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Dave (everybody called him Shark boy) was supposed to keep the barnacles cleaned off the bottom of his dad’s boat, but Hurricane Earl’s onslaught at the end of August, followed by one tropical storm after another, and then long periods of generally heavy seas, had kept him from taking on the task. All he used for the job was a trenching knife, a diving mask, flippers, and a Honda air pump—nothing for protection, nothing to hang on to below the water line—which made it an impossible job, or at least insanely dangerous one, in heavy seas.

Big Jessie was stuck in the eastern Kentucky mountains over a thousand miles away, trying to deal with problems that were besieging his mining company, and unable to do anything about it when the hurricane was dashing his boat on the rocks down in the Caribbean. The longer he was tied up in Kentucky the more his disposition deteriorated. It was bad enough losing his boat, but the endless court battles between his mining company and the environmentalists, along with disputes with disgruntled workers and frivolous claims made against his late father’s estate by distant relatives, old girlfriends, and tax collectors, left him feeling more and more frustrated, angry, and resentful. He was approaching the point of going totally ballistic.

The captain and Dan was catching most of his wrath even though none of it was their fault. They had been without sleep for more than two days while the hurricane was passing through, and when they finally did sleep the wreckers got what was left of Jessie’s boat before they awoke. Since Jessie was not one to hold back when he was really ticked off, he let it be known that when the new boat he was buying was shipped to Cruise Bay, the only person allowed to use it would be Shark Boy.

“Pop,” Dave said to his father, “I’m sorry Jessie’s angry at you and Dan, but he’s under a lot of pressure and once he gets down here he’ll get over it.“

The captain pointed out some additional problems to his son, things that Jessie seemed to be totally ignoring. “This couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” he swore. “The sheriff is up for re-election and Jessie is his campaign manager. If Jessie doesn’t get back down here and run the campaign the sheriff could lose the election.”

“But Pop, the sheriff is a great guy—he’s the best!”

“I know, son, and everybody was happy until the wives and do-gooders started complaining about the Chicken Ranch. They must have forgot what it was like before the sheriff allowed that Japanese investment group to build the Chicken Ranch out on Lovango, and the advantage of having it located on that isolated little island. When the refinery workers and construction bums were still drinking at our local bars, they staggered around all hours of the day and night, puked on our sidewalks, and insulted good Christian women. And worse yet, the tourists complained about them.”

“But now the wives—instead of appreciating the way the Chicken Ranch has siphoned all the worst drunks away from where they live—they’re are all up in arms because they’re afraid their husbands are going to go sneaking over to Lovango to gamble, drink the demon rum, and play hanky-panky with the Amsterdam girls. Being the sheriff is a thankless job, and an impossible task—no matter what you do, somebody is always unhappy!”

These words had barely left the captain’s lips when he suddenly looked up at his son with a new light in his eyes: “Dave, I know you’re anxious to get over to Lovango to check out that cave that keeps on showing up in your recurring dream, and I know you want to talk to the monk too. Let’s go! Damn the weather, unfurl the sails!”

Dave’s face broke into a big smile, and he instantly jumped to work: he yanked the mooring line off of the bow cleat, unfurled the headsail, removed the sail cover from the main, and started hoisting it up.

Dave’s dad continued, “The cook called today and asked if I would build him a house overlooking the ranch, so I’ll keep him busy talking to me about that while you explore the cave. Besides, we need to reach an agreement with the cook about that runaway girl of his; if he finds her before we do, he’ll make a bad example of her. Something tells me your friend Lambini the monk knows where she’s hiding—in fact, he’s probably the one hiding her. The cook is like the farmer who saw a chicken running around outside of his fence—he didn’t know whether to fix the hole in the fence first, or chase the chicken first. But I have a hunch the cook wants either the girl or the money she’s worth to him, with nothing in between. Well, we’ll deal with that after we get to Lovango. The yakuza are tough customers, but usually they’ll negotiate before giving an ultimatum.”

Talking about this made Dave suddenly think of another concern he had about things on the little island of Lovango: “Pop, speaking of chickens, I wonder what Barrack the rooster has been up to?”

“Son, Jessie told me that the last time he was on the island the cook was trying to make chicken stir-fry out of him, but Barrack was too fast for him. Jessie protested and told the cook he legally owned Barrack, and offered the cook a reward if he could somehow capture him. Jessie still believes Barrack has the right stuff to be the next all-island fighting champion, which would spell big bucks for all of us. His only problem is that Barrack’s so fast nobody can catch him—not the three fingered cook, not Big Jessie himself, not the street gang who’s after him, or the voodoo priest who swore to have Barrack’s tail feathers for his headdress.” To be continued.

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John Stark

The author of the "Tales from the Caribbean" fictional column. He attended school at Waynedale Elementary, Maplewood, Elmhurst HS in the Waynedale area. John had 25 years of professional writing experience when he passed away in 2012. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer