She was out on the veranda and heard noises inside. There were two of them looking around the ransacked living room. One of them had sunglasses resting on top of his head. He was examining the photographs on the sideboard, picking them up one at a time: one of her mother, Ida, as a young girl on horseback, another of May by the swimming pool with the two dogs. Then something caught his attention. He called the other soldier over to look at it - a publicity photo of her father as Captain Blood. It seemed to amuse them.
The soldiers were surprised to find May there. We have to search the area, the one with the sunglasses said. She wondered if they really had any authority to do so or whether, having heard about the place, they were simply curious, drawn to the relics of an extinct glamour.
When she walked down to the boathouse an hour or so later to get some kerosene oil for the lamp, she saw more soldiers on the pier. They were taking a break, drinking sodas and chatting. A song, something from childhood, bobbed around in her head:
Fan me, soldier-man, fan me, fan me . . .
She was eating an Otaheite apple that shed picked on her way down the hill, and she remembered her mother telling her, Dont eat in front of people unless you have enough to share. These men were not enemies, she told herself, and the Otaheite apples were spoiling on the trees. So she called to them, saying they could help themselves to as many as they wanted. They glanced in her direction but didnt answer and went on talking and laughing among themselves.
When she got back home she found the soldier with the sunglasses sitting by the empty swimming pool. He had picked up a fallen umbrella and arranged the patio chairs around the table as though he were expecting company - her company. He asked for a glass of ice water. No electricity. No ice, she told him.
His smile was obstinate. Why you stay in this mash-up place? he asked.
Mash-up place. Maybe. But for the time being it is her mash-up place.
Across from her now, she can see the empty swimming pool, grimy with rotting flowers and leaves. Crabgrass is taking over the patio tiles. There used to be poolside parties, her mother, Ida, had told her, with calypso bands and limbo dancing. Her father got so drunk once that he drove his car into the pool. Marilyn Monroe danced here. And so much champagne spilled, May always thought that was why the tiles smelled yeasty.
Sometimes she dreams of her father walking ghostly in the dew. There are times lately when she has begun to feel like a ghost herself, when the bamboo creaking in the wind and the moths hitting the jalousies sound more real than her own footsteps.
Five thousand miles away in Switzerland, a graying man who is not her father sits in an opulent room, thwarted and quiet. A stack of papers lies on his desk beside an electric typewriter. On the shelves around him are photographs of himself with famous friends, some of them taken during what he calls his tropical years.
He hopes for one thing: to hear from the young woman on the island, to get a letter saying that she is safe and well and thinks of him and even - here the hope dies, and, missing her, he feels again like a man grown small in the distance.
Sunset. Shadows approach the veranda. May gazes across the lawn and for the second time that day has a vision of herself as a child. Shes climbing up from Treasure Cove, her clothes messy with wet sand, and she hears laughter coming from the house. Her mother, Ida, is on the veranda with party guests; her dark hair streams down her back, shining and beautiful, and she wears a red dress as bright as a hibiscus. She turns her head and sees May, the daughter so unlike her, and tosses her a smile.
The evening shadows widen on the veranda, and May can smell the night jasmine now. Mosquitoes will soon be after her. She wants to write as much as she can before dark.
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