SURREAL ADVENTURES FROM THE SOUTH SANDWICH ISLANDS

Sunday, November 22, 2009

At the Grub'n Booze Cafe

When the bus dropped me off at the harbour, it was 7 am. It’s my habit to arrive always earlier than originally planned, just in case; even more when I’m worried.

I stopped on the docks for a coffee. Right on my way, I found a big sign on the sidewalk that read:

“The Grub’n Booze Café opens most days at 6 or 7; but sometimes as early as 5am; though occasionally, it could be as late as 10; maybe 11.

The Grub’n Booze Café closes every evening about 9 or 10pm; perhaps at 7 or 8; even at 11. Some days we’re gone fishing; but lately, some other days we’re around most of the time, except when we’re somewhere else.”


The author of these unfathomable paragraphs displayed a twisted, rather brilliant, sense of humour. They made me smile. And this was my lucky day: 7 am and the Grub’n Booze Café was open.

I had a look inside. The place had its charm, but it was weird as everything in North Sandwich: the glassware, dinner sets and cutlery were strangely shaped, but they had mouth-watering cakes and incredibly yummy biscuits called pannekoekies in the Northern language, which was slightly different from my Southern native dialect. Or perhaps it was the other way around: they certainly thought it was me the weird one, not them. Everything is relative. It all depends on how you look at it.

Talking about swimming against the tide, I noticed that hardly anybody took the bus in North Sandwich. The vast majority of locals moved about by bicycle. They drove carefully in a parallel lane to the road, driving odd bikes with baskets, shopping trolleys, baby seats and other useful accessories on the handlebar.

Come hail, rain, snow, sleet or high winds, North Sandwichians cycled to go to work, to go shopping, to take their kids to school; they even cycled to walk their dogs.

It was clear that if I wanted to pass unnoticed, I should have to buy myself one of those as soon as I’d make enough money, or better find me a second hand one, because my budget was really skinny for the moment. But when in Rome... I should do as the Romans did.

The harbour was very busy and I could perfectly see the “Ice Flower” ferry from my position at the Grub’n Booze Café. I ordered a cappuccino. The guy behind the counter said:

- Sorry sweety, but we only have Northwiccinos here.
- What’s a Northwiccino?
–I asked-
- A tasty delicacy of my invention: a North Sandwichian cappuccino. I sprinkle it with cocoa powder, icing sugar and cinnamon.
- That sounds very delicious! Then, I'll have a Northwiccino with one of these cookies.
–I said, pointing at them-
- We call them pannekoekies. You’re not from here, right, Missy?
- Ehm… no.
- Are you Southerner?
- Yes. I didn’t realise it was so apparent.

The guy introduced himself, trying to break the ice.

- My name is Archimedes Smith, but you can call me Archie. My wife Elektra and I are the owners of this humble tavern. Elektra cooks and bakes the panekoekies. Since I’m not as talented as she is, I only serve the grub and booze to our distinguished clientele. We’re aliens too, from the East corner of Burdishland.

In just ten words he had updated me on his life. Elektra Smith waved hello from the back door.

- Pleased to meet you, Elektra and Archimedes. By the way, I suppose you have nothing to do with the famous principle of physics…
- You mean that when a body is immersed in liquid, it receives an upward thrust from the bottom towards the top, equal to the weight of the displaced liquid and blah blah blah?
–he asked-

That man didn’t cease to amaze me.

- I wouldn’t have expressed it better. –I answered-
- I’ll tell you a secret: Archimedes the Great was my most famous ancestor. The family pride and joy. And sorry but… I think I haven’t heard your name yet…
- Nicolette Bixby.
- Pleased to meet you, Nicolette. Tell me, what brings you to the Nordvyken harbour?
–he asked, holding out his hand to me-.
- Pleased to meet you, Archie. I’m going to work in a ship. –I answered, shaking his hand-
- Oh really? What ship?
- The “Ice Flower”.

Archie suddenly got startled, threw his mug on the counter and sprayed the coffee out of his nose.

- You said the “Ice Flower”? That one over there? –he asked, pointing at the ship-
- Right. What’s the matter? –I asked back, in alarm-
- Doing what? –he asked again, leaving my question unanswered-
- I’ll work as a kitchen hand. Why do you ask?
- For no special reason.
–he said, looking down-
- Come on, tell me: what’s wrong with the “Ice Flower”?
- Listen Nicolette: in this land there are lots of sea legends and harbour gossips about strange phenomena happening in that ship. Don’t take it too seriously, but if I were you, I would be careful. -he whispered-
- What kind of strange phenomena? Blackbeard? Guybrush Threepwood? Jack Sparrow? –I asked, skeptically-
- No, sweety. There are no pirates in the "Ice Flower", but don't make jokes, please. There are missing persons; abnormal appearances; weird journeys. That ship is cursed. The captain takes ages to find a new crew and staff for every trip. They pay well, but nobody's crazy for enrolling in this ship. But enough of that story.

Other customers had arrived and Archie left to approached them. What a good excuse to avoid answering my tricky questions. He left me worriedly thinking. It was hardly surprising that there would be a weak spot or something fishy in Falkenberg's job offer. My life was full of these unforeseen circumstances.

I sat at a table and peacefully contemplated the harbour landscape while I started pondering the option of skipping the job interview with the ship kitchen manager, to prevent further knock-on effects.

The docks were a hive of activity: busses loading passengers; busy passers-by rushing to work; heavy trucks unloading huge containers with goods and merchandises in the ships; the grey sea in the background; cars heading to the ferry queue… did I say cars?

Suddenly, I was shocked to see a majestic shiny black Bentley entering the “Ice Flower”. It was Ed’s car. His favourite among the ones he owned. Not just that: two workers unfolded and glued to the ship wall a huge poster, displaying this message: III Annual Kynkybooks Awards Ceremony. I must admit that my heart skipped a beat when I realised that Ed would be in the ship, chairing the ceremony and cocktail party. Now I knew who organised the event.

I covered my face with my hands but kept peeking through my fingers to see what was happening. Ed was not there, but Moebius Hax -his mysterious and arrogant lawyer- was.

Moebius left the car carrying a thick briefcase under his arm and speaking on the cell phone.

I was moved deeply. I felt distressed. I wanted to see Ed again, but after my misfortunes and fall into disgrace, I was too ashamed: there was a significant difference between being the Queen of the Dumbass Industries in Grytviken and being the lowest of the low in the Nordvyken ferry.

I had been a posh lawyer at one of the biggest corporations in South Sandwich and the right-hand person to one of the most powerful men in the island. But I had been sacked and now I was a poor devil; a liar on the run; a nobody at the bottom of the dung heap.




"One better day" (Madness)


Picture nº4: "Cookies" by Antoine Helbert

17 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

You're beginning to remind me of Ishmael of Moby Dick fame. Like him, you'll need a bosom buddy with a big harpoon. Who will be your Queequeg?

Leni Qinan said...

((**Falls off her chair laughing**))

Yes. Mr Bananas, in Herman Melville's words... you can call me Ishmael (:)) (if you wish. And I'll tell you my story).

And please, forgive me for this but my dirty mind can only think of a Queequeg: my beloved Ed Davies, editor, mentor, my sunshine and the love of my life.

As for the big harpoon you mention... I think it's better not to draw more analogies, but I can say he's an extraordinary harpooner, hahah.

Jimmy Bastard said...

"Talking about swimming against the tide"

Leni, you are a whitecap surfing the highest of waves. A stark contrast amongst an otherwise dead sea background of drifting flotsam and jetsam.

Skeeter said...

Hi Leni,

Great tune with the video! Wow, you're kind of hard one yourself at the end of this installment. Still, I can see your point though.

Best wishes,

Skeeter

sage said...

You are doing a great job at leaving us hanging for the next installment... Now we'll have to wait for the next story (and the next hook!).

I know the feeling of having a "southern dialect" in the northland! It's been 25 years since I left the South and people still say, "You're not from here, are you?"

Dick said...

Oh that doesn't look good. If you are a Southern you can never be a Northern, hahaha.
On some islands they say "Pannekoeke" but that's another story.

max said...

These Northerners sound quite nice, but I'm intrigued about your next adventures in the ship. Very intrigued. I'm sure you will be a Princess again.

"One better day" is a great song. Just as Skeeter said, it's perfect for this story.

Grass said...

@ Max, wow, that's a wishful thinking I share. I hope Leni becomes a princess (again) indeed, in the manner of Cinderella. Hehe.. And Ed, her Knight and Shining Armor Amour!

Sis, the cafe's banner had me laughing a lot (off my chair, I tell you!), my supervisor is contemplating murder at the moment. It reminded me of Lemony Snicket again.. Nice touch of wit and humor there! Brilliant! :)

And my dear, I doubt if you'll ever gonna fit in that place. You attract way too many disasters like magnet I'm beginning to think that when the goddesses spun your thread of life, they left too many kinks on their thread. But fortunately and to my relief, you always land on your feet like a graceful cat. I'm pretty sure a lot of good things are bound to happen soon, for you. At least that thought constantly have me waiting for more installments of this story with my fingers crossed!

Nice job, as usual!

Big hugs!

Skeeter said...

Hi Leni,

How's it going? Had to stop by and reread the post. It was that interesting!

Best wishes,

Skeeter

Leni Qinan said...

Dear Jimmy, your words are always sweet and I feel flattered. I’m just a bit of a fighter in a few dead seas, not always able to surf the highest waves, and yet I try hard…

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Skeeter! Are you a Madness fan, just like me? Cool! I love that song too!
About being hard on myself… hey, the story is not over yet! But I’ve seen a few people falling from the top and their sorrow was deeper with a hurt pride. Just wait and see!

Take care!

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Sage!

Never hide that lovely Southerner accent! It’s an important part of yourself and a distinctive sign of your personality! Good to know you’re enjoying this serial!

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Dick!

Southerners are very apparent in the North, just as Northerns are in the South. But it’s always nice to mix in peaceful coexistence, in my opinion.
I know, in some islands of the North they call these yummy things Pannekoeke, but you know how crazy Sandwichians can be (even from the North); they just changed the name and it became a Pannekookie… ;)

Take care!

Leni Qinan said...

Maxi,

My adventures in the ship haven’t even started; wait until you read what my final job was, what I did and who I found there… I’ll keep my mouth firmly shut now.
A Princess again… that’s very sweet. I hope its not with Big Cheese again, not anymore! LOL

XXX

PS.- Also a Madness fan? From your beloved 80s?

Leni Qinan said...

Grassy,

I really like to hear that the Café banner made you laugh –Sandwichians, either Northern or Southern, are a bit lunatic people, as you can see, but not bad at all-. Oh Lemony Snickett and JK Rowling! They’re my heroes, LOL.

You made me smile when you said that I always land on my feet like a graceful cat! Aww… that’s sweet, but have you ever thought that this could be a part of a plan in which I’m nothing but an element who cannot control the situation? Wait and see…

Big hug!

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Skeeter!

Sorry for this little delay with my backsies commentsies, but apart from my work, I’ve started a course on German that keeps me real busy with exams and all, but not away from writing. So here I am.

Everything is fine, and it’s cool to have you back again here. Are things ok with you too? I’m rushing to your place again now!

Take care,

rebecca said...

Leni - Run! Don't go on that ship! LOL! OMG, or as George Lopez says, ADM (Ay Dios Mio!) You have such a little gem here with this story. You keep it interesting, we're always engaged as readers, and the best (and the sign of a good story and writer) is that we get pissed when we get to the end because there's no more!!!! Now we gotta wait again?!!

*sigh* so be it. I have no choice.....

Where do you come up with all of this? Really....very well done....