Excerpts from The Boat in the Bay Window

 
 

 

EXCERPTS FROM

THE BOAT IN THE BAY WINDOW

By

KEN KLOPPER

 

© kjklopper 2016

DRAMA, HISTORY, ROMANCE, FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, TERROR, ACTION,HUMOR AND MYSTERY.

 

Gosh! She had only just realized it. All her friends were Robin’s friends, and except for a phone call from Veronica Metcalf, they had treated her like a leper when they heard of the breakup. But then Robin was the glamor boy—the history major with the celebrity personality. And she was just that woman who paints mountains . . . and rivers . . . and trees and sells paintings to people who live in the concrete jungle to appease their yearning to be somewhere else.

 

 

 

“Juliet grew up in France. She was the French Open showjumping champion before she came to settle in South Africa,” Munro explained.

“Oh, I was very young then and a lot fitter,” Juliet added. “Do you ride, Rory?”

“Ride . . . horses? No, I’ve never—”

“I’ll teach you if you like,” Monique volunteered eagerly.

 

He wanted to say that he could see no reason why he would need to acquire equestrian skills. It was 1986 and the era of the horse was long gone. He didn’t own a horse and he didn’t think he would ever own or need one. They were large, powerful, wild animals domesticated by man as beasts of burden, a mode of transport, tools of war and a form of entertainment. But horses were his grandfather’s life and livelihood and although there was an urgent need to impress his grandfather, he didn’t like the idea that a girl was taking the initiative.

 

 

 

The Japanese attacks gave Britain, Australia, China, and others what they needed to declare war on Japan. The attempt to sweep away the flies in one foul swoop had opened a hornet’s nest instead and the hornets were aggressive and very angry. The Soviet Union was holding back but the Axis states led by Germany grabbed the opportunity to declare war on the US.

 

When I reflected later about what had transpired, it had me thinking that it was ironic that the actions of the very people that had been such an important part of my childhood would turn the tide that subsequently sealed my active inclusion in the war. While the drama was unfolding in Europe, North Africa, and other parts of the world, I would be involved away from the center stage in events that would change my whole perspective of life. The actions of the Japanese leading up to their surrender on 15 August 1945 and the signing of the surrender agreement on-board the American battleship, the USS Missouri, on 2 September 1945, would cause deep wounds that required long-term healing and would leave terrible scars that never seemed to fade even with the passing of time. My secure and mediocre existence was about to undergo a dramatic change. One I had neither planned nor foreseen.

 

 

 

The dream unfolded quickly after that. Just the sound of the waves surrounding us as they brushed against the side of the dinghy, the warning calls of some curious and excited grey gulls and the rhythm of the paddles as we rowed towards the island. Time seemed to stand still with the sensation that we were drifting aimlessly in one spot. Glancing back, I could see that the Lexington was starting to look like a toy ship on a giant pond as the form of our destination grew clearer and more defined—an ivory colored beach, tall palm trees crippled by the wind and the olive shadows of the dense island vegetation stretching inland. It was surprising that the sea was so calm, so welcoming, and the scene so serene and inviting. It was when we set foot on the sandy, white powder for the first time, and I heard it crunch under my boots, that it hit hard like an unexpected blow to the stomach. We were on our way to kill other human beings. I felt the coldness of the rifle in my hands—the efficient instrument of death with its precision setting to make it easier to hit the target—the tool to snuff out life. It was one thing hitting a target consistently and quite another to aim, squeeze the trigger and fire with the intention of ripping open flesh, destroying organs and shattering bone. Would I be able to do that? Kill someone. Send a piece of red hot metal through his heart or his head. But they were the enemy, the bad guys. It was them or us.

 

We huddled together in a group for a final briefing. I was aware of heightened senses—an acute perception of sight, sound and smell. The ocean stirred up its salty, fresh fragrance as tiny frosted waves curled over the sand only to slide backwards and retreat with subdued vigor. The sounds were louder, crisper and more distinguishable. Sounds of the jungle and the sea, a high-pitched buzz as insects joined together in orchestral union and  . . . the sound of our own heavy breathing. Heat rising from the sand to the nostrils was fused with an almost musty, morbid smell like the scent of trees and bushes in a country graveyard. Maybe they were preparing for a taste of impending death when the tranquility of their habitat was shattered by the sound of gunfire and the cries of killers and their victims.

 

 

It was a cottage very much like his new home. Walls made of hewn sandstone and a brick red tiled roof with a cobblestone chimney. Steps led up to a little porch with a wooden balustrade. The front door was open but there was no sign of the little dog or anyone else. He was just about to turn around and head home when he heard a voice. He looked up and saw her standing in the doorway. She was holding the dog in her arms and smiling.

“Don’t run off so quickly. I haven’t thanked you for bringing Tinkie home,” she said.

“Well, he actually brought himself home. I just helped him out of a hole,” Rory said.

 

“Then all the more reason to thank you. I’m Glenda Lawrence . . . and you must be the lad from number one. Your mother’s the artist, isn’t she?”

 

 

 

Don’t ask me how but somewhere in the fog and the haze of the steamy city streets, I stumbled upon a place of refuge that was neither permanent in form nor naturally hospitable. The big top of Hoskin’s Circus loomed bright and colorful in the open field on the city outskirts almost like a giant gateway to my uncertain future.

I attached myself to an old woman who grudgingly took me in and initially appeared cold and callous. She told fortunes for those who desired to know their destiny in a world that would soon be in the turmoil of another global war. Underneath the old woman’s harsh exterior lay a heart of gold—a treasure freely available to those who earnestly sought it amongst the battered and rundown caravans and the lofty canvass rooftop of a close-knitted, roving community. Eureka! I had found a place. I had found a home.

 

I worked hard as a circus hand. Most people don’t realize how much work goes into preparing for a performance and just how demanding animals in captivity are. And the sheer size and volumes of elephant shit was enough to make a young girl, with an oversized shovel, cry. But I never did. I put my back into it knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life and confident that I was going to achieve that goal.

 

 

 

Due to the ruggedness of the terrain, the road twisted and turned like the coils of a sea serpent as it snaked its way back to the village. It was after sundown when we arrived at the camp. We marched through the fenced area with the guard towers that Carter and I had seen on our earlier recce mission, through a gate on the other side and into the village. Then the soldiers escorting us did something unexpected. They herded us into a hut, barricaded the door and left. It was dark but we were able to make out the scanty furnishing and the general layout.

“Welcome to the Grand Hotel, boys,” Walker said.

“Don’t know why they bothered to block the door,” Armstrong said. “There are open windows on both sides.”

“Maybe they’re just trying to tell us something,” I said.

The hut was about twenty by ten feet, had a single doorway, two windows covered by woven mats and a wooden floor. In one corner stood a makeshift table that looked like an overturned wooden tea box, a large iron kettle on top of the box and a dozen or so rolled up mats. In another corner was a stinky bucket with a lid.

“Grab a bed and find a place to sleep,” I said. “We’re going to need all the rest we can get.” The wooziness in the pit of my stomach hadn’t abated and reminded me of what we could expect the following day.

“We’ve got to get out of this hole,” Johnson said.

Walker lifted the mat covering the one opening and stared out into the darkness. “There doesn’t appear to be a fence around the village,” he said. “I can see a tower on the west side . . . and they have guards patrolling the perimeter.”

 

“We can check out the situation when it’s light,” I said. “Let’s try to get some sleep.”

 

 

 

Only Faye knew of my plans as she helped me gather the material necessary to build a little raft. It wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. Eyes still watched for signs of prohibited activity or contraventions of camp rules.

She found a length of old rope near the hospital tent and I found a piece of torn parachute material in an old store. I cut and trimmed some logs with the bush knife that Walker had found and secured them together with the rope. The material would serve as a sail while a broad, flattened length of timber acted as a rudder.

 

I tested it out at Baptist Bay and it seemed like it would stay afloat and take my weight although there was no way of knowing what it would do in the open sea. Faye pleaded with me to take her with me but it was too risky to place two people on the flimsy craft I had built, and the material we had scrounged was insufficient to build anything larger or sturdier. It was also too dangerous for both of us to go drifting around in the open sea in the hope that a passing ship would pick us up. What would happen if it turned out to be an enemy ship? I couldn’t bear the thought of her being taken to another POW camp, being mistreated and put through the same hell all over again.

 

 

THE BOAT IN THE BAY WINDOW IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON AND CREATESPACE.