I stood on the deck of our sailboat and took a long swig of the cold Tecate in my hand. The short trip from the Marina to Catalina had been an interesting mix of quiet introspection with a touch of lost-at-sea panic, but now we were anchored just off the island, next to the boat Ikemael had been chasing since we left port. The boat with the smiley face flag and the woman in white was blaring Jay-Z from its stereo and the two ladies were still dancing near the mast. Ikemael was now seated in the dinghy looking up at me, waiting for me to join him. He wasn't impatient though. He seemed cool with allowing me to take in the moment and the scenery around us. The sky was now a brilliant shade of blue contrasted against the deeper blue-greens of the water around the island. The sun cut through the clouds that had both led and chased us for a spell on the water and the day was shaping up to be perfection.
I looked down at my fellow sailor in the dinghy, "Shall we?"
Ikemael smiled back at me beatifically. He was thrilled I was enjoying the moment as much as he was. For all the bullshit chaos that kid caused, he was genuinely interested in the people around him being happy and it multiplied his own happiness in some symbiotic fashion. I made a quick run below deck to fetch another couple of Tecates with lime. I have a fondness for Tecate dating back to college but can't take them without a lime.
It's simply uncivilized.
The hamster smiled a stoned-out smile at me as I passed him and I acknowledged him with a quick nod. I wasn't entirely keen on spending much time with the rodent brothers and I didn't feel compelled to invite the Hamster along. Pinky was still face down on the table in the galley but I was fairly certain I heard him breathing when I took the beers out of the cooler and so I just let him be.
I couldn't help feeling like some sort of swashbuckling pirate as we cruised over to the girls' boat in our dinghy. It felt like we were a boarding party of buccaneers getting ready to raid the ship anchored ahead of us, but instead of swords and guns we had Tecate with lime. Suddenly I wished we had brought along a few extras; we might need them to pacify the crew of the ship we were about to board.
The water was still pretty glassy with just a hint of chop and the dinghy covered the 100 or so feet quickly, abruptly ending my lame pirate fantasies. As we approached the rear of the smiley-face ship, Ikemael stood up and waved. He then bellowed out a salty, "Ahoy!"
Jay-Z was still blasting loudly and the girls dancing on the mast, one of them being Ikemael's white whale, went on dancing, oblivious to us. Ikemael shouted 'Ahoy' again but was drowned out by '99 Problems.' Our only problem at this point was being heard.
We pulled up right behind the smiley-faced ship, bumping up slightly against the back. Ikemael looked at me, momentarily at a loss as to what to do. I offered nothing but a shrug and downed another swig of Tecate. As far as I could tell, there were a lot of other ships in the sea and one of those was bound to have attractive women so I wasn't nearly as invested in the present situation as was Ikemael.
We were on the verge of pulling around to the front of the boat when a head popped up over the side of the ship.
"Are you gentlemen looking to board us?"
Staring down at us from the deck of the ship was a man somewhere in the range of 60 years old. He was food-deprived skinny, with an almost skull-like face and thinning black hair that was for the moment covered by a white captain's hat. The most interesting feature on his chiseled face was the pencil thin mustache adorning his top lip, officially completing his look of John Waters the sailor.
Ikemael looked back at me, apparently as surprised as I was by the bony apparition above us. He raised his eyebrows at me as I finished my Tecate, then he collected himself and addressed the captain.
"Aye captain. We mean to board your vessel."
The old captain grinned and an equally bony hand raised a cigarette to his lips. Through his brilliantly white incisors, he welcomed us aboard, lowering a ladder from the rear deck. Ikemael leaped out of our dinghy and onto the platform, handing the captain a rope to tie us off. He was shaking hands with the captain as I awkwardly climbed aboard the ship with my freshly opened Tecate in my left hand and Ikemael's unopened one in my right.
As I stood up I found myself face to face with the captain and his cigarette carting smile.
"And he comes bearing gifts! You're not Greek are you? Where's your horse?"
I cocked my head and flashed an uncertain smile at the captain. I had no fucking idea what the old man was talking about but he didn't seem to care. I extended my hand for a shake, still holding Ikemael's beer, and the captain immediately grasped my hand with both of his skeletal claws, taking Ikemael's Tecate in the process.
"You must be Starbuck. My name is Captain Alvaro, but you can call me Captain for short and this is my ship, The Melmoth. Welcome!"
He shook my hand vigorously and smiled through clenched teeth from which dangled his long, slender cigarette bearing an alarmingly large load of ash. Ikemael had already made his way up to the front of the boat, effectively leaving me alone with the peculiar captain.
"Ishmael tells me that's your boat over there with the little round man on it."
I looked back toward our ship and saw the Hamster standing on the deck, smoking his glass pipe and staring at us.
"Yeah - at least, that's the boat we rented. You own this boat you say?"
"Yes, she is entirely mine. Whenever the sirens of the sea call to me, I sail out into the blue until there is water, water everywhere."
His smile flayed his face once again, curling up into his jutting cheeks bones and giving a squint to his eyes. His cigarette continued to threaten to loose its ash everywhere but he paid it no mind whatsoever. He also paid no heed to personal space, as he was standing less than a foot away from me with his precarious cancer stick in my face.
Something suddenly hit me.
"Did you say your boat is named The Melmoth?"
His smile became a little more intense,"Yes it is."
"As in Melmoth the Wanderer?"
His teeth clenched harder on the cigarette, nearly biting the damn thing in half. I had never seen such a large smile open up across someone's face before.
"Ahh, you've read it I take it."
I nodded slowly, fascinated now by the cigarette and its gravity defying ash.
"Yes, that's an interesting name, captain. A little dark maybe?"
"So it is." At this he paused and sized me up before continuing, "I'm delighted you and Ishmael came aboard. Are you hungry?"
I looked up to the front of the boat and saw that Ikemael was now talking to the woman in white, actually she was wearing a the polka-dotted bikini now, while the other girl was still dancing around the mast. The third woman was seated a few feet away from us in a large, white sun hat. She was wearing a black bikini and was rubbing oil on her long legs, the right which bore a tattoo of a pin-up girl angel. Her dark hair was pulled back but I couldn't see her face because of her hat.
"Or perhaps you would like to meet the rest of our party?"
I returned my attention to the captain who was still oddly smiling at me and nodded. We walked over to the woman in the black bikini, who took no notice of us at all. She continue rubbing oil on her legs.
"Biondetta my dear, where are your manners?"
The woman continued about her business, ignoring me and the captain's question.
"Biondetta! Please say hello to our guest, the young Starbuck from across the way."
This time she looked up at me and gave me the curtest of smiles. The captain extended his hand, indicating I was to walk up to the front of the boat where everyone else was. As we were walking away Biondetta spoke again.
"Did you think you could just come over here uninvited?"
I was sort of startled by the abrupt tone in her voice. The entire situation was off. The captain was a very odd man and Biondetta was just rude. I turned around to look at her and was taken back by how exotically beautiful she was. She had fine features and a long slender nose with cat-like, seductive dark brown eyes on either side. Her skin was flawless and her lips pouted ever so slightly into a tempting bow.
"I believe we did just that."
The captain put his hand on my shoulder. A plume of cigarette smoke wrapped around my head.
"Well said, young Starbuck. Ignore Biondetta - she is grouchy if woken before noon."
Originally posted at www.igetpanic.com