Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Elephant Island

Passage to  
Elephant Island  


By morning Ernest Montgomery from Dothan, Alabama had decided to lay off the sightseeing onboard the cruise ship, last he remembered the ship was somewhere between the Falkland Islands, and the South Shetland Islands, to be exact, he’d soon find out, they were docked momentarily off the north shores of Elephant Island. Ernest had been getting tired of the trip, if not bored, from: Buenos Aires, Port Stanley, around Cape Horn, Chile, docking at Ushuaia, Argentina for eight hours, the principle reason for taking the cruise was to make his life more exciting, and he wanted to be around young women, he was forty-five years old, freshly divorced, and he was discovering, the longer the trip, the older the clientele—it was a fifteen-day trip, and there was only a few stray women, and they were bitchy and older than him by twenty-years plus.
       With nothing to do but complain, Ernest decided to get as drunk as scotch whiskey would make him. He found a nice corner in the bar and by mid-morning two pints had been consumed. The remainder of the morning he spent on deck looking at an odd island, everyone called “Elephant,” and some called it “Hell-of-an-Island.”
       He went back into the bar bought another pint of scotch whiskey. And he went back out to the deck; the wind was white and raw. Then he heard a voice over the ship’s microphone system, it was the Captain, “Elephant Island,” said the Captain, “is 779-miles West-southwest of South Georgia, and 581-miles from the south of the Falkland Islands, and 550-miles southeast of Cape Horn, and we are now three miles in front of it.”  Then he heard him say, “Excursion! those who want to go to the Island meet at…” and then he stopped hearing, and saw a blond, pathetically he followed her to where folks were signing up to take the excursion, he had missed her among the nearly two-thousand passengers onboard the ship, perhaps near thirty on the three zodiacs preparing for the excursion (he simply put an X for his name on the document—a manifest, for those intending to go to the island, he was too drunk to do otherwise). He wiped his hands over his face as if to wake himself up, “What’s the matter?” said the young woman, the very one he was attempting to pursue, his face wet and appearing as if he had been crying, but of course he hadn’t been; and now the ship was even closer to the Antarctic  island.
       She pulled the scarf out of the way from her face, standing in line waiting to board the small craft and getting her lifejacket, putting it on, and clamping the three clamps together, readying to go to the island, Ernest really not too aware of anything, just in heat over this young damsel, did likewise—a monkey see monkey do, kind of thing.
       “Nothing’s wrong kid,” he said sharply to the young woman, adding, “Why did something go wrong?” he questioned.
       The girl turned her back, she was hurt, and seemingly one could hear a few sniffles, as if they were sighs.
       “Say what’s the matter with you anyway?” he asked the girl, “you nuts or something? Let’s get out of here and go to my room instead of this stupid island trip! Okay?” but she never turned around again, and so Ernest simply put on his lifejacket, as did the thirteen other people getting into the small zodiac-boat—although he hesitated, thinking, perhaps thinking why waste time on this stuck-up chick and this stupid excursion, but before he could deliberate any further—or completely, they were on their way to the area where Ernest Shackleton had made his campsite, in 1916, along with twenty-two of his companions—to Point Wild.
       The closer the inflated zodiac vessel got to the island, the more inhospitable it looked to Ernest, “Say,” said the young lady, the very one Ernest had tried to pick up, “are you soused?”
       “No, I’m as sober as a dead rat, what’s it to you lady?” said Ernest. It was as if she was trying to rekindle the candle—figuratively speaking, the one he had lit, and rudely blew out.
       “That’s right,” he said, “hell, I’m sober enough to swim to the island,” and she laughed, and for once, Ernest took that serious look off his face and laughed with her. But the fact was, and the fact remained, he was more near to being soused than he knew, and saw only blurs of her, and blurs of the island, but he hid most of those drunken mannerisms somehow.

      (On the Antarctic Island called Elephant—at Point Wild, a plateau area residing next to a mountain on the northern coast…) “Well,” said Ernest, he pulled out a cigarette, sucking deeply on it, walking a distance away from the group, to pull out his pint of scotch whiskey and have a drink—and he’d end up drinking the whole pint behind those dark wet granite walls; the young woman by the name of Pilar, took no notice in where he went, and the rest of the group, didn’t even know he existed—and on the official paper—the document or manifesto (program, indicating who was there, and who was who), the one he was supposed to have signed getting into the vessel for the excursion, the very one he had simply placed a smeared X on, the very one that looked more like a mistake than a name, and there he sat on what might have been a hidden corner where Shackleton himself sat, smoking and drinking, and then he passed out.

       “Well, I—say, folks let’s board the zodiac-craft and head on back to the ship,” said the young navigator, in charge of the excursion. As they neared the ship, Pilar began to look about for Ernest, said to the man sitting next to her, “Say, where’s that man that I was talking to before, do you know who I mean?” Not knowing his name. And the man pointed to someone at the other end of the vessel, who was seasick, and had his head in his palms and his elbows on his knees—who could have been anybody, and the young woman thinking he was still drunk, simply said “Oh yes, the stinking drunk. I started to take a liking for him.” And left well enough alone, thinking no more of it.
       The ship now was at sea, heading for Paradise Bay, Ernest Montgomery, on the island, alone, just waking up. It was pretty cold, and he was having a hell of a time trying to focus his eyes, he dashed out from behind the rocks—unaware of how long he had been passed out (sleeping) but knowing he had been, and hoping it wasn’t all that long, and noticed the ship was gone.
       “How in hell can I get…!” he said out loud, and several times the voice of his mind mimicked him, with the end of the sentence, ‘off this damn island…!’ And there he stood thinking, talking out loud, “She was so crazy about getting my attention, she’ll tell the captain and they’ll come back.”
       Then after a long while still standing waiting to see the ship return, —the  voice of his mind scolding him—, he mumbled, “I reckon that cutie likes me, why didn’t she come across quicker, she perhaps…perhaps (and lost his train of thought)… how in the hell can I get out of here!” (It really wasn’t a question, but a disparaging statement.)
       He looked about—up and down the ice-covered mountainous island (its tallest peak, nearly three-thousand feet), elephant seals were observing him from afar; other than that, there was no significant flora or native fauna, just a few penguins and seals found moseying about Point Wild and its coast, and a fog and snowstorm was appearing, slowly coming in… he knew he didn’t have a high cold threshold nor an extreme weather tolerance, and there was no ship insight, and his pint of whiskey was empty, and he lit his last cigarette staring out into the sea, waiting, just waiting, continuously waiting, bored to death, and nearly frozen to death—not believing he was marooned on an island no more than ten by two kilometers east to west in the Antarctic waters—waiting, just waiting for the ship to return—continuously  waiting, and bored to death…

No: 609/3-28-2010/EC; dedicated to my wife Rosa, her personal selection. Reedited, 2-2012