ELBA

Pollyanna McFee


The food ran out on the fourth day, although it was rumored the man with the pacemaker had a cooler he'd stashed away on another part of the island.  Everyone watched him closely, but he ignored them.  He'd never cared about what people thought before, so why should he now?  Instead he sat under a palm tree (his palm tree, he'd decided) where he could stare out at the ocean.


“He likes to go fishing,” the shaggy-haired man said to Richard, nodding at the man with the pacemaker.  Richard didn't say anything.   Which was probably fine because at least he wasn't quoting Nietzsche.  The shaggy-haired man wiped his face.  The beard stubble he'd cultivated to appear rugged now made him look like someone who slept on a piece of cardboard and pissed in an alley.  Red-eyed, shaky hands, he needed something more substantial than fish.  He'd emptied his flask on the first day.  


Richard was watching two male swimmers standing at the edge of the sand.  “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you,” he said and headed off to the jungle.  The shaggy-haired man wasn't sorry to see him go.  Jesus, could Richard ever make a joke?  


“I'm way faster that you,” the dark-haired swimmer was saying.


“You're way older,” said the blond swimmer.  “Totally out of shape.”  And the blond was diving into a wave, his strong arms a blur of motion in the water.  After a moment of hesitation, the other swimmer was behind him, white foam splashing against the blue sky as they raced to…


To where?  The shaggy-haired man didn't know the location of the island or how they ended up here.  One minute he was in the office working on his laptop (a story about the impending Obama divorce after Michelle's threesome, something to make the libtards especially crazy) and then he was plopped in this tropical almost-paradise. Azure water and a crystal white beach, if you walked over a dune a smiling waiter would hand you an icy mojito, the sprawling Four Seasons resort behind him.


But instead of a five-star hotel, there was nothing.  No waiter, no mojito.  Only an island.  Beach, a tangle of jungle with thick trees and a small pond with water that looked clear, and possibly safe to drink and he was ready to cup his hands to take a sip, when the sons pushed him out of the way.  “Fuck off,” they said.  “Find your own drinking fountain.”  They laughed and flopped on their stomachs, lapping at the water like dogs.


During the day it was hot and the shaggy-haired man wished he had a hat.  He wished he had a lot of things.  His high blood pressure medication, steak au poivre and pommes frites, a water tanker filled with booze.  Unless this was some kind of dream, some weird, fucked up dream.  He'd believed in the dream theory, at least for a few hours, until he heard the sons vomiting.  “Shit,” one of them was saying and suddenly shit was a verb and both brothers were groaning as contaminated pond water gushed through their intestines.  He thought about checking on them – was that part of his job?  Did he still have a job?  He patted his empty flask.  Thought about taking it out and imagining how it had been refilled, like the miracle of the fishes, forgive me Father for I have sinned, but maybe it was the three divorces or the other sins he'd never repented for – or had repented, but didn't really mean it – and when he shook the flask, it was still empty.  


It was a shame the only woman on the island (so far – he supposed there could be more people, but no one had launched an expedition yet) was The Cee.  Everyone he knew referred to her as The Cee, never by her real name.  She wasn't nearly as unpleasant as she presented herself on TV, but he didn't enjoy being in her company.  She never looked you in the eye.  Instead she looked over you, hoping to see someone more important.  And her skin and bones figure - not his type.  Although what was his type?  Three wives and he hadn't gotten it right yet.  


“I guess I'll have plenty of time to work on a new book,” that's what she'd said when they met her on the island.  Nothing about how they came to be here.  Or why.  “But how will I manage without social media?  What about my followers?” she said to him, flipping her long blonde hair over her shoulders, her collarbones exposed, sharp as knives.  He hoped they wouldn't be stuck here too long.  With her as the only woman.  The thought made him want to puke.


He noticed Race had appeared and was admiring the swimmers.  Ever since the pundits had compared him to the cartoon character from Jonny Quest, it was impossible to think of him as anyone other than Race.  And to his credit, he'd adopted the name.  Race had a good sense of humor, much better than El Naranja.  The Hamilton kerfuffle – Race had handled that with his usual grace.  It was El Naranja who'd gone batshit crazy – everything made El Naranja batshit crazy.  Photos of his double (triple) chin, Alec Baldwin on SNL, talk of his tiny hands (in reality, doll-sized).  All those fucking late night tweet storms – didn't people realize no one could stop him?  The shaggy-haired man had thrown away a dozen phones, he'd pleaded and scolded, complained to Kellyanne, but she shrugged.  “It's part of his appeal.  People admire him for his honesty.”


He looked around.  Where was Kellyanne?  Maybe she'd show up later.  Kellyanne and Tomi and The Cee, three bottle blondes who could be triplets.  In a freak show.  


He was preparing the fire, even though there was nothing to put in the pot.  When they'd arrived, most everyone had pooled their provisions, although they didn't have much.  A few Larabars, some quinoa, bottles of Evian – The Cee only had a single chamomile tea bag.  El Naranja and the man with the pacemaker refused to contribute anything, but luckily an extra bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken had been forgotten, and quickly appropriated by the swimmers, who were happy to share.


Race joined the shaggy-haired man by the fire.  “I've always liked swimming competitions,” Race said.  “What's for dinner?”


“We've run out.  There's nothing.”  


Race frowned.  “Has anyone told… “ He trailed off and nodded toward the tent at the top of a small rise.  The best spot, of course, selected by El Naranja.


“Not yet.  I was thinking we might ask Walter.”  Walter was sitting with Martin.  Everyone hated Martin – he was constantly complaining about his migraines, his inability to sleep and why didn't anyone have Vicodin or Xanax?  He spent most of the time sitting by himself under a palm tree, rocking back and forth and humming.  It seemed to make some sense that Walter, a doctor – well, a dentist – Walter would be the one to comfort Martin.  


The irony, of course, wasn't lost on anyone.  Martin Shkreli, pharmaceutical executive and price gouger, couldn't exist without medicine.  Serves you right, douche, the shaggy-haired man thought.  He looked around at Martin, at the swimmers, Ryan Lochte and Brock Turner, at The Cee, at Richard Spencer, Nietzsche quoter and current poster boy of the Alt-Right, at Walter Palmer the dentist from Minnesota who killed Cecil the lion on a big game hunt, at Dick Cheney, the man with the pacemaker – all of his fellow islanders. People vilified by the media, by the public, by most everyone.


But why am I here, he wondered.  What have I done that's so terrible?  I was an investment banker, I produced movies, I'm a media exec, a political strategist.  He looked over at Cheney.  I didn't start a war and kill thousands and thousands of people.  And where is Putin?  Or Assad?  Why are there only Americans, this must be some terrible mistake.  Or a dream.


The swimmers ran up to the fire.  “You have goose bumps,” Race said to Brock as he began to rub his shoulders.


“Thanks,” Brock said.  


Ryan looked into the empty pot beside the fire.  “We have to look for food tomorrow,” the shaggy-haired man told him.  


“Walter's a good hunter,” Ryan said.  “And Eric and Donald Junior.”  


“That's a good idea.”  


How long would they be on the island?  Would he wake up tomorrow back in his house in Georgetown?  Crisp Frette sheets, the Keurig humming, Fox & Friends on TV.  He didn't belong here, someone made a mistake.  Tomorrow morning everything would be fine.  He was sure of it.  He touched the flask in his pocket… and heard the faint sound of a splash.  




Pollyanna McFee is a writer living in California.


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