The Secret of Morolonago
Part II: Sittin' On The Dock of the Bay
I shot upright at the splash, hand on bolo. I was alone in the cockpit, sleeping comfortably behind the Cat’s controls. Like in the memory I was covered head to toe in sweat and my heart was only now slowing.
I’d left the small side window open for ventilation I reckon that was how I heard a splash. Poking my head out I saw Smith on a folding chair, fishing pole in hand with a cooler and bulky pack radio set beside him. He smiled at me and reached into the cooler. He had two fat mahi on ice.
“We’ll eat good tonight.”
“And how.” I mumbled. “What’d you toss in?”
“Just the line. Why, the smell bothering you miss?”
I shook my head and let him be. Before dozing off I’d stripped down to just the brown skirt and tanktop so my khaki shirt lay crumpled but still dry on the deck, partially draped over tall leather boots. Sitting up I pulled on the boots, after years of wear the soft leather was practically molded to my feet. Shifting my weight from heel to toe and back I noticed they’d need to be reheeled again soon.
Standing fully upright I stretched out to the chagrin of cramped muscles and did a fast trunk twist that was rewarded with a loud pop. Sleeping in that chair is hell on the body. Screw it, I wiped myself down with the formerly dry shirt then threw it on too. I crammed the shirt bottom inside my skirt’s waist band then tightened my belt, making sure the silver buckle sat perfectly center.
My auburn mop went up in a loose bun before throwing on the fifty-mission crush cap hanging from the Cat’s throttle. I won it not too long in a card game from a B-24 pilot at Clark Field. He claimed that cover brought him luck and through 25 harrowing missions. The cap had a permanent dent from too much time under a head set, it was stained with perma-sweat all over, an off shade of tan and dirty as all get out because as he explained, not washing kept it lucky, I convinced him the Air Corps emblem was the lucky part so he removed the metal Air Corps pin from the front and bet it against a matching katana and wakazashi I claimed belonged to Yamashita’s aide. And for all I know it could have.
Finally I strapped on the sheathed bolo and felt ready to face the outside world again. I slung it like a gunfighter, low on my left hip so I could deliver a clean slash as it unsheaths. The bolo sheath itself hung from a pre-war Army cartridge belt, OD once but faded almost brown from sunlight. A canteen and a first aid pack, like the bolo sheath were jury-rigged to it and a few pouches held stripper clips of Japanese ammunition, maybe a compass and some other random debris. I have a bad habit of just shoving things in and forgetting about it.
Now I was presentable.
Outside again greeted me with warmth bordering on unbearable but for the slight breeze off the water. There was really no point to wiping off while getting dressed. In civilization maybe, where folks try to see who can be more dignified, and by that I mean uncomfortable, in stuffy clothes. Out here you just accept the sweat and stench then dress accordingly.
Smith had put away his pole, now three fish sat in the cooler. He had switched to reading some floppy paperback. He looked at me and smiled again as I handed him a San Miguel beer. I’d brought out a pair and a little napkins worth of my favorite food.
“Thanks Miss Grumman.”
“Just Grumman, but I prefer Mattie; or more formally Cap’n Mattie. Your boys report in yet?” I said, twisting the cap off my own. Lukewarm beer makes parched throats happy. Happy enough anyway.
“Nah, figured we’d give them a few more minutes before… I don’t know. Something. Wait longer. Sometimes Mr. Max-” He clicked his tongue and cut his words short.
I knelt on the burning hot concrete beside him. “Now comes a verb.”
“Max gets into his work.” He replied. Opening my napkin revealed three white eggs and a salt shaker. I tapped one of the eggs against the concrete with just enough force to create a crack. Smith eyed it hungrily so I handed one to him too.
“I’ve been out of the loop a few years. Is he famous back stateside?”
I held the egg upright, cracked end up and worke off the top-most shell revealing the hard bato egg-white beneath.
Smith shook his head, “Him? No, but he’s an expert professor of science.”
Having salted the opening I put egg to lips and sucked out the tasty juice. Thankfully not much worked its way out a sliver crack and ran down my neck.
Smith, about to crack his own egg paused and watched me, “What are you doing to that egg?”
Egg juice depleted I lowered it then wiped off my mouth. “I thought it was history.” I followed the reply with a swig of San Miguel.
“Yeah, I guess.” He said very confused and slightly concerned. “I’ve never seen someone suck juice from a hardboiled egg, are you sure you should be… consuming that?”
“San Miguel is a reputable-”
“The egg Miss Grumman! I think you got some rotten eggs!”
This made me pause. And maybe laugh.
“Oh, it’s not rotten.” I tore away a long strip of shell. Some juice leaked out onto my hand but now plain for Smith to see was the treat inside- resting along the rock hard egg white was an embryonic duck, curled up fetally with his gooey baby bird feathers matted down to his skin. “It’s balut!”
The greatest snack on Earth.
Smith bolted upright, dropping his balut and knocking the cooler of mahi back into the sea from whence it came.
“Mabuhay, kaibigan!” I toasted and with one gulp maliit na bibe and bato were out of their shell and in my watering mouth. Simultaneously Smith projected something from his into the water, the wasteful savage.
The Monkeys in Zamboanga
Time past and Smith recovered himself well enough. Not up to the task of watching a repeat performance he disappeared into Cat for a snack of left over C Rations. Too bad, it made him miss a glorious sunset. I watched as sunlight burned away across the water, the sky turned fire orange and a magnificent array of warm hues played across the sky and water. They changed with the dying of the light, different shades, darker and with more contrast. Then it was over as the sun retired beneath the Philippine Sea. Again, I’d never tire of seeing this.
“Oh the monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga…” I sang with San Miguel enhanced enthusiasm. I carried on for a few stanzas getting down to “We won’t go back to Subic anymore” when Smith came back out. He’d strapped on a pistol belt. Concern was visible on his face.
“It’s near seven and they haven’t radio’d in and I can’t get hold of them.” He worried. “I don’t think they’d be this late.”
“Maybe their radio is out.” I suggested.
“That’s possible…” He noticed the bits of egg shell stuck to the pier. For a moment I thought he’d retch.
“Care to join me?” I asked. “I still have a few stanzas to go.”
“I think I should look for them anyway.”
I nodded. “Big city. Do you know where to start looking?”
“I’ve an idea.”
Getting up the second time today I wiped the last of the San Miguel from my mouth and chucked the bottle into the sea.
I sighed, “Tara na.” It looked like I was going to earn me some overtime.
“Is that good or bad?”
I didn’t respond but brushed past him and scrambled back up the rope ladder into the Cat.
He shouted up to me. I hate shouting. Especially at night, a yell feels like it can be heard forever. “Thanks but no Cap’n Mattie. I can handle this myself.”
A few moments of banging about later I came back down with a water proof tin cylinder. I stood before Smith, only now realizing how I towered over him.
“I’m protecting my investment. Your boys get hurt out there, maybe the city falls on them or they cross the wrong carabao and get trampled. Fine. You go after them and get offed too. I’m out the other half my payment.”
Smith readjusted the glasses on his nose. “I appreciate your concern but it’s-”
“Not optional.” I sat down Indian style, holding the cylinder in front of me. I hadn’t realized just how quickly my night vision was kicking in until that son of a bitch blinded me with a flashlight. Instinctively I smacked it from his hand, it crashed hard into the pier and the lens shattered killing the light.
“I think I’ve asked this before…but what the Hell is wrong with you?” Smith asked. It was a fair enoug question I suppose.
A moment later his light pathetically rolled into the sea.
“Myopia and a slight stigmatism.” I replied. “What’d you do in the War, Smithy?” I popped the hinged top off the cylinder and reached inside. My hand came to rest against a combination of cold metal and wood.
“Army, same as everyone else.” He watched me produce two halves of a Japanese rifle from the cylinder. A Type 2 Paratrooper Rifle to be exact, identical to the Type 99 7.7x58mm standard issue Jap Army rifle, which was basically a Mauser with kanji scribbled on it. Being a Paratrooper this one broke down into two pieces mid-way down the weapon.
“You did something to that rifle.”
He said. I ignored him.
“Worked for MacArthur’s HQ in Australia.”
Setting the halves on my thighs I lined up the barrel with the rest of the body and fit them together. Working a small side mounted takedown mechanism I locked the two pieces together.
“Office jockey then.”
“You really know how to make a man feel masculine.”
“You’re the one who chose to man a desk.”
“And what factory did you get sweaty at, Burbank?”
“Nice place, but no. Bataan is my home. I was raised there. When the time came I hid there.” I gave him a moment to let the ramifications sink in.
“Wow. Sorry Miss.”
“Yeah. So you and your three professors are out here playing Doc Savage for the first time. I’m used to taking care of myself outdoors.”
“Point.” He agreed.
I fed the rifle a stripper clip of rounds from a belt pouch, with a jerk of the bolt a round was chambered and the weapon made ready.
“ You hunt treasure-”
I stood up with the weapon craddled in my arms, the leather sling dangling lazily beneath it.
“I hunt people. We’ll find them and be back before you know it.”
“Guess we could leave a note if they come back while we’re out.”
“I really don’t expect trouble but they’ve some nasty critters out here.”
“Hence the rifle.”
“No, that’s what the bolo is for. This just feels good on a walk, makes me feel jaunty.”