Island Summer - Part 8
by Jack Rowan Jack_Rowan@hotmail.com
For people, places and things mentioned in this part, please see the
end. Further notes about the story appear at the end of this part.
Copyright information is at the start of part 1.
Stories by Jack Rowan: http://members.xoom.com/jack_rowan
|This is the final part of the story. Thanks for reading it. Comments will be very gratefully received by Jack_Rowan@hotmail.com Most authors like to receive comments. It's the only way we know that anyone is even reading the stories, and it's all the payoff we get. I will reply to all mail, but please bear with me.|
I had a dreadful night, lonely and hag-ridden, missing Adam, mourning the loss of my friends. I felt as if I was at the end of pier, about to jump off, not knowing where I'd land.
The next morning, the weather had broken; I could feel the damp, morning coolness and see the grey clouds overhead which signalled the xaloc, the sodden south-east wind which the Islanders so disliked. Outside the sounds of morning were deadened by it, and the shutters rattled gently.
My mother came with me to the Sanctuary; another place I would never see again. She walked with me round the wall, and we looked out over the familiar, beloved landscape, grey under the clouds, and the wind was chilly and damp on our faces. I leant on her, desperate for Adam's touch, and we both wept.
We went into the Sanctuary church, and my mother surprised me by kneeling a while in prayer. I looked at the Queen's image, and thought of the wild visit Adam and I had paid her; I could feel no response from her at all.
"You were praying?"
We drank coffee on the Sanctuary terrace, gazing eastwards towards The Port over the pinewoods far below.
"I was just asking the Queen to look after her little boy, wherever he goes."
"You're not a Catholic."
"This was older than that. This was two mothers together."
"I think - I think she's decided that I'm no longer her concern."
"A mother never entirely decides that." She patted my hand and smiled. "You wouldn't understand, dear."
That evening we went to one of the big tourist centres on the coast to have dinner. No one here knew me; no one cared, and my spirits rose.
We had quite a bit to drink, and played the old game which we played when we were kids; with each of us speaking a different language, and then suddenly changing, when my father said.
My father had never really got the hang of the Island speech, and my mother's German was as awful as ever. Soon we were shouting with laughter, screaming away the tension in mad multilingual puns and stories. A Swedish couple at the next table started to join in, and the evening became uproarious, swapping obscenities in Swedish and Finnish for the florid, scatological blasphemies of the Island, till the waiters stared, open-mouthed, at the dreadful things we were saying.
We drove carefully back home, and entertained the sleeping square with ribald English songs as we walked from the car. I felt a lot better.
It was just a rock, just a big rock. My father and I stood beside it, and I touched it, wonderingly. The sun beat down upon us.
"Why are we here?"
"Starlight..." I said, quietly.
"This is where we started. Fiesta Saturday... It seems so long ago."
"You came out here? In the night?"
"Yes. It was just the stars, the whole sky full of stars, no moon, and the sound of the owls, and the two of us, naked, here, on this rock. We seemed - we seemed to be lying in the centre of the universe."
"Oh, Kip. How absolutely beautiful."
I smiled at him. I felt easy telling him this, and I was glad.
"Cion would call it just piggishness."
"No. It sounds almost holy. How lucky you are!"
"I'll probably never see this place again."
"It doesn't matter. It's what you did that counts. It's always what happens that counts. Things... they never last."
"Thanks. You're right."
"Here." He took out his pocket knife and worked it into a crack. Soon he had prised a piece free. "Keep it. And remember."
He folded my hand around it.
"Come on," I said. "Let's go."
We left. I didn't even look back.
But I still have that little stone.
As we were finishing supper that night, my last night, Vigo arrived to see me.
"Tofol, will you do something for me?"
"Man, you helped me that day when I really needed it. Whatever you want."
"Will you walk - in the street with me?"
"If that's what you want, sure. But - well, I'm not very popular just now. People may not like you for it."
"I don't care much. Come on. Let's do it."
We stepped outside. Friday evening, and of course the streets were full of people, but as we walked slowly, side-by-side, not a person greeted us; we seemed to be invisible.
We stopped at a bar. Vigo insisted we should sit outside, and we did; he went and got us drinks. People passed us by and ignored us. I was past misery now; I was getting angry.
"How do you stand it here, Vigo?"
"I'm accepted in a certain way. People laugh at me, and provided I laugh back, I'm okay. If I were ever serious about things, the sky would fall." He shrugged. "One lives."
"Why not leave?"
"I can't. My mother isn't well, and she needs my support. We have no other family here. In a way, I'm pleased you're leaving."
"It's good to think of you being somewhere else, having a lover, doing good things. It makes it more bearable."
I looked at the pride and despair in his eyes, and my heart went out to him. I put my hand on his, and he gripped it.
"You'll get us into trouble," he said. "One must be careful, always. But this evening - I don't mind. Sometimes one has to take a stand, and I can't let them think they've beaten you."
"You don't like the village."
"I hate it. I'm sorry, Tofol. Just tonight, I can't bothered to hide it. I despise them all. There are maybe half-a-dozen I'd save from a sinking ship, if that. Well. Tomorrow I shall smile, and joke, and make it up to them, but tonight it hurts."
"I admire you."
"Thanks. Come on. Let's go to the little bar. It'll be quieter."
When we arrived there, I was surprised to find a little gathering waiting for me: Pere and his parents, my parents, Bisbe, Cion and Joan, Pablo.
As we came through the door, Cion looked up in shock.
"Pere! You didn't say Tofol would be here!"
"Tomorrow he's going away, which is what you want." He looked at me in pain. "Don't let us part as enemies, Cion. Not after all this time."
"It's a bad thing, if someone leaves the village," said Andreu, his humorous face sad. "So many good people leave. And Tofol is a good person, he was a good boy, and he's a good man, and a good rhymer. Something's not right with the village, if good people are driven to leave."
"I'm losing a good friend," said Pere. "How can that be a good thing?"
"We must have peace," said Cion. "We're a village together. If we aren't that, we're nothing, and we're all ruined."
"Peace doesn't mean everyone being the same," said Andreu. "What do you think, Tofol?"
I thought for a moment.
"I think I must leave, because it seems that Cion is right. You can't have peace with me here. Adam is attacked, my friends come one-by-one to my house to insult me, I'm ignored in the street, people are at odds. I don't know why you need to get rid of me to have peace, but I think that's not my problem any longer. It is yours. And I think," and I turned to Andreu, "I think we should do it one last time."
"Yes, my friend. Let's tell them. But this time you go first."
My eyes misted over, and for a moment I was spechless.
"I was born in the village of Sant Pau," I started.
And he followed me, and alternating lines we built the little rhyme; the last one I ever made.
I was born in the village of Sant Pau
And a few there remember me even now.
The land of the Island, the sun and the sea
And the folk of the village, they cared for me.
The people the fascists chose to kill
They lie in the quarry over the hill;
Some lost a father, and some lost a son,
Some lost their families, one by one.
And the ghosts of those who did these crimes
They haunt the streets in these later times,
And foolish people paid them heed
And betrayed their friend in his time of need.
So the village was glad when away I flew,
But a few still love the boy they knew.
There was silence when we had finished.
"And that's it," I said. "There's nothing more to say."
"As it should be," said Andreu. "You're a rhymer. You speak through the rhyme, with your friend."
Without a word, Cion stood and walked to door, and Joan followed her.
"Goodbye, Cion," I said.
She looked at me, and just for a moment I thought I saw in her eyes the distress she felt. Then they left.
"But look," said Bisbe, "A thousand cunts! Look..."
"Miquel," said Joanna suddenly, "Leave!"
He shambled miserably to the door.
"I still don't understand..."
And he, too, was gone; and without speaking, Pablo went with him.
"And now!" said Andreu. "Yes! Enough of this! Champagne!"
And to my astonishment, a bottle of cava was produced, and glasses. Andreu removed the cork with a flourish and poured.
"A toast! To Tofol, and his new life. And when he thinks of us, may it be of the good times, and not the bad. To Tofol!"
Everyone drank. Tears were running down my cheeks, but there was something I had to do.
"My turn. I am leaving, but there are others who stay behind. If you love me, and want to remember me well, then give them proper respect. To Vigo, who helped me and Adam when we needed it."
They drank to him too. I had had enough. I couldn't stand it any more, but I couldn't work out how to leave. I looked at my mother, and she understood.
"We must go now," she said. "Kip has to get ready and organise things."
Everyone stood, and I embraced them one by one, in tears, mumbling goodbyes and thanks.
"I'll take you to the airport," whispered Pere. "Please let me."
I looked round at the little group and couldn't speak. My mother took my arm, and we left.
I felt, rather than heard Vigo coming with us, and he drew to my side.
"Thanks for saying what you did."
"Man, it was nothing. You arranged all that?"
"No. Pere did. But he asked me to fetch you. He thought you mightn't come with him," he said.
"What? Why not?"
"Something in your pasts. I don't know."
We had arrived at our house, but my parents stepped inside, leaving me with him.
"Vigo - let me kiss you."
So we did, right there in the street.
"Can I tell you something?"
"Yes." I thought I knew.
"I love you, Tofol. I - I always have. Ever since I can remember."
I hugged him.
"You don't mind me telling you?"
"No. I'm honoured."
He looked at me hopelessly.
"Such a long time. And so - so nearly..."
"Vigo, you're a fine man, and a brave one. You'll find someone. If I can, so can you."
We hugged again, and then, without a word, he left me.
"He's in love with me," I said to my parents. "And why - why is life so shitty?"
They hugged me too, and once again I was crying.
"We've watched you as you dealt with these last few days," said my father. "You've been strong, and brave, and we've never been more proud of you. And I can't believe that after this you'll ever have much problem dealing with anything."
My mother poured us large brandies.
"Come outside. We need this."
I sat and looked round at the little garden, the flowers, and the moths dancing round the lights.
"I shall miss this place too."
"Yes, love. I suppose you will. And Pere, and Andreu. And the village on a Saturday evening, and the sound of the owls, and whiteness of walls, and the taste of gin, and the fiestas..."
"And making rhymes, and the view from the Sanctuary, and the sun..."
"Many things," said my father. "But there are far more wonderful things and people in the world than anyone could possibly find, and you will find more. I promise you this, because we've done it."
"It's natural to be sad, but don't let that stop you from liking new things you find. We've tried to bring you up to be at home anywhere, to be able to find good things wherever you are, and to be able to talk to whoever you meet. And this is why."
"The Island is my home."
"No, love," said my mother gently, "It isn't. Not any longer."
I started to weep again, quietly.
"I'm sorry. But that's how it is. You must find a new home now."
She held my hand, but I couldn't stop the tears, and we all sat quietly. And the ghosts of two little boys at play scampered around us in the night.
Finally I stirred.
"Let's go to bed."
I must have spent hours that night weeping. I don't know if my parents heard, but anyhow they left me, and I was glad. Now, at the end of it all, this was me, me alone.
The lights from the street shone in through my window, onto the ceiling, onto the beams holding up the whitewashed roofstones, and the shadows they cast I knew by heart from my childhood; every little night-time sound was completely familiar. When I got out of bed to look out of the window, each wall, each corner, each telephone line I knew, I knew each shutter. I knew that they would continue to be there when I left, but that was not enough. I wanted them.
I wanted these things, I wanted the village, and I wanted the whole Island. And I wanted my friends back; achingly, despairingly, I wanted their love. I was crushed by loss.
And the single thing, the only thing that could balance it was Adam. Oh, my love, I am losing everything. If I lose you too, then I'm lost myself.
At least, I thought, I understand now how he felt when Paul deserted him.
Finally, exhausted by grief, I drifted off to sleep.
My mother woke me early, and trying not to think, I showered and dressed. I had already packed; the rest of my things my parents would bring when they came.
"Penny for them."
I was drinking coffee and staring into space.
"If only - if only Adam wants me back."
"And why the hell shouldn't he?" My mother sounded quite cross.
"We quarreled. He left in anger - and that was it. The last time we spoke."
"And what did you quarrel about?"
"He wanted me to go to England."
"And? You're going to sodding England, and what it's costing you God only knows. What more can he want?"
I giggled weakly, and she refilled my cup.
"Sorry," I said. "I - I didn't sleep too well."
"No, I don't suppose you did." Suddenly she had a flash of anger. "Oh, sod the Island. And sod this fucking village. I've had enough of them. How dare they presume to judge my son!"
"Mum!" My mother rarely swore, and it was strangely shocking to hear it.
"Well honestly, Kip. Cion last night, walking out without a word! And that booby, Bisbe, and all those hissing old bats in the shops, and people who've been your friends since kindergarten crossing the street to avoid you! It's intolerable!"
"Mother! What's got into you?"
"You're leaving in half an hour, and I don't have to hold back any more, that's all. These people are bigots, Kip. Bigots. You making love is piggishness? What a wicked thing to say! Poisonous little queerbasher."
"She's my friend!"
"Sorry, Kip. She was your friend, but no longer. Not because of you, but because of her. Don't let people like her get their hooks into you, because they'll destroy you without mercy. Dump her, Kip, and do it now."
"It'll take time."
"Why? It took her about ten minutes. Give her up, Kip. And give up this place. It was good for you for a time, very good, but you've outgrown it, it's too small to hold you. That's what's happened. The first time - the very first time you acted as an adult, it vomited you out."
She turned to face me squarely.
"Time to move on, Kip."
"She's right," said my father.
"I know she is."
I stood, and looked onto the street. The children were out with their little churns, off to fetch the day's milk. The sun was sloping across the square beyond. Everything was normal, quiet, ordinary; I had seen the same scene thousands of times. It seemed impossible, grotesque, that I was about to leave it all, and would never see it again.
"Take it easy," he said. "A step at a time. In the end it'll happen."
That's when Pere's car drew up outside.
For a few minutes it was chaos, as we loaded the luggage. And then it was time to say goodbye. I hugged my parents, but this wasn't going to be the worst moment. I would see them soon.
"I tried to phone Richard again," said my father. "Still no luck. I'll try again in a bit, and you can try from Heathrow. Otherwise, it's plan B, I guess."
"Here's some money. It'll keep you going till you can get a job."
"Thanks." I pocketed it hurriedly.
"Have you got Adam's number?" asked my mother.
"And your stone?" said my father.
"Then goodbye, son. We'll see you at Christmas. And write. If there are problems, ask. We're always here."
"Good luck, darling."
I hugged them both. And then we were away.
The car ground through the little white squares, past the houses, and the bars, open already for the breakfast gins and coffees, past the shops, past people I knew walking the pavements, past the kindergarten and the school, past it all, the whole scenery of my childhood, of my friendships, of my life.
And then it was gone.
I spoke for the first time.
"Man, where have you been? I haven't seen you in sun or shade for days."
"There were various problems. Maria..."
He seemed embarrassed.
"Yes? Maria? I haven't seen her either."
"Her parents forbad her to leave the house until you were off the Island."
"She didn't want me to go. She wouldn't let me go and see you. In the end there was a dreadful row, and now I'm not allowed to see her either." He was weeping, and he hit the steering wheel in a fury. "Oh, Kip, how did we come to this?"
"You know how."
"And now you're going away, and who knows when you'll be back! And I've lost Maria, Cion and Bisbe won't talk to me, Cisco won't have me work for him... Everything's falling apart!"
"That's part of why I have to leave. Cion's right. There'll be no peace so long as I'm here."
"It's too late, Kip. The damage is done."
"I'm sorry. You'll have to patch it up. And I know you can."
"Why, Kip? Why did this happen?"
"Because I fell in love. And the village couldn't accept it. That's all. They hate my love. And so I must go."
For a long while, we said nothing, and I looked at the Island as it flowed past me. Here it was the strange area of sharp, precipitous hills, with woods around, standing red and shiny in the morning light. Above us, the kites wheeling in their endless circles. We turned onto the main road, busy with cars and lorries and tourist buses, and passed the next town, white and strange, with unknown people on their morning tasks.
"I love the Island so much," I said. "I love it like a person. When I'm here, I'm happy, and when I'm away, I long for it, I count the days and hours till I can come back. I know its moods, when it's happy and when its bad-tempered, when it's sad, when it's angry. I love the land, the shape of it, the trees, the walls and farms, the villages and the towns. I love its sea and its sun and winds. And I love the people, their life and their thoughts, and I love the language. You know, I can spend a day, just talking to your father, making rhymes, hearing stories, listening to the sound of his voice, the way he uses the words. I think that the loss of the language will be the hardest thing."
"If you love it so much, why are you leaving?"
"The Island no longer loves me."
"Because you love Adam."
"In the end, you loved him more. You chose him."
There was a long pause.
"I chose the Island," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"I must say it now, because I don't think there will be another chance. I don't think you will be back."
"No, Pere. I don't think I will."
"Do you remember that blockhouse? In the woods?"
"Oh, Pere. Yes, I've never forgotten. After we had... And you went mad like that, it was so horrible. I've never seen you like that, before or since. What was it?"
"Kip, I was in love with you. I loved you, I loved you so much, I seemed to have loved you all my life, and what happened with us together, it was like a wonderful dream. But I knew. Even then I knew, although I couldn't have said it, that I couldn't have the Island and you. Even then I knew it was a choice. And I couldn't, I just couldn't... It was agony, Kip. Agony. But you see, you said you loved the Island like a person. For me, it's different. I am the Island. The Island is in me, and I am in the Island. When it came to it, I couldn't choose you. It was impossible. And that's it."
I looked at him, and a dreadful sadness came over me, a feeling of something important missed, a complete and beautiful landscape unexplored.
"So I shall stay here," he said. "I'll marry Maria, and we'll have kids. I'll have my carpenter's shop, and in the end it will be quite a large company. I'll be elected to the Island council; I'll have grandchildren, and money, and respect, and friends. In the end I'll forget much of what I felt for you. Life will be good; you needn't pity me in any way."
"Do you love Maria?"
"No. But she is nice, although very rightwing, and she will be a good companion, and a good mother. I am quite happy with the arrangement."
It sounded like death. I couldn't imagine how my dear and brilliant friend could live like this, and I wondered how much I was to blame.
"You sound quite... detached."
"In a way, I suppose you're right; it's not glorious or flamboyant, the way I shall live. But remember: I'll always have the Island, and that's my glory. And you will not."
"No. But I don't think I could live like that."
"That's why, wherever you are, you will always be in some way a spectator, not one of those taking part. Sometimes you will think you are at home, but really you won't be. There will always be something conditional, something temporary. You will be a gypsy, Kip."
"Do you remember, in the book you showed me and Adam?"
"It said something like: 'The light from the room of the Beloved came to illuminate the room of the Friend. Thus it put the shadows out of it.' That's how it is for me. I need that light from the beloved, or I'll be filled with shadows. Once again, there's no choice."
"Yes, I understand."
"My parents, you know, they also have no home, not really. Their home is each other. I think that's how it will be for me."
"I hope so."
"He is a good man. I think it will work."
We were reaching the airport now, and Pere swung into the carpark. We unloaded my bag, and Pere stood by, as I checked it in.
And we sat in the hall and waited. I looked at my friend - my best friend - really, now, my only friend, and suddenly it seemed to me that there was something unsaid.
"Pere," I said, and I grasped his hand, "I want you to know this, whether it's good or bad. But I was terribly in love with you then. It wasn't just you, it both of us. What we did, that was a real act of love. We have no need to be ashamed."
To my astonishment, he started to cry.
"Thank you," he said. "Kip, that is a wonderful thing to know."
At that moment, I was on the point of offering him everything, everything, myself, my life, everything, in exchange for his love. But I knew it wouldn't work, or if it did, it would break him. He realised this, I think. At all events, we sat in silence, with me holding his hand, looking in each others' eyes, and tears were running down his face.
Then they called my flight, and we stood up.
"This is it," he said. "The end."
We embraced tightly, and now we were both in tears.
"Vagi bé, mon amic," he whispered, "Goodbye, my friend..."
I couldn't speak. He turned from me and walked back across the hall, through the crowds of tourists and waiters in their white shirts, past the officials and the hard-faced guards, through the glass doors and out, out into the bright Island sunshine and away, and my eyes lost him. I have never seen him again.
I walked weeping through the barrier, scarcely noticing the formalities, across the tarmac and up the steps, and the plane took me up, up into the air and away. The Island turned beneath us, and I could even pick out the road where Adam and I met, and the little cluster of white boxes which marked the village, and my parents, and every friend I had had in the world. I strained to see it, to see the land as we flew along the coast; it grew smaller and smaller, a tiny crescent against the dark blue Mediterranean; and then it was gone.
Every joy that had ever come to me had fallen on me from the sun and risen to me from the land, the land of the Island; my friends and my life and the Island speech, the lifeblood of my soul, had come to me free; free, as a gift from the village. The Island had created me and nurtured me, and showered me with riches. But from now on, I must do it myself. Everything good, every happiness would have to be worked for and fought for, inch by inch. My childhood was over.
Exhausted, I closed my eyes and slept.
We were taxiing to the terminal, and outside it was pouring with rain. I followed the other passengers along the grey corridors of Heathrow and waited for my bag, unable to understand what had happened to me. And then, finally, I was through customs and out into the concourse.
It was cold, filthy with litter and grime, and crowded, and I stared round in bafflement, picking them out, one by one, the people: the hard, alienated businessman with his briefcase, the old West Indian woman, face wracked with tiredness, her body hunched over her broom, the bad-tempered family of tourists, the tight-lipped, humourless policeman, his machine pistol at the ready; and everywhere the grey faces, the blank eyes, the sagging shoulders, the grim, aggressive voices. And for me, now, this wretched, charmless place was home; these defeated men and women I must learn to accept as my people.
I stood, frozen in the middle of it all, crushed by the sense of its mass, the vast weight of millions of people and their endless churning and milling around, their brutality and ruthlessness and indifference to each other; and the size of it, of London, with its millions of houses, its tens of thousands of roads, cars, buses, trains, offices, factories, supermarkets, hospitals, prisons; and in the middle of it all, me, and it seemed impossible that anyone could grasp it all, could move through it without being instantly destroyed. It bore down on me, and reduced me to insignificance, to a paralysed and helpless creature, to nothing.
I was utterly broken and alone.
Just then a voice yelled my name, and I whirled.
They were coming towards me across the concourse, all three of them, and I had never in my life been more pleased to see anyone, as my brother ran to me and hugged me.
He used the Island speech, the language of our childhood, and I couldn't reply.
"I know, I know..."
His eyes showed complete understanding, and told me things about him that I had never realised, had never bothered to consider.
"Oh, Richard, thank you... Thanks for coming Wendy, I really appreciate it."
"Kip, dear." She kissed me. "You'll stay with us? You'll come home and stay with us for a bit? Please do, Kip..."
"Why's Uncle Kip crying?"
"I expect he's tired, dear."
I knelt to greet Ellen.
"I just need a hug from my favourite niece."
Her tiny arms went round my neck, and I kissed her ear.
"Silly," she said, "You haven't got any other nieces!"
"Then you must be my favourite, mustn't you?"
She laughed, and I started to feel a bit stronger.
"There's something... Have you got some change for the phone? I'm sorry..."
I had to do it now. I had to know.
"Of course," said Richard, and his eyes were kind. "Here."
I walked to a phone point, dug in my pocket. There it was; I spread Adam's note on the top of the phone, and slipped a coin into the slot. I gripped the little stone in my hand and took a deep breath.
And he answered.
There was a long pause, and I heard his breath catch.
"Where are you?" he whispered.
It came from deep within him, a sob, a cry of pain.
"Oh, thank God... Oh Kip... Thank you... Thank you..."
And that's when I knew that no matter what happened, no matter what the pain, no matter how long it took, in the end I would be all right.
I don't know what made me start writing this little memoir, but somehow I seem to have finished it, tapping at my laptop in moments snatched at night in half-ruined hotels and on flights in ricketty old Ilyushins. Perhaps I'm ready to deal with some of it now. It's about time.
It's been a frightful trip, this one; I've visited the two capitals concerned five or six times each, and several of the neighbours as well. We're all exhausted beyond any description; but, well, the treaty was finally signed, and I guess that's what counts. In theory, now, half-a-dozen armed groups of varying degrees of banditry will put down their weapons and return to their farms and cities. In theory, people will no longer be massacred, villages will no longer be burned, children will no longer be kidnapped and forced into becoming soldiers or worse; in theory, the crumbling remains of the infrastructure will be spared. In theory.
We do what we can, like anyone else. At least we try. It's the new century now, and something makes one cling to the hope that it'll be better than the last.
"Mr Commissioner?" The flight attendant touches my arm. "We'll be landing at Heathrow in half an hour."
That gives me just enough time to wrap this up.
"New York on the 3rd, right?"
"Sure, Dan, I'll see you there. You flying straight on?"
We've been working together for five years, now. I couldn't function without him, and we know all there is to know about each other. His weary black face suddenly smiles.
"Yup. Emily's waiting for me, and the kids. Family Christmas. I can't wait. Got anything planned?"
"Oh, lord. Sleep for about three days. Then - then I could use some good, warm, lovin'..."
We're gathering our things together now, all our little group, and there are farewells and hugs.
I've never been back to the Island, and nor has anyone in the family, somehow. I've never written, either; there seems no point. But people who have visited the village tell me that nothing much has changed. I miss it still, but somehow the way back is barred. It's no different from anyone else, I suppose. When you leave your childhood, it's permanent exile.
In any case, my mother was right. The Island is no longer my home.
"Give Emily a hug and tell her Merry Christmas from me."
"You got it, Kip. And Adam too, okay?"
There's a little cottage deep in the Suffolk countryside; the fire will be blazing, holly and ivy will be hanging along the beams, there's a pub across the road, good friends and good company. And that's where my home will be waiting.
I know he'll be pleased to see me.
20 December 2000
|Notes on the story|
People who read this expecting a lot of BDSM are going to be disappointed; this is another sort of thing. On the other hand, those who found The Story of Tim and The Story of Tol rather heavier than they cared for, may enjoy this more.
Thanks to Peggy, who endured a preliminary version without complaint, and gave me much-needed encouragement and comments.
Does the Island exist? Yes. Anyone who has been there will recognise it at once. The village of Sant Pau exists too, although I have changed its name, as do most of the other places mentioned. But because this is fiction, I have felt free to take certain liberties with the geography and the customs of the people when this helps the story along.
Is the story autobiographical? No. I've spent quite a bit of time on the Island over the years, but I wasn't born or brought up there, and I didn't even go there until I was much older than Kip.
Do the people in the story exist? Emphatically not. It's important to say this, because Sant Pau is a small place. If you go there, and think you have spotted Pere or Bisbe or Cion in a bar, you are wrong.
Would the Island people react to Kip in the way shown in the story? I've never been in Kip's position, but I suspect not. They have their prejudices, like everyone else, but they also have great reserves of good manners.
What is the book mentioned in part 2? That is the Llibre d'Amic e Amat by the Mallorcan mystic Ramon Llull (c1235-1316). The passage quoted is section 99. Very hesitant translation by me.
Do people make up rhymes in the way the story shows? Not quite in that way, as far as I know, but the extempore composition of verses, or gloses, is, or was, a traditional part of Island culture.
Cursing Curses on the Island, as elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world, tend to be blasphemous to a degree that is really not assimilable by many English-speaking people. Most of them have been rendered in the story by damn or dammit, with the occasional fuck for variety.
Thanks for reading Island Summer. It was great fun to write. Feedback much appreciated, as always, to: Jack_Rowan@hotmail.com
|People, Places and Things|
|Eileen Branford||his mother|
|Max Branford||his father|
|Richard Branford||his brother|
|Ellen||Richard and Wendy's daughter|
|Pere (Pedro)||PAIR-uh||Kip's best friend|
|Maria d'es Forn||Pere's girlfriend|
|Miquel (Miguel) el Bisbe||BEEZ-buh||friend of Kip|
|Pablo||friend of Kip|
|Joan (Juan) de Na Cion||Joo-AHN||friend of Kip|
|Cion (Asuncion)||SEE-awn||fiancee of Joan|
|Andreu||Uhn-DREH-oo||father of Pere|
|Joanna||Joo-AHN-uh||mother of Pere|
|Cisco||SEES-koo||father of Bisbe|
|Toni d'es Forn||father of Maria|
|Vigo (Juan)||barman at Sa Tanca|
|Sant Pau||Sahnt POW||St. Paul; the village|
also called San Pablo (Spanish name)
|The Sanctuary||Church of Our Lady, Queen of the Island|
|cava||Catalan sparkling wine|
|xaloc||shuh-LOCK||the south-east wind|
|Vagi bé, mon amic||Goodbye, my friend|
|Jack Rowan Jack_Rowan@hotmail.com|