In the dark Rich sat a 310-degree course and ducked below. He baked a half dozen biscuits and opened a can of stew.
“I’m getting much better at biscuits,” he said at the table as he stuffed his mouth with them and the warmed stew. “I’m starting to eat like a cretin. I most posture myself better. Soon I may be among the polished.” And his eating took on a more refined appearance.
After eating Rich cleaned up from the meal and sat at the chart desk. He scanned the map and as he stopped at each island his imagination raced. He stared at it as if approaching by airplane. Then he imagined approaching from the sea. In all his vision he met with sandy beaches and swaying palms.
“Reao,” he said. “It looks as if it is less than 200 miles.” He smiled. “I’m living a dream; island hopping in the South Pacific.”
Rich returned to the helm and adjusted the course. The winds blew as good as any. Sailing was swift and easy, like gliding over an icy pond.
A day and a half of good sailing passed. Rich squinted at a long stretch before him, as if someone drew a thin line with a sharp pencil on the horizon. He grabbed the binoculars. “Reao! Sailing was good or my calculations bad.”
Rich sailed within a quarter mile and circled the island clockwise. Just beyond the western tip, a village appeared. He dropped the sails and tossed the anchors.
A man in an outrigger canoe paddled toward The Odyssey.
He was a very dark and muscular man. Perhaps in his late thirties. He smiled calmly; not the big toothy smile often expected from natives.
Rich beckoned him alongside and helped him aboard.
“Parlez-vous Francais?” the man said after gaining his footing.
“English,” Rich said
“No problem,” the man said. “My name is Jean.”
“I will be happy to take you ashore and save you the trouble of using your dinghy,” Jean said.
“What if you don’t like me and I need to get back to my boat?” Rich smiled.
“You can swim,” Jean said. “It is safe; the sharks are on the other side of the island this time of year—or is it the other way around.”
“I see this island has a sense of humor,” Rich said.
Jean smiled and said, “But I am not joking. Come ashore, mon ami.”
They climbed into the canoe and Jean handed Rich a paddle. “It is faster this way.”
As they paddled Jean ask, “How long do you stay?”
“I seldom stay long anyplace,” Rich said. “I can’t see staying any more than a couple days.”
“It is a lonely existence in such a place,” Jean said. “It is not for most.”
“It is even lonelier on the boat at sea,” Rich said. “Where did you learn to speak English?”
“I worked in New Zealand four years,” Jean said. “It was not for me. When I returned, because my language skills, I’m sort of the chief. It is a great honor, but it means little to me.”
They pulled the canoe on shore and drug it from the beach and into the palms.
“Is there anything you would like to do while you are here?” Jean said. “We have few accommodations, but we can accommodate with what we have.”
“I’m a man with few needs or demands,” Rich said. “I would like only to relax and perhaps view the island. Mostly, I’d like only to take a break from sailing.”
“Where did you come from and how did you get here?” Jean said motioning toward a small house with open shutters and a slanted roof. “My house, please.”
They entered the house through a doorway with no door and Jean offered Rich a seat at a table in the kitchen.
Rich answered him leaving out the eventful conflicts. As he spoke about his experiences Jean busied himself making drinks on a counter next to a small refrigerator.
“I’m making you a native drink,” Jean said. “Have you ever had kava?”
“No,” Rich said.
“Than I will make it French,” Jean said.
“And how’s that?” Rich said.
“With a lot of fluff,” Jean smiled. “The French are all about fluff.”
Jean handed Rich a tall glass filled with a light yellow drink.
Rich tasted. “Lots of pineapple. Is that gin?”
“Yes,” Jean said, “and whatever else you taste is the kava.”
“The bitterness?” Rich said.
“Yes,” Jean said. “If you can drink coffee, you can drink kava.”
“I like the fluff,” Rich said.
“To be honest, so do I,” Jean said.
“Too long in New Zealand?” Rich said.
“Perhaps,” Jean said.
“Where is your family?” Rich said.
“My wife and two sons and two daughters are fishing in the lagoon,” Jean said. “They will bring home plenty of fish. Will you eat with us this evening?”
“Yes,” Rich said. “Thank you very much. I have some beer on my boat and soft drinks for your children. I’ll supply them for our meal.”
“My children will be grateful and my wife and I will indeed enjoy the beer,” Jean said.