Vegetable Humanity [excerpt] – Jacob Louis Beaney
November 28, 2020
They stepped out onto the hot sticky streets of the tropical afternoon. The scorching midday sun hung high over the church steeples in the distance.
The streets were empty aside from an old dog who roamed the rubbish strewn streets before disappearing down a dark alleyway.
“Right, lets make our way to the nearest brothel,” Tristan said clapping his hands together.
“But I want to go to the tourist information centre first and find some information about our trip to the temple tomorrow, I didn’t come all this way to go brothel hopping with you again,” said India.
“I really need to score first, those guards totally cleaned me out…” put in Toby.
“I don’t really want to do either of those things,” said Daisy.
A chorus of bickering erupted from the group.
“India.” Theo said wearily rubbing his temples. “The itinerary.”
From her bag India pulled out a laminated sheet of paper. There was a respectful silence.
The itinerary, which had taken twenty-four hours of non-stop arguing, fighting, tears, a bloody nose, death threats, bribery and a small act of arson to reach an agreement upon was held in high regard among the group, taking on the status of an almost sacred document. Even Theo’s “Doing it his own way, off the beaten path of consumerist capitalist tourism” was allocated a two hour slot on Tuesday.
“The itinerary reads as follows: After reaching the hostel and freshening up we will split up into three groups. Tristan and Toby will band together and go in search of sex workers and drugs, India and Theo will discover the real island and sample some of its authentic local culture. Daisy will decide to go with either group or stay in the hostel room and read a magazine. We will meet back at the hostel bar at midnight for reflection on our experiences and adventure so far.”
The group all nodded in agreement.
“Right Tobes, let’s crack on,” Tristan said slapping Toby on the back as they walked down the street together.
After several minutes they came upon an old man digging in the rubble.
“Aloha amigo, do you speak English? We were wondering if you could point us in the direction of some girls and maybe a little marijuana for my friend here? Or maybe you have an attractive young daughter of your own looking to make some dineros?” Tristan said slapping a wad of dollar bills against his palm.
The old man stared at them blankly. Tracts of dried tears could be seen in his dirty face.
“I don’t think he understands…” said Toby.
“Putas? Cocaína?” asked Tristan.
The old man turned away and continued clawing into the rubble.
“I think this one might be a bit retarded or something…” Tristan said shrugging and moving on down the street.
He saw an elderly women some distance away in a shawl, beating an old carpet that erupted into a cloud of dust.
“Aloha senorita, importante blanco hombre, mucho dinero, Americano dollares! Donde estan las putas? Cocaína?” Tristan shouted waving a wad of dollar bills at her from down the street.
India stood outside the freshly painted tourist information centre which had come into existence as of 9 am that morning. Theo stood some way away, red faced and embarrassed.
“Hi, good afternoon, I would like some information regarding the temple at…”
The old lady handed her leaflet.
She rubbed her thumb and index finger together.
“Oh, of course…” India rooted through her beaded purse and handed her a twenty cent piece.
The old lady took the coin and muttered something under her breath.
“Did you get what you were looking for?” Theo asked.
“Yes thanks, they don’t seem very friendly here.”
“They’re just a more direct and honest people than Westerners. What you see is what you get. I personally find it refreshing.”
Theo knelt down by a water pump and began to drink from it.
“Theo, I don’t think you should drink the water here…”
“Oh, nonsense, that’s just what they tell tourists so they keep buying mineral water in plastic bottles. The water’s fine.”
Tristan walked down the line of women. He stopped, lifted a middle aged woman’s sagging brown breast and squeezed it like fruit in a supermarket before checking her gums and pubic hair for signs of lice.
“This one and…this one” he said pointing to two women, a young girl and a woman old enough to be her mother.
He pulled a crumbled piece of paper from his pocket.
“Van a comer pedos? El dinero no es objeto.” he said reading from the sheet.
As he counted out his dollar bills he felt a thud in the back of his head and he fell to the floor.
Daisy sat on the bed looking through a magazine. It was a 1968 edition of National Geographic which featured a 28 page special on the island. She was re-reading an article about a tiny tree dwelling marsupial. It was a rare and endangered species found only on this island. It was every naturalist’s dream to see one, however all study visas had been rejected for the last fifty years.
The island was also host to several other rare and endemic species, some of which veered into the pseudo-science of cryptozoology such as the El Cerdo Diablo, which any self respecting biologist will tell you simply couldn’t and didn’t exist.
This tree dwelling marsupial was the only reason Daisy had agreed to take the trip.