Bushman Lives!, p.13Daniel Pinkwater
“Hurry up. You don’t want to miss this.”
We were making our way through the park in the darkness. I could hear distant thunder. No, it was too regular for thunder. Boom boom boom. It sounded like a bass drum, only deeper and probably louder when you got close to it.
“What’s that?” I asked Molly.
“I assume Geets figures into this business . . .”
“. . . because we both got these Lake Scouts permission forms for our parents to sign. Are we in the Lake Scouts now?”
“What’s with all the questions all of a sudden?Up to now you’ve just done what I tell you, as you should.”
“I got nosy all of a sudden. So are we Lake Scouts?”
“Of course not. There’s no such thing as the Lake Scouts.”
“Oh? And what about all these tall, pale, fat, identical-looking . . . ?”
As we passed under a streetlight I caught a glimpse of Molly’s don’t-be-stupid expression.
“Are they robots?”
“Are they zombies?”
“Well, what are they, exactly?”
“Questions, questions. If you wanted to know all this stuff, why didn’t you ask me when we weren’t busy?”
“I’m asking now.”
“You’ll have plenty of time to ask your questions when you get to the island.”
“This is Skolnick Island we’re talking about?”
“And I’m going there?”
“Not if you don’t want to. But you’d be a fool.”
“Look, who’s in charge of all this stuff that’s been going on? It’s you, isn’t it?”
“Me? I’m not even from around here. I’m from upstate New York.”
I was getting confused. Confused and impatient. “Wait . . .”
“No time to wait. Look! It’s in the water already!”
It’s in the Water
There was a frantic scene at Belmont Harbor, which is where people keep their pleasure boats. They looked tiny compared to the Father Skolnick Maru—that was the name painted on the prow. The drumming had stopped. I saw the drum, a huge thing, like a barrel on its side. It had a skin on each end. I guessed it had been beaten to keep time as the Father Skolnick Maru was carried to the water. There were enough Lake Scouts to have done it. I saw some of them gathering up lengths of thick rope and piling them on a flatbed truck, which I supposed had brought the boat to the harbor. More Lake Scouts were carrying things onto and off the boat, hauling on ropes, fiddling with oars, holding torches so others could see, rushing in all directions—it was organized chaos.
The trireme itself was incredible. It was like a rowboat crossed with a centipede. There was the gorilla-head figurehead, and there must have been fifty oars on each side. Except for the oars, there was nothing about it that would make sense as a boat to a modern person. It reminded me of some kind of prehistoric animal at the Museum of Natural History. It was floating lightly, dwarfing the little sailboats and cabin cruisers.
I could tell which was Glugo, the guy who had built the thing. He was a King Kong—looking type in a leather apron, gazing with love on his creation. Golyat Thornapple was standing with him, a bundle of papers rolled up under his arm. And Captain Shmendy, nude with the posing pouch and the yachting cap, was running around on deck, testing ropes and hollering orders. Of course he was going to be the captain on this trip—who else?
Geets turned up. He introduced me to a guy, built along the same lines as Glugo, named Sterling Hugebee. “I understand you are going to take part in the rowing along with Geets here,” Sterling Hugebee said.
“Me? Row? This triple-decker? It looks sort of complicated.”
“You’re a husky youngster. “I’ll bet you can pull with the best of them. Besides, named Harold Knishke as you are, don’t you want to do like the hero in the song?”
“Harold Knishke in the song rows a boat?”
“I thought all you kids knew that song.”
“It’s time we got aboard,” Geets said.
“It’s time we got aboard,” I said to Molly, who was standing nearby.
“Time you did. I’m not setting foot.”
“You’re not coming to the island?”
“I’ll see you there, but I’m not going by water. I’m allergic to boat trips since I took a ride on the Hudson one time.”
“How are you going to get there?” I asked.
“Let’s go,” Geets said. “Captain Shmendy is going to instruct the crew.”
Complicated did not begin to describe what it was like on board the Father Skolnik Maru. First we had to walk on a gangplank that was a long, bendy board about six inches wide, as the boat bobbed in the water. Once we were on deck, everything was crowded and difficult, and there were about a hundred large, clumsy Lake Scouts milling around and tripping on things. A couple of times I was almost knocked overboard.
Finally Geets and I got into place to row. There were little narrow hard benches, offset and stacked three high, and the oars were of three different lengths, the longest at the top, then shorter, then shortest. The way things were set up, if you were not at the top—I was at the bottom—the oar of the rower above you could smack you in the face if you were not leaning back and pulling when he was.
It was about a hundred rowers, one to an oar, and except for Geets and me, all of them were Lake Scouts. I hoped they knew what they were doing—I certainly didn’t. Geets didn’t seem bothered by any of this, I supposed because he had been in the navy for a little while and that built his confidence. But I was pretty certain they hadn’t given him trireme-rowing training.
Golyat was on deck—he was a passenger and wasn’t going to row. Geets’s friend Hugebee was onshore with Glugo, the boat builder. And I thought I saw my father! But I was peering out of the oar hole and couldn’t get a good view. Victor was with us, and also the two weird whitewashers—they had brought a drum onboard, a smaller version of the giant one. Obviously they were going to tap out a rhythm for us to row to.
Victor poked his face down into the little cramped space. “Hey, kids! Glad you made it! I’ve been wanting to take this trip back to the island for most of my life!” He was all excited.
“Say, Victor—about this island . . .” I started to ask, but then Captain Shmendy started to holler and everyone got quiet and listened.
“Crew! We’re about to get under way. The tricky part of this voyage will be getting the craft out of the harbor. There are lots of small craft at anchor, and we will have to thread our way among them and sink as few as possible. Listen to my commands, and obey instantly.”
Geets was sitting in front of me. “What commands? How do we know what to do?” I whispered to him.
“Just do what the others do,” Geets said. “How difficult could it be?”
Incredibly difficult is how it was. Fortunately, the Lake Scouts all moved as one person, and by simply freakishly panicking and scrambling to do what they were doing while actually whining with fear, I was able not to get my oar tangled up with the oars of the rowers before and behind and above me.
This is what Captain Shmendy said, one command after another, without stopping:
“Prepare to give way! Give way together! Easy, starboard! Easy, port. Easy, easy, port! Back, starboard! Hold water, port! Blades up! Blades down! Lay on your oars! Belay that command! Hale up the brails! Helm’s-a-lee! Handsomely now! Hold water, all! Sharp, starboard! Forge ahead!”
I have to hand it to those robot zombie Neanderthal or whatever they were Lake Scouts. I had no idea what they were doing, but they did what they did the moment Captain Shmendy hollered a command, and they all did it together. I was sweating and whimpering and goi
It took at least an hour—maybe two.
A Calm Lake and a Prosperous Voyage
And then, Captain Shmendy hollered, “We’ve cleared the harbor! Now give way together, cheerly! And strike up a chantey!”
It was straight rowing now. The lizardly whitewashers kept a steady beat on the drum. A lake breeze cooled our faces. The rosy-fingered dawn had begun to illuminate the surface of Lake Michigan, and we sang,
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream
The UFO Bookshop
I woke up in my little room behind the shop, washed, got the big electric coffee percolator started, and got ready to open the shop. This had been my routine since I first hit town. Mr. and Mrs. Gleybner had hired me on the spot when I walked in the door, carrying my bag and my bottle of papaya juice.
“Oh! Look, dear!” Mrs. Gleybner, who was short and round, said.
“Oh! Yes, dear!” Mr. Gleybner, who was also short and round, said.
“You are just the employee we have been wishing for,” Mrs. Gleybner said.
“You will like working here,” Mr. Gleybner said.
“Do you come from . . . a long way away?” Mrs. Gleybner asked.
“Yes. Los Angeles,” I said. “My name is Big Audrey.”
Mr. and Mrs. Gleybner looked at each other. “Los Angeles, she says.” They smiled and nodded knowingly.
The UFO Bookshop specializes in books about flying saucers, visitors from other planets, space travel, aliens who live among us, radio messages from space, and secret government conspiracies to conceal the truth from the people. They also have books about the abominable snowman, Bigfoot, crop circles, the Bermuda Triangle, mystery spots where gravity works backwards, secret cities underneath the surface of the earth, and chickens who can foretell the future. They didn’t have any books that told about other planes of existence, but except for that it seemed they had plenty of stuff that would appeal to intelligent people.
The store also had a small selection of binoculars, special notebooks with boxes printed on the pages for noting characteristics of flying saucers you’d see, pens that had a little flashlight built in, and cards with pictures of different kinds of spaceships on one side and different kinds of space beings on the other, for quick identification. There was also the Gleybner Helmet, which was something like a colander with wire spirals sticking out of it and a chinstrap—this was to enhance the reception of telepathic brainwaves from the space people. Mr. Gleybner made them in the basement.
Naturally, the Gleybners had assumed I was an extraterrestrial alien because of my appearance. I tried to explain, but their minds were made up. They wanted me to work for them, paid me the same as I had gotten working at the Rolling Doughnut in Los Angeles, and threw in the room in the back for me to live in. I liked the store, and I liked them. Also, once I got started working there, I found out that Mrs. Gleybner brought delicious homemade sweeelves in the morning, and wonderful soup for lunch. Suppertime, they would send me to the delicatessen or the Chinese restaurant, and we would eat at the table in the back of the store.
During the day, I would dust and vacuum, unpack books, and wait on customers, and when nothing was happening I could read. Mrs. Gleybner spent a good part of each day visiting with other shopkeepers on the street, and Mr. Gleybner would read, work at his desk, and take naps in his rocking chair. There was a store cat named Little Gray Man, and he and I got to be very good friends.
The best thing about working in the UFO Bookshop was the customers.
“The finest and most interesting people in all Poughkeepsie come into this shop,” Mr. Gleybner said.
Of course, I did not know all the people in Poughkeepsie, but the ones who came into our shop were mostly very satisfying to observe and talk with.
I sent a letter to Yggdrasil telling about things I was learning. I told her how Alexander the Great had seen two flying saucers in 329 B.C., how Edmund Halley, who discovered Halley’s Comet, saw one in 1676, how Christopher Columbus had seen one in 1492, and how one was seen in 1783 from Windsor Castle in England. I also told her about Little Gray Man, and how nice the Gleybners were to me.
She wrote back to me that Crazy Wig had seen the word “Poughkeepsie” in a vision and said it had something to do with my destiny, and that everybody there sent their love.
I also wrote to Iggy about Poughkeepsie.
Poughkeepsie is different from Los Angeles. it is an old city, about 300 years old! There are strange-looking old houses, and some of the streets curve and bend and go every which way. There are lots of trees, and a creek twists and turns through the city. in the old days, the creek turned water wheels that powered mills and factories that made piano keys, cough drops, ladies’ underwear, buggy whips, licorice whips, and buttonhooks, and some of them are still there. A big river runs past, and there is a ridiculously high and precarious-looking railroad bridge that goes over it. There are trolley cars that run on tracks, and a gigantic madhouse on the north side of town. And even though it’s a city it’s surrounded by country—you cross a street and all of a sudden it’s farms and forests. There are wild bunnies, rats, and opossums in the business district. The people like to eat jitterbugs, which is the name of a dish consisting of a slice of white bread with a slice of meatloaf on it, and on top of that a scoop of mashed potato, all of it covered with brown gravy. I haven’t tried one—too disgusting—but they are sold everywhere. I spend all my spare time exploring.
Give my love to Neddie and Seamus, Crazy wig, and all our friends.
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About the Author
DANIEL PINKWATER lives with his wife, the illustrator and novelist Jill Pinkwater, and several dogs and cats in a very old farmhouse in New York’s Hudson River Valley. www.pinkwater.com
Daniel Pinkwater, Bushman Lives!
Bushman Lives! by Daniel Pinkwater / Young Adult / Humor / Fantasy / History & Fiction / Science Fiction have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes