the other, Dave hand-over-handed the anchor down until it found the bottom. As they drifted backwards, Dave gently pulled enough to keep the bow centered on the wind, playing out the right amount of scope, and then with a mighty heave, set the anchor and secured it to a bow cleat. The captain rolled up his headsail, dropped and flaked down the main sail, and secured it to the boom with tie downs.

At last they were ready to go ashore. The captain jumped into the dinghy and started the motor while Dave removed the painter from its cleat and then joined his dad in the boat.

They headed straight for the dock. It was low tide and the three-fingered cook was standing above them on the dock waiting to take the painter (bow line), which he then loosely secured with overhand knots to a post. Dave and his dad climbed up on the dock where the Captain and the three-fingered Yakuza bowed respectfully and headed towards the chicken ranch.

Dave was in a hurry and took another route, up a steep path to Santana’s old shack. Dave could hardly wait to see the monk and see what he was doing with Santana’s old goat ranch. Dave didn’t see anybody at first, but then he was greeted by Santana’s Yorkshire Terrier, a tiny little long-haired dog named Arf.

“Arf, where’s the monk?” asked Dave.

Before Arf could lead him to the monk, a pack of wildly barking black and white Australian stock-dogs surrounded them. Then he noticed a girl peeking from behind the windmill, and another peeking from behind the well and a third one peeking out of a curtain-less window.

“Holy cow,” Dave exclaimed to himself, “the Yakuza aren’t going to like this.”

“Where’s the Monk?” Dave asked the girls, but instead of answering him, all three bolted and ran like deer toward the seaward side of the island, to the caves where the monk cured his cheese.

Dave did not give chase but instead walked briskly up another steeper path to the highest cliff on the island, the place that had appeared in his recurring dreams. The wind suddenly accelerated and so did Dave’s heart rate when he saw a plume of dust blowing out of a rock pile near the cliff—exactly what had happened in the dream every time it had come to him in the night. To be continued…

John Stark

The author of the "Tales from the Caribbean" fictional column. He attended school at Waynedale Elementary, Maplewood, Elmhurst HS in the Waynedale area. John had 25 years of professional writing experience when he passed away in 2012.

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John Stark

The author of the "Tales from the Caribbean" fictional column. He attended school at Waynedale Elementary, Maplewood, Elmhurst HS in the Waynedale area. John had 25 years of professional writing experience when he passed away in 2012. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer