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THE LAST RESORT

Daniel pulled off the track and into the resort. He frowned as we came to a halt, motioned me out of the jeep with a flick of his head and reached for the torch. Someone was singing a hymn.

‘Resort’ was way too strong a word for this collection of rundown huts. Over the years it had grown like Topsy from one beachcomber shack to ten, from castaway camp to rambling retreat. Not unlike Dogster, there was no logic in its design, no skill in its  construction; no plan or single vision – one conclusion led to another then another then one more, a series of failed dreams by successive owners that ended up, in this incarnation, creating a whole new aesthetic of its own.

I felt immediately at home.

The swimming pool had churlishly cracked in two, the kitchen lay sideways in defeat, a swamp oozed victorious where a lawn should be and, in the centre of it all, a large double bed sat triumphant. I puzzled about that bed.

Debris was strewn everywhere, left as it fell; plastic water bottles, dented cardboard boxes, bent utensils; broken eggs and grey strips of bacon; a rancid lobster pink on a throne of dead fish – and there, in the midst of chaos, Eunice and Mary cooked dinner on the wood stove, singing that mysterious hymn.

Then I saw the she-monster.

A large beach umbrella tilted over the apparition, decorated with three pink lanterns hanging from the struts. Candles cast a soft, Gauguin blur over that double-bed cocoon. A clutch of other tourists sat around her, moths to the flame, guzzling the remaining bar stock. They were very drunk and very friendly, lost in an earthquake after-party, gaily welcoming another white man out here on the edge.

The bed creature wore a broad Italian picture hat and a grubby kimono decorated with tiny pink and blue flowers. The delicacy of the print was at odds with the slab of flesh that wore them. The Gorgon’s hair was disheveled, her face a smear of old make-up and yesterday’s scorn but she seemed in high spirits, regaling the captive throng with filth and fantasy. Crazed laughter burst forth from her audience every few moments, high pitched hilarity with a desperate after-taste.

‘You must be Mister Dogst-argghh!’ the she-monster shrieked, ‘Welcome! Welcome to the Last Resort!’

Wild excitement. What are they on?

‘Da-a-arling, come over here and meet my newest best pals!’

A roar of welcome. Lord help me. Mrs. Monster clapped her hands with glee.

‘Sit here, darling, sit down beside me. You must be exhausted.’

*

Daniel grabbed his opportunity, took a lantern and swiftly disappeared into what remained of the kitchen. I saw him talking animatedly, waving in my direction, heard word ‘gu-u-uria’ and my name. A gasp from the girls and I knew the narrative had reached its climax. They all looked across the lawn at our little party.

‘Gu-u-u-ria-man,’ Eunice whispered.

Mary said a little prayer, crossed herself then spat.

Daniel just curled his freeze-dried lip.

‘Pfft,’ he said, ‘stupid white man…’

*

Dogster did as he was told, perched delicately on the edge of the bed while a glass was pressed upon him and whisky poured into it. I shook the monster’s soft, fat little hand and relaxed a little. The liquor helped. There was a strange smell.

‘It’s a miracle,’ she continued, ‘from up there a-a-a-all the way to down here. Quite incredible. It’s a miracle I’m alive. A true miracle!’

Mrs. Michael went on in this vein for a very long time. I could see Diva Rules must apply; shut up, listen – then applaud. This was gonna be a long night.

A woman called Shirley sat leaning sideways on a canvas chair, evidently quite drunk. Her husband crouched beside her, balancing his glass precariously on one knee. Unshaven and sweaty, he wore a bright blue and white tropical shirt, loose red board shorts and an enormous beer-gut. It was a long time since he’d seen his dick.

‘Pleased to meet ya, fella. Stuart.’

His grip was exceedingly strong. I tried to be manly back but sheer power defeated me. My palm was crushed. I would never write again.

What either of them was doing on this strange island in the middle of the Pacific was anybody’s guess but, by the look of excitement on Shirley’s face, I knew I would inevitably find out. She was flushed and silly drunk, words flying like shit from a ga-ga goose, babbling her inadequacies at anyone within earshot. Unfortunately, this time, it was me.

*

Our glasses, once empty, were swiftly filled by a third man who wandered aimlessly around the bed, disappearing every now and then to search for another unbroken bottle of anything to pour for his new friends. He had no pants on. I don’t know why. Now his nether regions were covered by a tablecloth made into a skirt.

‘Gidday. I’m Ra-a-alph,’ he slurred in a rich Aussie drawl, ‘from the Gold Coast.’

He offered a large sticky paw. I took it and shook it and tried not to breathe. Ralph smelt heavily of alcohol.

‘The wife’s in the cabin lying down…’

If I lit a match he’d combust.

He pointed over to the second in a row of four small bungalows. These were the ‘garden view’ suites. Her curtains were drawn tight in a sulk.

‘I’m in the pooh…’

I didn’t get a chance to find out why.

‘Walphie-e-e?’ whined Mrs. Michael in an absurd little-girl voice, ‘Walphie-e-e, will you be a darling and get me another bucket of whatever it is I’m drinking…?’

He grunted his assent and pottered back off to the bar.

‘The wife’s a monster,’ hissed the hostess, ‘she’s the guest from Hell…’

Shirley tilted precariously as one leg of her chair sank further into the mud. Eyes rolling in confusion, she lunged forward without warning, made an odd noise and then regained her balance. The poor thing was looking very pale.

‘Jeese, I’m pissed…’

‘I’ll look after you, darlin’.’

It was Stuart, making an effort to prize himself from the lawn.

‘Christ,’ he said to no-one in particular and staggered against the base of the bed. The whole thing shuddered. So did I.

‘Look what I found!’

Walphie loomed out of the darkness. He was sporting two cocktail umbrellas, one in each ear, a swizzle stick up each nostril and an unopened bottle of Dom Perignon.

‘Ahhhhh,’ she cried, ‘fancy dress!’ and laughed and laughed.

Shirley made a noise like a cat with a hairball.

‘Hoick…‘ she said.

‘Drink up everybody, we’ll have a toast!’

*

‘What’s got into her?’ Daniel said.

‘You should’ve seen her, boss,’ piped Mary, ‘she fle-e-e-e-ew!’

Daniel gave her the look of death. She stopped talking abruptly.

‘Never seen her like that…’ he mused, ‘never seen her so happy. Something’s wrong.’

Eunice stared vacantly into the darkness.

She knew.

*

‘Pour it, pour it, darling!’ Mrs. Michael shrieked, holding her glass up as high as her fat arms could go. Ralph popped the cork to mass hysteria and proceeded to distribute the champagne. As their glass was filled each guest was gently prevailed upon to speak.

‘Speech! Speech!’ the monster shrieked at Shirley. Sideways Shirl was too dazed to respond.

‘Hoick…‘ she said and crossed her eyes.

‘Speech, Stuart, speech!’ the hostess howled. Stuart simply farted.

‘There’s ya speech.’

There was a strained quality to Mrs. Michael’s mirth, something just this side of the brink. The whoops of joy became louder, more forced, almost abandoned as she started to lose control. Nobody knew what to do. It was like watching Maria Callas on crack. She took an extra long breath and changed octaves to a hysterical, high-pitched sobbing.

‘Christ, is she having a fit?’ Stuart said.

‘Wah-h-h-hargh-h-h-h,’ went Mrs. M, ‘wah-h-wahggh-woo…’

‘Are you all right, Mrs. M?’ Ralph shouted, peering deeply into those wide, staring eyes, ‘everything all right in there?’

‘Izza miracle,’ she sobbed, ‘a miraculous miracle – una miracolo…’

Ralph patted her shoulder.

‘She’s having a delayed reaction…’

‘Nah, she’s just pissed as a fart,’ drawled Stu.

‘Izza miracle, Walphie…she whimpered and made a grab for his hand.

‘A toast!’ said Ralph, dancing away from the claw,’to the miracle!’

Mrs. Michael lay back on the pillows and sighed.

‘Mi-i-iragle.’

Walphie looked at me and rolled his eyes.

Our hostess was asleep in seconds.

*

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