Jenny was suddenly awake and listening to nothing. She inhaled the odor of old canvas, older linseed oil and out-of-work fish. A sprinkle of stars shone through the single window over the wharf. Sky only slightly less dark than the inky attic of the shambling old salting shed where there were sleeping. The dusty little panes of blurry stars hovered, a faint hologram in the darkness. Somewhere outside, water glurked heavily to itself and slobbered softly in reply. Quiet. Dark.
Drowsy again already, she ruminated about the long last day, the strange old lady -- well -- elderly woman. Running a whole chain of East coast truck stops from that isolated ruin in Maine. The huge limosine that she drove, usually with no passengers, just for the hell of it. Lenny saying -- promising -- that they were welcome to stay in his uncle's hunting lodge. And then the Artist, what was his name again? Marc Dutcham, Mark said it was just a two-room cabin and you could only get to it on foot or by boat and not at all in the dark and weren't there already people over there? Damn Lenny if.... She snuggled into the down bag.
Earl -- what a strage name for a matriarch business woman -- Earl was wierd, but Mark was even more intrigueing. After the truck stop in Maine, the unbelievably fat man in Moncton, he was a just too normal fly, so to speak, in the surreal soup of yesterday. Too normal, in a day of idle Dali-ance, to be real. From Cambridge, too. Had she seen him at Bread & Circus? But he wasn't very forthcoming about his work. Artist. Artist and Manager. Of what? What was he doing here with a computer, fiddling around with his paints. All that talk about drug smugglers, the funny little map. She wondered if he was a smuggler. She kind of hoped, with a small and delicious shiver, that he was.
Softly, there came a clonk. She was instantly awake again. Creak. Two steps. Quiet.
"Ed!", a stage whisper. She rolled in her sleeping bag. "Ed! Wake up. Are you awake?" Her hand found his face.
"Wugga", pause, "No. Whad? That's my eye. What?"
"Shhhh!" There's sombody down there. I think it's smugglers. It's still dark." Like a knobby caterpillar, she wormed her bag closer to his.
"Aww. C'mon, Jen. Nobody here but us guys." He tried to look at his watch, but he could only make out a dim glow without his glasses. "Or it's just a fisherman. Marc said sometimes they start out at three in the morning."
She bit her lip. "From the other dock, from over there, not here. What if he's a smuggler? I wish he were! What does he have this barn for? And his own dock. Binoculars, charts, a computer, for god's sake, way up here. It's a perfect hideout."
Ed sighed and propped his head on a hand. "Look, Jen. Nice vacation. Meet interesting people. Shoot some good footage. Tomorrow we'll find Lenny's lodge or whatever it turns out to be. Two weeks on the beach. Invite Marc for wine spritzers and whatever you brought for my birthday dinner. Desire in the dunes. Passion among the sandpipers."
God, she was really into it. They both needed the break, and it was great to get such private accomodations free. But this was Canada, not Afghanistan or Colombia. Two weeks to decompress the old brain cells. Watch the picturesque locals. Not to think even once about goddam Chummy. Bliss out. Then fly to Bangor and pick up the car. Nice careers to go back to, all cooled out. She's up for tenure this fall. If he met both his deadlines, he'd do, barely, six figures this year, after tax.
"No smugglers. We're just not used to how quiet it is in the country." He waved at an invisible mosquito and fell back onto the pillow.
"Ed Frawley! You're dull. Dull, dull, dull!" Her voice had that tone of acerbic levity which, like a saftey razor, only exposed a narrow bit of blade and could slash only a shallow wound.
"Jen, please. Go back to sleep. Tomorrow I'll make nice. Smuggler talk after coffee. Pirates with the croissants, ok?"
Another creak from below. There really was some one down there. Probably Marc. At the worst, it was the derelict mussel digger -- picker? fisherman? whatever you called it -- that Marc'd told the story about, colorful, annoying, but harmless. Maybe he could catch the guy half sober and they could have steamed mussels and white wine.
The mosquito. It was outside. A mosquito with an unwavering sense of purpose. He thought of Earl's joke about the Down East mosquitos that wouldn't carry a cow into the woods for fear the big ones would take it away from them. This was one of the big ones. It was getting loud and had a bass undertone. He propped his head up again.
"What is it? A jet or somthing?" Jenny sat up.
"If it weren't the middle of the night and if this weren't a quiet little cove in Canada, I'd say it was race week at Winnepesaukee."
They listened, then clutched each other. The whine became a howl, then an ear-shattering scream that seemed to be headed straight for their nest. They flung themselves flat. Just before they were smashed, as it seemed, by a titanic somthing, it snorted and blatted, all the Hell's Angels in the world downshifting at once, then gargled and died abruptly in a violent, splintery splash. There followed an assortment of suckings, sizzlings and monstrous blorpings like a parliament of hippos farting in an oozy wallow. Some smaller splashes. Then silence.
"Dagwood, I think I heard somthing downstairs", said Jenny in a small, trembly voice.
There really is more of this stuff, you know.
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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.