An Attempt at Journalistic Digging, Island Style
I had prudently decided to abandon my quest to locate the source of The Village’s everlasting drug stash. I figure it’s Floyd, and I figure that everyone on the island knows it’s Floyd, and I figure that the GSI Powers That Be did some serious thinking about the kind of world they wanted to create on the island, opted against a Nazi-style police state, and decided not to worry about it. There’s a tight balance between oversight and overkill.
But I was still intrigued by Floyd, so I decided to risk botulism and tetanus and stop by the Pop’n’Squeak one more time. This time I worked out a strategy in advance, concluding that my health would be least endangered if I steered away from the purchase of consumables and stuck to shopping for a new ball-point pen.
Floyd and I had both aged considerably by the time I found the Pop actually open for business once again. But at last I spied the glowing neon over the door and casually wandered inside.
Floyd was at his station at the counter, busily blacking out the content ratings from a stack of CD labels. Surprisingly, he didn’t say hello — or even look up — when I walked in. His oily black hair formed a visor over his dull black eyes.
I made my selection — a soft-sided PaperMate model with black ink — and ventured toward the counter. Still without looking up, Floyd said, “That’s two bucks.”
The package was clearly labeled “69¢,” but I put two dollars on the counter. Floyd didn’t move. The alcohol smell from the marker mingled with an alcohol smell on Floyd’s breath.
I coughed politely.
“So, Floyd,” I offered gamely, “how’s business?”
Nothing. Floyd just rubbed the black marker over a label that said “Explicit Content — Coarse Language” and didn’t acknowledge my question. Or my continued presence in his store. Or my continued presence on Earth.
I took the patient-but-unyielding approach, and over the course of the next several hours I managed to extract some information from him.
Floyd was born on the mainland but has spent his whole life on GSI. His mother is Suzette Houlton, the Town’s economic development director. He doesn’t know who his father is, although his guesses have, over time, covered just about every adult male on the island.
“You’ll meet my mother,” he growled, his eyes glowing anger behind the skein of black hair dripping down from his forehead. “Write anything bad about her and I’ll kill you.”
Floyd did the typical GSI school thing — elementary grades on the island, high school in Eastport on the mainland, nothing since. Throughout his Wonder Years, he demonstrated a marked lack of interest in fishing or lobstering, displaying instead a fondness for abusing small animals, fashioning concealable weapons out of rocks, and exploring the ups and downs of underage drinking.
Faced with the end of his school days and the prospect of having to get up early and don oilskins every morning to extract a living from the sea, he borrowed a small sum from his mother and bought an old garage near the edge of town. A failing convenience store on the mainland provided the counters, cabinets, and coolers for pennies on the dollar. Suddenly, GSI’s business community had grown by one Pop’n’Squeak.
Floyd lives in the back of the store, in an apartment that I seriously don’t want to see. It’s behind a broken black door, and my guess is that it makes The Stump look like The Four Seasons.
Floyd is unmarried (surprise!), and he seems content to grub along in his own little way, reading porn and offending people for sport. While I was there, a man stopped in to buy a Coke. He was a surveyor, and he had been sent off to do some survey work on the islands off the Maine coast. He was in his mid-forties, a nice enough guy, and he just wanted a cold soda.
Floyd looked at him in the same way that the Queen of England might look at a guy who just farted in the cathedral. The poor surveyor got his soda — warm — but it cost him $3.50.
“Why didn’t you sell him one of the cold sodas you keep in the fridge?” I asked. Floyd looked at me in the same way that the Pope might look at a guy selling discount trips to Vegas. I chose not to pursue that line of questioning any further.
But I did ask him other questions, prodding in my firm but gentle journalistic way.
Plans for the store? None.
Plans for the future? None.
Criteria by which products are selected for sale? Profit.
Primary clientele? Who cares.
Health and Safety inspectors? Fuck ’em.
Favorite color? Black.
Favorite band? AC/DC.
Position on the abuse of small animals? Got boring.
Attitude toward well-intentioned journalists who are only trying to capture the spirit of a place? Who needs ’em.
Why the hell did you call this place the Pop’n’Squeak? “No comment,” he offered with a thin-lipped sneer.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.