February 10, 2013

Frank and Molly

Part 1
No. 147 July 15, 2012
Frank Benson slumped against the railing at the bow of his ship. He drained the last of his whisky and then threw the tumbler overboard.
Benson had told the captain of the vessel to head due east, not to ask any questions, and to stay in the wheelhouse. So far, the man had obeyed. Benson allowed himself a brief moment of satisfaction. If you’re rich enough, people will do whatever you want.
But what Frank really wanted was an out-of-the-way place to roll off of the deck and not be noticed or found. He checked his watch and grunted. He was fifteen hours into his plan. There was no Scotch left. It was time.
He heaved himself up and leaned over the edge. He watched the tropical sea wash by under the boat and then closed his eyes. He shifted his weight ever so slightly forward and began to go over.
A jarring lurch sent him tumbling backwards, away from the water. It was accompanied by a horrific grinding sound. He staggered back onto the deck.
“What the—,” he managed to get out before another jolt sent him into a capstan, knocking the air from his lungs.
He was immediately dizzy as the lack of oxygen and the liquor conspired with each other to keep him from getting up. He could feel through his hands and knees that the steady vibration from the engine had cut out.
He tried to call out again but could only produce a hoarse wheeze and a coughing fit. Giving up, he relaxed his limbs and fell over onto his back. Right before he passed out, he thought he heard something like high heels clicking on the wooden deck.

“Hi,” she said.
Benson opened one eye.
“Are you awake?” the sultry voice asked him. “I hope you are.”
The other eye opened and now they worked together to piece together what was leaning over him.
Immediately Frank felt embarrassed. He could see straight down this girl’s shirt. Shaking his head self-consciously, he turned away and manoeuvred to a seated position.
“Hi,” she said again.
Now Benson could see all of her. He wracked his brain trying to think of a beautiful woman he could compare her to. He couldn’t come up with a single one that was even close. Tall, lithe, blonde, and tanned, she was perfect.
But something wasn’t right. She shouldn’t be here. He’d specifically sailed away to be alone.
“How did you get on my boat?” he asked. “Does the captain know you’re here?”
She laughed. Frank thought it was the best sound he’d ever heard.
“You needed me,” she told him.
He looked in a complete circle for clues to her arrival. He saw something strange in the ocean.
“Is that ice?” he said. “Did we hit ice?”
That was what had thrown him back onto the ship, he realized. They’d hit an icefield two thousand miles from where one should be.
The girl smiled, but drew her lips to the side slightly in a manner that struck Benson as quizzical, yet flirty. “It happens,” she admitted. “Don’t worry Frank. Your boat is fine.”
“How do you know my name?” he demanded. “And you still haven’t told me exactly how you got here. Did you stow away?”
“You brought me here,” she pouted.
Frank leaned forward and rested his head in his hands. Was it possible he was dreaming this? It was a pretty good dream, if so.
“What’s your name?” he asked her.
She looked startled, as if that was an unusual question. “I don’t have one.”
“You don’t have a name?”
She didn’t respond right away. She seemed to be thinking very hard. “No. Not unless you give me one.”
Now Benson was reeling. Nothing was making sense. “How about I just call you Molly for now? Until I get things straight.”
The girl’s eyes lit up. “Yes!” she announced. Then she repeated the name, as if testing it out. “Molly.”
“So, Molly, one more time, help me out. How and why are you here, now, on my boat?”
She heaved her chest with a deep sigh and shot him a face that was somewhere between puppy-dog eyes and disappointment. “Because, Frank, you were going to hurt yourself.”

Part 2
No. 200 September 21, 2012
“I was,” said Frank.
He lay back down on the polished wood of the deck and closed his eyes. “I still might.”
“I don’t think you will,” said Molly, with her arms crossed stubbornly and one upturned eyebrow.
Frank groaned, a product of the drink and the girl’s sudden appearance.
“What are you going to do to help me, then?” he questioned.
Molly didn’t say anything. She turned quickly on her heels and walked confidently to the railing on the side of the boat.
Frank heard something splash in the water, but he didn’t open his eyes to see what had caused the noise.
He felt the boat begin to jump and quiver, as if it had been suddenly placed on the surface of a huge vat of boiling water. The sensation scared him enough to open his eyes and find something to hang on to. He was unprepared for the sight that greeted him.
Molly was still standing casually by the railing. Beyond her, Frank could see what looked like a giant pile of rocks rising from the sea.
The land surrounded the ship, and then collected it up with a terrific jerk that tore the vessel from the water’s surface. Frank held his breath as he watched large trees and thick grasses grow quickly from the barren landscape.
Then there was a peaceful silence. They had come to rest in the middle of a forest clearing, with no ocean in sight.
Molly turned to him with an impossibly bright smile on her face.
“This is your island,” she said. “I’m hoping that you’re able to help yourself.”
Frank tried to take in the absurd scene. He could only think to ask one question. “Where’s the Captain?”
“He’s fine,” said Molly. “Probably better than fine.”
“I’m hallucinating,” said Frank. “Or dead.”
“Oh hush,” said Molly. “You’d better get to work, though. It’ll be dark soon.”
“Doing what?”
“Well,” Molly hedged. “You’ll find that access to the cabin of the ship is impossible. I assume you’ll want to fashion a shelter and start a fire, to begin with.”
“Are you the devil?” asked Frank.
Molly made a shooing motion, and then sat down languorously on a bench to watch him.

Frank spent the next several hours fighting a hangover and sweating more than he had in the last three years combined. His survival skills were rough, but he’d once spent the weekend at a boot-camp designed to teach businessmen a valuable lesson about the nature of teamwork or some-such. He really hoped that Molly did not subscribe to the same theory.
He was able to construct a passable shelter beside the landlocked yacht and had started a fire by the time night fell, although he suspected that the darkness would have arrived immediately after he’d finished his work, no matter what the time actually was.
Molly had been watching him all afternoon, not saying a word, and seemingly impervious to heat or boredom. She still looked radiant in the firelight as she sat down beside him.
“Good job, Frank,” she told him.
The words of encouragement burrowed into him and found something deep inside.
“Thanks, Molly.”
Frank didn’t say anything else for awhile. He sat quietly, poking the embers in the bottom of the fire.
Several minutes passed in silence until he spoke again.
“Molly?” said Frank.
“Yes, Frank?”
“Why me?”
Molly drew her legs in and put her chin on her knees. She looked up into his eyes and replied.
“It’s not about you, Frank. It’s about me.”

Part 3
No. 307 February 10, 2013
Frank looked at her strangely. “But you said—.”
“I said ‘you needed me’,” Molly interrupted him. “I said ‘you brought me here’.”
She drew in her breath sharply, like a disappointed teacher. “But I suppose that it would be your nature to assume that the reasons that you need me are only your own.”
Frank took in the mysterious new island, his beached ship, and the seemingly insane girl sitting in front of him. “I really don’t understand.”
Molly played with a stray curl of her hair, thinking something through. Then, apparently having made a decision, she stood and crossed the small camp to sit next to Frank.
Frank felt more alive than during any time that he could remember.  He didn’t say anything, trying not to break the spell he was under.
She put her hand on his shoulder. His eyes widened.
“Frank,” she said softly. “When was the last time you thought about dying? Be honest.”
He remembered the moment instantly. “Before I named you,” he said in a whisper.
“So, do you see? We both got what we needed,” she told him, with one finger pointed at the middle of his chest. “And how is that all about you?”

Frank and Molly sat next to each other, not speaking, for a long time. The embers of the fire turned red, and then black. Eventually, the first rays of the sun appeared over the long horizon of the ocean.
“It’s morning,” said Frank.
Molly smiled and nodded. Frank watched her, trying to commit her face to memory.
“I won’t see you again, will I?” he asked, the answer already clear.
She shook her head.
“Goodbye, Frank.”
He stood, and brushed himself off, ready to return to his boat. He wanted with all of his heart to hug her, but the gesture seemed so small compared to what she had done. Instead, he told her.
“Goodbye, Molly.”

Frank Benson leaned against the railing at the bow of his ship. He watched the waves pass by as the vessel made for port.
He was ready to begin his new life.

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