So, you see, on my island in the Pacific, summer winds down. The tugboat captain, at two miles per hour, drags his gigantic log boom 200 yards astern. What does a tugboat captain think about at two miles per hour? How does the giant spider, washed down the bathtub drain last night in the cottage, reappear in the morning?
Such are the great philosophical matters that occur to a mind that is in neutral as the summer winds down. On my island in the Pacific,
Charles de Gaulle is still asleep. As he was last summer and the summer before. He, in fact, has been asleep longer on my island in the Pacific than he has been in France.
The mountain range opposite, perhaps five miles across the water, has on its tip a replica of Charles, his proboscis most prominent, lying on his back, content with having saved that part of his country that Joan of Arc did not. The Sleeping de Gaulle consoles us all, knowing that as our bodies collapse, Charles’s famous beak resists wear and tear.
On my island in the Pacific, the ladies on the tennis court still insist on saying “sorry” to opponents when they make a winning shot—and “sorry” to their partners when they fluff one. I try to teach them they might use, in the latter case, another word starting with the same sound, but it is to no avail. My imitation of ’enry ’iggins falls on barren ground.
The big item this summer, on my island, is the cougar. There has been a great flurry, in the newspapers, over the valiant mother in mountains elsewhere who sacrificed herself to a cougar to save her son. Suddenly, on the tennis courts, there is the terrible story of someone’s dog being eaten by a cougar last night. Children are urged not to stay out past dark. The rumors escalate. My island in the Pacific is rapidly being compared with the Kenyan jungle.
The ever-alert RCMP, taking time out from being fitted for costumes made by Disney, on investigation find only that “a local man heard a loud catlike hissing sound when his dog came bounding in from nearby woods.” On inspection—what is Disney for, after all?—“officers were unable to detect any trace of bites or scratches on the dog.”
Such was the disappointment on the tennis courts as to the rumors. There are bears on my island in the Pacific, Bambis bound-
ing always in front of the car—looking like Dan Quayle—but not cougars. On an island without news, it is always crushing when a rumor dies. If truth be known, the most terrifying sight on my island is the annual appearance of Odd, otherwise known as Hagar the Horrible from comic strip fame. Odd has an official parking sign outside his establishment: non-Norwegians are barred.
At his summer-ending blast, featuring on a spit a Bambi that he has shot in the non-cougar forest, he appears in his flowing
white beard topped with a helmet sporting horns that make him look like one of those Brunhildas in a male version of a Metropolitan Opera saga. Small children flee and dogs bay at the moon.
In my cottage on my island in the Pacific, there is no television— though a television set. It accepts only videos, the only videos being endless versions of Fawlty Towers. John Cleese is a genius, we all know, but after two weeks of solid Fawlty Towers one almost longs for Larry King.
We resist the impulse of course, being of strong will, and do not even complain about missing the World Cup and Wayne Gretzky and Sheila Copps’s effort to bankrupt the nation by buying flags. There are advantages to being on an island in the Pacific as the summer winds down.
The children, naturally, arrive on the weekends, scrapping over who sleeps where, and why father has not upgraded his wardrobe, which apparently has been inherited from the Duke of Windsor. No. 2 son, who has the advantage of being 34 years younger and claims his game is squash, strangely enough does not renew the vicious annual tennis duel with Pops that has not—over the years—revealed son as a genius with a racquet.
On my island, one of the great sights—almost equal to the Sleeping de Gaulle—is the morning appearance of the dog walking the man. There is a doctor, a short chap, who owns a beast that is the size of a small horse. It is obviously a Saint Bernard, white of hue, shaggy of hair, enormous in plodding strength, larger than the imaginary cougar, dragging through the forest trails each morning a doctor who thinks he is walking his dog. When the opposite is true.
The social disaster of each summer on my island in the Pacific, as it always is, is the season-ending, always-suspect, allegedly friendly two-day tennis tournament that—as inevitably happens— destroys friendships, leads to divorce, drives some to drink and others to endless gossip. A frail newcomer from a foreign province prevails, through the fluke of the draw, into the final. Bereft of muscle, she survives only because of being known as The Human Backboard—she lofts everything back, not knowing where it is going. It goes in. The non-muscular one wins a prize as a finalist: a can of used tennis balls. It is being bronzed and mounted.
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