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Island Paradise

by

Matthew Lang

 

 

 
     
   

 

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Morning

HE MUST HAVE BEEN HERE EARLY IN THE MORNING WHILE I WAS SLEEPING. He moves without sound, like mist.  He rolls in with the tide and then slides back into the wide sea and I would never know he came if it were not for the gifts.  Today he left a chicken.

Afternoon

The weather is perfect.  It always is, almost tyrannical in its perfection.  If it ever rained, I could sit and relax.  What would the rain sound like on my roof?  I’m always on my feet, it seems.  I plow, I plant, I harvest, I tend.  I walk to the shore and pause, I do let myself do that, and listen to the waves.  They also never rest.

Evening

Three days ago he left a gift - a box - that I have not opened yet.  The box is neatly wrapped.  He hates to wrap gifts.  Strange.  He is playing games.  He likes the mystery.  My baked beans are almost warm.  After I eat them, I will open the box.

Late at night

A ukulele?  What the fuck?

Morning

I think I heard him late at night, walking up and down the rows of crops.  He might have stopped to lean against the pen I built for my goats.  They probably ignored him; they usually ignore me.  They have all the grass they can eat in their pen.  They keep to themselves in their little goat world.  They make milk.  I sell the milk.  A fine arrangement.  They don’t complain much.  Goats are good listeners.

Afternoon

I sleep in the bow of a broken boat.  The bow is all that remains of the Floating.  We all live on islands now.  We all sleep in bows.  For so long we floated on the sea in our Own Boats.  We could visit each other, and talk, and have boat races, and picnics in which we would tie our Own Boats together and pass food and drink from vessel to vessel.  But we always stayed in the boats.  Our Own Boats.  Then came the Season of Drifting Away. 

Evening

I went to visit him.  His island is nice, busy but not too crowded.  He didn’t seem interested in company.  He stood off to the side.  I stood next to him for a while but we did not speak.  He seemed nervous.  He blinked a lot and shifted his eyes from side to side.  It made me nervous.  I blinked a lot, too.  What are we doing?  We just stood there, blinking, looking up at the sky.  As if the answers were in the sky.

Late at night

I leaned the ukulele against my shelter.  I can’t play, and there is no one to teach me.

Morning

We all washed up on our islands in the Season of Drifting Away.  Most of us thought the Floating would end with a big storm, or an unexpected wave, but what happened was we just stopped paying attention to each other.  A few of us were lost, then a few more, then more.  The races were less spectacular; the floating less impressive.  There was less food and drink to pass around.  Then most of us were gone.  Then we were all gone.  No more Floating.

Afternoon

Did he steal some yams?  I think he stole some yams.  I now have fewer yams.

Evening

I bought an old crate and two barrels.  The crate makes a nice table, and you can sit on the barrels.  I hope he comes to visit and I hope he stays and sits with me.  I have cabbage soup, but it won’t stay warm for long.

Late at night

I don’t feel in control.  I don’t make the choices.  Someone is moving me.

Very late at night

I am so alone.

Morning

We drifted to separate islands.  Our Own Boats were wrecked.  We are farmers, all of us.  Everyone.  We grow crops, tend to animals, we fish and cook.  And sell all of it.  We get rich quick.  It is a kind of miracle: crops grow in hours, trees mature in days.  Amazing.  But it never stops.  It just keeps growing.  There are no seasons; there is no rest.  Just as quickly as a plant blooms, it dies.  It is relentless.  Our islands grow bigger, but we can never share them.  We can visit, but never stay together.  It is a kind of curse.

Afternoon

I asked a goat, “If I pay more attention, will I be allowed to stay?”  She gave no answer, but her face was kind.  Maybe he wants a goat.  Yes, I will give him a goat.

Evening

He came when I was fishing.  The nets were in the water and we were standing.  I wanted to hold his hand.  I wanted to touch.  We looked at the ocean.  We listened to the birds.  In the distance, far in the distance, I heard a sound like a foghorn.  It sounded like a long time ago.  I thought about the Floating.  I wish I had known him then.  I would have tied my boat to his, even climbed in his.  We would not have drifted apart.  We would have stayed.  Is that even possible?  Did such a thing ever happen?  Does anyone, anywhere, have anyone against whom they can warm their feet at night?  I moved my toes through the wet sand and tried to touch his.  He was gone.  He never said a word.  I pulled in my nets.  Empty.  The fish had escaped.

Late at night

I would give him all my yams, if he would only ask.

OS

     

 

Matthew Lang at Our Stories

Matthew Lang

Matthew Lang lives in Chicago where he likes to brew beer and, from time to time, drink it.  He is married and works as a stay-at-home-dad for his 10-month-old daughter.  His work has also appeared in McSweeny's Internet Tendency.

 

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