September 5 Four Days Out and Somewhere in the South China Sea.
A heavy fog blows in, as a dark green film surrounds ‘The Bonnie Anne.’ I scan the surface as Dakota checks the scuba gear. X marks the spot on the map. It’s now or never. Thunder rolls in and lightning strikes. . .
August 31 Sirens Saloon
Here we are on Bataan Peninsula, my best friend and I, relaxed under a coconut tree in the Philippines outside a tavern in matching pure white bikinis. Miss Dakota’s a big girl — six feet tall. A world-traveler, who settled in one spot for a change after ten years on the road searching for her half sister Ariel. No beauty queen, but I am a distant relative of the Emperor. Half Japanese — skin’s too dark to be pure. The royal family banished Mom and me near the end of the WWII. Before leaving, she snooped around and learned where they were planning to hide the house jewels. Mother died before we would become treasure hunters, but left me things almost as valuable.
Dakota asks, “How long have you been a Captain, love?”
I spoon out a tasty chunk of ballut from a fermented and aged duck’s eggshell, “Mom started calling me a senchou at five years old. I know my way around boats.”
Living in the tropics can be relaxing. We rise, clutching onto a tree trunk. “When out to sea, lose half of those golden locks.” Her lovely hair soars and twists in the wind, like Medusa’s snakes.
Dakota snaps to attention and bows . . . and in her everyday sensual voice says, “Aye, my Captain.” Big blue eyes open wide. We mosey inside to replenish our drinks. Once beyond the stench of sweaty pig meat, we push through the swinging saloon doors. Halfway up the left bulkhead there’s a WWII plaque. The pub fills out with rattan wicker tables and armchairs, a fifty-foot long bar, stools, overflowing cigarette-filled ashtrays, and overhead fans with free-riding geckos.
We trust each other. No one else does. “Two more, bartender. Put ‘em on my tab.”
“Captain, you’re gonna to need to pay up.” Another of our secrets — heavy gambling debts. We’ve paid off one bill with … favors. Wasn’t love, but it wasn’t bad, either. We’re trapped like wild dolphins in a net. Next comes the loan sharks. We might have to sleep with the entire seventh fleet.
In addition, we gambled away the money twelve couples advanced us to hunt for treasure. Irate investors demand to set sail, now.
From the saloon veranda, we can see our ‘Bonnie Anne’ anchored in the bay. A magnificent sight. We continue to offer lenders big hints, but they reject our advice. We’re screwed.
The restless monsoon rains are angry. The gods threaten with shifting tides, darkening skies, and the smell of rain.
Dakota and I prepare for parts unknown. At noon we have to sail the South China Sea in search of treasures left behind by Japan during the war. I’d been around for a while. I know about the weather.
She scratches at her mermaid ankle tattoo.
It’s not just the gold. We live for the beauty of the seas, the blues and greens of changing tides, and the steady ripple of ocean waves. Sometimes they’re tranquil — smooth as aged whiskey. Other times…
Jumbo ebony scorpions scurry back and forth, side-to-side, and burrow deep into the white sand under darkening skies — a warning.
She scratches harder this time. A tear falls. A worried Dakota and I are at a crossroad. Again, we try to postpone our voyage to make repairs. No deal. Investors give us an extra day. People will die all around you. Who are you? The woman inside me knows I’m internalizing too much.
“My friend, we’re going to end up dead if we don’t escape.” People will die. Stay out of my head.
September 3-5 The Bonnie Anne
It’s just after dark. We leave without them. Instead, set sail with a competent skeleton crew capable of running a ship. We hoist anchor and never look back.
After several days and with the power invested as Captain, I marry my love on the poop deck. Dakota’s sad Ariel isn’t here for the event. Same dad, different mom. She grins when I call Ariel a half sister.
Scratching her mermaid tattoo harder this time and pointing, “Ahoy, is that a ship yonder on the horizon, my dear?”
I explore the surface of the sea with binoculars. “Nothing. Maybe a Fata Morgana.”
She laughs. “Lots of tales around these parts of mirages, mermaids, and menacing shadows.”
Who knows what evil lurks below the surface? Peering over the side, I shout, “Dakota, it’s now or never!” I kiss my bride, wink, and announce, “I’ll be back, soon.”
Snapping to attention, she salutes, “Aye Aye mam. Love ya my Captain.”
I plunge into the murky sea and resurface a half hour later with a faded waterlogged ship’s nameplate covered by green slime … same stuff covering and singeing the skin on my face.
The Jolly Roger blows in the wind and fear sets in. I surface and flip up my mask and read from the shipwreck’s plaque out-loud. “Prepare to shake hands with the devil.” That’s not my voice.
Several gold necklaces hang from my neck. I allow them to drift to the bottom. On board, Dakota continues to dig vigorously at her mermaid tattoo.
A lovely chorus of notes surround the ‘Bonnie Anne.’ The likes of which I’ve never heard. The slime slips from my face into the water. Hmm, that might leave a nasty scar, fitting for a captain.
We will not abandon ship today. They promised not to hurt the crew and to release me if I took nothing, including my…
My wife swan-dives off the ship’s rail, and with powerful strokes heads out to sea to join with…
“Come back, my lover. Please…”