The following is a guest post by author Ian Couch. Ian previously served as a fiction editor for Barely South Review, worked as a head writer for the sketch comedy show Magic Pants, and has written for several television programs. Having taught fiction classes at various schools and received awards for both fiction and screenplays, his stories appear in Papyrus, Clockhouse Review, NOBS, Defenestration, and Drunken Boat. He lives with his wife in the Washington, DC area.
The initiative was titled ASSHOLE ISLAND, which I think was just spiteful. They’re the idiots who don’t know how to govern a society, and then they blame us before shipping us off to an unsettled rock in Vanuatu. Let me start by saying that I don’t belong here, and I’m getting out of this hell hole. Okay, honestly, the island itself isn’t that bad. To save everyone a trip to the atlas, Vanuatu is off the coast of Australia. Shore-mounted telescopes show indigenous tribes on neighboring islands whooping and stomping around giant bonfires with their dicks hanging out. Nobody on our island whips their dick out. Before loading up the high school bullies, the people who drive to the edge of construction zones before finally merging, and the folks who laugh while correcting others’ grammar at parties, the powers that be surgically sterilized us. We’re told that the tropical locale is proof that the island isn’t meant as a punishment, but the empty nut sack dangling between my legs says otherwise.
Finding scrap for my escape pontoon is easy; most of the deported residents tend to throw trash by the truckload wherever they please. My first vessel, a raft cobbled together from surplus God Hates Fags posterboards, was torched by teenage “gang members” from upperclass suburbs. If I ever catch them, I’m going to punt their nonexistent testicles out their chubby asses. I now hide my current project under old Humvee tires, last year’s jumbo flat screen TVs, and the rest of the garbage that blots out the beaches.
I need to venture into town for the last piece of the boat – a radio. They built a little village before marooning us. Nothing nice, the kind of clapboard job governments toss up to test nuclear weapons on. I hate going there. Motorists catcall pedestrians, bikes get stolen, and everyone sports herpes sores on the sides of their mouths. The sores don’t have anything to do with everyone being an asshole; it’s just something weird I noticed. Finding specialty equipment like complex navigational charts should be difficult, but I found them weeks ago. The library is extensive and completely untouched. Swarms of morons blasting window rattling bass tells me that finding an unlooted radio will be the hard part.
People have already cleared the electronic store’s aluminum shelves of ultra loud car alarms and emptied the cardboard bins that once held Bluteooths. Behind the counter, a twenty-something with facial piercings and neon earbuds scrolls through her MP3 player.
“Excuse me,” I say. She rolls her eyes up to me, and I immediately get the gist of why she ended up on the island. I don’t understand why people can’t do their jobs without expecting a trophy. I remember a time before I got sent here when some register biscuit was crying while checking people out at the grocery store. She apologized and started telling me how her sister had a seizure that morning, but I cut her off and told her I was much more concerned with getting home before rush hour. Is being in a hurry really enough to warrant deportation?
The girl in front of me now keeps staring, and I think maybe she didn’t hear me over the music bubbling out of her ear pieces, but then she says, “Yeah?”
“Do you have a radio receiver?” I ask. “Something for weather updates.” She tells me they’re out, and I ask her if they have an extra one in the back.
“I said we don’t.” She thumbs the volume up on her player. “Did you want me to make one from coconuts?”
I want to yell at her or knock a display over, but I tell her, “Thanks for nothing,” instead and walk outside. Discarded gum carpets the sidewalks and, in my frustration, I forget to watch my step and squish a wad beneath my flip-flop.
Ancient mariners predicted the weather; the library probably has a book on how. A “red sky at night, sailor’s delight” sort of thing. The sun’s setting, and I look to the west where my pontoon lays hidden beneath garbage. Glowing red shimmers up from the horizon, but so does orange and yellow and pouring black smoke. I’ve wondered how long it would take for some idiot’s tossed cigarette to light the island on fire and kill us all, and today looks like the day. Refugees stampede through town, away from the approaching blaze. Rather than knocking on doors or utilizing the volunteer firehouse, they throw planters and park benches through store windows and flee with armloads of camo pants and cheap beer. Now I understand. We really are a pack of assholes.