[This is part one of story two of THE FICTION PROJECT; See Vol 9 John 10]
Maryanne is starting to wear perfume. At dinner tonight she insisted on serving me herself and she kept bending over my shoulder and moving her arm back and forth under my nose. A year and a half we've been on this island and until now Maryanne's always smelled like soap. But tonight was different. It wasn't like Mrs. Howell's perfume - Mrs. Howell smells like my mother. And it wasn't at all like Ginger. Ginger's perfume sneaks up on me; it gets into my nose before I know it's there. Maryanne's perfume is different.
"Yes, little buddy?"
"Were you ever married?"
The skipper shifted his weight and the vibrations moved upward and made my hammock hum.
"No Gilligan, I never was. I came close once, but I guess there's only one woman I could ever really love."
"Who's that, skipper?"
"The SEA, little buddy! Once a man falls in love with the sea, he can never be happy with any other woman. And women are jealous of the sea because she carries their men away where they can't follow. When I was your age I thought I could have it all, but in the end I had to make a choice. Remember, Gilligan, you can have a woman or you can have the sea but you can't have both."
The skipper's been drinking pretty steady ever since the wreck. He's got a still on the other side of the island and he visits it every night before he turns in. We all know about it but nobody says anything. He says a little torpedo juice puts hair on your chest.
"YES, little buddy?" He pretends to be angry with me when I interrupt his sleep like this, but secretly I think he kind of enjoys it. Anyway the nights on the island are hot and it's hard to fall asleep without thinking about things. Like The Pirate's Woman. That's a movie I saw twelve times before the wreck, with Ginger Grant and a pirate who tore at her dress and pushed her down onto the deck of his ship.
"Have you ever been with a woman?"
"Gilligan, I've made love to more women than you can possibly imagine. Why in Hawaii alone I -"
"What's it like?"
Silence. I can hear him thinking; I know that he's looking at me hard in the dark. He's been waiting for this question. He heard something different in my voice. And I guess there was something different. For the first time I'm almost afraid of him.
"You mean, what does it feel like?"
"What does it feel like to be inside? Is there anything that can go wrong? Are there any pointers you can give me in case -"
"In case what?"
"In case I ever decide to give it a try."
"Ginger hasn't approached you, has she little buddy?"
"No skipper. Honest. It's hard not to think about it sometimes though."
"Gilligan, if you want my advice you'll stay away from Ginger. That woman would just devour a boy like you. It would be like going for your first swim in the middle of the Pacific during a typhoon. No, what a swimmer needs his first time out is a nice friendly little pond, somewhere he can take a dip without getting too far from shore."
"But skipper, I already know how to swim."
"I'm talking about Maryanne! You must have smelt the perfume she was wearing tonight. That girl's been on this island for a long time now and if she's not ripe for the picking I don't know who is. Those little shorts she wears and that blouse and those big brown eyes. I can't say I haven't been tempted. At first I thought we were going to be rescued right away and it wouldn't look right if any stories got out, an old sea dog like me and her just a girl. But I'm beginning to wonder if we'll ever see Hawaii again."
He put his arms behind his head and said nothing.
"Have you been with a woman recently?"
The skipper rolled out of his bunk and pushed his face against mine. His tiny blue eyes glimmered in the darkness. "What did you say, little buddy?"
"I just wondered if . . ."
"Gilligan, I'm going to forget you asked that. We've talked enough for one night. NOW GO TO SLEEP!"
He gave me a swat with his cap and crawled back into the sack. Skipper was still a little sore at me for firing the last rounds of our flare gun into the toolhut last week. I closed my eyes and tried to go to sleep. Somewhere in the distance I could hear one of the girls giggling.
"If you want to take a dip in the lagoon with Maryanne tomorrow, I can fish somewhere else."
"Now remember, Gilligan, these farm girls can be kind of skittish. You need to handle them gently. Understand?"
"I think so."
"And before you see Maryanne, I want you to get some help from the professor."
"What kind of help?"
"Well, little buddy, the navy taught me everything I know about sex, and the first thing they told me was that a man should never go into battle unprotected. Before you take another step you need to get yourself some armor."
"But skipper, I don't want to fight with Maryanne. And even if I did I wouldn't -"
"I'm talking about RUBBERS, Gilligan! Now pay attention! If you're going to make love like a man, you've got to start facing facts like a man. Now I'm not saying you should rush into anything. Take your time. But when the moment comes I want you to be ready. OK?"
"Aye aye, skipper."
"Good night, little buddy."
[Editor's note: Stay tuned for part two!]