Thursday, January 16, 2014

Blue fruit

As requested--no, really--a short vignette that didn't make the cut for The Stowaway, but which manages nevertheless to work in several themes of the book. We begin with Captain Jas. Hook speaking to Vivian Drew.

"We need to replace the oranges those wretched boys stole. Care to accompany me to the island?"

It couldn't be much more dangerous than the ship had been recently, I thought, and agreed, provided we could stay within hailing distance of the Jolly Roger. So after a brief stop at the cabin for hats (the lesson had finally taken), we took possession of the dory.

"We're rowing ourselves?" I had never thought to see James take this duty on.

"We can hardly do a worse job than some of our compatriots," he said, a point I could not argue.

This is Koh Samui, Thailand, not Never Neverland, but the resemblance is notable.

The sea was calm and the afternoon windless. We left the dory in a small cove and set off along the powdery sand of the beach, picking our way carefully through a crowd of tiny spotted birds intent on dining from shells and strands of rotting seaweed. 

"Look up, Viv. Mr. Smee says they're delicious." I followed his gaze to the feathery leaves of a pale-barked tree and a cluster of fruits tucked within, something like plums but with skins of turquoise blue.

I shaded my eyes with my hand and frowned. "Pretty enough, but we shouldn't eat them."

"They didn't hurt Mr. Smee, Viv, and they won't hurt us."

Didn't your mother ever warn you about blue food?”

“It's a wonder my mother didn't encourage me to eat it.”

I shook my head, but squeezed his forearm to acknowledge the real mistrust that lay beneath his words. Probably my own parents wouldn't have even noticed if Miles and I had poisoned ourselves on blue food, as long as we'd ultimately survived.

“You don't eat blueberries?” James asked.

They're more purple than blue," I pointed out.

He waved aside my further protests, plucked one of the fruits, and sliced it open with his deck knife. The flesh inside was as blue as the rind, and crunched like an apple as he chewed. Curiosity won out over caution as he presented to me another slice upon the point of his hook, and I bit into it with only a moment of hesitation. 

“It tastes somewhere between an orange and a lemon,” I said in surprise.

“I wonder if these would be any protection against scurvy. Probably best not to chance it.”

“Probably best to see if we survive the remainder of the day after eating them,” I said. “Assuming we don't die at the hands of the lost boys or the teeth of the crocodile.”

Neverland, according to the 2003 film adaptation of Peter Pan

I have made you dismal, haven't I?”

I thought for a moment. “No, not much more so than I have always been.”

“We are distressingly well-suited for each other, then."

“Agreed.” I took another bite of the blue fruit.

“There are worse ways to die than this,” he said.

“If a person is looking for one.” I wiped my hand on my skirt and sat down carefully in the coarse grass at the base of the tree, leaning against the trunk and closing my eyes.  “Take the first watch, will you, sir?”

“As the lady commands,” he said, but belied his words when he reclined beside me and rested his head in my lap.

“Hmph,” I said sternly. But I was already stroking his hair, and I doubt anyone of our acquaintance would have believed I truly objected.


  1. Lovely!
    Thank you for sharing it.
    And on a slightly related note, I wasn't sure if you might already be aware of this:

  2. Thank you for reading it. :-)

    Heh, I have a t-shirt, but not the bag. Yet. (It would be so handy for research...)

  3. It's good. A clean, clear voice, sparing in detail in a way that comes across as very English, with some nice understatement. It avoids the way Edwardian prose seems overly wordy to the present day American ear, but maintains a flavor of that. The characterization of Hook is crisply executed. I can just see details like quirked eyebrows or the crook of a mouth-corner under a moustache. There's not much sense of who Vivian is as a character, but there's no particular reason or need for there to be in this selection. And yet even then, there's more than there seems at first, little hints of a cynicism and morbidity that seems not to be ill-natured or bitter, just an awareness of death and misfortune. Someone who has internalized the motto memento mori, perhaps.

    And I very much like the line about the hats.

    1. This morning, rereading, the only thing I missed mentioning that stands out, is the trust, and how rare and difficult a thing that is for both of them, and how rooted that plainly is in their childhoods.

    2. Thank you for finding in my writing the qualities I see in my characters.:-) And thank goodness I seem to be pulling back on my tendency to overwrite.(The journalism degree wasn't good for much, but it has made me a better editor.)

      There is lots and lots and lots of Vivian in the book in general. Sh's very clear to me, which has made the story easy to tell from her viewpoint. I'm pleased that bits of her outlook did make it into this.

      And yes, you are correct about the trust.