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White Lies


We'd stay at our look-out post until the bottom curve of the sun was just about to hit the horizon, then we'd head back. There wasn't much point spying if it was too dark to see, and anyway, Jed said it wasn't safe to be up on the island after nightfall. You didn't know what or who you might be walking into. Back at camp, Jed would go and talk to Sal - filling her in on the day's non-events - and I'd get some dinner. Then, carrying my bowl of leftovers, I'd look for my old fishing detail. Usually I'd find them near the kitchen hut, having a smoke before bedtime.

Lying to Sal and Bugs was easy but I hated lying to my old detail, and I hated lying to Keaty even more. The truth was that I didn't have a choice. Until we knew whether Zeph and Sammy would make it to the beach, there was no sense in stirring. The best I could do was satisfy Keaty's curiosity about the exact nature of Jed's work, and when I told him he wasn't as surprised as I'd expected him to be.

'It's a good idea,' he said, matter of factly. 'Since the Swedes, people have been worried about who might turn up.'

'What about since me?'

'Daffy told you. It's different.'

'Were people angry about the Swedes then?'

'...Daffy mainly.'

'Jed said Daffy didn't like him much either.'

Keaty started cleaning his Gameboy screen against his shorts. 'He didn't make it very easy for any of them, but once they were here... you know... what could he do?'

'Is that why he left the beach?'

My question hung in the air while Keaty carefully inspected the tiny glass panel.

I asked him again.

'Basically,' he said eventually. 'Yeah.' He pushed in the Mario cart and switched on the machine. 'You completed this yet?'

'About twenty times.'

'I was wondering where the batteries were going...' He gazed at the Nintendo but didn't begin playing. 'So what do you do when you find someone coming?' he asked casually.

'...Just watch them, I guess.'

Keaty grinned. 'You mean you take them out, right? Extreme prejudice.'

'I'll tell you when it happens,' I replied, laughing uncomfortably, and was spared any further questions by the arrival of Jesse, looking for some Rizlas.


After that conversation I'd more or less managed to avoid the subject of my detail. It wasn't difficult. Keaty had taken to his work in a big way and it only took a small nudge to get him talking about it. To my relief, the same applied with my other ex-colleagues, so I could always steer the conversation towards fishing. From their point of view, I suppose they were trying to emphasize my inclusion in the group by sticking to topics of shared experience. From my point of view, I was happy to talk about anything that upheld a sense of normality.

For the first few days, during my panicky stage, this was a bit of an effort. Given the way I was feeling, a calm exterior required constant concentration. When I let my guard drop I would drift off into my own anxious thoughts while people were talking to me. I could only use the excuse of being stoned or tired up to a point.

But there was a helpful side to the constant concentration: I never had time to feel jealous of the ease with which Keaty had replaced me, or sad that the secrets I was keeping were causing unexpected barriers between me and my friends. Unexpected, because I'd been worried that the detail would distance me from them, but soon I understood that it actually distanced them from me. I was still involved in their lives. I knew what was going on. I knew when they'd caught a pretty fish, and that Jean was trying to lure Keaty back to the garden, and that Cassie was trying to arrange a move from carpentry so she could work with Jesse, and that Bugs wasn't having any of it.

I no longer had to struggle to maintain a calm appearance. In theory, perhaps, then I should have started to feel jealous of Keaty and sad about the lies, but I didn't. Curiously, I took comfort from these things. I realized that I had been given one less problem to worry about, because if I was the one creating the distance then I had equal power to remove it. And if Zeph and Sammy failed in their attempt to reach us, I would be able to bring them closer without any effort. It would simply be a matter of not lying to them any more, which would be easy, seeing as there'd be nothing to lie about. Obviously, this was only a comfort if Zeph and Sammy failed to reach us, but if they didn't then Sal would certainly get to hear about the map, and I'd be fucked anyway.

It was in this frame of mind alert but calm or something close that the second aspect of my new detail emerged. I think I first noticed it on the fifth day, when I woke half an hour before Jed and impatiently counted the minutes until it was time to go. Or maybe it was the sixth day, when Zeph and Sammy were missing from their beach and we scanned the sea for three silent hours, coolly professional, nothing to be said, until they reappeared three hours later. Most accurately, Keaty noticed it first, although he didn't realize it at the time. 'I bet you're secretly looking forward to prowling around up there,' he'd joked when I'd told him about the switch, but my mood had been too sour to see that he was right.

There was nothing strange about it. Jed and I were on a covert mission. We had binoculars, jungle, a quarry, a threat, the hidden presence of AK-47s and slanted eyes. The only missing element was a Doors soundtrack.

Too familiar to be strange, and too exciting to dread. Before long, impossible not to enjoy.


Date: 2015-02-03; view: 434

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