Stranded. Four weeks or thereabouts. I followed the phase of the moon from full, wane to wax then full again. A month in paradise. Stranded in bliss.
Why paradise? Solitude, that’s why. Peace, but for the almost-silent lap of the crystal sea on sand the colour of fresh baked bread. Sometimes the palms would sigh a little too. That I could handle. Being alone I could handle. Not being around her I could handle. My shoulders sagged until they were nearly at my waist.
My walks along this new sandbar home had started as frantic and purposeful, like rushing for a bus. But that slowed too, of course. Where was I going to go? I placed a coconut at each end of the island and timed how slow I could mooch between them. Two and a bit days was my current record. Not bad.
I made a hat out of a palm frond. Stylish. Invented a game of throwing pebbles and washed-up sea beans in cracked-open halves of coconuts. Got good at it too.
Knew it wouldn’t last, though. I waved the first few rescue boats on. “No thanks!” and smiled at their disbelieving faces until they left. I knew it would take the full moon to ruin my sojourn. Is it full moon everywhere in the world? Must be.
The bottle washed ashore the morning after. Tiny, it was: clear glass, miniature cork stopper, rolled up bit of paper and something else rattling inside. I popped the lid off, checked the horizon — nope, still no other island with another shipwrecked loner washed up on it, way short of rescue. I unfurled the note, scanned it, dropped the bottle. My jaw hung loose in disbelief.
“George, you slovenly ape! Where in blazes are you? Your dinner’s in the dog. Get. Home. Now. Marsha.”
Shook the object from the bottle — one of those little plastic pens you get in charity letters. I read the note again and still couldn’t quite believe it; then pretty quickly I could believe it. She was a witch, after all. Reply note read as follows:
“Dearest wife, You can shove your dinner. Don’t know how you found me — the Black Arts, I assume — but do NOT bother me again. Good. Bye.”
I stoppered the bottle and threw it back into the sea. My shoulders had crept back somewhere around my ears. Give it a month, I thought, and I’ll be proper relaxed again. But no, she had my scent now. Two weeks later her letter arrived by return-of-bottle:
“Dearest husband, you always were a feckless fatheaded fool. Flag down a passing junk and get home. Fence needs painting!”
“Paint the fence yourself, you colossal sea-cow. I’m having a lovely time. I hope the dog gets fat and sits on your head when you’re sleeping!”
Turtles arrived not long after that. I watched them drag themselves ashore and work all night to build a home for their eggs, and later their young. I waited while they waited, watched in wonder when babies emerged then took their leave, swimming out into the night through clouds of incandescent algae on the sea’s surface. I felt wonderful for a while. Then a bit sad. Then a bit homesick.
Her note arrived in short order. “I’m pretty sure I found your stubbornness attractive at some point. IT IS NOT SO NOW.”
The usual expressions of venom and spleen followed. And then I saw it, on the horizon. The yacht, replete with five triangular sails, drifted lazily toward me. Were those hula dancers on deck? Didn’t matter. I thought about my reply — of rising to it, or lowering myself sufficiently — but stopped. I held the bottle up between my eye and the distant ship until it appeared completely within it, shrugged and threw the empty unstoppered bottle back into the ocean, where it sank without trace.
Peter Haynes is a fiction writer and sometime collector of spam emails, based in the UK. If you want any replica watches, diet pills or discount sportswear, drop him a line @ManOfZinc.