Trouble in Paradise.
I was pacing up and down in my room at the hotel in Bangkok as my inbox continued filling up with angry emails from the newspapers I had promised to send articles to about the recent news of the Beer & Flies progress on their much anticipated world tour; and apart from the brief conversation with the Captain over the satellite phone I had nothing to report.
I could send in the meagre scraps of rumour that I had heard from some tourists in a bar on the Khaosan Road but if they turned out to be the stoned hallucinations of a few backpackers my career would be in even more dire straits than it already was.
Alternatively, I could report back to the newspapers that the band might have had a tangle with a Chinese Naval Fleet, but then again I didn’t want to start an international incident by revealing the Beer & Flies’ potential role in the dramatic escalations of tension in the South China Sea. I could just picture myself trying to explain the incident away on Cable News as it beamed relentlessly around the globe.
I’d already emptied the hotel room’s mini bar looking for clues as to the best course of action, and so, in the end, I went down to sit by the pool and watch the peacocks wander through the garden; then I ordered dinner.
I had arranged to do some interviews with the band when they got to Australia but I had been trying to get through to them on their satellite phone and there’d been no answer so far – and it had been several days already. My flight left the next morning for the Gold Coast, so I would just have to hope that the Beer and Flies had already made it to Oz and were waiting for me in the hotel bar, as arranged, to conduct the interviews before the first major gig of their tour in the Land Down Under.
Somewhere in the South Pacific…
Having spent several days drifting slowly amongst the enormous tidal currents of the Micronesian Pacific Ocean, Ziv was tasked with catching fresh seafood while Bad Brad and Brandon worked on the engine below.
The engine had gotten the vessel out of the firing line of the Chinese navy but the massive power burst that enabled the ship to soar over the deadly reefs had destroyed half the internal mechanisms which were now in desperate need of repair.
‘We need to find land, Captain’, said Brandon solemnly, as he came back up on deck, ‘we could do with a few engine parts.’
‘What kind of parts?’ asked the Captain.
‘We need a new engine, but we could probably loot the basic parts from a regular old pickup truck to get it going, at least enough to reach the Australian coastline.’
The pair looked slowly around them at the open ocean, shimmering as it stretched away into the horizon under the hot tropical sun.
As the ship floated onwards over the waves, Ziv dangled his feet above the warm waters, his fishing line disappearing into the sea, while the Captain stood over the barbeque cooking the fish and drinking from a bottle of rum.
‘You ever seen a comedian die on stage Captain?’ asked Brandon, in an attempt to lift the mood.
‘With the exception of Tommy Cooper, who only died once on stage, but yea, most of them die dozens of times’, said the Captain, keeping his focus on the rum and the flames of the barbeque.
‘That’s a bit below the belt’, said Brandon, still trying to lift the mood.
‘If that engine doesn’t get fixed you’ll be wearing that belt round your neck’, replied the Captain.
Brandon retreated to the bar and fixed himself a cocktail, looking across at where Mad Myx was pouring over the ship’s charts on the table.
‘No luck with the engines?’ asked Mad Myx, the ship’s Doctor.
‘Not a chance, we’d need a toyota truck, at the very least, to loot some parts.’
‘I thought so,’ said the Doctor, returning to the charts.
‘We could really do with a complete overhaul, an entirely new engine!’ said Brandon, sitting down beside Mad Myx.
‘I thought so,’ said the Doctor, still eyeballing the maps.
‘Any idea where we are?’ asked Brandon after a second,
‘I think I do, can we rig up a sail?’
‘We could probably manage that, why, what you got in mind?’
‘You’ll see’ said Mad Myx with a devious smile, reaching over the bar to grab another beer.
The ship’s Quartermaster, David, walked into the bar with an armful of tinned food, ‘Emergency supplies,’ he said matter of factly, then spotting Mad Myx grinning and Brandon swigging his cocktail, ‘what are you two doing? This is an emergency.’
‘Everything will be fine,’ said Mad Myx, ‘just fine I think. Where are those Masters? We need a sail!’
The next day the pirate ship glided slowly through the waters. The ship’s Masters, Scott and Jay, had rigged up all the sheets, assorted tablecloths and flags they could find and sewn them together into a makeshift sail the night before. By the time dawn rose over the horizon the pair of Masters had built a framework for the sail and the wind had picked up. Shortly after lunchtime, they spotted land.
‘God damn it, we’re saved!’ said Brad,
‘I wouldn’t speak too fast.’ said the Captain, each island around here has its own tribe, with its own unique customs.’
‘Customs!’ said Brad, ‘that’s no problem, we can just hide the gear in our socks, they’ll never find it there!’
‘Not that kind of customs, not the type you find in international airports…when I say customs I mean head shrinking, liver eating and human sacrifice, you can hide the entire ship in your pantaloons but if they decide to have you for breakfast it’ll all come out in the stew.’
As the pirate vessel sailed slowly towards the tiny island the breaking waves began to carry the ship towards the shore. The crew stood at the front of the vessel, on the bridge, watching a large welcoming party gathering on the beach. Most of them were armed with spears, bows and arrows and axes.
As the ship continued to get closer to the beach the crew could see that some of the men in the group were wearing large bones in their noses or else hung around their necks, with giant feather headdresses and carefully watchful eyes; most of their faces were covered with what appeared to be war paint.
‘That’s some pretty serious piercings they got going on there,’ commented Scott, ‘wonder what they’d trade for one of those bones?’
‘Are those human bones?’ asked Jay.
‘Do you think that’s war paint on their faces?’ asked Brandon.
‘I guess we’re about to find out all about it…’ said the Captain, as the ship was pulled onto the shore by the waves of the surf.