As the Rosalind drew closer, as the whitecaps settled and the ocean shifted color from slate-gray to bright aquamarine, they revealed theyself to us in all they splendor. Because let me tell you after twenty-eight days aboard ship, only staring at nothing more solid than the empty horizon, they were something astonishing to see. First it was Santa Maria, which gave the illusion of being the larger of the two, due to its height and closer proximity. Like a hallucination it slipped past we starboard rail. And the ship made she way towards the harbor of Punta Delgada, on the southern shore of the more elongated Sao Miguel. Its triple brown peaks lined up before us, one after the next. And presently on the grassy hillsides of this isle we made out numerous white dots—wandering about, puzzling at first. They were grazing sheep.
Pulled along uneven by a single foresail at the prow—puffing up and falling limp again like the beaten canvas itself was exhausted—the ship creaked she way into the harbor’s clear lime-green water. So still that upon its shimmering surface a succession of watery rings could be seen. Issuing forth from the Rosalind ’s hull-line. Spreading out round us in all directions. Until—at the center of these brightly undulating rings, in a silence void of all save the distant squawk of gulls—Captain Damphier at last issued he command: the sailors dropped anchor.
Out from nowhere a yellow-sailed sloop appeared, seemingly overburdened by its cargo of brown-hued men and women, all wearing colorful costumes. Calling out to us in a language sounding like water sloshing forth from a bucket. Without warning they scrambled aboard. And even before we had a chance to suck we first breath of earth-smelling land-air, we heard they mandolins, strumming-way in our midst. Now the barefoot, brightly-ribboned dancers divided theyself up into parallel lines, stretching the length of the third-class deck. Bowing and curtsying to each other and pairing off, turning round with they hands clapping above they heads, ribbons twirling. Singing out in they watersloshing tongue. Eventually forming a circle so wide it seemed to encompass the entire ship.
With smiling gestures the dancers encouraged us inside they circle. And led off by none other than Captain Damphier heself—spinning round expert and kicking up he heels—we followed timid behind. Next thing you know, son, we were all dancing—every man-jack and womanjill aboard that ship! In whichever graceful or bumbling manner we spirits commanded. Laughing out loud. And in no time a-tall those tedious weeks at sea seemed distant and unthreatening as the sun sinking into the rose-tinted horizon behind we backs…
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Robert Antoni was born in the United States in 1958, and he carries three passports: US, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Bahamas. His first novel, Divina Trace, received the Commonwealth Fiction Prize. He recently received the NALIS Lifetime Literary Award from the Trinidad & Tobago National Library. His other novels include Blessed Is the Fruit, My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales, and Carnival. Our story in Little Star Weekly is drawn from his new novel, As Flies to Whatless Boys, which follows the adventures of a motley band of English dreamers who follow a charlatan inventor to Trinidad to found a utopian community that will erase class and racial distinctions by means of a marvelous machine. Their descendants remain, joining the stew of ethnicities that makes up the island’s population, their crazy origin story nearly disappearing into a forgotten past. As Flies to Whatless Boys will be published this September (it features, incidentally, a memorably libidinous librarian).