Monday, September 20, 2010

Something Missing

In the Bahamas, off the west coast of Eleuthera lies an industrious island called Spanish Wells. A small "Loyalist Island", meaning it's residents are white people of British decent, their ancestors left the U.S. during the revolution to escape the rebellious colonist and keep allegiance to his royal highness. As a result Spanish Wells is a great place to go if you enjoy the outcome of generations of a small group of people breeding among one another. The guidebooks will tell you about Spanish Wells' fishing fleet which supplies the States with a large amount of fresh fish and lobster but the real treat is the crossed eyes, large foreheads and the confusion that results when everyone has the same last name, Pinder.  The citizenry is largely a god fearing group, with an affinity towards racism which is much easier to find than the alcohol as there is only one place serving beer.

As we approached the dock in our dinghy Anna noticed a man smoking a joint along the water. As Chris, Amber, Philip, Anna  and I disembarked to search for a place to eat the man approached us and introduced himself as "The General." A nice way to describe him would be to say he had the look of a homeless man who just showered. The General had the physique of a laborer, strong forearms with many scars, trim with slicked back long blond hair, probably in his mid thirties but his face looked much older. As a result of their British background and their limited gene pool most Loyalist, The General included, sound reminiscent of a combination between Forest Gump and Captain Jack Sparrow. He is of the breed for whom people say, "something is missing" The implication of the "something" being intelligence and in this case genetic diversity.

Immediately following his introduction The General showed us his roach and asked if we'd like to acquire some for ourselves. Philip, as the most experienced pot smoker in our group and the only one who cared about it quickly stepped into his role as pot negotiator. Philip did not take kindly to The General's blatant offer. Philip prefers to be subtle, as he tends to be suspicious of people. He offers vague assertions to people he thinks sell drugs and somehow they seem to understand what he's talking about. For instance, once, outside a grocery store a man asked how he was doing, "Just living in the clouds." he responded and somehow shortly after a deal was arranged. Philip, not even looking at The General said,"Naw, were good man" as we continued to walk towards town.

The General, walking slightly behind us like a stray dog, yelled, "Ello General" to a man watering his grass. Chris said, "Wait a minute, I thought you were The General?" "Everyone calls me The General so I call everyone else The General even though I'm The General." Obviously this isn't confusing to people who live on an island where they all share the same last name. He then asked again if we'd like to buy some "really good 'ome growed stuff."
Philip, clearly annoyed, said, "Fine, let me see what you have for fifty dollars."
"Well see, you give me the money, I gotsta go get jit from me uncle."
"Listen to this joker" Philip announced. "We're going to go eat in here I'm not giving you any money bro."

Halfway through dinner a loud knocking on the window is followed by "PSSST Ey ey it's me, General, I got some bit of stuff." All of us turn to see The General's face in between the slats of blinds mashed up against the window screen. Philip goes outside and returns with some sample joints while I'm still imagining what the scene outside the restaurant looked like as The General must have been peering through different windows trying to locate us like some London orphan.

Sunday afternoon, a couple days later, The General came to our boat to see if we'd like to go with him to a family picnic to buy some pot. If the last line didn't sink in, please understand we were offered an invitation to a family picnic to buy drugs.

Philip agreed because of the quality product The General supplied us with and Anna and I because of the entertainment. The three of us hopped into his flats boat and headed down the channel towards the west side of the island. Here, The General ran the boat aground on a sandbar as we were assured the picnic was just a short walk down the beach. Suspicious, "Could this be a setup?" we worried but continued. As we walked The General decided to take us on a visual tour of his bodily scars

"This is from when I crash me motorcycle into a pole." as he showed us a missing piece of his leg bone
"Why did you do that." I said
"Was too much drunk. But I don't even drinks no more ever since I the third time I crashed me cycle. Now I just get high because I don't drive into poles when I'm high"
"You've crashed your bike three times?"
"Yeah too many poles, whenever I see poles I just drive into them."
"What kind of bike do you have"
"Don't have any bike anymore"
"Maybe that is why you don't drive into poles."

About a hundred yards down the beach an odd site appeared. What looked to be a huge ball, the size of car, floated in the water. It was white and appeared to be marking something, but what? Was it a marker to signal DEA agents to swoop in and get us I wondered?

"Man my skin is so dry I need to moisturize today. Do you ever use Jergens?" Philip asked.
"Yeah, I like to Jergens. Jergens, sometimes I Jergens." The General used Jergens as a verb as if he did not really know Jergens was a moisturizer.
Philip and The General then high fived to Jergens. "Yes!! Jergens!" laughed Philip.
Do you see this?"The General held up his left arm, "Sometimes I spill my blood. I cut myself, sometimes. Sometimes I like to drink it, but sometimes I just let it spill out."
Anna and I looked at each other unsure if it was okay to laugh.
No one said much else.

The picnic was marked by the giant floating ball which turned out to be, not a signal for the DEA, but a massive piece of flotsam, once an advertisement for a club, now converted to a yard ornament, albeit a yard ornament in the ocean. Onshore was a picnic table under Casuarina trees. Seated was a massive elderly woman in a moo moo, her chubby pink skinned and even less genetically diverse than she grandchild, two young black Bahamians and an alcoholic-skinny elderly man smoking a joint off of his car key. Unlike his behemoth spouse his fashion sense indicated his affinity towards marijuana by displaying a giant pot leaf and the words "God made man, God made weed, Man made Beer, In God We Trust." I've always done well in reading comprehension but I'm still trying to puzzle meaning out of this shirt.

The General made quick introductions and we all sat down at the table and enjoyed a pot head's Sunday afternoon picnic off of the old man's key while warm rum and coke was offered for refreshments. The chubby grandchild was having hunger pangs and as a result ordered to the sea to remove conch from their conch garden, a small fenced in area of grass, twenty yards offshore in about three feet of water. Chubby made a couple slow trips between the shore and the garden with a conch in each hand, his wet t-shirt trapped in between rolls of fat. Out of breath from what must have been a years worth of physical activity, he huffed as he was sent to the neighbor's yard to pick a few sour oranges for the conch salad. The old man and The General began to clean. Philip diced onions and tomatoes while the grandmother prepared the best conch salad in the Bahamas. Unfortunately for Chubby, his grandmother used a bit too much hot pepper for the child and he soon began to sweat as his pink hue darkened to red. His grandmother suggested he sit in the shade while the heat passed. The old man sold Philip fifty dollars worth of his homegrown marijuana and rolled more for the picnic. We all sat at the table, there was little conversation, mostly everyone just watched the giant piece of flotsam loll around between the waves.

On the way back to the boat,  The General, pointed out a tree in the marsh that they used to smoke.
"See that et's the Brolliweed, I remba when we use'ta smoke the Brolli as kids, like cigarettes ya'know."
"Which one is the Brolli? Philip said.
"Tat one over there."
"It uhh green one, looks like tree" as he pointed to a stand of trees and brush.
"General, all of them are green."
"I know, they are some greeeen trees out here." laughed The General.

Philip and I asked The General about local fishing spots and he gave us specific directions we'd never be able to decipher. "My mom loves the fish. She goes and fish all the time and boy if she don't catch her some fish.

The General dropped the three of us off back at our boat. Before we were finished relaying the events of that afternoon for Chris and Amber,  I heard an an outboard choke and, "ELLO! ELLO guys General ere, guys it's General." He handed me three bags of frozen juvenile snappers, jacks and grunts.
"Where did you get all these fish?" I said.
"My moms, they live in her freezer but I thought you wanted some feesh so General got them from the freezer and I brotcha these feesh."
"Wow, thanks General, that was really nice of you" I said holding ten pounds of fish that looked more like bait than a meal. I fake smiled at the fish and then back at The General. For a minute he just looked at me, waiting maybe for an invitation to come aboard. "Alright, well. Have a good evening General." I said and went down into the boat.

The next night I scorched and fried the snappers whole and threw away the rest of the fish. They were small and bony but there was enough of them for everyone to have a few.

Picking away the flesh from the sharp little bones I thought about The General's mom, I imagined her tired from a hard days work but then she goes out to the dock with her hand reel to fish for these little Lane and Mangrove Snappers. And then she's at home and she goes to her freezer, she's going to fry up a couple fish, maybe a few for The General too. And when she reaches in her freezer she notices, something is missing. Confused she walks into the next room to ask her son about it where she finds a roach on the table and The General, on the couch drinking his blood or maybe Jergensing.

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