Envy is a green eyed girl, and the spirits that he had seen in Rashida’s eyes, still ripple the shadows of his own. The eyes are indeed, windows on the soul and the naiads that were espied, bathing in those generous jade lagoons, tease Joshua. He recognizes their faces and they have names: Joy and Thanks, and Joshua is sure, that hiding below the surface, was Love’s little sister; Delight. Now Joshua has hours in hand and few ideas on how to spend it. This tender has been scarce of late, and he might just hold it for a while, put it in his pocket and let it tick and tock, or do whatever time does when she’s off .The clock keeps a careful eye on Joshua, as he fetches for himself another beer, and prays with a bottle in his hand. He solicits God’s protection for the plan, which even now unravels towards the point-of-no-return. He asks for a miracle, although he doesn’t know it and fingers his unfamiliar coin, and opens the notebook in front of him. He had fetched it, hidden in his cabin and now adds numbers to tidy columns that parade, neatly filing down the page in front of him. Easy come easy go, still the totals are a shock. He stuns them back between the covers, leans in his seat and sighs. There’s no going back now, and perhaps just as well, but here, in this moment he feels content. Joshua spends the instant, and the coin in his pocket on bringing himself up to date.
His presence in the Holy Land was no crusade, he had drifted there, like other places quite by chance, and stayed there; because he liked it. He wrapped himself in that contested ribbon of senseless madness. He made a home of sorts; slipped himself between the edge of the sand and the sea. For two years and more he blinked from the darkness. God was a local call away, but Joshua well, he wouldn’t spend the dime it took. He joined a motley crew, of deserters and dilettantes, survivors all and damaged. They were the scatterlings of other countries, beached like flotsam; blown up the dead finger of the Red Sea, to the Gulf of Aqaba and Eilat. Two years later and one hundred thousand US up, he had been abruptly deplaned in South Africa. His were sighs of relief, when his money arrived a day later, escorted safely, “Thank God!” by a friend, as a favour to the charming man that she loved; that and generous thank you note. The truth is that there were lots of notes and Joshua wasn’t singing.
His first port of call was a friend, an old friend, one of the two that he keeps in his thoughts. He had met Ravi (Bong to his mates) as a child and they had grown together, as friends and as men, and their bond only thickened with time. Ravi had found a home and a calling in the sleepy halls of academia, of a nearby university town and commuted from his smallholding on weekdays. Their reunion went on, but not for as long as Joshua’s taxi ride from the airport, and the friends filled that chill August night with chatter that warmed them. Ravi takes delight from his friend’s nomadic tales and the conversation turns a corner towards the obvious. So Josh, what do you do now an all, it was a big surprise, no?” Joshua related the funny version of his expulsion, the darker details he keeps to himself, and he has an idea, but it is no more than that. While nostalgia applauds the familiar chorale of an African night, Joshua talks and his friend listens. “You remember the joke about the blind buck?”
“But you having a lot of money now, you can do anything. Why don’t you retire?”
“Come on Bong, it’s a lot of wonga, but not enough. Maybe I have too many options and I can’t decide what to choose?” Ravi hatched some fantastic eggs and golden chickens strutted around in their heads until Joshua beheaded them. “I’m think I want to buy a boat, I have lived on one for two years and I enjoy it Bong.”
“And how much is a boat costing?”
“I can get a lot of boat for half a million, but I need to be sure that that’s what I want. I don’t want to piss the wonga away,” and they lounged in a pool of fire-light and memories.
Ravi had handed in his doctoral thesis, in Botany, two weeks before his twenty-seventh birthday, and had celebrated the milestone in Israel with his friend. There, the price of marijuana paid for the amusing rhetorical plans that they shaped with sun-addled brains. For an afternoon, they were pirates again, smuggling treasure. They sailed ships of the stuff from home, where it grew on the trees, to less blessed lands, with fewer shrubs of that ilk, and where the price was right. Ravi had said: “Serious Josh, just think about it. What does it cost here compared to home, and in London or the States? Just one trip that’s all it would take. One tonne, one time, done and we sit on our bums and sip drinks with umbrellas in them, for the rest of lives.”
“Yeah Bong, forget Riley, it will be the life of Ravi,” he wasn’t convinced, but the seed had been sown and would sprout and bush and give heads. Now Ravi raises the subject, which they had buried in the hot sand of Israel: “ Remember Eilat Josh?”
It was Friday night and they talked, he and Bong, of those pies in the sky that they had washed down with beer. They had a weekend in which to brain storm; what could go wrong? Bong showed Josh the outbuildings on his fiefdom, and his hobby, and how that was growing. The numbers seduced and their notions, inflated with zeros bulged in their heads, and a plan was cooked up in three phases. Bong would take of phase number one and Josh would take care of the rest. On Monday morning Ravi returned to his job, casting pearls, and Joshua bought the appropriate press and began to look for a boat.
Circumstance did not dally, within the week she had lead Joshua to Dassie Bay and to Mystique. Griffin had let him look around alone, and he had, with alterations in mind. What made the sale was a hidden locker that he had happened upon, a section of the vessel had been cunningly reworked and the space that he found between the hull and a second skin, was cavernous. He had entertained a number of ideas on how to conceal a sufficient amount of marijuana, to make the voyage worthwhile. The cavity that he had found was almost perfect and after an hour with a welding torch, would be. Joshua did not dally either, and he was back in a week to sign the papers and the boat was his. Now he sits in the cool wind breezing through portholes, peering inquisitively around the salon and lathers himself in the late arriving sense of proprietary. She’s his and he is hers, and he basks in the anticipation of a long and beautiful relationship.
The journals have a home too, and fill one of the ex-naked shelves. The low lazy afternoon sun shrugs through a porthole and makes dazzling gestures from the gold trim on the dark covers. The height was measured, the depth too, and Joshua looks up at the murmuring tomes. They whisper to him, they have secrets to tell and they want to. His messy head heeds their call, and the man steps up to the shelf and takes the book that he has been reading, from the beginning of the dressed file of volumes.
He feels the spaces between the seconds, and those languid strokes disturb him. The soft tick-tock from the hands that turn on the wall, remind him of the sand that is falling from his palms as he turns the pages, and is privileged to be part of a different man’s communion with his God.
Vigo, Spain, 7 July 1955
…with their parents in the waves. I miss family, my idea of what a family should be, and it will be better than that other. This afternoon, a mop-haired boy fetched me from my rest. He tumbled with the wind along the pier, with his father’s broad hand always at his back, just in case. They stopped, that pair, and their eyes fondled Mystique, and touched her proud mast, soaring above the fishing boats. They looked for a while, both with the usual, and the boy, with his arms as well. Then the boy turned, he looked up. The words, I couldn’t hear; they were whipped away from his face, with his hair, but those dreams that the boy stroked on his father’s arms where mine, I possessed them, I am standing on them. I pray now to God, that I find that ideal, that idyll; a woman to love, who loves me back, and if He is willing, children or even a child. I will move soon, with Mystique, to Portugal and down that coast to Gibraltar and…