...::: 26 :::...
Jessup knew that having oneself fired out of a cannon was not an entirely uncommon event in the history of man. Why anyone ever came up with the idea in the first place was a complete mystery to him, but he suspected that whoever thought it up never intended for the whole thing to be taken seriously. It had probably been somebody’s idea of a joke. A joke that usually ended up turning gullible people into paste.
Jessup mentioned those thoughts to Willy one morning. Willy wholeheartedly agreed but seemed unable to deter Ron in any way. So Jessup mentioned those thoughts to Ron one morning but Ron pretty much ignored him. The morning after the plan had been conceived, Ron just started doing it. He didn’t care that they disagreed. He didn’t ask, he didn’t waste time trying to convince them, he just started. It was an impressive tactic in that it completely succeeded. Sure Jessup and Willy complained about the plan nonstop, but Jessup noted with fascination that they were both helping out anyway.
Well, Jessup consoled himself, it’s not like we’ve got anything better to do.
Another morning, just for the hell of it, Jessup asked Irving what he thought of the plan.
“Oh it’s a terrible idea young Jessup, but I’m already dead, so what’s the harm?” Irving replied (through Willy, of course.)
“Fair enough, Irv.” Jessup replied. “By the way, I don’t really like being called ‘Young Jessup.”
“As you wish my friend. You should wear your fur shorter if you want to look older,” Irving said through Willy.
Jessup threw his hands up. “You’re all crazy. Do you know that?”
“I’ve known it for years good buddy,” Willy laughed and patted Jessup on the head. Jessup swatted his hand away, but not unkindly.
There was another explosion from the jungle. The second today. It was more than ten minutes before Ron emerged, sweating from the trees. He had taken his two test explosions pretty far away so as not to attract the angry monkey tribe.
“Well boys, I consider that three successful tests. I think it’s safe to say these fish are good to go.”
They all looked at one another for a moment until Willy sighed and said, “Well what the hell ridiculous ass thing are we doing next, fearless leader?”
Ron smiled and gestured them into a huddle, kneeling down so he could sketch in the dirt with his finger.
“We’ll start surveying the mountain. We need to find a suitable location to build this cannon. Here’s what I’ve been thinking. We’ll dig the barrel into the ground at the correct angle and line it with this green bamboo. At the bottom we’ll build a holding tank for the fish-”
“Fish-munition!” Willy interrupted him, giggling. Jessup snorted laughter.
“Yes Willy, the fish-munition. Running straight down into the hold will be the fuse pipe so we can ignite the whole thing. We’ll need to build a stopper, or firewall, or whatever you want to call it to protect the occupant and push him out of the barrel.”
Ron sketched the cannon as he explained.
“We’re going to lose some compression through the fuse pipe and the firewall will be really inefficient, but with enough fish it shouldn’t matter.”
He looked up from his drawing and saw them all concentrating on it. Willy may have even been nodding slightly. He considered this an encouraging sign.
“This is all pretty simple theory but we’re going to have to do a lot of testing. We’ll have to build miniature versions and test them to figure out how much propulsion we’re going to get per fish.”
“And you’re going to have to do that pretty far from where we camp. I don’t know if the others are looking for us, but it’s probably best to assume they are,” Jessup said.
“Right,” Ron agreed.
Willy nodded at them both in turn, starting to get into the swing of things. “So we pack the chute, fill this thing with fish, get in position, drop a torch down the fuse pipe and bing, bang, boom get launched over to Hinnikki and parachute to safety.”
“Then it gets tricky,” Jessup said.
“Trickier than that?” Willy gasped.
“Why do you say that?” Ron demanded.
“Well if you manage not to explode, fall to your death, drown or get eaten by sea creatures, what makes either of you think for a second that Mussajabba will actually help you?”
“Don’t I look like a guy you’d like to help?” Willy flashed him his most charming smile.
“You look like a guy who needs help,” Jessup laughed as he said it.
“Either way old chaps, it beats hanging around this crazy island until you’re dead. And then after you’re dead,” Irving chimed in.
Once Willy had translated, they all agreed with the skull on that one.
...::: 27 :::...
It took a couple days scouting the island (and trying to avoid the Hinnikki monkeys in the process) before they found the spot. It was a piece of land roughly the size of a football field. One of the flat tiers that stacked up to form the mountain. This one faced north, which was perfect and was only slightly below the peak which meant it was pretty high up in the air already. All the better for what they had in mind.
“I think this is the spot,” Ron said.
“You said that five spots ago,” Willy complained.
“Yeah, but this time I mean it,” Ron said.
“You said that three spots ago,” Jessup added.
“Well forget what I said three spots ago. If we can dig in this ground, this is the spot.”
“I liked the last spot,” Willy said.
“Which one was that?”
“Um, I don’t remember where it was exactly. I just remember I liked it.”
Ron looked back the way they had come surveying the land. He looked doubtful. “Hell with it. This is the spot.”
“I think it’s a lovely spot for a cannon,” Irving commented cheerfully.
...::: 28 :::...
Ron was test firing his model cannons in the middle of a clearing while Willy, Jessup and Irving watched from the shade twenty yards away. Their job was to nurse a small fire so Ron would have embers available. Willy was keeping notes in his little notebook about fish sizes, quantities and various other estimations.
They were a good half hours hike from the cannon site and the hot spring, which they were using as their primary camp. They figured if the site was compromised they could relocate the cannon. What they could not do was relocate the hot spring with it’s little, bubbling ammunition source.
They had brought along several halved coconuts full of water and fish-munition.
“Yeah, but my question is why would a monkey even watch human porn? Does that even interest you?” Willy asked.
“Ah, you’re all just a bunch of shaved monkeys anyway,” Jessup waved a hand at him dismissively.
“So what was your favorite tv show?” Willy asked.
“That’s a tough question. Probably Law and Order.”
“Cool. Which one?”
“SVU. I like watching Ice T look confused.”
“That’s interesting man,” Willy mused. “I would have thought your favorite would be something on Animal Planet. Something about monkeys perhaps?”
“I don’t need to watch a show about monkeys man. I live monkeys. I am monkeys.”
“Fair enough,” Willy conceded.
“Fire in the hole!” Ron yelled. They looked over to see him sprinting across the field towards them. Just as he reached them and turned there was a sharp bang and a tiny mound of dirt jumped up from the field. Little dirt clods rained down in the grass for a few seconds.
“Shit,” was all Ron had to say on the matter. He stomped back towards the little smoking crater.
They watched him walk away, shared a glance and snickered for no good reason.
“Hey Willy, I’ve been meaning to ask you. You never told me how you guys ended up on this island. What’s the deal man?”
“Plane crash. Just like Irving here.”
“So sorry to hear that William. Turned out a little better for you than it did for me,” Irving sympathised.
“Thanks Irv,” Willy said. “Actually it was a sea plane so it was supposed to be a landing, not a crash. I guess old Rat Tooth tried to put her down in the bay but we hit a reef or something. Tore one pontoon completely off and ripped a big hole in the bottom of the plane.”
“Who the hell is Rat Tooth?” Jessup asked.
“Oh, that was the pilot.”
“His name was Rat Tooth?”
“Um, no. Not really. That’s just what Ron and me got to calling him. I never heard his real name.”
“Huh,” was all Jessup could think to say to that.
“I didn’t call him that to his face or anything!” Willy seemed embarrassed. “Can you imagine how insulting it would be if he heard that?”
“I can imagine,” Jessup said.
“He did have really bad teeth though.”
“I don’t want to imagine.”
They sat in silence for a while and watched Ron working on another test cannon.
“So anyway, why were you flying way the hell out here in the middle of nowhere in the first place?” Jessup continued.
“We might want to save that story for a time when Ron isn’t around. He made me swear not to bring it up ever again. He kind of got us into some trouble and we had to skedaddle.” Willy gestured towards him. “Here he comes, by the way.”
“Alright,” Ron ran up. “You guys gotta check this out, I think I’ve got it.”
He held up, for their inspection, a rock roughly the size of a quarter. He had tied some red thread around it to make it more visible. The thread came from his underwear. You really didn’t need to know that. But there it is.
“Ok. Let’s just say this is one of us,” Ron proclaims of the rock.
“Ok. Let’s say that,” Willy replied.
“Now check it out. You guys stay here and watch. Try to keep your eye on this rock, we need to know how far it goes.”
He bent over and plucked a fish out of a coconut half, ran back to the cannon and knelt beside it for a minute. He then came back, plucked another stick with a red-hot end from the fire and went back to the cannon.
“Fire in the hole!” he yelled again and raced back over to stand with the others.
Another sharp bang, dirt jumped into the air again and they all squinted for a flicker of red against the pale blue sky. None of them were able to see it but a few seconds after the explosion there was a soft thump when the little rock impacted Ron’s testicles.
He let out a groaning exhale, bent double and fell to the ground.
“Holy shit it worked,” Willy exclaimed.
“I can’t believe it,” Jessup said.
“Jolly good show Ronald!” Irving cried out.
“Huuuuggghhhh,” Ron managed.
Willy looked around for the stone but couldn’t find it. He rolled Ron over to one side and saw it underneath him. He held it out for Jessup to see, smiling delightedly.
“Look! We made it!”
“I can’t believe it,” Jessup repeated.
“Bravo Ronald, bravo!” Irving continued his cheering.
Willy and Jessup hooted and hollered, dancing around and tossing the little stone back and forth. Willy dropped to his knees in front of Ron, kissed him on the forehead and shoved the rock in his face.
“Ron you did it! It worked perfectly!”
Ron was still huffing but managed a reply, “Not… perfectly.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was… aiming… for the monkey.”
Willy snorted laughter and looked at Jessup.
“Well that’s just rude.” Jessup said. They continued celebrating.
...::: 29 :::...
It took three weeks to dig out the cannon barrel and holding tank. It turned out they had to chip away quite a lot of rock to get it just right. Fortunately it was some kind of flakey, lava, shale stuff that broke off pretty easily. As they went they reinforced everything with wood from the trees Ron had cut down during his killing spree. They had to sneak down to the beach at night and steal them away hoping the other monkeys wouldn’t catch them.
The fourth week they spent lining the barrel with slender rods of green bamboo shoots.
When it was done Willy suggested that it was basically the same shape as a bong, tilted at roughly a 45° angle.
Intermittently, during their journeys around the island they would find signs of the other monkeys. They would sometimes catch movement out of the corner of their eye. They would swear to hearing sounds in the jungle. They would discuss it in hushed tones around the fire at night. It was becoming increasingly obvious that the other monkeys not only knew where they were but that they were watching and intentionally avoiding them.
That was the part that really bothered them. The monkeys were obviously waiting for something.
Jessup was certain that wickedness was waiting in the wings. He assured them that the other monkeys, particularly one named Jonsey would be planning revenge. Ron and Willy were not inclined to disagree so work on the cannon moved along rapidly.
The first trials of the barrel went poorly. They took turns sliding down it on their asses. Then they took turns pulling splinters out of each others asses. They spent an afternoon resting their asses and trying to come up with a solution.
Inspiration struck Jessup when he remembered a cave he knew of, way down at the base of the mountain where he spent time hiding out when he first arrived. Back in the bad old days when the other monkeys were really out to murder him. He remembered there being clay there. He thought they could line the barrel with it and wet it just prior to firing.
The next day they hiked down and found the cave. When wetted, the clay was slick. Ron thought it would work. Jessup and Willy spent three days lugging enough of that shit up the mountain so they could line the bottom half of the barrel with it. While they did that, Ron painstakingly lashed together the pieces of wood that would make up the firewall. It had to be about a foot thick Ron figured, to keep it from just flipping sideways when the fish exploded. He made it almost two feet thick to be on the safe side.
Once the firewall was in place they wetted the clay and packed a roughly two inch thick layer of it around the bottom half of the barrel. The part where one of their bodies was going to be sliding at an insane velocity.
When that was done, they stood back to admire their work.
“Bloody brilliant,” Irving said, via Willy, to them all.
“Not bad monkey. Not bad at all,” Ron admitted, nodding in approval. His opinion of the furry little flea-trap had begun inching upward lately. Not that he would admit that under torture.
The next day they hunted down the biggest piece of hollow bamboo they could find and dug out the hole for it to become the fuse pipe. They tested it and it worked perfectly. Amazingly something had gone right the first time.
They still had the somewhat mindless task of converting coconuts to makeshift canteens and stacking a couple dozen at the mouth of the cannon so they could wet the clay when the time came. But that was basically busy work while they considered the really difficult question of how to catch these freaky little fish. Ron had done math equations in the dirt for several hours and somehow come to the conclusion that they needed at least a hundred fish. They had no idea how to catch that many fish and keep them all alive while they did it.
After some experimentation, they had figured out that the fish had evolved and acclimated to the volcanic gas in their environment by storing it in sacs in their bodies. Ron guessed the gas must contain something, maybe oxygen, that they used and then they farted out the rest of the gas. Through trial and error though they found that if you ruptured the gas sac, the fish wouldn’t explode anymore.
A fish might still explode for a couple hours after he had died but it wasn’t going to be enough time to capture ninety nine of his closest friends.
So they couldn’t spear them and rupture the sacs. They couldn’t catch them one at a time and let the gas leak out. How to catch these fish with the tools they had on-hand?
The four of them wrestled with the question for days. Occasionally someone would volunteer an idea only to have it shot full of holes by the other three.
By the time the coconuts were ready, they still had no answer.
Ron set to work mending the parachute with the vine ropes from their last raft. He made it pretty clear that he did not trust any of the rest of them with that task. Willy decided to go for a walk and clear his head. Jessup decided to join him, mostly due to a nasty altercation he had with Ron that morning. It started with the question of who should get the last piece of pineapple but quickly spread to include questions of intelligence, lineage, upbringing, hygiene, penis size, etc.
Ron still had that ax around somewhere. So Jessup joined his friend Willy for a walk.
...::: 30 :::...
Jessup and Willy strolled casually through the jungle and chatted about life, the universe and everything. Jessup had a million questions about the outside world he knew only through television. Little by little, Willy started getting depressed as he explained that almost nothing in the real world was accurately portrayed on TV. Jessup seemed unperturbed by any of that and couldn’t wait to get out into that big old world and wreak some monkey-sized havoc.
After a surprisingly well-reasoned and thorough discourse on the successes and shortcomings of reality television, things got quiet for a while. Jessup realized he had a good opportunity to get Willy’s story.
“So now that your old pal Ron isn’t around, would you like to tell me how the hell you guys ended up crashing here?” Jessup asked.
“Oh, right. Well, lets see. We were on an island a couple hundred miles west of here…” Willy cracked his knuckles while he tried to decide how to continue. “Well Jessup, how much do you know about the world of high stakes poker?”
“Um… you gotta know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em?” Jessup tried.
Willy chuckled. “True. Very true. You do need to know both of those things. You also need to know when to walk away-”
“And when to run?” Jessup interrupted.
“Run, yes! Always an option. A good option!” Willy gave him a companionable little pat on the back. “But in our case, running didn’t seem quite fast enough. Instead Ron and myself gave a big fistful of cash to a sweaty, drunken, extremely disreputable pilot and got on his plane. We stuffed ourselves into his cargo hold between bootleg liquor, cocaine-filled teddy bears and a big collection of literary themed pornographic novels.”
“What?” Jessup said.
“What to which?”
“Uh. So many things,” Jessup didn’t know where to start. “Why were you running? Did you guys cheat at poker or something?”
“Me? No, I wasn’t cheating. I don’t even play poker. Ron is a great poker player. I was just there to take in the sights and drink drinks with umbrellas in them,” Willy replied. “Ron was playing poker and he was cheating. But he wasn’t cheating at poker.”
“Then what was he cheating at.”
“Um… monogamy? I guess?”
“The hell you say,” Jessup was genuinely shocked.
“The hell I say. He was doing the deed all right. He didn’t know she was married though. He especially didn’t know who she was married to,” Willy let that hang in the air, his flair for good storytelling taking over.
“Who was she married to?”
“Clarence S. Rolle. Sitting United States senator from the great state of Tennessee.”
Jessup wasn’t exactly sure how to respond to that since 100% of his political knowledge came from watching episodes of the Colbert Report. “Is that really bad?” he asked uncertainly.
“Well it’s really bad when the senator has the state department flag your passports. Then he leverages the local policia to start an island-wide manhunt for you,” Willy considered it for a moment. “Yes. It was really bad.”
“So you guys made a run for it, huh?” Jessup asked.
“Oh yeah. We got off the island as fast as we could with the first guy we found. At least the first guy who spoke good enough English to understand us and had so little regard for the authorities that he would take us. Of course it turned out he had so much illegal shit on that plane we were probably the least of his worries.”
“And I take it something went wrong with his genius smuggling plan?”
“Guess so. But I have no idea what. We’re just flying along, hours into this flight and out of nowhere the engines just stop. He turns back to us and just says. ‘Gotta put her down,’” Willy threw his hands up to illustrate how frustratingly vague he found that. “We asked him what the hell was going on and he just said ‘Gotta put her down. Outta fuel. Hang on.’”
“That’s it?” Jessup asked.
“That’s it. We huddled in the back between his smugglers hoard and waited to die. I don’t remember a lot of the crash. I think we landed ok but while we were still skipping across the water we hit something. Next thing I knew Ron was slapping me in the face, telling me to get the hell up. The plane was half full of water. He had unbuckled my seatbelt. He pulled me over to the door and waited for the plane to fill up with water so he could open it. Then out we swam.”
“That’s pretty badass actually,” Jessup said.
“Yeah. That’s the kind of shit Ron knows that makes you wonder why he knows it. I mean, who knows to wait for the plane to fill up with water so you can get the door open?”
They both considered it for a minute.
“I’ve only known him for about fifteen years. And occasionally during that time he’s been out of my sight… maybe he’s a secret agent?” Willy mused.
“Well he’s kind of an asshole,” Jessup volunteered.
“Yeah, I think secret agents have to be assholes.”
“I think they have to have assholes. You know, for hiding microfilm and stuff.”
“I don’t think they use microfilm anymore man. I think it’s all flash drives and stuff these days.”
“That’s ok. A flash drive would fit up Ron’s ass.”
They both laughed and resumed their stroll. Just at that moment they crested a hill that afforded them a great view out over the bay. The very bay in which their plane had crashed.
“What’s all that crap?” Jessup asked.
Willy shaded his eyes against the sun and squinted. “Don’t know. Stuff washed up on the beach I guess.”
“Let’s go take a look,” Jessup sounded cheerful. “Quick question regarding your story. What the hell is a literary-themed pornographic novel?”
“Oh, you know man, they like take a piece of classic literature and use some of the characters and some of the plot but they make it pornographic,” Willy replied, stepping over a fallen tree. “Like, Catch Her In The Eye… or A Tale Of Two Titties.”
“Ha! Did you get to read Great Sexpectations?” Jessup laughed.
“No but he did have Fuckleberry Finn.”
“How about To Drill A Mockingbird?”
“The Lord of the Cock Rings!”
“I wonder what Moby Dick would be called?”
“Probably just Moby Dick.”
“That’s so simple it just might work.”