Mon Ami, Episode 28, Odysseys in Paradise

That evening Rich, Jean, Turua, his wife, and four children dined delightfully under the stars with a gentle breeze from the southeast. Turua stood short dark and thin. Her hair was thick and black. She maintained her youthful beauty. The children were strong vibrant and handsome, ages 16, 14, 12, and 9. They entertained with song and dance. Jean told stories. Turua sung songs that made you never want to leave the island. Rich talked about Ohio.

Jean urged Rich to stay for the evening. He slept on the porch of Jean’s house on a soft mat.

Midway through the night Rich walked to the water’s edge and sat on a rock. He stared up at a sky dotted with so many stars they almost blurred together. The seas brought gentle waves in a steady cadence to the shore. They seemed to whisper, “we are friends.”

Rich heard footsteps. He turned. It was Jean.

He sat next to Rich. “Are you alright, mon ami?”

“Oui, mon ami,” Rich said. “I found myself unable to sleep.”

“Is it the mat or do you wish to talk?” Jean said.

“Neither,” Rich said.

“That is okay,” Jean said. “I have many things I don’t talk about. I know you are not a man who is frivolous. Such a man takes a trip such as yours, to run from something or to find something.”

“Both,” Rich said.

“I was that way at one time,” Jean said. “New Zealand and then to France. And here.”

“Are you a Christian?” Jean said.

“I don’t label myself as such,” Rich said. “but my beliefs are that others would label me such. I think it’s something you earn. You must have evidence in your life to prove who you are. Saying I am a fish does not make me a fish. I must have fins, gills, and be able to swim.”

“You have given such things much thought,” Jean said.

“I spend a lot of time with my own thoughts,” Rich said. “I write them down disguised as stories.”

“Doesn’t every man do that,” Jean said. “He reveals who he is through the stories he tells or the ones he listens to.”

Rich smiled. “If my trip was for nothing else, what you said would be enough.”

“Does that mean you are leaving soon?” Jean said.

“If you have no objections, I would like to stay a couple more days,” Rich said.

“It is not my island,” Jean smiled. “I am going back to my home. Are you comfortable?”

“Yes,” Rich said, “beyond what you will know.”

“What bothers you, mon ami?” Rich said. “You look at the sea in a very strange way.”

“How is it I look at the sea?” Jean said.

“Like a man who has left something behind and he expects it to come over the horizon,” Rich said.

“In New Zealand, there was a girl,” Jean said. “She had my child. It is complicated, but her family would not approve of me. I was not their kind. I held the little girl once. If nothing else, I would like her to know I can still feel her next to me. I want her to know the sun does not set without thinking about her on that day. When I look in the face of my four children, here with me, I see her face. Every time my eyes close I see her round little face looking up at me. Do you understand what I say?”

“I’ve never had that,” Rich said, “but I see it in your eyes and hear it in your words.”

“That is all, mon ami,” Jean said. “It is not much.”

“It’s bigger than that ocean you are looking at,” Rich said.

“Don’t fall asleep on the rock,” Jean said standing. He walked back to his home.

Rich returned after another 15 minutes. He slept until the sun rose halfway up the palms, that’s when Jean’s children filed from the home and traipsed into the small village to the northeast.

Rich sat with his back against the house.

Jean came out on the front porch. “Was your sleep good?”

“Yeah,” Rich said. “I never sleep this late.”

“Do you see things differently?” Jean said.

“A bit,” Rich said. “Is there a store that I can buy some supplies?”

“Food?” Jean said.

“Yes,” Rich said.

“It sounds as if you may plan on leaving soon,” Jean said.

Rich stood and stretched. “I’ve always made it a habit to make preparation as soon as I make port.”

“That means you are being perused,” Jean said.

“Not by the law,” Rich said. “It’s complicated.”

“The store will not open until it opens,” Jean said. “But it is never locked. So I guess that means it is always open. People go in and get what they want and either lay the money on the counter or pay later.”

“Will they take American?” Rich said.

“Sure,” Jean said, “if it doesn’t spend now, it will spend someday. Just leave what you think is fair. Money hasn’t too much value here. With the money you buy things. Here, there is not a lot of things or land. Once a man buys up all the land, what next, the ocean?”

“What do you mostly do?” Rich said. “You know, occupation.”

“I fish more than anything,” Jean said, “but I do whatever needs to be done. I worked as an electrician for a while in New Zealand. There’s not a lot of electricity here.”

“If I stay a week can I help you fish?” Rich said.

“Sure,” Jean said, “but if you catch nothing, you eat nothing.”

“You got a deal.”

Rich net fished with Jean for the next five days. The fishing was good, as was the conversation. A couple of the nights Rich was too exhausted to return to The Odyssey so he slept on the porch.



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