ISLAND STORIES
This isn't really memoir, but Steve and I have been sending each other funny emails and here they are.
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Steve:
As you know, I have constructed gutters along the edges of the roof. Now it seems a gigantic colony of Least Terns have taken up residence there. They don't interfere much with the flow of the water but they have taken to soiling my porch deck. What I need is a good supply of roofing tin to construct a kind of poop deck just below the gutters. I used all I had when I made the gutters themselves and am hoping you would be kind enough to send me more. I can make the poop deck detachable so I can decant the droppings into my garden and around the base of the mango trees and banana plants. This should ensure a good yield from the garden and in payment I would be happy to supply you with all the radishes you can eat.

Also please be advised that I am late completing your federal income tax returns. I checked my records and have found that I failed to file your return for last year as well and we can expect a fines along with the balances you must pay -- plus interest -- for BOTH years. Please don't worry; I will reimburse you with a dozen or so rock melons as well as the coolest and biggest sting-ray spine you've ever seen. I have it nailed to the back of the shed and a frigatebird came down last Wednesday and tried to make off with it. I drove him away and put in another nail, so you'll be happy to know the spine is safe and waiting for you whenever you find it convenient to pick it up. Don't forget all my supplies, beer, and groceries when you come.

Many thanks,
Tom

PS You WON'T forget my magazines this time will you? Thanks very much!!


Skandar,

I find myself in sore need of some decent wickets and croquet mallets. The nanny goat has kept the greens fairly well trimmed and the dogs have policed up most of her leavings.

Thank you kindly for the astringent and the cotton swabs. Please include a bit of brilliantine next time and a tube of anti fungal ointment.

Yours,
Zallaham


Dear Skandar,

The hollyhocks are in full bloom here and I would like to request a few decent china vases for the ones I cut and put on the breakfast table in  the shack -- you know that little nook in there. The rest I am making into sachet which is most decidedly welcome in the fish house!

If you could spare a few extra tea cloths, I could be ready for just about any emergency in the kitchen. I need to make a request also for  some good buckwheat batter -- in ten-gallon drums preferably. The local native fishermen drop in occasionally and they are quite tired of fish. A large plate of good old fashioned flapjacks is a welcome relief for them and they are most willing to trade whiskey, cigarettes, and a few bottles of squareface for the privilege. It also gets any idea of shrinking my head out of theirs almost at once. Ah, that reminds me -- I'll need some Vermont maple syrup as well and some crates of blueberries and dried apples. Also, do you have any draino?  It's not for me but for one of the savages here. He likes to rub it on his skin to get a orange peel effect that makes his tattoos stand out.

Oh, I'm also low on wicker furniture. Send as much as you can -- chairs, wastebaskets, ANYTHING!!! And a couple of highway flares.

Krandon


Dear Skandar,
I find myself sorely in need of some chicken wire as the hens have been running about and eating from the garden and causing a tremendous amount of damage. If you could send some hen mash with the order I would be most grateful. The next time I get a chance I can send you some wonderful rock melons that I have growing out there.

I would also be most obliged if you could see to that I got the occasional weather report out here. My barometer is broken and I have been using it as a mirror to shave in each morning -- which reminds me to ask for a decent steel mirror and some more razor blades if you please.

I also find myself needing a pen knife and a case of roofing nails and a valance for my sliding bamboo door. A carton or two of cigarettes wouldn't be rejected either -- L&M filters if you got -- and a couple of gallons of some decent rum --- none of that spiced stuff I brought here earlier either.

I'll repay you as soon as my spring radishes are up and ready to crate off to you. They're hot ones so look out.

Yours,

Zallaham

Dear Shrillton:

Whoever packaged those sea biscuits didn't do such a good job as fully half of them have arrived here broken. No matter. I have plenty left whole and in fair condition. What I really am in need of is some packing materials, wadding, twine, and the like. See if you can have a few of these items included in your next shipment. Throw in a decent cross-cut saw and a big pair of channel locks too -- and a couple of rat traps.

The island is cooled every day with the afternoon rains and the corvina are running off the point. I have had excellent success spearing them from the rocks, but would most mightily appreciate the materials for a floating dock of some kind. You can work out the details any way you like, but I'd like that all here before November when the tides start to turn weird and the fishing is no good anyway.

In addition I am sorely in need of some tinned butter, a half gallon of olive oil, and a new shotgun. The one I brought here last summer is too rusty to shoot safely. A few hundred wickets would also make it possible to construct a weir on the west side of the island. Please, Please don't forget the cigarettes: L&M filters if you please! I'm almost out! I'll need MATCHES too.

I would be happy to repay you with some canned corvina packed in the olive oil if you would send me the tinning supplies I asked for last month.

Finally, a few new sheets and pillows wouldn't be rejected along with a few pairs of socks and underwear. I'll send a more complete list later.

Yours,
Skander

Steve:

I find myself in need of some astringent and a few hundred yards of sturdy twine. If you could also please include a goodly supply of oakum as I have used all that you brought last time. There is only about an inch left in the kerosine can so if you could send another  50-gallon drum I could reimburse you later with a few pounds of kopra, spring onions and the like.

I'm getting a little tired of uto, so if you could get some of those Omaha steaks they advertise on the airlines sent over here, I could try out my new BBQ grill. Be sure to have those steaks packed with plenty of dry ice, as my refrigerator has been out for the last eighteen months and the temperature here hovers at around 92 degrees (cooler in the evenings). A dozen steaks or so should do and I will be able to repay you with a giant sea turtle shell that I have shellacked and hanging on the shed.

That's about all I'll need for a time unless you can scare up a water pump for a 57 chevy. I need it as a valve on the rain tanks that I have placed under the eaves of the shack. A couple of decent gasketts would help as well -- oh, and plenty of gaskett seal.

That should do it.

Yours,
Grilldar


Tom:
Thank you for the American cigarettes.  I have rerolled the tobacco sparingly in my own papers making enough to last me until spring.  If you could be so kind as to bring me some tinned butter next time you visit I'd appreciate it, and also if you please, a case of bully beef along with a gallon or so of beef drippings.  I could also use a screwdriver, rattail file, an adjustable wrench, a keg of ten penny nails,  a claw hammer and a bucket of roofing tar.  I  could also use a few good mops.  Christ, you should see the floors in the hut.  A few Tilly and Mac novels wouldn't be refused either and along with these, if you could, a few gallons of good scotch, not that cheap stuff you brought last time, mind you, though it was MUCH appreciated, and maybe ten dozen sticks of horehound candy.  I'd be glad to swap you all the fresh eggs from the hen run you can eat.  By the way, I could also use some chicken mash.  Thanks a lot.   Steve

Steve:
The United States Mint in Dever Colorado is able to manufacture money in endless quantities for any use private and public. I am not. Be advised that I am willing to send only three tins of bully beef and a quart of beef drippings. I can spare a pound or two of the nails one or two screwdrivers and the rattail file. The adjustable wrench is out of the question.

I will consider the scotch, claw hammer an other items next month. In the meantime I remain

Faithfully yours,

Tom Zallaham

PS: You didn't specify whether you wanted a phillips or regular screwdriver, so I'm sending two along with a written reminder to be more specific when you ask for supplies.

PS: How do you like the new stationery? I picked it up for a song at Woolworth's.

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Dear Steve:

I'm writing a little early this month as I have run out of brilliantine and should like to get several months' supply before the corvina start running here and the natives begin their usual celebrations -- which, as you know, I MUST attend -- and not so much now as a partygoer either, but, sadly, as the island's one-man security team. I'm afraid the mellow old Kava Kava days are gone and the natives have taken to loading case after case of Jack Daniel's and Square Face aboard nearly every canoe that comes in. I try to commander as many of them as I can and so I am not in need of any liquor as much I am in need of space to store it in and a way to guard it against the natives who very much want it back.  

Which reminds me -- I'm low on 9 mm ammunition and would like you to send me a snub-nosed .38. The lugar I have been using is prone to getting sand in the slide, and I have had more than my share of shells lodged sideways in the breech. Gas-powered semi-autos are worthless on the island; a revolver would be most welcome. And kindly don't forget the ammo this time; you'll remember that for weeks I had to use that double barreled shotgun as a war club until you finally got me some shells. By then the gun was so beat up that I didn't feel safe firing it and so there it sits by the fireplace in the kau kau room. (Actually, I still call it into action from time to time; it saves on ammo and it's pretty effective once you get the heft of it.)

 You could send a keg or two of triple-hopped India Ale -- and please have it equipped with a Sparlets Tap. The tap on the last keg I was provided took minutes to draw a single pint and even then half the glass was filled with foam.

I still have a few packs of cigarettes left, but am frankly a little tired of Kools and would like your next shipment to include about fifteen cartons of L&M filters. You WILL remember the matches this time? Thank you very much!

Nights are getting cooler here in the evenings, but the insects and arachnids as still a bit troublesome, so I would urge you not to skimp as you did last time on the 6-12 repellent -- please supply me with the spray can variety as the cream you included in your last shipment stains my shirts and ties and I can afford to squander precious little fresh water for laundry here and am committed only to boiling my sheets every fortnight.

For the brilliantine, the .38 revolver, the smokes, and the India Ale, etc.  I am prepared to let you have a conch shell that I found on the west side of the atoll the other day -- over by the village sewer flats. I broke one end off of it and when you blow into it, it sounds like a Boxcar Willy making that freight train horn sound he used to make. I've never had one quite like it. I found another that I am also willing to let you have; you'll need to blow it the way you do a trumpet, but the sound is AWESOME! Those two items should easily cover the trouble and expense of sending me the supplies, but I also will include a really righteous piece of driftwood that you can easily fashion into a lamp. I found it leaning against one of the natives' outhouses. I suppose one of them had plans for it, but it's mine now -- or yours I should say.

Thanks very much for your help.

WT Barry

Dear Steve:

Thanks for the India Ale. It was VERY much appreciated. I have repaired the old propane-powered refridge and have the kegs packed in sawdust with blocks of ice from the freezer buried top and bottom and the ale taps out cold, clear and fresh. I had a few of the chief's men over last night and treated them to a pint or two. They aren't used to beer and got a little rowdy and I had to bat them around a little just to keep them on the bounce. It wasn't much of a problem. In fact, in the ruckus I was able to lift their wallets, so it was a net gain even though the natives don't carry much cash.

Now for the real reason for my letter. I need a favor. Do you remember Lula? That cute little skinny native girl you met when you were here? Well, she has matured a bit since you last saw her and filled out and she and I have been seeing each other for a couple of months. Now, here's what I want. It's her birthday coming up next week and I want to get her a snow cone machine. I'll need the whole range of syrups to go with it, of course, with about twelve 100-count tubes of paper cones -- and if you could get one with the lighted top with the penguin and all, so much the better. See if you can't get on this as quickly as possible -- her birthday is five days hence -- and I shall be more than happy to reimburse you with a really cool collection of dried starfish that I have put together. There about about six varieties and I have them glued to a plank with a border of old rope surrounding it and all of the starfish lying on a bed of sand. I shellacked the bare parts of the wood and then beat those areas with a length of chain to give it a weathered, battered look and the thing looks like something out of a pirate's cabin, me laddy! SHIVER ME TIMBERS! I'LL KEEL HAUL THE LOT OF THE RATS, MATES! I really feel you are getting the better end of the deal here. I know you'll like it and agree that it is worth more by far than any snow cone machine.
As always,
Skandar

Tom,
i am very happy to hear about your drums. thank you.  we will discuss these
big fella jungle drums made of boojum stump-- best kina fella thumper.
Steve

TOM:
My boys will be arriving on the 18th.  Be sure you have stationed yourself on Lone Palm Island or some other location well away from the main atoll before they arrive.  After they have left if you could please drag all the bodies and body parts down the beach and throw them into the lagoon where they should be carried away by the tide or disposed of by sharks.  There shouldn't be more than a hundred dead islanders to deal with and I would think you could get rid of them all in a couple of days.  With this hot weather I expect you'll want to finish the job as soon as possible.  Any bodies or parts of them which wash back up on the beach, toss them back in.  After all we don't want to get caught doing this.  Since you didn't specify which of the islanders was pressuring you, headquarters decided the chore would be most easily accomplished by just killing them all.  Next time you invite a salesman over you might just say no.  Not that we resent doing this for you.  After all asking you to buy aluminum siding for the hut is ridiculous.
STEVE


Steve,
I must say that the trout pond in the back of the hut has been a miserable failure. It's just too hot on the island and the 20,000 fry that you sent lasted about a day and a half after stocking and then floated to the surface just as dead as you could possibly please, thank you very kindly! Luckily, the gulls and terns came down to feast or we would have had a real stinking mess. I wrote down in my journal: "Tropical conditions on the island are not to the liking of rainbow trout." An understatement. I thought of restocking the pond with bream but I suspect crappies and bluegills would not fare much better. Whatever got into my head to start a trout hatchery here? The ocean is full of fish and I'm sick of the finny island diet. Please be advised that I have drained the pond and filled it with sand and that will be the end of it.

In the future, I would kindly appreciate your advising me to the contrary when I come up with a ridiculous idea like the trout pond. After all, that is part of what I am counting on you for. As a partner in this enterprise I feel it is your duty to tell me when I am doing something wrong and not just send me the tools of my own destruction whenever I ask.

Anyway, I'm low on cigarettes and rum, so if you could kindly send a few cartons of the former and a few cases of the latter, rest assured that I will be well-provisioned with smokes as well as what I need to make Cuba libres --- oh, don't forget the coca cola! Lots of it. You need not send any limes. They grow wild on the island and I've got plenty. In fact, I can repay you with a couple of dozen. How does THAT sound?

More later,
Tom


Dear Steve,
One of the natives here needs an apendectomy, so if you could send me a bottle of ether, some more cotton swabs, and a pack of Gillette super blues, I could get the problem solved for him. His condition is chronic, not acute, so you need not hurry. I'll need a bottle of alcohol as I feel that some of the locals have been coming in and watering down my scotch, which otherwise I feel would serve quite nicely.

Oh, and a bottle of aspirins.

Tom
Tom Cole
American English and Culture Program�

Steve,
Days are long and hot but in the afternoon there is usually a most welcome rainshower which cools the island and replenishes my water tanks -- but not the India Pale Ale kegs -- I'm out EARLY this time so please ship my supplies ASAP! I have only a few cases of Red Hook ESP buried in the sawdust that insolates the remaining ice behind the hut. Hurry as fast as you can to get the next shipment out!

I have spent the entire afternoon rooting around under the porch in front of the hut. It seems there used to be a dump here and I was digging up old coca cola bottles and everything else under the sun. I got an old pair of rubber thongs, a Japanese doll's head missing one eye, an old can with "Seabreeze Sardines -- Delight of the Deep" engraved on it and a picture of a sardine jumping out of the water and holding an umbrella! There's a sailboat behind him with three tourists with the most shocked expressions on their faces. What a find!!!  I also found, of all things, two old railroad ties and a hood ornament off an old Buick. And endless dead batteries. I've got everything I found spread out on an empty bookshelf and I'm glad because I finally have something good to trade you.

I'd be willing to part with the ties, the hood ornament, the thongs, bottles, the doll and all of the batteries if you would please include in your next shipment the following items: Six number 9 cans of stewed peaches, fifteen cases of coke, a can of chili powder, two boxes of garlic salt, a length of hose about forty feet long with nozzles on both ends (I'm playing a trick on the islanders!)

I want a tortilla cozy, a fifty-pound bag of maza de maz, some baking powder, a box of Tums, and a tortilla press.

I'll also need another two dozen cartons of cigarettes (MATCHES TOO, REMEMBER?) and a case or two of bloody mary mix-- with about ten dozen bottles of vodka. Please include in this shipment some of the Hickory Farms cheese and sausage gift sets you sent last time -- but about twice as many -- along with some El Pedro Tamales and enchilada sauce. Also, a dozen boxes of Clark bars. I need in addition two gallons of gasoline and another highway flare (Don't ask!)

For this and the usual groceries and the usual two kegs of India Pale Ale, sawdust, and blocks of ice and new magazines and novels and nonfiction bestsellers, you can have all the stuff I found under the porch -- except for the sardine can. I wouldn't part with that for anything!

And more of those Omaha Steaks -- they were delicious!

I'm sorry to ask for all of the new food items but I'm sure you can appreciate how hard it is to survive on an island diet.

Yours as always,
Zallaham

Dear Steve,

I am the master of ceremonies at a Toast Masters branch here on the island and need you to send me an English judge's wig and robe. The islanders have had some contact with Britain and they feel it is necessary for me to fit the part by wearing these ridiculous things. I tried to dissuade them, but they would have none of it and pointed out that I would be making judgments about the speeches and thus had to have the proper atire. Last night, we heard three talks by the islanders -- who, by the way, have nothing against wearing grass skirts and T-shirts while I have to dress like a bloody vicar!--never mind; I digress. One gave an account of how to sew up your foot if you get cut by a broken bottle -- his main point being that you should be well liquored up at the time and noting as well that that very same condition often causes the injury, and so things work out well. The other guy told the tale of how a white missionary took away his shrunken head and explained the arguments he used in court that allowed him to get it back. He brought the head in too. Show and tell. It was pretty darned big for a shrunken one -- nearly life sized. The third guy fell into a drunken stupor in the middle of his speech and we ajourned early, one of the members taking the man's bottle from him and another his huaraches. In all, then I have judged our speaking group as an island success story.

Believe it or not I need a can of sardines -- Hey, wouldn't it be great to get Seabreeze Sardines -- Delight of the Deep??? Well, I need them to show the natives what canned fish might look like and to convince them that fish can be packed in oil. Hey, send two cans -- one packed in oil and the other in hot chili -- I've got an idea about how to play a trick on the islanders and also to win their respect. They HATE chili!

Thanks, and please send a day planner in your next shipment. Each evening as I have a cup of tea and a smoke, I reflect that more could have been accomplished for the day. Well, it's already noon and I've got to get back to my affairs on the island. I'm going to sit on the porch, have a smoke, and try to finish off the first keg of that India Pale Ale. Maybe some one'll stop in to join me.

Yours,
Tom

Dear Steve,

Trouble here on the island. Last night I had about fifty of the natives over to the assembly hall to watch that PBS video "Cannibalism in the Canyon" and about twelve of them were so impressed by the show that they decided to take up the practice once again. I could have kicked myself. Pretty stupid of me to remind them about "long pig" feasting after I went to all the trouble and expense of banning the practice on the island. To complicate things, the twelve were so taken by the video that they started to build Anasazi-type cliff dwellings on that rocky bluff overlooking the west lagoon. I fired a few hundred rounds into the door openings and they tossed down a few rocks, an act of defiance that was pretty ineffective. I had them beat from the beginning as all I had to do was wait outside with the rifle and they could not come down for supplies. They finally gave in and I handed out a carton or two of those L&M filters and a hundred or so of those tall bottles of red ale you sent last month and we were all smiles and happy backslappers. One of the twelve slipped and fell on the way down and other others looked at me as if to say, "Pleeeeeese?" and so I gave in and let them have one roast of tall turkey -- just this once you understand. What the heck? He was dead anyway and I don't want to sound completely unreasonable to the natives. They were on the island first after all.

Now let me give you some advice for your diet, quoting somewhat: Of the hoofed animals thoust may eat, either broiled or ground into burger.� But of the uncloven animals thou shalt not eat, either plain or with cheese. And thou shall drink thy milk as it is given thee and use no utensils, nor fork, nor knife nor spoon, for that is not what they are for. And when thou hast finished, put then thy cup upon the table and do not grasp it in thy teeth and lean thy head back and make noises like a duck, for this is an abomination. And do not put thy feet upon the table, even if thou hast an interesting bandage, for to do so is an offense. Shouldst thou also suffer hives from eating tomatoes, neither scratch them nor pick, but bring thy affliction to the Holy One for he has first pickings. On the Sabbath thou shalt refrain from smelting iron or operating a ball mill or drinking koomis or fermented mare's milk of any kind or consuming of any other lactose beverages. But drink all that thou can of Snapple or any of the name-brand liquors avoiding, as it is the duty of the faithful, all house brands, not excluding dressings. Of the red Frutopia beverages thou shalt not drink for they contain both crimson or carmine dye and bits of the cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) and are unclean. Forget not that Cochineal is of the Spanish meaning pig which do not chew their cud because they have no cud with which to do so and are therefore unwholesome. Otherwise, thou mayst eat what thoust wishes on the Sabbath except in the company of money-changers, thieves or whores to whom thou shalt explain that Friday and Saturday are fine but thou hast plans on Sunday. Thoust may also not dine with real estate agents or Republican Committee Women for as often as they might bathe they are never fresh. #Steve#

  
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