White Andrew and Marie were going to be married on a private island in
Quatsino Sound. It was owned by Marie’s father, a disgraced cattle baron. We hired a
private ferry to take us to the wedding. Marie’s father and mother traveled aboard his
yacht and we followed at a safe distance, for a time, until our captain started drinking
rum. White Andrew took a cigarette boat to his wedding, so we brought a change of
clothes for him.
On our ferry we had the groomsmen, the bridesmaids, Marie and Captain Hank.
Marie looked nervous and unsure. Captain Hank strolled around the upper deck, while
smoking his pipe and shaking hands. He refused all drinks until we had cleared the
major shipping lanes.
Connor Fowler brought a pair of binoculars and we took turns spying on the
yacht. Marie’s father was swarthy, fat and shirtless. He had a pitcher of martinis and a
jar of olives with him at all times. Her mother was sunning herself in red bikini bottoms.
White Andrew was coming in from the north. We arranged his boat rental but
hadn’t seen him since the bachelor party. He drank a lot that night and we tried to take
him to a cathouse in Chinatown but he wanted a water balloon war. We didn’t have
water balloons so Connor Fowler stole a box of surgical gloves from the operating
theatre of a teaching hospital.
Captain Hank asked the maid of honor to fix him a Tequila Sunrise. He had four
tequilas and then switched to rum. He took a small group of us to the ship’s library. It
was all theology. Don’t you have any novels or magazines, someone asked. He locked us
in the library until the maid of honor promised him a dance in the galley.
From his megaphone, Marie’s father praised the calm waters and the sunshine,
the seabirds. He praised every soul aboard the vessels which sailed with him that day to
New Albion. For a coronation, a banquet, the raising of the dead. Stay through
Walpurgisnacht, Marie’s father insisted, help me bury my gold. Marie’s father said, I cut
down all the trees in the Amazon as a young boy aged twelve. If you stay with me
through spring, let us build forts in the trees, castles, a Bastille in Firs, Harrapa, all of it
suspended in air.
Through his telescope, Captain Hank leered at Marie’s mother in her red
bottoms. He rushed us back to the library and took down several volumes of verse, and
opened them to pages stained with coffee and tobacco. He passed them around our
circle. It’s as I thought, she is the mother of harlots, Captain Hank said, and I must have
her. He locked us again in the library and gave the order to overtake the yacht. We
banged on the door, asking the bartender to let us out to watch. Marie wore Hank’s hat
and traced her fingers across the spines of all the books in his possession.
Three hundred yards north of Marie’s father’s private island, where he could be a
prince forever and an architect of tree houses, White Andrew cut the engine and let his
boat idle on the waves. From his breast pocket he removed a flask of absinthe and from
his trousers he took out fishing line and bait.
We heard Marie’s father and Captain Hank trade insults over their megaphones.
You are a godless fat-man, says Captain Hank.
Well, you have the grim visage of a frontier turnip farmer, replies Marie’s father.
And you are impotent from overfeeding, rejoinders Captain Hank.
I eat plenty of oysters, and you are impotent from drink, answers Marie’s father.
I am going to spear you as you deliver your wedding toast! I’ll radio back to the mainland for a crate of wild dogs and feed them your corpse when they arrive at dusk; I’ll set them free on your island to gradually shit you out on the veranda of your great house and at the center of your unicursal hedge maze, exclaims Hank.
How dare you, my hedge maze is not unicursal! It is symmetric and unsolvable, you goddamn philistine, ejaculates Marie’s father.
The bartender let us out of the library. We took our drinks and our canapés out to
the deck and watched the end of the race. The yacht was twenty yards from us, at most.
Captain Hank and Marie’s father were talking over one another. We did not slow down
as we came into the harbor. The yacht crashed into the pier, followed by the ferry. Our
drinks spilled, our clothes were ruined. Captain Hank jumped overboard with his spear
gun and made for the shore, then disappeared into the forest. Marie’s father loaded a
handgun and set out after him. Hank lost him in the woods and circled back to the stone
pavilion and he made love there to Marie’s mother, who had removed her red bikini
bottoms and wore a garland of wild flowers and had darkened her lips with the rent and
mashed flesh of assorted berries. A short while later, Marie struck Captain Hank on the
head with a piece of driftwood as he made his way back to shore, and he died. We lost
our deposit on the cigarette boat rental. White Andrew is still fishing, and still wary of landfall.
Avee Chaudhuri is from Wichita, Kansas. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fluland, FLAPPERHOUSE, Dead Mule and Prairie Schooner.