My wife and I spent most of today working in the garden: a two plus acre landscape requiring more attention and energy than either of us have at our disposal, especially when we are both the other side of sixty. And after several months of body-abusing ten hour days the mind craves other, less physical things. We, or at least I, quit early, it wasn't even seven o'clock. Kicking off my boots and dirt encrusted pants at the back door I tip-toed inside. A bottle of Merlot from, of all places, Idaho, caught my eye, that, and the open manuscript from Whinkla on the table beside the only comfortable chair in the house.
Whinkla and the Blimp, Page Two
The sky darkened and the cabin lights grew brighter by comparison. Captain Worley pulled down the eyelid of his left eye with the middle finger of his left hand and the eyelid of his right eye with the middle finger of his right hand. He pressed both fingers toward the center of his skull and began to dream in colour. A dream, that featured eleven golden-haired virgins climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a clutch of crow-black coiffured, feather-thighed beauties in Brussels, and an unseen raven-haired painting by Yvet Tinguy; a new scatological play by Jaffe; an orchestral balustrade against reason by Shields. And somewhere, somewhere it seemed, there was a lonely canvas by Chiricas flapping unnoticed in an Atlas Mountain wind. But beneath it all there was the endless droning monologue by the divine Duli in Dulian Engleesh to contend with. Worley was beginning to tire. Then, without warning, the Nigerian crew chief who had been minding the mainsail on the quarter deck as stoic and mindful as a Masai warrior, screamed something unintelligible in French, or English, and vanished like a breath of hoary nimbus in July.
"Two gone. Two gone by god." Rooney said, pressing two sea-damp fingertips to his mouldy eyelids emulating the captain, "and to think, twenty-five years of pain and suffering for this." He raised his arthritic right hand half-way toward the fog-dark heaven, "twenty-five years! twenty-five years!" Then, walking calmly to the railing broken by the first mate's sudden departure, he took the tail of the first fish that struggled into the unraveling net draped over the warped boiler-plate and folded it into a crane. Smiling, he blew his gin-tinted breath into the fishbirds' rump and tossed his inflated creation to a pulse of wind. He watched silently as the bulbous bird fluttered feebly above the tattered mizzenmast and plum-pink tourist bunting, and then, as the bird winged swiftly toward the glowering sky, farting brown gas, he prayed with glazed, bornagainchristian eyes for vengeance and forgiveness.
"Rooney, you'd best do what arctic air spilling over the free support system does," Worley said, scratching his testicles and grinning like the Cheshire cat, "I've got this beast under command again." And as he grinned and picked his raw red nose the ship settled quietly on its broad, stainless steel breast and moved resolutely toward the fire-charred horizon. He poured three fingers of rum into his salty glass and let his rheumy eyes squirm like mealworms through the starch-less minds of the passengers. He descended to D Deck and saw the two, would-like-to-be virgins from the Greek village of Plomari massaging each other's nylon thighs. He watched the watered-down apricot nectar salesman from Laureville, Ohio vomiting into the light-weight acrylic toilet; the baker of whole-wheat/whole-grain breads-in-the-shape-of-best-forgotten nightmares, recently from Albany, New York plucking his hirsute eyebrows; the hissing and rattling reptile saleswoman from Port-of-Spain, Trinidad toying with a viper of considerable size and intent, and finally, bigger, brighter, and louder than everyone else. He saw too clearly the Resident of the Unrelated States of Pan America from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico holding two palsied pink hands in front of his crotch to hide the spreading pee-stain. The Resident was leaning limply against the artificially corroded zinc bar in the Overlook Saloon. He looked bored. His Zodiac shirt was unbuttoned to the navel exposing his hairless, bleached-bone chest for the benefit of three giggling Yugoslavian gypsies less than half his age. But his weak eyes were fixed on a dimpled pewter sheriff's badge from the city of Calico, California, USA the baker from Albany had thumb-tacked to his starched white chef's hat. Phosphorescent sputum dribbled from the Resident's mouth like a third term re-election speech. Then, as the Cyclops dipped unexpectedly into a trough of two dimensional water, Worley saw a uniformed, uninformed receptionist appear. She appeared disoriented, but managed to wipe the Resident's mouth on the sleeve of her baggy Calico-cotton blouse and lead him away to the gymnasium where a five dollar-a-plate dinner was about to be served in his dishonor. The Resident stumbled, mumbled into the room, then applauded his entrance. He smiled benignly, as protocol required, and casually fingered the chipped Taiwan-china cup, empty on the oaken lectern. He fingered his fractured string of Bolivian rosary beads; nodded drunkenly to an inanimate placard listing his broken promises and said, smoothing his spittle-stained tartan tie and inhaling until he was almost six feet tall: "I truly believe, that even if all the Peripateticismists of Romania were seething with wine fury and beating a litany to Aristotle on their furry antelope drums. . .and, even, even if their scaly tongues were scraping a Black Sea breeze from a Red Sea, or licking the shriveled gray gonads of the envoy from Turkey, the poems of Ovid, Sappho and Cattalus would still be rare in this cast iron, cast-aside country - and, and, and, if you would honor me with your vote of trust and confidence I promise, I promise. . .more than a chicken in every pot, or a confidence man, or woman, in every town, or a canoe or kayak in Tipperary, I promise a nirvana and satori a year to all eligible voters over the age of seventy-nine. I promise a vodka martini, shaken not stirred, in…"
The crowd interrupted, misreading the message on the TelePrompTer, and drowned the sagging words of the Resident with syncopated applause as they vapidly sucked their complimentary lemon and cranberry champagne.
"Fraud will always pay to preserve integrity," the Resident continued, as his embarrassed receptionist and interpreter tugged his frayed sleeve and whispered, "it's time for your bath sir, …warm water, bubbles…your yellow luffa ducky…" The Resident of the Unrelated States of Pan America allowed his head to stumble against the finger-stained lecturn.
Worley sighed and reluctantly opened his eyes. Outside the jack-frosted cabin window he saw a broad turquoise ribbon spiraling upward from beyond the distant horizon like an unraveling DNA molecule. It held encephalitic children in its twisted wind, and he knew this was their final journey and at last they would dream they were normal, and alive. The darkening sky shimmered; whether from agony or ecstasy, Worley could not tell, his glass was as empty as a newly fired ceramic cup. Instinctively he tightened his grip on the splintery wooden wheel and whispered into the ship's intercom for another triple Barbados rum and coke - no lime, then began to hum the Greek paean to Pan he had penned on their last visit to Corinth. The music had been borrowed from an early 90's song by the Scorpions, or some obscure reptilian group. The source of the melody might be in question, but the lyrics were his, of that he was almost certain. His deep hypnotic, mantra-like humming was absorbed by the open intercom and broadcast at an even higher level to the lower forty-eight decks. Forty of the forty-four flatulent ferrets in the hold paused momentarily in their rapturous gormandizing to listen, as did the crowd of chuckling drunken passengers staggering from the gymnasium. Even the Resident of the Unrelated States of Pan America, delirious in his pastel bath, put down his duck-shaped luffa and told Penelope to stop reading Ovid and listen to the spirit of the ship. The captain's triple rum and coke arrived and the first verse of the Paen to Pan came to an abrupt end.
Rooney mumbled something about a Castilian Spring, rubbed his rump, and returned to someone else's dream. Above the main deck, awash with fetishes and aborted nightmares, a fluttering multicolored, macaronic sail sagged from the mainmast. It spilled into the room of dozing shadows. They stirred fitfully in their filched peace. The ocean tried to roar but managed only a dim shimmer and dry-bone crack like a kaleidoscope of misdirected hope, low above the bow. There could be no darkness here, not now, only the damp, oily sheen of lamprey eels, slugs and nocturnal masturbation. But night still persisted in the deep shadows of the dusty life boats.
The blimp's bloodshot nose rose gradually above the thorax of the sea and sniffed Worley's medulla oblongata, but the stern ropes, held fast to Rooney's eight sleeping fingers, pulled down the sails and stopped enough stale air to dock the wind-beast safely against a ridge of warm North African sand. Only a few vipers were disturbed.
On deck seventeen, the Resident had finished his bath and now snored loudly between two linen dreams. But four, sand-coated lizard-men with Pan-like endowments were massaging his wife's naked body with their marble thighs. Her skin was being sanded away. Small particles of lust danced in Minoan sunlight. A blanket of blue-bottle flies hummed patiently overhead sensing sensuality and the rewards of animal sex.
Mr. Rooney" Worley said, as formally as his intoxicated state would allow, "I think we'd better check the hold. The muses may have been disturbed by that last sea surge, the nasturtiums stunted. This last upheaval may have disturbed the very cosmos. We simply must check the hold."
Rooney poured more than seven ounces of Jamaican rum into Worley's plastic cup, and refreshed his own Gin and Gin before nodding agreement.
"Ahh, right you are cap'n Worley," he said, limping toward the gangplank like Long John Silver, "I'd best check the hold."