Life on a Maine Island: Tires and Tribulations
Earlier today, life was feeling good. The sky was the kind of clear blue that only Maine summers can bring. The tide was high, causing the boats in the harbor to bob in cheery ways and keeping the muck-stench of the low-tide stretches to a minimum. I was in an unusually expansive mood, full of energy and smiles. So I decided to swing by the Pop’n’Squeak to chat with Floyd. I figured that would cure me of any overly sunny emotions.
The upbeat vibes I was feeling diminished somewhat when I went out to the Island Car. The car, if you remember, is a wreck that has been spray-painted with an oceanscape of bizarre images and slogans. So it wasn’t the general appearance of the car that buzz-killed my otherwise uptempo morning. It was the thoroughly flat tire that brought me down a bit.
Now I’ve changed tires plenty of times before, and since I wasn’t on any kind of schedule, the flat shouldn’t have been too much of a downer. But Whirlpool Eddie had failed to provide me with a spare — a fact that I hadn’t noticed until now because I’m an idiot. The lovely chateau I call The Stump is not graced with anything like a telephone (or electricity, or running water, or screens, or a floor, or much of a roof) and cell phones don’t work this far away from civilization, so I wasn’t able to call anyone to get a ride into town.
Oh, well. I’ve walked from The Stump to The Town before, and Archie covered that ground by foot just the other day. So I laced up my sneakers and began hiking northward, hoping I could catch a ride with some fellow traveler before too long.
Funny thing about the road between The Town and The Village. Nobody ever drives on it. All the Village people stay down in The Village, singing songs and snorting powders. All the Townsfolk stay up in The Town, reading Bibles and criticizing their neighbors. Hardly anyone actually travels from one to the other. It’s like matter and antimatter, with The Stump as the thin wall that separates them and prevents the annihilation of the Universe.
So I walked along the hypothetically gravel road, kicking up dust with my feet and swatting mosquitoes with a two-by-four. I tried to convince myself that this is what intrepid worldly journalists do — they find themselves in strange situations, and they usually have to walk long distances through bleak terrain to get out of them. The day was still pretty and pleasant, though, so the walk wasn’t so bad. No one came along to pick me up, but I made it into town by midafternoon.
Townspeople were skittering one way and another, all looking busy and important. They stopped to chat with each other from time to time, but they didn’t persist in that activity too long. It might imply idleness. Or worse yet — it might suggest intimacy. Can’t have that. Devil’s workshop. Must keep moving. Bustle, bustle.
I stopped by The Larboard and asked Cory if she could give me a lift the rest of the way to Whirlpool Eddie’s. It wasn’t far, but I was feeling a bit worn out and my lobstering-wounds were throbbing.
“Sorry, asshole,” she said, bustling her short, stout frame about the bar even though it had only two customers in it. “Can’t help you. I’ve got a job to do, you know. Some of us work for a living.” She handed me a free beer.
“Thanks anyway,” I said, mostly because of the beer. I sucked it down, handed the can back to Cory, and headed off toward Whirlpool Eddie’s lot.
Except for actually buying the Island Car, I hadn’t spent much time at Eddie’s. When I made The Great Island Car Purchase, I noticed three doghouses, some chain, a few dogfood bowls, and some crushed bones lying around, but as Eddie showed me the inventory I never saw any actual dogs. When I hoofed it up to his gate this time, though, Eddie didn’t seem to be around, and three large dogs snarled at me from the other side of the chain-link. They looked like the Three Mongrels of the Apocalypse: one was brown, one was black, and one was pure white. They shared a certain pinkness in key parts — their lips, the lining of their eyelids, their butts — and they all seemed to have this crazed, Charles-Manson look in their eyes. They looked eager to kill, eager to sink their teeth into soft journalist-flesh and shake their thick necks until the hunk came off in their mouths. They were short-haired, blotchy, and variously deformed; the brown one was missing the bottom part of a hind leg, the black one was missing an ear, and the white one was missing half its lower jaw. I guessed that they lost those body parts in a particularly vicious poker game they play out back, but I had no evidence to back this up. The dogs barked and growled and drooled and jittered about, as if it were Red Bull night at the Cuckoo’s Nest.
These were clearly murderous, villainous, River Styx sorts of dogs, and they scratched the ground and snarled inside the gate. The message was clear — “abandon legs all ye who enter here” — but lying just beyond them was a pile of tires. One of them was bound to fit my Island Car, but I had to get past the Hounds of the Basketcase to retrieve my prize. I tried the “Good Doggie!” approach, which seemed to whip the charming little steppenwolves into a bloodlust frenzy. I tried hiding behind a tree for a while, hoping they would lose interest and return to their card game. I even tried snarling and barking back at them, but they seemed offended by my accent.
Eventually — after ruling out the idea of walking into town and buying a garish striped sportcoat and plaid pants, in the hopes that the Fang Gang would confuse me with Eddie and slink off to their Unholy Lair for some judicious wound-licking — I hit on an alternate plan. I hiked back into town and bought four pounds of salt pork from Chrys at the general store. When I returned, the Cerberus wanna-bes were still at the gate, jumping and growling and doing their best to demonstrate exactly what they would do to my limp, mutilated body the instant I opened the latch.
Now I don’t want to brag, but at Eastport Junior High School, I was the third-string relief pitcher for my Intramural Softball Team, so I know a little something about hurling objects long distances at fast speeds. I clutched the salt pork in my right hand, twisted my right foot against the dust — just like I used to do on the mound during practices — and I unleashed every centrifugal whirling erg of energy I had into heaving that slimy pork over the fence and far into the dark recesses of Whirlpool Eddie’s junkyard. At that precise moment, darn the luck, the jet stream altered course and sapped the speeding porkball of its forward momentum, causing it to land with a dull, gelatinous thud just a few inches inside the fence. Nevertheless, the charming furry Rat Things bolted after the irresistible blob of dead pigmeat, and I seized the opportunity to slip the latch and dash inside.
The pile of tires was apparently sorted by age or Zodiac sign or something, because I couldn’t figure out, in the few seconds I had before the Skull and Bones Society finished their porky little snack and came looking for something more entertaining to devour, which tire might be the right size for the Island Car. I finally grabbed one that looked promising and sprinted toward the gate, just as the Deerslayers noticed the presence of live game and dashed toward me. I managed to latch the gate just as an assemblage of canines and incisors closed down on the space that, an instant before, was occupied by my left arm.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — BobbyBoy886314: Fantastic! Man, I wish I had your job!
Comment — Leonardo: Classic. The capitalist system forces people to train animals to defend their excess property against other people who need it. Why can’t we all allocate resources according to need?
Comment — Benchpress999: How pathetic is it to be too weak for journalism?
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.