It was bad. The New Eccentrics were squeezing out whole battalions of oranges that had been apprehended at the citrus orchard. Tom Renegade was slicing open large cans of pineapple juice, and Iman grimaced at me, bloodthirsty groves distorting the edges of her wicked smile as she flashed the centerpiece of the emergency at me. Its golden-brown body was catching beams of sunlight, throwing them into my eyes like blinding daggers. Bright inspiration dazzled me like divine light, and sharp blades pierced me with diabolical cruelty. When my violated pupils regained their bearings, I recognized a large bottle of the finest Kill-Devil.
Staring into the golden eye of the afternoon, a frown of dark, manly acceptance spread across my brow. I knew I had to tackle this demon before I could finish my marmalade. Eric and Aileen arrived out of breath, defusing my stare. They must have heard the echo of Iman’s demonic laughter as she had flashed the rum at me and understood their cue. In no time, the citrus blood was blended with pineapple juice and rum, and we were assembled around the table, toasting to this special occasion whose exhilarating name hit my ears for the first time just before our glasses erupted in suspense filled crystal dissonance, the opening chorus for ‘Aloha Friday’. It begins at 15.15 hours on a Friday, drags people away from work, and celebrates the coming of the imminent weekend.
Sucking down the first sweet and spicy mouthful of Bumbo, I could feel the drink’s tentacles grab hold of my tongue and palate, work their way down my throat and clutch onto my soul with their titillating suction cups, sending shocks of intoxicating pleasure through my bones. Aloha Friday it was, I had to acknowledge, and there was no return.
I labored to pace myself as I relished each sip with the sweet pain of half-fulfilled desire, and the knowledge that, once it was fulfilled, new temptations would start tugging at my soul. I bit the corner of my lip - a secret gesture I exchanged with my Bumbo to let it mingle with my blood - when an intense source of power hovering at about a saber’s length away across the table lifted my gaze, and my eyes met Sarah’s. Sarah was one of the two New Eccentrics, lover of costumes and textiles; merrymaker, beauty-tailor, and seamstress by trade. Our stares latched onto each other. As a command issued to our souls by the same captain congealed between us, her long, black hair flew back as if punched by a gust of wind, and for an instant, I seemed to detect the redness of glowing lava in her pupils. We held our gaze as our eyes grew cooler. The force of inspiration had unbound our bodies to serve its cause. We took a simultaneous breath that brought me images of a somewhat elegantly staggering pirate. ‘Do you want a costume?’ she asked. A costume. Naturally. I wanted nothing more than a costume.
In a whip’s crack, I was wearing baggy green trousers with my striped shirt, a red sash was tied around my waist, a velvet jacket with gold buttons and laced, trumpet-shaped sleeves longer than my arms flew onto my trunk, and a juggling hat was outfitted with a hatband to speak of this Pirate’s vaudeville connections. The images in my head grew stronger. In fact by now the captain who had snuck into our souls was walking freely about my blood vessels: staggering, yet balanced. Camp, yet handsome. Sheepish, yet always superior. As he sailed his ship through every capillary in my body, humming a gay little tune sure of his pending victory, my eyes were lined with coal, a wild, asymmetrical mustache sprouted on my upper lip, and a patch was painted round my left eye.
Sarah finished her work, and for a moment I sat frozen in place, intoxicated and numb, knowing the Captain was about to burst out of me, but unable to unleash him. He was holding me in a trance, and I had no choice but to wait for his next instructions. ‘Who am I? What is my name?’ he taunted me with a riddle. The renegade residence turned into a blur, but then a canon was fired in the recesses of my ancestral memory, and out of the rum colored haze rose the clear outline of a ladle. Without my doing, my right sleeve turned its opening towards me, and I saw that it was empty but for a fountain of thick, gushing blood that threatened to erupt in my face. My heart skipped a beat and I grimaced, but my possessed sleeve wasted no time and reached across the room for the ladle. As soon as it grabbed hold of it, the wound was sealed, and my lost arm replaced. Into the expanse of calm that followed, he asked again: ‘Who am I?’ and a sheepish, yet confident smile lifted the corners of my mustache. I knew the answer now. Raising my new right hand to hush the crowd, I introduced myself to the party: ‘I am Captain Ladle!’
Captain Ladle spent the remaining hours of Aloha Friday ladling his hosts’ delicious food into his greedy mouth and leaving its remains to rot in his tache, swashbuckling, fighting duels, and ladling out generous amounts of sailors’ yarn over a continuing flow of Bumbo. He was telling the New Eccentrics about Purple Dolphin Night, one of his favorite events through the centuries, and relishing the memory of sucking on the Purple Dolphin’s nose, thus exchanging a piece of his human soul against the Dolphin’s sonar sense that consequently sent him on one of this most illuminating adventures. ‘Shiver me timbers!’ he was saying, when, as if on cue, John came in, wearing a total of 7 purple dolphins on his body, 2 on his hat, and 5 on his T-shirt.
John, the vegetarian, brought some tragic news: cutting back some branches that had encroached upon his living space with a large pair of garden scissors, Emilia, the kitchen cat had jumped between the blades as they snapped shut, and he had cut off part of her tail. Robin was now nursing her back to health. As he re-lived the event, all 7 dolphins shivered on his body, and water rose to his eyes. ‘All right, matey, we’ve got dolphin meat on the menu tonight. Join us?’ said one of the men, and the rest of them roared with laughter, sending John and his dolphins back out into the jungle with its wicked laws and its bloody encounters.
At the end of the evening, loaded to the gunwalls, Captain Ladle staggered out into the night and left. When I woke up the next morning, he was gone except for a residue of nasty bristle on my upper lip, sullied with the remains of last night’s dinner. Disgusted, I washed his traces off my body but extracted a prayer from my heart to thank him for letting me experience the dimensions of his mind, fight with his prowess, and tell his tales, stories that had originated in times and places unbeknownst to me but for his lively memories that had unwound from beneath a filthy mustache, fueled by barrels of bumbo.
I returned to make the bed. When I finished, a bulge remained under the sheets, and I sighed, knowing what it was before I exhumed the invasive object: Ladle had spent the night. Of course. The irresistible bugger. Forever sheepish, yet forever superior. Inspecting the ladle, I found traces of congealed blood around its handle, the hardened remains of our ghastly union. Images of forensic scientists’ rapid computer analyses flashed through my mind, but finding myself in the jungle, I ended the subject with another sigh, water, and a sponge, and stuck Ladle in the drying rack.
The same afternoon, John came over to the jungle hut, and we chatted about this and that as he doodled on a piece of paper. John is a skilled artist who has decorated many a dwelling in this settlement with pictures of dolphins, juggling clubs, and other beautiful creatures. I was baking my 5th batch of waffles, still in the experimenting stage, and outlined my idea for a Saturday market waffle business. John encouraged me. After a while, he excused himself, wanting to check on Emilia. I gave him some waffles to take home, bade him farewell and proceeded to tidying up the table.
I was about to throw out a sheet of paper when John’s drawing hit me in the heart like the point of a dagger. There was Captain Ladle, grinning at me sheepishly from his superior position at the center of the picture. He was raising his ladle in a pose of victory, waffle batter dripping from its edges, some of it sullying his tache. He was standing on a waffle-shaped island, his left foot elevated on the edge of a giant treasure chest filled to the brim with a golden load of the finest waffles. His elbow rested nonchalantly on the thigh of his elevated leg. Had it not been for his sheepishness, he would have looked smug. The drawing was lined with exotic fruit trees bearing oranges, papayas, and strawberry guavas, and its title was written in large block letters across the top and bottom: Captain Ladle’s Waffle Island.
For now, me hearties, we have arrived at the end of the tale, but the end, let me tell you, is only the beginning. Find out for yourself. Captain Ladle’s golden booty will be ladled out every Saturday at S.P.A.C.E. market. Ladle ho! Heave to!