NOT UNMINDFUL OF THE FUTURE
Dutch smoked his Lucky Strike and then started another. I allowed him some time alone, to think about his situation, as well as what we might do about it. I climbed back toward the cleft, to examine the vein of copper and gold more carefully. Once down inside, on hands and knees, it was hypnotic to just stare at the ore.
I had always thought that gold, except for small nuggets, was always found by either panning for the dust, or crushing huge masses of rock known to obtain it. The vein observed in front of me was not like that at all. It had rock and debris embedded within its structure, but, by and large, the metal was very evident for what it was. I took out my penknife and gouged out some of the stuff. Chunks the size of my thumb broke free. I gathered them together in my palm, convinced that gold in this form was exceedingly rare, in all parts of the world.
This was a major discovery, and exceptionally dangerous to the accomplishment of my mission. Gold was notorious for turning men’s minds into mush and their morals into goo. I congratulated myself on not falling for such idiocy but still made sure to fill one of my trouser pockets with the leavings. And just in case Dutch lost his nuggets, I took some samples with me.
I hiked around the summit, all the way back to where Dutch sat smoking. A second Zodiac had landed at the site, where passengers still gathered, wandering around. Passengers loved beach combing. Benito spent many hours attempting to deny smuggled items from being brought aboard from such shore visits. The expedition company vowed, to all authorities, that its crew and passengers would never take anything from any site that was visited unless it was to purchase supplies or items from the local tribes. When I sat down next to Dutch, I spotted Botany Bay down at the landing site. He was herding the passengers, no doubt lecturing on such topics as Horned Puffins or native lichens of the tundra. Stuff I was not only amazed to learn about but also terminally bored with. Don had come in the second Zodiac, of his own accord. I reflected on that.
“He’s covering for us,” I said to Dutch, pointing to the site way below.
“Why would he do that?” Dutch asked, between drags. I wondered just how many packs of unfiltered Lucky Strikes Dutch inhaled a day, before responding.
“He saw us go ashore. Then he saw us climb the mountain alone. Now we’ve been separated from the passengers for too long. People might grow suspicious if they took note. So he came ashore to make it all look like part of some plan. An organized plan.” I looked Dutch in the eyes, to see if he had understood what I had just said.
He just puffed away, glancing at me warily, from time to time.
I sighed. Then I approached from another angle.
“I once visited an obscure university in the Southeast somewhere. Can’t remember the name, but there was a professor of history there, a kind of human ‘teardrop’ of a male figure, but a man of great intellect. He said that the school motto, taken from some Civil War general’s family saying, was “...not unmindful of the future.” I checked Dutch when I finished. “Do you understand how this applies to you and your situation?” I asked.
Dutch slowly moved his head in the negative, but then spoke.
“I guess it means that we have to think of the future right now?”, Dutch muttered.
I smiled in satisfaction at the comment. The man was not a complete dolt.
“You’re correct, especially about the ‘we’ portion of your conclusion”, I agreed, “which means that you’re going to have to do exactly what I tell you to do, or you’re headed straight back to Easter Island.” I waited.
Dutch joined me in laughing.
“You got it Indy!” he stated, his voice a study in relief. I stopped laughing and bristled.
“Don’t call me Indy. I don’t much care for Harrison Ford. In real life, I think he’s a wimp, and the character he played in that movie wasn’t much either.”
Dutch ignored my warning.
“You know Harrison Ford, Indy?” he inquired, ready to be awed.
I just dummied up. There was not going to be a lot to work with in Dutch, I thought to myself. I could only hope that he would follow instructions to the letter.
“Let’s get back down there. And that pouch you have, you’re not giving it to Günter, or anybody else. Once you surrender that you’re history. Your knowledge and that sample are your power over them. Kessler is coming aboard in St. Paul. He sounds like a real piece of work.”
We got up and hiked down the mountain. I wondered about whether I should just take possession of the nugget, deciding it would be better not to be physically involved. Not yet, anyway. I did reach down to my pocket to feel the bulge of my own gathered nuggets. The squeeze was reassuring. Missions come and go, but gold stays around for a long time. The emotional spell that the yellow metal cast over most people had to be held at bay at all cost, or it could overwhelm everything.
Don met us when we came out into the area where the boats were beached. Dutch and I were both tired. Trudging through the stones had taken its toll.
“You boys manage all right up there?” he asked, with a co-conspirator’s wink.
I indicated that we had, returning his joviality. Don would have to be brought in, but it would have to be later. We got the passengers back into their life-vests, used them to re-float the Zodiacs, and then headed for the ship. Although impossible to ascertain from the sun, my Breguet said it was already late in the day. Dinner, our staff crew lectures, and an evening with the passengers on the Lido deck awaited.
Marlys would be a centerpiece of the evening. Her innocence and young age still bothered me. Her cold delivery in my cabin the night before had not fooled me. She might have no connection whatever to the Yemaya thing, but she was attracted to me, and I to her.
“You will not violate that innocent child. “ I commanded myself, as I huddled up against the spray coming up over the bow of the Zodiac.
Don cupped one ear to listen to my words, but I waved him off.
Benito guarded the portal for our return. She assisted the passengers, individually, back onto the ship, interrogating each if they had collected anything while ashore. Several turned over rocks or flowers to her. She maintained a little pile next to her hobnail boots, until Don and I hopped over the Zodiac’s rubber tube. With one foot she swept the collected items over the side. She then reached out a hand to Don, pulling him aboard, as if he was a large stuffed teddy bear. Next, her hand extended out to me. It struck me to be about the size of a defensive linebacker. I clutched it and was powered aboard as if by hydraulics. She whispered in my left ear when it came close to her chiseled chin.
“Come to my cabin after dinner for a glass of wine,” she said.
I nodded but did not meet her eyes. As I headed for my own cabin, Don blocked the corridor directly to my front. He faced me with a message to deliver.
“Mickey Mouse Club meeting in my cabin right now,” he said, impishly.
I shook my head. He shook his back, then pointed. My shoulders slumped. I proceeded to cabin number 36, with its designation so appropriately ominous.
The cabin was already filled with people. My eyes went round in surprise. A banner with Mickey Mouse decorations all over it was taped to the hull bulkhead. Everyone intoned, at the same time, “Welcome Indy. “
I kept a straight face. There were pitchers of what looked like Margarita mix being passed around. Marlys was there, next to Dutch on one bunk. The Basque cuddled up in her corner, wearing the first smile I had ever seen on her face. Then the party got bigger. Filipe and a Filipino woman of great beauty came in behind Don.
Don’s voice broke in over the din.
“The first meeting of the Mickey Mouse club is now called to order.” He raised a plastic glass, filled with a green, alcohol-laden liquid. “To Indiana, our leader,” he boomed, toasting me with a motion, then tipping the glass up and draining it.
Everyone in the room cried “Here, here...” then drained theirs.
“Here, here?” I muttered, but nobody was listening.
I attempted to get to the door, and out of the madhouse, but Don prevented me. “We must discuss the first order of business.”
The crowd grew quiet. “Bring it out,” he motioned toward the Basque.
Slowly, she pulled a white piece of cloth from under the mattress. She spread it out, then held it before her, the corners between the thumb and first finger of both her hands. Mickey Mouse and the Crossbones design were clearly depicted in black.
“It’s our flag,” Don roared. They all cheered wildly. “It’ll be flown on the night we approach St. Paul.” The veins in my forehead pulsated, involuntarily, when he uttered the words.
Clearly, issues existed between the Basque and her step-father, which, rather inexorably, I was being dragged into. Mickey Mouse pirates were not pirates; any more than the fool’s gold was real gold. Whether there was twilight in the Twilight Zone was another matter entirely, but possibly just as germane.
“There’s no night, at this time of the year,” I weakly interrupted the following quiet.
Don opened the door for my escape, taking a huge gulp from his drink, and then grinning like the village idiot. I stood at the door motioning to Dutch. He unglued himself from Marlys’ side, handing her his empty glass. I closed the door behind us. There was no one in the corridor.
“Take the damned nugget, yes, that big thing bulging near your crotch, and hide it down in the luggage. Your story is going to be that I was on you like a shadow and you couldn’t get the sample. Günter will act mad, but he’s powerless to do anything. He’ll have to support my plan when we get to St. Paul.”
Dutch played dumb but reached for the pouch.
“Not here, idiot,” I said, grabbing his hand.
The door opened and Marlys peered out. I quickly removed my hand from Dutch’s crotch. But it was too late.
“Get down there and get rid of the damned thing!” I said to Dutch, scathingly, in a vicious whisper.
Marlys drew her head back in, her face registering no emotion. She closed the door.
I made my way towards the stairs that led up to the Lido deck. I passed Marlys’ cabin. I stopped before it. Looking back at number 36, I opened the door and stepped in.
“I’ll just sit on the bunk and look. I’ll touch nothing,” I promised myself.
I sat on a tightly made bunk. I felt the surface. It felt female. I sniffed the pillow. It smelled delightful. I noticed a small wooden cabinet set into one corner of her cabin. The beautiful wood caught my attention. It was not something of the ship. It was nothing like the industrial passenger furniture the other cabins had. It had two little doors that closed in the center with tiny knobs of what appeared to be real ivory. I forgot my promise.
I leaned over the table, opening the little doors. Then I took a step back. A long carving of silver dolphins kissing spanned the top of the interior. A glittering statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe occupied the middle. On the bottom were some black burned leavings of chicken parts. The hair on the back of my neck went up. Besides the burned offerings was a small shot glass of clear water, but alongside that was a very small photo of me. Someone had taken it when I had sailed under the fantail on my way back from the Isle of the Tsar of Russia.
I closed the double doors quickly, silently and carefully. I backed out of the cabin. I did not know how, but I knew that no matter what I did, she would know I was there. I fled to the Lido Deck, hoping to surround myself with passengers. With regular, real people. On the way up I thought of the future. I was proceeding down a course of travel to the future, at a great clip, but almost totally unmindful of it.