Sunday, October 25, 2009

From the frying pan into the fire

When I arrived in the North Sandwich Island, I planned to spend my first night sleeping on the beach. I thought it would be a safe place to stay before I’d meet the mysterious Mr. Falkenberg, who had promised to offer me a decent job the day after.

I walked for a while until I made out the lighthouse lamp throwing beams of bright light out to the sea. I spread my sleeping bag out on the sand and was about to lay down when a group of hobos surrounded me, giving me a very threatening and unfriendly look.

The oldest one among them, who appeared to be their leader, got into a flap and took a step forward to shout at me:

- Get out of here, Missy! This is not your territory! If you want to sleep on the beach, you’ll have to pay. –he said-
- Excuse me sir, but I think I haven’t got it right. Is this place all yours? –I asked-
- Yep.
- Very nice. And I presume that you mark your territory like the lions, by peeing on the boundaries, right?
- Don’t get cocky, Missy. I ain’t joking, so you better pay the toll or there will be consequences. This is not a rule of the road, but the law of the jungle.

Things were not looking good. One of the hobos unzipped my backpack and took my wallet.

- Keep your hands off my things! –I shouted in anger, pushing him -
- Hm… you don’t have much money here… Nicolette –he said, scrutinizing my fake ID card-
- Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not rich, Mr. Robin Hood.
- Very well observed Missy, but we don’t steal money from the rich to give it to the poor. When it comes to money, we don’t play nice over here.
- Thank you for this valuable piece of information, Mr. Whatever-the-fuck-your-name-is. I’ll find myself a better place to sleep near the lighthouse.
- The coastline is all ours.
- That’s bloody great, man. And I suppose all the woods in the country and the park benches in the city are yours as well, right?
- Right.
- Then, could I have at least my wallet back? Take the money if you want, but I need my papers –I asked, angrily-

The greedy hobo took all the money from my purse, rummaged through my documents and stared at my fake driving license. He was annoying me big time with his funny ideas about private property.

Suddenly an angry woman appeared from out of the blue, threateningly shaking a rolling pin over her head.

- Give her the wallet back, Phantom. -she spat out in a low tone of voice, now firmly holding the rolling pin with her right hand and tapping it against her left-
- Phantom??? My god, is that your stage name? –I said, nearly splitting my sides laughing-

Were there bandits and robber gangs in the North Sandwichian beaches, like Dick Turpin, Jesse James and Billy the Kid? In the past I often had romantic fantasies about outlaws and good thieves. But things look a little different when you’re the one who’s being robbed: it’s not ok to steal, even if you’re desperate, and Phantom didn’t look desperate at all, but rather more a cheeky swine. He stepped back and threw my wallet on the sand, in a rage.

- Are you making your nightly rounds, madam? -he asked the lady with the rolling pin-
- Yes. And I didn’t expect to find you here. If my memory serves me well, I’ve told you a zillion times that my husband doesn’t want to see you scaring people near the lighthouse. –said the lady-

I took my wallet from the ground. Phantom booed her loud, turned around and left. The hobos followed him to the rocks, where they warmed their hands on a trash fire that was burning in a barrel.

- Thank you very much for your help, madam. –I said, relieved-
- It is very ill-advised to hang around here in the dark, sweety. You should be more careful in the future.
- I will.

After a short silence, I dared ask.

- Excuse me, madam… do you live in the lighthouse?
- Yes. What’s with the lighthouse, dear?
she answered-
- I need to see a person there tomorrow, about a job.
- It must be my husband! We’re the only people who live there.
- You must be Mrs. Falkenberg, then! My name is Nicolette Bixby. I’ve met your husband at the ferry.

We shook hands.

- My husband has some interests in the ferry to South Sandwich. They need more staff in the ships; that’s probably the offer he wanted to discuss with you. But let’s go home, Nicolette. This place is not safe.

We walked to the other side of the beach.

The North Sandwich lighthouse had been erected on mile marker 18 of the coast, at Lancaster Bay. Lancaster was the name of a ship that had sunk ten miles away from the shoreline, giving its name to the bay. The locals kept the anchor on a hill, in memory of the seamen that died in the shipwreck.

I was surprised to see that the beautiful Northern lighthouse had not been converted into a bed and breakfast with magnificent sea views, as it happened in the past with the picturesque lighthouses of the Death Coast, in the South Sandwich Islands.

The Falkenbergs lived in a cosy and welcoming cottage beside the lighthouse, with a well looked after garden brimming with all kinds of flowers. Mrs. Falkenberg prepared a cup of tea and cookies and we sat beside the fireplace.

- My husband and I have been the lighthouse keepers for more than two hundred years now.
- For more than two hundred years???
–I asked in shock-
- Yes –she answered, as if it were the most natural thing in the world-. We come from a very long-lived family.

Oh man. Weren’t there any normal people left in these Islands? Had the life expectancy index hit world record levels in North Sandwich? Were the Falkenbergs really so long-lived people, as she said, or perhaps were they supernaturals? I didn’t dare ask.

- Please, tell me about you, Nicolette. –said Mrs. Falkenberg-
- Nothing’s interesting about me, madam. I come from South Sandwich and I’m looking for a job.
- I already know that, sweety. But I can see sorrow and despair in your eyes.

At that point, I broke down and cried my heart out.

- I’ve lost everything a few weeks ago. I had a man who loved me, a good job, a nice house, a car… and everything went up in smoke! Now I have to hide from those who are stalking me! –I said, looking down with tears in my eyes-

She interrupted me.

- Who’s stalking you?
- If I told you who’s stalking me, you would think I’m completely nuts.
- People from Hell, to be sure
–said Mr. Falkenberg, who had just opened the main door to the house-.

He kissed his wife tenderly on the forehead and she smiled at him.

- Welcome, Nicolette. I didn’t expect to see you before tomorrow at 8 am. –he said-.
- Nicolette was being disturbed by Phantom and his gang at the beach. –said Mrs. Falkenberg-
- And your lovely wife came to my aid. –I ended the sentence-
- So we can skip the introductions… -he said-
- Nicolette was telling me about some people who are stalking her.
- The people from Hell. Am I right?
–asked Mr. Falkenberg-
- Yes.
- They never cross the sea, but they could send someone to abduct you and take you back to South Sandwich.
- I don’t want to go back.

Falkenberg removed his raincoat, poured himself a cup of tea and sat beside us.

- Nicolette, how would you like to work for the North Sandwich Ferry Company as a kitchen hand, assisting with meal preparation and plating in the ferry? The salary is nothing to shout about, but the kitchen manager is a nice guy who won’t work you to death. How does it grab you?

Compared to my two-day escort job in South Sandwich, it sounded like heaven to me.

- I accept it. –I answered immediately-
- Then you’re hired. You’ll start tomorrow at 8am in the cruise ship called “Ice flower”. Look for Diederick Pannekoek, the kitchen manager and tell him that I’ve sent you. There’s a very important event tomorrow at the ship: numerous celebrities and important figures will be in attendance of a famous Burdish publishing house awards ceremony and cocktail party at the auditorium. Diederick is short of people in the kitchen; it will be an extremely busy day and you may have to do a little bit of everything: from preparing hors d’oeuvre to serving snacks and drinks at the lounge. But you’re nice, well-mannered and a hard worker, I suppose.

Oh my god, did he say "A famous Burdish publishing house"? How famous? And how Burdish? I feared that Ed was among those present and would see me, but I couldn't refuse Falkenberg's offer. I was jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

- Thank you. I really appreciate your offering me this chance. I’m not afraid to work, Mr. Falkenberg. I’ll be in the ship tomorrow at 8 am sharp. You won't be disappointed.

I had no choice but to take the job and go completely unnoticed.

"My lighthouse" (Pulp)


Gorilla Bananas said...

The Falkenbergs sound like the good fairies of Pixie Hollow, heavyweight division. I think you'll be safe with them.

sage said...

Aw, another segment... there is more dangerous things than getting sand in your panties or your feet wet when the tide comes in while sleeping on the beach

max said...

Don't dare leave the kitchen, Leni.
Don't get into mischief (again).
The kitchen is the safest place in the ship and there's plenty of food there, LOL!

Leni Qinan said...

I see him as Terence and her as the beautiful purple haired Vidia among Pixie Hollow’s characters.

And Mr Bananas, I assure you that after putting up with so many people from Hell I'm real glad that someone came to my aid (at last!). If I could choose, I’d be the tiny naughty Tinker Bell. ;))

Leni Qinan said...

Right Sage, danger at night can come up in the strangest shape and these North Sandwichian hobos have proved to be the terror of the beach!

Leni Qinan said...

Maxi, I'll tell you what I will do:

1st.- not to leave the kitchen.
2nd.- not to get into mischief.
3rd.- to feast on tasty delicacies at the ship kitchen!

Take care

Grass said...

I agree with Max sis.. The kitchen has plenty of food; and KNIVES in case some people from hell or not try to hurt you. LOL

Hmmm, now I'm beginning to have an idea how you're going to meet Ed again. Can't wait for the next installment :D

And btw, The Falkenbergs's cottage reminds me of the witch's cottage in "Hansel and Gretel". I don't know why I have a bad feeling about these two seemingly nice couple... ;) Your stories gives me paranoia attacks.. :p


Jimmy Bastard said...

Well executed phrases and paragraphs, the timing of humour was superb.

You have excelled yourself on this piece Leni, you had me at "In the past I often had romantic fantasies about outlaws and good thieves. But things look a little different when you’re the one who’s being robbed"

Leni Qinan said...

Oooh yes, Grassy, KNIVES! I forgot! And burning stuff too in the kitchen!

((And if you hear the words BURDISH and TYCOON in the same sentence, make sure Ed will be there!))

The Falkenbergs are nice and good people, Grassy. There's a reason why they feel inclined to help me, but it won't be unveiled until the next chapter. I don't think there's anything to fear, but just in case, don't make the lady upset, because she has a rolling pin, lol.

Big hug!

Leni Qinan said...

Oooh my dear fiend Jimmy, I was writing my answer to Grass right at the same time you were posting your comment! What a feeling of being HERE and NOW at the same time!

Thank you for your encouraging words. I really appreciate -you know how hard it is to write in a second language...-

And yes, there's a je ne sais quoi about outlaws. Romantic fantasies, right. Perhaps it's something in their soul that makes them look crusty on the outside but tender in the inside.

Take care. ;)

Skeeter said...

Hi Leni,

Very well written. Imaginative :-)

Best wishes. Skeeter

Leni Qinan said...

Hey Skeeter, thanks! My mind never stops dreaming. ;)

Take care!

Dick said...

Oh my, I didn't know things are that bad near the lighthouse, I suppose you are safe now, hahaha.
I hope you won't become seasick.
Nice pictures again.

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Dick! During the day it is a harmless beach, but life near the lighthouse can be very dangerous at night! LOL

Surely some of the pics will be familiar to you. ;)

rebecca said...

Gulp. Oh boy. Doesn't sound good....

Leni Qinan said...

Who knows Rebecca... maybe this is for my own good... ;)

Ralph said...

I stumbled across your blog & love it, thanks for sharing with us

Leni Qinan said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Ralph, and welcome.

You will find very surrealistic serialised stories here, seasoned with real life breaks, and of course, very interesting people commenting here who write beautiful blogs.

See you soon!

Anonymous said...

I think the hobos were actually penguins, and if I were you I would not accept a job 'plating' from a stranger... who knows what might happen?

Leni Qinan said...

Dear Mutts, if the hobos are actually penguins, then I must have been in Antarctica instead of in the North Sandwich Islands...

Omg, you would not accept a job from a stranger? With this huge financial crisis, i have no choice!

Maybe you can give me some advice about how to save money...

Take care.

Jimmy Bastard said...

I've featured this piece in my post of the week. A worthy winner indeed.

Leni Qinan said...

Jimmy, thank you very much for featuring my post "From the frying pan into the fire" in your sidebar. It's a true honor and I really appreciate. You made my day! And this encourages me to write even more!

Once again, thanks, from the bottom of my heart!