Part 6

"Kansas was never like this." Maryanne and I are both stretched out on the beach watching the sunset. She has her short pants on and she is digging her heels in the sand, making little ditches and hills.

"Except for the sunsets. The wheat fields in Kansas are as flat as an ocean and almost as big. When the wind blows they even have waves that move across the surface. This sunset is making me homesick."

I'm not ready to talk yet. But I wonder what Maryanne is doing here. In a way, she's more out of place than any of us. Her farm in Kansas was ten times the size of this island and thousands of miles from the nearest palm tree. And yet she's the only one besides me who seems happy here. She stays busy all the time and never complains. Mr. Howell says everyone from Kansas is busy. But I can't figure out what she's doing on a desert island. So that's what I ask her.

"It's not that I don't love Kansas. When we get out of here I'm going straight back. But when I was a little girl I saw a picture of Hawaii and right away I knew I had to see it for myself. That very day I started putting pennies in my piggy bank and I kept it up year in and year out until I had enough for a plane ticket. I would have come even if I hadn't won that contest. And I'll tell you something, Gilligan: I'm not mad about the wreck and I don't care if the skipper was drunk or off course and I don't blame you for throwing over the anchor without a rope. This is a good place and we've got plenty to eat and we've got each other. When I go back to my farm I'm going to miss this place."

She is looking straight into the water like she can see right through it. I reach over and hold her hand. She kind of smiles and looks away but she gives my hand a squeeze and I start to feel warm inside. By now the skipper is with his still. I would have followed him if he'd let me, but I knew he wouldn't. Maryanne doesn't say anything but I know she is thinking about him and the professor and Mr. Howell. She rolls over on her side and moves her head near mine. I look at the buttons on her shirt and a wave of fire sweeps through me at the thought that maybe, in a few minutes, I might get to undo those buttons.

"Gil-li-gan." She says my name like she is playing with it, taking it apart and putting it back together. "A strange name for a strange boy. No one ever uses your first name."

I just sit there trying to imagine Kansas. Funny how Kansas seems exotic and a tropical island seems like home. And if it's true, if we are really stuck here, than Kansas is as far away as heaven. I keep seeing the look in the skipper's eyes when Mr. Howell tore into him, and the look in Mr. Howell's eyes for that matter, and it should scare me. But it doesn't. I am excited. There is a change in the wind and things are going to happen. And thoughts I never allowed myself to think before, like unbuttoning shirts and unzipping pants, are suddenly loose and flying all over the inside of my head.

"Why do you let everyone boss you around, Gilligan? You're as good as they are. Why don't you stand up for yourself?"

It's hard to explain. "When the skipper gives me an order he's not trying to boss me around, he's just telling me that I'm his first mate. See what I mean? The skipper depends on me. And so does Mr. Howell. When I pretend to be his houseboy it's like he's taking me into his home. And helping the professor is an honor. The professor is a great man."

Maryanne looks thoughtful. "I like the professor very much. He reminds me of my father. But sometimes I feel like I'm part of his experiments. And some of the things he says just aren't decent. He came to talk with me last month and, well, I won't tell you what he said, it's too embarrassing. Even Ginger was embarrassed!"

The thought of Ginger makes my knees shake. I look around and there is no sign of her. I force myself to concentrate on Maryanne.

"What if he's right? What if we don't get rescued?"

Even in the dark I can see her eyes flash. "We just have to get rescued. That's all. And we will! I don't care what the professor says."

I let my foot accidentally touch hers. "I don't mind being here as long as you're here with me." It sounded too corny but I said it anyway and somehow it must have worked because Maryanne moves closer and pushes her leg against mine.

I swallow hard. This is it. I start to move my arm but it's frozen solid. I feel like I'm standing at a doorway and if I cross over I can never go back. I imagine her slapping me, and the blood rushes to my face as if she had. But she is waiting. I can feel the seconds ticking by, pushing me, building up, roaring in my ears. I start to swing back and forth like a pendulum. Finally I just do it. I put my arm around her and her arm gets in the way but she lets me hold her and then she closes her eyes and I kiss her.

I pull back and then I kiss her again. She keeps her lips shut tight. I touch her breast and she says something but I can't hear what it is. She feels so soft and yet so firm. This is really happening! I kiss her on the neck and then I reach for the first button. She says "No" and the sound of it cuts right through me. But when Ginger was the pirate's woman she said no, and that really meant no, don't stop. I know that love scene forward and backward. I reach for the second button and Maryanne stiffens but she lets it happen. Her shirt comes open and then suddenly everything changes. Her eyes change and she pushes me away!

"I'm sorry, Gilligan. I can't. I thought I was ready. I tried so hard. But I just can't." And now she's crying.

"It's OK, Maryanne," I say, and I pull out one of the rubbers. She looks at me like she's never seen me before. "Oh, Gilligan! You're changing. Everything is changing too fast!"

What am I supposed to do? "Please don't cry. Let me just hold you."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It would be like giving up. I just can't do it." She crosses her arms over her bra and runs into the jungle.

Part 7...

Copyright 2002
by John Cartan