Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gerald's Adventure, Part Seven

The Continuing Adventure of Gerald the Skeleton at Nikumaroro, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night….  Really, it wasn’t that stormy, and it was getting along toward morning, when the wind changed and blew Nai’a onto the reef.  Big bump, scraping sound.  Karl screamed “We’re gonna sink!  We’re gonna die!”

The Nai'a
But we didn’t, and in the confusion I was able to just step off onto the reef and stroll over to the Norwich City.  I looked around for Ismael, and pretty soon I found him, leaning on thin air where the ship’s rail used to be, along with three other ghostly sailors.

“Skeleton effendi!” he greeted me.  “It is good to see that Allah has preserved your bones another day.”

“Greetings to you, Ismael effendi,” I said, trying to be formal.  “It is good to see you, and your friends.”

“Forgive my discourtesy,” he replied with a sweep of his hand.  “Allow me to introduce Ahmed, Yousef, and Usama.”  They all murmured their greetings, and drifted down through the air to hover just above the reef.

“We were just considering,” Ismael said, “a trip to the other side of the island, to visit the Great Crab Clavicle.”

“Clavicle? “ I asked, fingering my collarbone, “why’s he named after one of my bones?”

They all looked at me rather oddly, and let me tell you, ghosts can look at a person VERY oddly.

“You have bones, effendi, named for the Great Crab?” 

“Well, no, -- uh – Usama.  My clavicles – these two bones right here – have always been called clavicles.  I don’t know about this great crab.”

“Beyond the knowledge of mortals,” said Ahmed solemnly, “are the ways of Allah.”

“It is truth,” said Ismael, and with that he and Usama took me by the hands and floated off through the trees. 

It’s fun to fly with ghosts, but a little strange, too, because there doesn’t seem to be anything holding you up.  And they sometimes forget where they’re going.  But this time they stayed on a steady course, down the lagoon toward the Seven Site.  I began to get worried.

“Uh… fellows,” I said, “those hermit crabs down there….. they get awfully hungry…..”

“Very greedy,” Ismael agreed, “but do not worry, Gerald effendi.  They behave themselves around the Great Clavicle.”

Soon we swooped down into the forest just north of the Seven Site.  It’s known as the buka forest, because the trees here are bukas; being biologists, Mom and Dad would call them Pisonia grandis.  They’re big, gray-barked trees, very soft wood, with big holes and gaps in them.

The Buka Forest
 And in one of these holes – the biggest one around – lives Clavicle.
Clavicle's House

He was the biggest crab I’d ever seen.  Unlike the gang at the Seven Site, he wasn’t carrying anybody else’s shell to hide in.  He was just out there in the open, but bigger than my head, or even my pelvis, with great huge sharp pincer claws.  He was crouched inside his den, under the buka tree, looking out at the world with mean looking little red eyes. 

Ismael and his shipmates all bowed to him.

“Clavicle effendi,” Usama said, “we have come again to greet you.”

“Yeah, well,” the crab sneered at them, “don’t be expectin’ any o’ yer A-rab hospitality from me, bub.  I don’t care if you live or die.”

“Indeed, great Clavicle, this you have taught us.  But since we can no longer do either thing….”

“Don’t be tellin’ me no riddles, ghost-guy; I got no time fer ‘em.  Lots to do.”

“Like – er – what?” I asked – I just couldn’t help myself.  Clavicle turned his red eyes toward me, then turned back to Usama.

“Who, or what, is that bunch o’ bones you brought to clutter up my courtyard?”

“He is Gerald, effendi, our friend, who came here with those living ones, those humans….”

Clavicle rose up on all his legs and snorted; I thought he was going to charge at us.

“The HUMANS!  You mean them TIGHAR critters?  The ones who come around here poking things into my courtyard and windows and doorways, and carrying things away?”

“The same, effendi, but Gerald….”

“The walking food bags who won’t lie down long enough fer me to even snatch a bite of lunch?”

“Yes, effendi, but Ger…..”

“Don’t ‘Yes, effendi’ me, bub!  So, how come you didn’t bring me one with some meat on his bones, instead of this – this – “

“I’m a laboratory skeleton, Mister Clavicle, made of the highest quality museum-grade plastic, and I’m a friend of Noah’s and Jacob’s, too!”  I was getting a little bit angry.

“Well, I don’t know-a who Noah is, and I don’t know Jacob from a corn cob, but I can see that there’s nothing worth eating on you.”  With this he snorted and backed into his hole, until all I could see of him were his two beady, angry-looking red eyes.

“Alas,” Usama shook his head.  “It is so often thus with the great Clavicle.”

Ismail nodded.  “His mind, I fear, is ever on his gut.”

“Unenlightened,” Ahmed agreed, “and an infidel’s infidel, but entertaining in his way.”

“But it is time for prayer,” Ismail said.  “Gerald effendi, we must take you back to the shipwreck.”

It was a good thing they did.  The crew had gotten the Nai’a off the reef, and divers were down checking the hull for damage while the TIGHARs all stood around chatting about their adventure and Ric worried about what could have happened if the ship had hit just a little harder.  A second TIGHAR ship -- the swanky VVs1 -- had arrived just a few days before, so they would have been rescued, but it would have been a tight squeeze, and I wonder what would have happened to me……

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