My Ship of Fools

"How you gonna scrub it?" Captain Joe retorted. "With a firehose? We'll never get this soap powder off the deck!"

The shouting match began afresh. Charlie started selling his personal effects over the side, belongings that included a refrigerator and several TV sets.

"Don't do it!" Rongo hollered at him. "They'll eat you and the dog both before you make Port-au-Prince!" But Charlie, a man scorned, had made up his mind.

I left the Helena Sea in a rowboat with one of the Dominican women and a mosquito bite that would turn into dengue fever. The woman had two ten-speeds and four plastic buckets. "How did you get those?" I asked as we neared the shore. "What do you mean?" she answered. "These sailors never have any money. This is how they pay us. With bicycles. Bicycles and buckets."


"There's six million people in Haiti, and every one of 'em must got at least ten bicycle by now, straight out of Miami. In Haiti, when you travel around, you don't see that many people riding bicycle. You got to ask yourself, `What are they up to?' In my opinion, you see, they are trying to corner the market. Either that, or they re-exporting all these bicycle to Cuba, and we just don't know how they doing it. Maybe they got a tunnel that lead between Haiti and Cuba and they just riding them over. I don't know. I seen plenty of thing down there you wouldn't believe. Nothing would surprise me."

Clifton Easy

In Miami I took a cab from the airport to Tobacco Road. Conrad was behind the bar reading the New York Times.

"My goodness," he said, folding the paper. "You look weathered!"
"Yes," I said. "My eyeballs ache in a very strange way."
"Your boss was down here looking for you about an hour ago," Conrad said. "Frankly, he was ranting. He said there is a man locked in the bathroom who claims to be David Lawrence."

"You didn't give him the key, did you?" I asked.
"Of course not."
"Good," I said. "Can you make me a wet gin martini?"
When Conrad set the drink on the bar, he asked: "How was your trip?"

"Uneventful," I replied, producing a tiny vial from my pocket. "And disappointing. I looked all over Port-au-Prince for this stuff and couldn't find it. A cab driver sold it to me on the way over here."

"What is it?" Conrad asked indolently, handing over the key.
"Zombie juice," I explained, prying off the cap. "A few drops induces instant paralysis. After a twelve-hour coma, you're as good as new. But considerably different."

"My!" Conrad said, and went back to his paper.
I sprinkled a touch of elixir into the martini and went up the stairs to the New Times offices. I unfastened the padlock on the bathroom door. He was hunched in a corner, studying a back issue of the paper.

"Mr. Lawrence, there's been a terrible mistake," I said. "We had you mixed up with a dangerous criminal. Here, I've brought you something to drink."

He eyed me coldly, but finally reached for the martini. "Well," he said. "Good men sometimes make bad decisions. I think these wounds will heal with time. This is a glorious city. Anything can happen here."

"I've always said that myself," I replied, smiling as he drifted off to sleep.

Returning to Miami, the Helena Sea ran out of fuel and was seized by the Nassau port authority for nonpayment of $2000 in rescue fees; owner Donald Gilles, according to one sailor, has "abandoned" the ship in the Bahamas and returned to the United States; the crew, unpaid and hungry, now faces jail and deportation.

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