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Shipwrecked with a shy call girl, he was a man who believed in life, liberty and the happiness of pursuit.

"Passion In Paradise"

by Ross Olney


Modern Man

 Vol. VIII No. 15-99 September 1959

    THE SUN was blazing. I knew that without opening my eyes, but I couldn't remember at first where I was. The raft was bumping steadily against something, but I huddled on the bottom too tired to move.
    The first thing I remembered was leaving Frisco by steamer for a fling in Japan. Yeah, yeah, five years' savings and I was going to shoot it in four weeks visiting places I'd been during the war. I was in bed on the fifth night and...yes, the ship sinking...the raft...and she came up beautiful in the glow of fire from the ship and I pulled her in. Then the explosion.
    "Hello." The voice was soft and smooth. Now I had to open my eyes. I knew it would hurt so the pain stabbing through my head didn't surprise me.
    She slowly swam into focus. Beautiful. Long blonde hair tumbling wildly down of smooth tapered shoulders and on to...That's all I could see. She was in the water outside the raft and over her lovely shoulder I could see the long, white stretch of beach we were bumping against. I started to rise.
    "Sit still," she said, her voice suddenly edged with panic.
    I narrowed my eyes and glanced stealthily up the beach to the edge of the jungle. Natives, I guessed. Maybe head hunters from the sound of her voice. I couldn't see them but I knew they must be there.
    "What is it?" I hissed, readying myself for the last game fight.
    "I...I... ," she started, pink creeping into her enchanting face, "...you've got to give me your shorts."
    My shorts! I glanced down. My shorts, if I remembered correctly, were my only sleeping garment and the ship had started to go down while I was in bed.
    I had remembered correctly.
    "Oh, I couldn't do that." My fear of natives faded into embarrassment over what she was asking. "Really, no, I couldn't."
    "But you must," she pleaded.
    "What do you want with my shorts?" I've never been one to beat around the bush.
    "Well, I--I just need them." She seemed frightened again.
    Natives be damned! It dawned on me why she was kneeling in the water. "You mean you--you--," I could hardly bring myself to say it.
    "Well, I can't predict what I'll be doing when a ship decides to sink," she blazed. "I was taking a shower."
    "I'm sorry," I said, "but I couldn't possibly." After all, I didn't know her from Adam and she wanted to wear my own personal shorts.
    "But we're on a deserted island. Nobody will see you," she pleaded.
    "Nobody will see you either."
    "You will!"
    "Now listen lady, I--"
    "Eve is the name."
    I had an idea the name, if she would only stand up, would fit her perfectly.
    "Well, Eve, under no circumstances will I give you my shorts. Now let's forget it and concentrate on finding out where we are."
    "All right," she raged, "but don't forget I could have taken them last night when you were out.
    "Why didn't you?"
    "I...I was afraid you'd try to...to take them back this morning when you woke up."
    "You're right," I agreed, "I would have."
    I guess she could tell from the look on my face that I was not going to give up my last bit of modesty. She stared defiantly at me, steeling herself, and rose quickly, the water foaming around her pretty knees. Above that, she showed a lovely need for a T-shirt as well as shorts, but no fabled mermaid could have been more beautiful. With a cry, she splashed indignantly.
    Out of the water and stalked up the beach toward the jungle looking exactly like an advertisement that would read, "I Dreamed I Was Marooned in My Maidenform Bra."
    By the time I collected myself and hurried after her, she had disappeared into the trees.
    My exploration of the island revealed little except that it was small, completely deserted and laden with fruit and nuts, so there was no danger of starving to death. I found a small, dry cave some distance up the beach and decided to make that general headquarters. The cave opened on a large, flat rock, which was ideal for a signal fire and a good look-out for passing ships.
    With a new respect for boy scouts and their endless perseverance, I finally started a fire at the cave mouth and leaned hack to enjoy it. A gentle breeze was blowing warm and sweet, and I had a nice, dry place to sleep with the sound of the rolling surf to lull me. Then remembering Eve I decided that things could be much worse.
    Late that night a snapping twig jerked me out of a doze.
    "Who's there?" I called.
    No answer.
    "Is that you, Eve?"
    Shyly she came into the light of the fire. She had fabricated a skirt from long, heavy strands of grass. It seemed to put her in a better humor, and since it was pretty revealing, it put me in better humor too.
    "Hello," she said quietly.
    I studied her grass-weaving handiwork. When she walked a certain way, I noticed that it, well, it seemed to fall . . . I snapped my mind back to our immediate problem.
    "I found us a place to live," I said, trying to de-emphasize the "us."
    "So I see." She seemed to be taking a very reserved attitude under the circumstances.
    "And we don't have to worry about food. Plenty on the island."
    "Yes, I know."
    She was lovely in the flickering light of the fire. Her lace bra blended perfectly with the gently waving grass skirt. Her blonde hair, magically silver at night, caught the soft glow from the fire and made me breathe more deeply. I began to think that fate was handing me a perfect vacation.
    "When will they find us?" she asked.
    Her words reminded me that no matter how much fun I had, three weeks was my limit or I'd lose my job. But surely they'd find us in three weeks.
    "Surely they'll find us in three weeks," I repeated to her.
    "Three weeks? Why three weeks?" She didn't seem afraid of the prospect, thank goodness. Just concerned.
    "Well, I..." Yes, why three weeks? Maybe three months or three years. Or maybe never. I tried to convince myself by convincing her. "We only drifted one night, right?"
    She nodded.
    "And our ship was on a regular shipping lane. So it stands to reason that, even if they didn't get out a message, which they no doubt did, ships will be passing near here pretty often."
    My words made us both feel better.
    "Now all we have to do is...er...make arrangements for while we're here." I hinted rather than coming directly to the point.
    "Arrangements?" she asked with perfect innocence.
    "Well, yes...I...I feel that that...," I stumbled for words.
    Then she seemed to catch the point be cause there was ice in her voice. "You're married, no doubt." She made it sound like an accusation.
    "And how do you make a living?"
    "I drive a hack in Philly, why?"
    "How often do you give free rides?"
    "Damn seldom," I said, suddenly irritated.
    What kind of a fool question was that? Hack driving is my living. If I gave free runs, I'd damn soon starve. And why was she looking at me...like...that...
    "Do you mean you...you're a...," I started.
    "No," she said quickly. Then after a pause, "Yes...I am."
    "Oh, but surely under these circumstances, you wouldn't..."
    She looked up coldly. I got the impression she would.
    This was ridiculous. No, it was awful. And besides, my wallet had gone down with my pants. I began to wonder if things could he any worse.
    "Good night," she said, apparently uninterested in my soaring thoughts. She swished gently into the cave leaving behind a lonely silence.
    By the next morning I had made several resolutions. I spent an uncomfortable night tending the fire and catching snatches of sleep at the door to her cave. The first thing our little kingdom needed was some sort of monetary system. We could be here forever!
    With breakfast fruit over I approached the problem with my usual coolness. "How about I.O.U.'s?" I asked.
    "But Pete, what do we need I.O.U.'s for?"
    She was going to be difficult.
    "Of course, normally," I began, "when a man and a woman are on a desert island, money is no problem, but in view of your--your business, I thought..."
    "I...I understand," she said, acting as though she was embarrassed to talk about it. But I wasn't going to let her false modesty stop me.
    "That's why I suggest I.O.U.'s. I'll make them good when we're picked up."
    For a moment she looked far out to sea, as if expecting to see our rescue ship steaming in. Then I saw real shame in her face.
    "It's all right," she said finally. "Whatever you say is all right."
    Now we were getting somewhere. I finally decided that, with no paper on the island, palm fronds would have to serve as the currency of the realm. In deciding on fronds I took into consideration the thousands that were already on the island, and the thousands more that were growing every day. Never can tell when a person might need extra money, I thought. Besides, we might never get picked up, in which case I had become a multi-millionaire overnight.
    Eve sat quietly during these important decisions. She was obviously no business woman. In fact, I began to wonder how she ever managed to get along in her chosen profession with such a "don't give a hoot" attitude. She sighed, then attempted to shake her blues. "And what am I going to tell the rescue party when I carry a bushelfull of palm fronds on the boat?" she asked.
    "It's none of their business," I said.
    Threatening clouds had been building up during this time, so I hurried to complete arrangements before the storm. Thinking of first things first, I rushed into the jungle to grab an armful of money, brought it back to the cave, then went back for the second most important thing, food. Finally, I took a burning stick from our fire and started another fire inside the cave. Watching the glow of the fire flickering off the walls, I tried to remember when I'd been in a cozier place.
    Then the storm smashed down on the is land.
    For three days it howled and lashed and tried to beat its way into our snug retreat, but we were warm and dry. Eve was wonderful. She was sweet, friendly and attentive.
    When the storm blew itself out on the fourth day, I stepped outside and looked at the dripping, gleaming jungle. Then I went out to search for firewood, and replenish my supply of money.
    After several hours, I returned with a drooping load of fronds in one arm and a soggy load of green wood in the other. Eve seemed more modest than before our encampment. After seeing the fronds, she hardly looked at me, and she'd discarded her grass skirt for a thicker, more substantial one fashioned from the now valuable palm fronds.
    "Pete, I--" Then I noticed. "Eve baby, you're crying."
    "Pete, I'm sorry things worked out this way.
    Sorry for what?"
    "I...I don't know. Maybe if all this had happened some other time...some other way. It's funny but in a way I knew what she was trying to say. Eve was different. I guess if it hadn't been for her occupation I would have said what I was thinking, but I didn't say anything.
    In the next three weeks, Eve's pile of palm fronds grew steadily, but there was something wrong between us. The leaf money became a kind of formality, but she always accepted them in silence and put them in the back of the cave.
    One morning, several weeks later, I stepped out of the cave and checked the results of another heavy storm. Then from force of habit I looked out to sea.
    A ship was on the horizon! "Eve! Come here quick."
    She rushed out and we stood looking across the water at the distant speck that spelled civilization.
"We've got to signal them!" she cried. Quickly I dashed back into the cave to grab a burning brand from our dying fire. Nothing but hot coals. I rushed back out and looked around frantically at the soaked island. The storm had water-logged every thing and I cursed myself for not being prepared. There was nothing to burn--no way to signal the ship. I looked at Eve and knew that she understood.
    Since our relationship had been strained by some unseen thing, Eve completely surprised me by what she did next. With a shy smile, she unfastened her protective skirt of palm fronds and offered it to me.
    "But Eve, this is your...you can't do this."
    "There's more in the cave," she said, standing unashamed before me. "Maybe you can start a fire with my skirt."
    "But what about you?" I asked meaning more than my words could carry.
    "I'll make a skirt out of wet grass before they get here," she answered.
    That wasn't what I meant, although secretly I was worried about Eve going down to the rescue party as she'd come to me. Worried and jealous.
    I lit the skirt, added the fronds from the cave until there was a roaring fire, then dumped wet wood in the flames and watched the black smoke roll skyward. Soon we could see that the ship was slowly growing larger. Eve sat near the mouth of the cave busily fashioning a new skirt. I watched her and knew that soon now we would separate.
    "Eve," I started, "I remember just about how many fronds we--"
    "Forget it," she said, quietly.
    "But that's like giving my hack away."
    Eve sighed. "Someday, Pete, someone will come along whom you'll gladly give your cab to."
    I knew what she meant. I kneeled down and put my arm around her. "Someone like you," I whispered.
    "No, Pete, I'm a...I've been..."
    I didn't want to know because it made no difference. I stopped her protest with a kiss.
    Then she whispered, "I'm sorry your vacation was spoiled."
    "My vacation is just starting. But I need you, Eve. You get free cab rides in Philly for the rest of your life if you give the right answer to one question."
    "Oh, Pete!" she cried. "The answer is yes, Pete, yes!"
    Several minutes later, I got up, stretched happily and saw the ship was much closer.
    "Now hurry, darling, and finish that skirt. don't want a bunch of sailors gawking at you any more than necessary."

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