Greenbag Canteen -- Part 1

by its Authors

Lex Andiak scratched his chest and squinted at the binnacle. It was working. Maybe. He estimated a heading of west-norwest and the sun was about to set more or less off to the left of the big winch on the bow. The bridge was sweltering and humid and the dampness made the grime on everything he touched sticky and repuslive. The engines throbbed steadily but there was somthing not quite right about the pulsing rhythm.

They were not going to make Cape Breton after all. There was plenty of bunker -- plenty if they steamed right through the middle of Sable Island. Not enough to go around it though, if Tina knew what shew was talking about. And there was that Naval Ordinance Range on the chart. And he was constipated.

Lex prodded a thumb into his groin to work a sweaty roll of elastic fabric into a less irritating position and stared at the coast of Nova Scotia on the chart. The sea was flatass calm. That was somthing, at least. No blips on the radar. Also somthing. He wouldn't have known what to do about a blip if there'd been one. All day yesterday and the day before, no blips -- fucking Earl was supposed to have set it up with the guys from Montreal and the fishing boat was supposed to have been there two days ago. Fuck 'em. What's a guy from Cooleyville doing out here with no skipper and no crew except a broad with Ph.D. screwing around in the engine room? And what was he going to do with a hold full of canned Israeli anchovies, tens of thousands of big commercial cans of anchovies, a few hundred of which were destined for a very special pizza parlor in Montreal because they contained the purest Bolivian cocaine?

And the goddam Jap, wearing a suit worth more than the ship and all his talk about economics and markets and his friend George. So if they hadn't hijacked the jet, they'd be in a nice little cell in Belgium right now, but they'd be eating an equally nice little supper. Instead, the Jap had reluctantly provided a luxurious ride to Spain and they'd taken the ship, crew or no crew and here they were, sitting pretty except the Canucks didn't show and the goddam Jap had got loose and locked himself in the galley three days ago. The Jap was eating. Lex was hungry -- they'd broken into the anchovies, of course, and they had found a case of Twinkies in the oiler's footlocker soon enough, but the Twinkies were all gone, he couldn't face another anchovy and he was hungry.

Goddam game. He had thirty million worth of cocaine that he didn't know how to cash in. He had several tons of anchovies. He had Tina. Dr. Tina Cannes had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. He had a Jap in the galley. The Jap, if he could be believed, had connections to some very heavy dudes but right now he had fifteen hundred pounds of frozen steaks, forty gallons of ice cream and the only key to the galley. They were down to the last five warm Japanese beers they'd brought from the Lear and he was hungry. And constipated.

Shit. Lessee -- if they could just get quietly ashore somehow, and forget the whole thing -- How about a straight line to the Canadian mainland? He didn't think Nova Scotia was an Island. So right there -- a light on the headland to home on and a sweet little, a very inconspicuous little cove. In a few hours they could anchor the old crock, coke, Jap and all, and take the launch, the dead Bolivian's fast little toy so out of place up there on the davits of this old bucket, right into that nice little cove just before dawn. He put the wheel over a few points, peeled one hand off the nameless crud on the spoke and pushed the telegraph to full ahead.

"Awrrk grackle pzzzrork!" the little speaker announced Tina's response from the engine room. "What you do, you moron? Try to make this thing go faster, all you gonna have down here is lunchmeat with a crankshaft! You got all the beer up there?"

The BMW lollopped gently over sun-softened frost heaves and patches of the the Airline Drive.

"I know, I know! You distracted me. I should've gassed up in Bangor. But you were going on and on about Chummy. Chummy'll live. I don't care whether he likes the kennel or not. Anyhow, Frankie said there's a gas station half way to Calais. We should see it any time."

They both held their breaths while an oversized tractor-trailer rig bore down on them and blasted by in the opposite direction and the BMW cowered toward the shoulder and sprayed up gravel.

"Eddie! That was it! That ancient farmhouse with the old Sunoco pump and the old geezer that simply leered at us from the window. I'll bet he hasn't sold gas since tailfins! Hand me the tobacco."

Ed rummaged in the back seat for the pouch and a bottle of spring water. Briefly on a newly paved section, Jenny steered with her elbows while she stuffed her pipe with Balkan Sobranie, then braked furiously as they rounded a corner to find both lanes blocked by a wallowing, slow-moving vehicle.

"Look. That's a stock car on a trailer, or what's left of one. Wherever it's headed, there'll be gas." He grabbed the camcorder from the floor and began to shoot.

"Or nitrobenzene. And I really want to know whatever it is that drives that? Not." She bit off another remark with a click like a casket latch.

"Heyyy, babeeee! You were tired of all the academics and technonerds and...what did you call them? Flatulence analysts? You wanted to meet some real people and that thing, my love, is driven by a Real Person!"

And Ed was right for, shortly a wooden billboard appeared, announcing "Earl's He-Man's Truck Stop and Beauty Parlour" followed directly by a cluster of sagging buildings, unidentifiable metal towers, clusters of wrecked cars and, mirable dictu, gasoline pumps. The pumps were of a style so old that neither Ed nor Jenny could place them precisely, but they were clearly operational, for a white Caddilac stretch limousine was being nourished at that very moment.

The tattered Skoda with its trailerd jalopy in tow fishtailed to a halt in the dusty lot and instantly disgorged a greasy specimen of indeterminate age in Cat hat and coveralls. Jenny pulled up to the pumps opposite the limo.

The driver of the Skoda ambled over to the pumps, filling his cheek with Red Man. Jenny turned off the air conditioning and buzzed down the window.

"Can we get gas?"


"Fill it with high-test, please."

"Only got reglah. Or diesel. They got high-test down to Calais." He spat and shifted his chaw.

"We can't get that far. Ok. Fill it up anyhow. Regular, not diesel. Do you have rest rooms?"

"Round back. Flush it with the bucket. This ca's a reglah piscuttah aint it?"

Jenny climbed out and stretched. "Are you Earl?"

"Nah. That there is Earl." He jutted his chin toward the back of the Caddy, where a tall figure in leathers and jackboots was mostly concealed by the open trunk cover. The cover slammed, revealing a woman perhaps 70 years of age but unstooped and with close-cropped silver hair, a leather jacket glittering with chromed studs and chains and smoking a cigar. She stalked over to the pumps. "TC, where you been, I gotta gas my own Caddy? Christ, You know Smitty's got that trannie and here I am running back and forth between Allie's hair and the pumps. Where you folks going?" She shifted to them without a pause. "You know that yuppie skateboard of yours is pissing oil like shit through a tinhorn? And if we need parts to fix it, you'll have to wait for them to come from Bangor. But you won't get halfway to Wesley, let alone Calais that way 'less you take an oil tanker in tow." She flicked away her cigar butt.

Soon, a white stretch limo with Earl at the wheel and Ed and Jenny relaxing in its midship lounge, and an overpowered hydroplane stolen in Florida and bearing Lex, Tina and a crazed Japanese financier will be converging on Long Cove, Nova Scotia, where, all unsuspecting, the gentle, dignified artist is sipping lime and soda and lovingly applying a layer of gesso to a fragment of weather-stained hatchcover.

To be continued.

Copyright (c) 1994 Michael Spencer. Permission to reproduce or transmit by electronic means for non-profit purposes is granted provided that the text, including this notice, remains unchanged.

Resident Alien is an occasional publication of the Bridgewater Institute for Advanced Study. It appears variously in electronic, paper and other formats such as serial gummed labels.