I’ve been unjustly accused of exaggerating a billion times—nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not me, it is reality which is weird. I just write down what happens. It is my life which is total chaos. I know that. I’ve learned to cope. I expect it. For example: our recent sojourn to the South Pacific isle of Wallis.
…which is pronounced, not-strangely, Wallace, so, yes, it was only natural that I’d make a petite mistake and think it was home to my two favorite cartoon stars.
“I love your island beaucoup,” I said to first Frenchie I stumbled across ashore. “And, when convenient, I’d like to meet Wallace and Grommet.”
“Er..,” my wife Carolyn said, “I think this guy is a Polynesian fella and doesn’t ‘Poly-View’ your France-say, Fatty. The fact that he has a full body tattoo sort-of tips me off. Also, I think this island group is called Wallis and Futuna, NOT Wallace and Grommet!”
“Oh, dear,” I said. “I must have pulled out the wrong chart or something. I should have known… it doesn’t look a’tall like in the movies… and, alas, he’s obviously not clay-mating. Dang! Anyway, we’re here. It’s now. Let’s make the best of it.”
Yes, my wife is long-suffering.
She is also nice.
I’m lucky—not many men can get a positive response from a personal sex ad which reads, “Wanted: nice masochist!” Anyway, it has been 37 years of marital bliss for me… and the reverse for her. But, yeah, in our own perverted way, we’re both happy… if for vastly different reasons.
The first problem we had in Wallis was… they wanted me to clean up the mess.
“What mess,” I enquired. “I have made no mess.”
“You are American, no?” they asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Then it must be you-the-one who they have sent to clean up the mess, big mess, GRANDE mess!”
“Dubya, Dubya,” said the guy, “Two!”
I wasn’t sure, but figured he was pointing out the obvious.
“Okay,” I said amicably, “I agree with you French on that… our president is a double-jerk… what of it?”
“New, new, new,” he said, shaking his head negatively and waving his arms at the surrounding wreck-strewn harbor, “WWII! You Americans come, you go, you leave mess. Time to clean up… now, please… see-va-you-play!”
“I think,” my wife Carolyn said softly, “they want us to clean up all the WWII stuff which the Allies left here on the beach in the 1940s.”
“Oh,” I said to the French guy, “Par-dawn! Excuse-em-wah! Des-o-lay, des-o-lay… We forgot… how you say, to bring… Le Hefty trash bags… we don’t have our rakes nor even our folding shovels… actually, it is the American boat behind us… a Hunter 24… with whom I just talked via our SSB radio… which is actually in charge of the South Pacific WWII Amer-debris removal fleet…”
“Good,” the French guy said. “Say-bone! It’s about time, eh… and better later than never… tray-be-n!”
Actually, the reason I’d pulled into Wallis was my leg. It was growing. Or, perhaps, swelling would be a more accurate description. Soon, it would be as big as my ego… colossal, in other words. I needed a doctor and I needed one quick.
I support myself solely from my writing.
Obviously, I have very little money.
Thus, I needed a French doctor on a French island… where I could shout, “No com-pre-hen-day!” and “…blood-out-of-turnip, no!” when the bill for medical services was rendered.
Wallis is completely off the beaten track. I mean, they still don’t know that Jimmy Cook and his soccer hooligans have been repeatedly cruising the area. Even the germ-darmes don’t speak English. I proved this to Carolyn by waltzing into Customs and saying, “Hi! I’m an ugly American and have many, many criminal friends… drug smugglers, gun-runners, the odd murderer… and I’d just like to know if things here are cool!”
“Oui,” the guy in the goofy blue hat said as he saluted, “WELL-COME to PAIR-A-DICE, ME-SEWER!”
“…Ah, I’m not into gambling, personally,” I chuckled back, “but my wife’s a loser… Seriously, I’m only here to gaff some heavy drugs… so point the way to the nearest dealer… er, health clinic, SEA-VOU-PLAY!”
Now, Wallisians are extremely friendly. We hitch-hike all the time. Nearly every driver wants to take us home for dinner. I’d gladly take them up on the offer… except for the language barrier. It is easy to make a mistake, and the meal can rapidly turn into a social disaster. For instance, according to frog-talking Carolyn, the guy who picked us up used super-heated discarded pieces of metal… old cannonballs, actually… to fuel his underground backyard ‘umu’ oven on Sundays. “He’s a vegetarian and wants to invite us for a lunch of local delicacies… something which sounds like ‘humid beans,’” she said. “…can we go?”
“No way, babe!” I said. “Cannibals EAT human beings! Your translation might be slightly off… you could BE dinner… not just invited TO it… better safe than sorry.”
Or, let’s put it another way—I’m an experienced South Pacific sailor.
RE: my left leg. I’d cut it in Samoa… bending down to pick up what I thought was a shiny new penny. (Alas, it was only a coppery-looking piece of plastic and, thus, material wealth slipped from my grasp yet again). Anyway, the two tiny cuts on my leg soon became infected. My leg began to swell and stink and hurt.
Carolyn didn’t help matters much… constantly grinning evilly while sharpening our rusty fish-gut-scented fillet knife… damn, that woman has a sick sense of humor!
I mean, I’d be rudely awakened with her hunched over the leg… gleefully drawing dotted lines around it with magic marker.
And she’d say unsympathetic stuff like, “…Why, if I have to amputate, how will you be able to put your foot in your mouth every couple of minutes?”
Yes, I don’t think of her so much as a wife… but as a marital-zen-test!
The bottom line: I had empty pockets and I needed medical attention fast.
Now the Wallis Health Clinic itself was a trip. I mean, some of those condom posters were a laugh-riot! My favorite was a ‘birds & bees’ cartoon strip which covered an entire wall… evidently a few local mothers don’t know where kids really come from!
On the opposite side of the admittance room just happened to be a 2007 calendar from Champion, a well-known French grocery store, and, thus, I just happened to remark offhandedly to Carolyn… “Remember how Lou Lou Magras would sing, ‘Champion! Champion!’ as we’d take his wallet for a walk in Pluneret?"
…suddenly, from around the corner, a doctor’s head appeared. (He was amputating an unneeded arm or something, and my comment had stopped him in his bloody tracks). "Do you mean Lou Lou Magras of St. Barts in the French West Indies?" he asked in wonderment.
"Oui," I said, and embellished a bit with, "…I’m like… well, I am almost his brother!"
"…but Raymond," said the French doctor, who was named Roger Deltour, "isn’t Raymond…"
"Ha!" I shouted. "He will never get that silly Beneteau of his to win the Heineken Regatta… impossibeeeee! Why? …because, how you say… he has no gaff on his sail… you see, a true Magras can only sail a GAFFER with good style and grace!"
"…you know Marius," he asked, "and the crowd at Le Select?"
"Wee-Wee! Pee-Pee! Poo-Poo! Of course! I taught Marius how to drink AND how to speak Swedish," I boasted wildly. "And I bounced his baby boy Eddie on my knee before EITHER of them made their first million Euros!"
Needless to say, the Doc and I got on just fine… I mean, the good doc really went out of his way to be nice… actually offering to amputate my leg… immediately… on the spot… sans cost!
In fact, he still has a house on St. Barts and had just gotten a long handwritten letter from 88-year old Marius Stackleborough within the last few days.
Small world, eh?
He was a doctor in Gustavia for many years (along with Doc Eddie), and has many fond, vino-kissed memories of that lovely, trendy little Caribbean isle… and knows Jean Luke, Rasta Harry, Randy Wasted and ‘all the usual suspects,’ as they say.
Yes, he gave me some GREAT drugs (as befits a St. Barthian) and, no, he didn’t charge me a single centime. In fact, he dismissed it all with a gracious, “Fraternity!”
“What?!?” I said, suddenly on guard. “I fathered no one’s child, my dear fellow!”
“…don’t worry,” Carolyn said as she hustled me back to the boat. “He said ‘Fraternity,’ Fatty, not ‘paternity’… so relax!”
Yes, cruising French waters can be difficult. For instance, the bread is so hard here it must be left over from WWII! And I can’t believe how picky the French are with their language! I mean, I say hello to a couple of kids with, “bueno dias, bambinos!” and they pretend not to understand me… even when I shout louder.
Ditto, with the good-byes. “Ciao,” I say to blank stares.
Carolyn is just as critical. “I think you’re getting your French, Spanish and Italian mixed up,” she said.
“Hey,” I spit back with exasperation, “If THEY can’t keep it straight, how-in-the-hell do they expect ME to?”
Editor’s note: Cap’n Fatty and Carolyn are currently being non-PC in Funafuti, Tuvalu.