What have tilefish and superyacht owners got in common?
Collin posed this question at the end of his last post, “Pharaonic fish and flash fatcats.” And now he has invited me, Jack Shackaway, who remains unbound by considerations of political correctness, to explain.
The following passages are from a novel in progress starring yours truly — even written by yours truly though Collin will no doubt try to claim otherwise. The book is a work of fiction, but I’m real and the things described in this chapter, at least, actually happened. You could call it straight-up reportage. And here, something that Collin would never do, I insert a smiley-face: 🙂 Hah!
“Japanieces!” Des told me.
We were standing in a large open-air hot pool high on a jungly hillside on the island of Langkawi, in Malaysia, palm fronds silouetted against a big moon overhead, bright strings of colored lights festooning the bar below. Only a few yards away, four luscious japanieces-to-be stood immersed to their bikini-tops.
“Oh, boy!” Des added.
Rich yacht owners have lots of nieces. You tend to find these items draped about their boats, many of them in advanced states of undress and sometimes, not often, more than half the age of their hosts. One theory has it that an inordinate fondness for nieces is the only reason someone who is otherwise of sound mind would ever buy such an expensive toy as a multi-million-dollar boat. In fact, according to Des, this amounts to no more than an expensive dick-enlargement operation.
“But we get to play for free,” he added. “God is good.” The mere sight of this congregation of Japanese office girls giggling and blushing away in the hot pool had instantly telegraphed a clear vision of the near future.
“You are staying in this hotel?” asked the cutest Japanese girl of all.
Wild surmise swept the pool like an early monsoon gale. “You mean, the big white boat?” asked the second and third cutest ones. “The big white boat down in the bay?” asked the fourth, who was also cute, never mind there was only one yacht of any description anchored down there, and where else would you put a yacht anyway?
“Yeah. That’s right.”
Their eyes grew as huge as Japanese eyes could get, no doubt in the attempt to accommodate the immensity of this concept, this enormous amazing motor yacht way down below in the bay and the fact that we slept on it. The water in the hot pool began to boil all around us as the girls crowded closer. In no time we were on a first-name basis with Tomoko, Hiroko, Sachi and Yumiko.
“Want a drink?” I asked.
“Yes!” they chorused.
“And Bob’s your uncle,” said Des, with a broken-toothed grin, although I think he really meant to say that we were their uncles, for now, and these fine young japanieces should just relax and let us look after everything.
A couple of musicians were beating the shit out of a piano and drums while a bass guitarist measured the carnage. This gang of three plus a singer and trumpeter rushed from one piece to another, laying a vaguely bossa nova beat over everything from Bach to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, charging along as though they wanted to finish up and skedaddle before the cops arrived.
Des seemed just about as antsy. “Boy, those drinks look good, all those little parasols and slices of pineapple. Cherries and shit. Don’t let them get warm, now. That’s it. Down the hatch. There’s lots more of this stuff on the boat. Oh, my. Yes. On the yacht.” Once more, he pointed out the big plate-glass bar window to where Boomboom II sat far below on the water. “Cheers!” he said.
“Kampai,” the girls responded, which, as they had already told us, was Japanese for “cheers.”
“Japaneices, man.” Des whispered at me, waggling his eyebrows in a very discreet manner. “We got japaneices by the boatload. Oh, boy.”
Forget about how busted up he was, Des was a ladies’ man. Pretty soon he was talking to Tomoko in an anodyne semi-pidgin. “I never get rich from photography,” I heard him say, “but I am free.”
“Yes,” Tomoko said, squinting in the way women who are nearly blind and haven’t installed their contact lenses tend to squint. “I see.”
Even smart women like this Japanese office girl generally chose to overlook the essential banality of it all. Somehow, in some way unclear to me, Des’s whole manner and appearance signaled “good for the gene pool.” It probably related to his obvious capacity to survive anything existence could throw at him. Des had that look you see in veteran rodeo riders. National Hockey League goalies used to have it, back in the days before face masks. The look that said, “Do your damnedest; I’ve sustained lots worse and I’m still truckin’.” Nevertheless, Desmond’s most recent girlfriend had left. Bryanni said she still loved him, only she couldn’t stand watching him die the Death of a Thousand Boo-boos.
But he had big eyes and long eyelashes, which he batted, bimbo-wise, and no compunctions about telling a woman anything he thought she might want to hear, and right now he was making out like a bandit.
Meanwhile I was doing my thing, batting my own eyes and explaining to Sachi and Hiroko how I wrote travel articles and suchlike. Just to make a living. But I was really a novelist, when it came right down to it. An artist, really, though I didn’t use that exact word.
“Ah, so,” Sachi said. “What is your name again?”
“Jack. Jack Shackaway.”
“Ah, so,” Hiroko also said, maybe thinking I didn’t believe they were really Japanese.
They were asking where they could buy my books and I was waffling when Des came to the rescue.
“That’s right. And he’s a war correspondent too. Both of us are. Partners to the end. Brothers in arms.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “That’s right.” I’d been trying to forget our latest adventure.
Tomoko and Hiroko headed off for the bathroom, and Des, dropping the pidgin and maybe forgetting Yumiko probably didn’t understand one-tenth of what he was saying, took to telling her, “Yeah, you see, if I build up my photo stock just a bit more—flesh out Malaysia and so on—and with these agencies flogging my stuff in the States and Europe, I figure on retiring before I’m forty-five. Okay?”
Pretty little frown lines formed between her perfectly plucked brows. “Ah,” she told him. “So.”
“Wow,” added Tomoko. She and Hiroko had returned to the table and also pretended to know what Des was talking about, which was something Des himself did not.
“It takes discipline. A freelance photojournalist has to face temptation all the time. You know what I mean? But you can’t give in. You have to have goals, man, and stick to them.”
And Des was sticking pretty close to Yumiko, set to score this particular goal. And maybe still set to score another with Tomoko, since I knew he was capable of adopting any attitude it took to get laid, and maybe two at once. Attitudes, that is. New Age, Marxist-Leninism—whatever they wanted to hear. Even abject middle-class propriety, if that’s what it took, as seemed to be the case with Yumi.
“So.” She tried to jog his memory. “You sleep on the big white boat?”
That’s when we should have made our move—told the ladies to go pack their overnight bags and we’d hightail it for the boat. But Des had maybe had one too many drinks, trying to hurry the girls along, and now he decided the band needed help. In fact, the band really sucked, he told us right in the middle of their bossa nova rendition of “Hotel California.”
“The band really sucks,” he announced again, and he went up to this very band and asked whether he could sit in for the next number.
As a piano player, at least when he was in full stride, as he happened to be at this moment, Des was a cross between Fats Waller and someone trying to demolish a whole piano with his bare hands. As a matter of fact, Des did have his own personal martial arts style, which he’d learned at the same place he learned to play the piano, which was a succession of low-life bars around the world. It was called tae kwan whoa, he informed me once, just before he broke both a guardrail and his foot with one lightning kick. His piano-playing style, on the other hand, had no name, even though it could get a joint rocking under just the right circumstances which these weren’t.
I noticed the japanieces were already looking nervous about their new friends, when the crew from Boomboom II burst upon the scene like a nineteenth-century press gang raiding a Bristol tavern. …
“There is no God.” Des proclaimed.
QED. There we were, japanieceless aboard Boomboom II and on our way to Burma…
So that’s how Des and I got to appreciate on a gut level — however briefly — in what way tilefish and super-yacht owners are same-same.
Collin seems to be planning other tilefish-related posts. I can’t say what those will be.
I hope you noticed the expression “japanieces,” which is a neologism coined by none other than me no matter what Collin might tell you about its provenance.
Have a look at Kicking Dogs, an earlier novel starring me, written by me, hijacked by Collin, out of print and currently languishing on the Internet as an utterly neglected e-book. Collin is even worse at promoting books than he is at writing them.
Photo of Amanputri by J. Everingham.
J.B.S. Haldane, perhaps more of a wag than most of his ilk, famously suggested that “The Creator, if He exists, has an inordinate fondness for beetles.”