I woke today all wild haired and rocket eyed. I’ve been on the archangels rollercoaster. It’s an endless ride. I feel raw but satisfied.
Sunday was Fiji day. We planted 51 pieces of coral in a coral garden to celebrate 51 years of independence. The ones I planted looked like violet deer antlers. Some say blue. I say violet. They were violet.
The garden had fistfuls of purple sea stars. They were lounging around mounds of coral looking like big-legged ladies sunbathing in liquid decadence. Then there was a whole gang of giant, giant clams. One of the clams had a human eyeball. I swear it on my grandpappy’s grave.
The rest of the holiday was spent on the sand around a kava bowl. There was food, music, children in trees, bloodshot eyes, flowers. Everybody was decorated in the colors of Fiji. Some people danced. Not all. Dancing on a Sunday is restricted around here. It depends on what religion you are.
My God is down with dancing, so me, I was dancing. This guy named Eddie Smith was watching me with owl eyes. He’s an elder and he lived in Utah for 8 years, but he’s from here. Eddie’s a healer, but that doesn’t make him special, because everybody in Fiji has a magic power.
Eddie says, “Olivia, if there was a rugby game you’d be playing.” He says other crack-up stuff too, like “Are you unraveling or do you need some virgin oil?” And I don’t know what that means, but he was holding up a bottle of coconut oil when he said it.
Eddie tells me how the category 5 cyclone stripped all the leaves from the trees last year. I do all I can to change that subject.
Me, “What does kava make you feel like?”
Eddie, “You either start twitching and staring at the ceiling. Or relax, and sleep like a baby and snore like a pig.”
Another man, “Yea, you won’t even feel the mosquitos bite.”
Eddie, “If the mosquitoes getting any larger around here, they‘ll carry us all away.“
They offer me some kava. I only have one bowl. I don’t want to get moonlit. It makes my mouth tingle – I tell them so. A man goes, “Yea, first it makes your mouth tingle, then it makes your head tingle, then it makes your whole body tingle.”
When low tide hit, I hopped on a horse and rode it to the flip side. Bareback. Down the beach, past the pigs, into the mangroves, through the mud, and across the bay to an island. I was waving the Fiji flag the entire way.
The horse was rawboned, and it was about as comfortable as riding a sea urchin. I’ve been walking with cowgirl legs for days since. The hurt was worth it, but next time I’ll pick a fat one to ride.
HOTTER THAN A PEPPER
When I woke up on Monday, the mystery or more fruit arrived and I was all set to set sail. I turned the engine on. I weighed anchor. An hour passed. Me fighting against coral, letting some chain out, pulling some chain up, spinning the boat this way and that. Mud on my face. Mud in my mouth. The coral wouldn’t release me.
I went down below to hail somebody, anybody, on the VHF. Everything in the cabin smelled like burning rubber. What next? I checked my gauges. The oil pressure had dropped and the engine temperature was hotter than a pepper. What in tarnation? I killed the engine. I removed the stairs. I investigated. Coolant was all over the bilge floor. Hells freaking bells.
I knew something was wrong with my engine- the foggy gauges, the red lights. The wrong just got even more wrong!
A neighbor came over. The leak looked like it was coming from the hose that leads from the radiator to the heat exchanger. I cut some of the hose off, I tightened the hose clamp tight. It still leaked.
That’s when we found a small crack on the heat exchanger. We removed it and I sat in my head wondering what to do about it. I’m still in this tiny place where no roads go and it was well past noon, and I hadn’t eaten, but I had to fix it.
I go to shore looking for a welder. Shore is where I met Nesi. She was walking down the beach to grab her kayak. I see a plump crab in the water munching on some other sea living thing. I show it to her.
Nesi is all excited, “You got a stick!”
Me, “No, Why?”
Nesi, “I’m going to catch that crab for dinner.”
The crab must have heard her, because it slipped right on away. Nesi was all distraught. Then she tells me that her dog caught a fish that morning and brought it straight into the kitchen to give it to her. So she cooked it up for breakfast. “I ate the tail and the dog ate the head,” she said.
Even the dogs around here are Fishers.
I ask Nesi if she knows a welder. Turns out her Uncle Abu welds. We go find him. He’s cutting grass for a house that nobody lives in. He’s got green blades all over his body. He’s wearing yellow tinted sunglasses and a navy jumpsuit. He looks so 1970s and smells like mid-summer.
I hand him the heat exchanger. He says, “It’s copper. I don’t do copper, but there’s one guy on Taveuni who does do copper.” Uncle Abu calls that guy. It’s set.
Everybody in Fiji says “set.” Set. All the time. Set. It means whatever you want it to mean. Yes. Good to go. Ok. Set!
Nesi says her husband can take me to Taveuni. We go find him. He’s wearing white rubber boots and feeding the pigs. They’ve got one pig that’s mischievous. It ate a whole field of taro last week. They keep that pig tied up in punishment and love it too much to eat it.
Nesi’s husband picks up my heat exchanger and holds it like a telescope towards the sun. “What’s this? Your heat exchanger? Something’s been rubbing against it, that’s how it cracked.” He knows engines and he knows boats. He worked as a marine mechanic for all the commercial ships in Fiji.
I’ve got some kind of luck. In the middle of nowhere, I somehow found all the right people. All because I stopped along the way to stare at a crab.
A 45 minute boat ride and fifteen minutes later, my heat exchanger was repaired. I got my bimini stitched up while I was in town too. It was about to rip right off the frame. The man who fixed it was dressed like a hipster in super short shark shorts, topped with a muscle tee. Take him your canvas, just don’t take him your sarongs. He sewed my best sarong up like a couch.
The Taveuni town looks like the Wild West and makes me feel like a balloon. It used to be a center of cannibalism. I tried to float out of there fast. On my way out, I told a woman that I liked her dress and she tried to give it to me. I want to be as selfless as she is. That’s how everybody is in Fiji.
Why am I noticing outfits lately? I don’t know? Everyone just seems so stylish these days.
What else can I tell you?
Viola is dead. I found her gecko body pancaked on the galley floor. I tried to weave a hat out of palm tree leaves to make myself feel better, but my hat turned out to be a basket and it looks foolish on my head.
I’ve been dreaming Halloween dreams. I dreamt that I was in some sort of zombie apocalypse. I got eaten by a zombie sailor and was turned into an eternal monster. ‘Tis the season.
Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream.
There’s more, there’s always more. I wish you were my diary, so that I could tell you everything. Everything I think. Everything I do. Everything I see. I want you to know my good, my bad, my ugly. Would it make you run? Would it make you come closer? That’s what I wonder.
5 Replies to “MOONLIT & HOTTER THAN A PEPPER”
IMO, this is some of the best short-story reading I’ve come across lately. There is so much going on in your writing . . . love your candor. “I woke today all wild haired and rocket eyed. I’ve been on the archangels rollercoaster.” Wow . . . the depth of imagery!
DON’T let a mosquito bite you! There are at least 4 different strains of dengue fever floating around in Fiji and 4 different species of mosquitoes that can transmit the disease. Getting any one of the strains will likely send you to the hospital — the resulting natural immunity ONLY affords protection from that particular strain. You’ll have at least 3 more chances to get it again after that!
Cat 5 hurricanes are common in summertime Fiji.
Whew! you had a lot going on during your visit to this small cannibal island. We are glad your luck held after you discovered engine concerns and were able to get necessary repairs before shoving off. Xoxo
For those who are more technical, you didn’t fully explain the copper weld process. Did he find something rubbing on your heat exchanger? Is that where all of the other problems stem?? As for Kava – – I’ve had “the grog” in Fiji. It worked for me, I loved it.
beyond good fortune to find someone who brazes. glad you are seeing all the blessings of just letting go. you are there more and more each message.
Lovely descriptions, glad you were able to find help!