1.1 Island of Thora
An orange sky and tones of blue cast above and glows of glare streaming through the flocks of grey cloud hurt his eye as he trained on the horizon. On the eastern wall, a rainbow appeared faintly for a fleeting moment, ending its tail into the sea. He could see the tail end like a multi-coloured beach ball in a flush right over the waves within an arm’s reach to the vessel. A mechanised boat with an open deck and its engine making loud noise for they left the engine bay open with the hood slipped back partially. The rudder guy on the fish-deck controlled the tiller with a foot on the paddle and watched the engine below. These marine engines were donated by Japan to be installed on fishing boats and now the fishing boats took a contemporary change laid with a deck to cover the vaults like a floating platform.
The sea was rough or troubled with spontaneous waves and flouting ripples, water splashing on their faces and sweeping on the deck as the boat rolled through the surge. He could hear the squeaks of the sail on top of the wind clamour. It didn’t have to be so red in the sky at this hour, perhaps – a blanket of dust caused this ruddiness.
A bunch of girls on the bow were wet through and hair blown in the wind. When wind blows, two things happen on the road; it blows their hair and messes their dresses. And it did reveal a little nakedness of the bunch on the deck in the sun.
One of the passengers on the boat reached the girls and lowered before them. A tall guy with a bald fore-head and a crafty smile in a long-sleeved knitted sweater. He was smiling all the time since the journey began. Muaz felt envious about him, particularly of a guy half-bald and a wide gap in his front teeth. He heard it somewhere that those were the type most efficacious with women.
There was not a thing to worry about other than a common cold or a running nose. He was out of school when schools closed due to a spread of conjunctivitis last October. His home was a garden of quarter acres and a single-storey house in the middle. A house planned in the old fashion with several vestibules and no bedroom. Beds and cupboards placed by the corners. He grew up with his half-brother and half-sister. While his grandfather sat on the porch reciting from the Holy Book, three siblings would play a game of hide and seek trying to keep out of his eye, climbing over the walls of four shower gardens flanking on one another and through barred windows of the house. They thought they did for a week. Now that he knew his grandfather just pretended not to see a thing.
He heard a clutter of noises and opened his eyes. One of the girls in a pale pink frock was helped over the deck to the rear side for a liveaboard pee. Her skirt blew up in his face as she crossed beside the load of wooden boxes packed of band instruments. He caught those slim yellow legs and round little bums under a white pair of knickers. An ocean breeze and drowsiness caused him an uneasiness in the crotch. As he watched, that guy lowered the girl on the brim of the fish-deck facing the bubbling sea rising to her toes. She was extremely scared that she could hardly pee.
“Ahoy!” called a guy on the opposite side of the deck offering a bottle of soft drink with an arm extended. He wore a tight pair of jeans shorts with hairy legs tossed on the deck. Folks would know him; the lead singer of the band called The Pink Sharks. “I noticed you sitting alone for three hours. Don’t you have a friend aboard?”
“No, I don’t know anyone,” replied Muaz moving up to reach for the bottle and relocating himself next to the singer, “Thanks.” There were several crates of bottled soft drinks on the deck.
“Anyone on the island you know?”
“My grandma. I’m going there on invitation.”
“I’m Mannan. What is your name?” he offered his hand for a shake.
“Muaz,” shook hands and sipped from the bottle to throw out at once.
“Oh shit!” cried Mannan.
“Portello! I can’t drink this stuff!” The fizz on the deck turned to a pinkish-purple and he puked again.
“What is the matter with it?”
“It is the colour,” he said.
“What is wrong with the colour?
“I can’t take a tablet of Phenergan even because it is pink,” he said and retched.
“Alright! Take it easy! How about a Lemonade?” Mannan patted the young boy on his back.
“Yes, a Lemonade.”
“Tell me, are you in school?”
“Why? What happened?”
“Smoking,” said Muaz, “my classmate passed me a butt…”
“Nay, don’t tell me you didn’t pull the butt!”
“I did,” he agreed, “It was my first time. We were smoking on the balcony. He saw the headmaster through the balustrades and passed me the butt telling me to hold it for a second and slipped inside the classroom. Head-master stood right behind me on top of the balcony and smelt tobacco at once. I squeezed the butt into my palm. He grabbed my hand and that was it.”
“What did your parents say?”
The bass guitarist of the band moved up a few spaces and joined to listen. Muaz continued, “My mother, a single mother, she did not say anything. She cried.”
“Who is your mother?”
“I’m from Mesquite.”
“I know his family,” said the bassist, “his mother is Lady Zebrin. She wears a sari. I know his brother.”
“Half-brother! You belong to a different father!” exclaimed Salt the bassist.
“Right,” he said, “My father is from Thora. Mom said it was just a frippery affair in a desperate mood after the divorce.”
“You were not planned!”
“How old are you?” asked Mannan.
“Where is your brother now?” Salt cut in again.
“Abroad, in the UK on a scholarship.”
“What grade were you in?” asked Mannan.
“I was in grade eight.”
“Well, that is alright,” he gestured, “You can find a job and cope with it. Do you play any instrument?”
“A little,” nodded Muaz, “tried the guitar.”
“What kind of music do you play?”
“English songs mostly.”
“We play Divehi songs basically. Any folk singer you know?”
By then the sky turned totally red and the island of Thora lay in full stretch from north to south with its forest of palms looming like a dark fortress. He could not detect a glimpse of a beach or a turquoise lagoon as the troubled sea claimed the calm.
Mannan predicted, “When the sky turns red at dusk, it indicates rain into the latter half of the night.”
Muaz took interest in the girls chattering on the deck, “Who are those girls? Are they from Thora?”
“Holiday-goers from the capital going to spend Eid on the island,” explained Mannan, “That lady is from Naraka Velidu. Her name is Nisha. She is a party girl. You can go and talk to her.”
“She must be married!” cried Muaz.
“She is married, alright, but it’s okay.”
“Who is that guy?” he asked.
Salt replied, “His name is Wafig. A very popular guy. A veteran footballer from the south.”
“He’s keen on her,” uttered Mannan, “they’re set for the night.”
“I can see that,” echoed the bassist, “those guys with bald head and a wide gap in the mouth…easily score with girls.”
They laughed and laughter heard by the girls as the engine cut off entering the lagoon. The girls glanced at the band boys with interest.