Karl Boyd, Author & Storyteller

 

To my readers, this used to be another one of my "Letter" stories. Can you tell which one?

My Island in the Sun

As I sit in my spacious, well appointed office, high on the 47th floor of the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois, I find my mind wandering and realize I am daydreaming again. Ignoring the pile of important and unfinished documents in my “IN” box, I focus on my innermost feelings and my thoughts race through my mind at a mile a minute.

Indian summer arrived here about three weeks ago and brought cooler temperatures with it. It’s a welcome relief from the heat and humidity we’ve suffered through this summer in the “windy city”. This morning was so pleasant that I left my high rise apartment early, and walked the twelve blocks to work.

I’ve worked for the Jessop Import firm for over twelve years now, and my work has earned me respect and promotions until I have reached my current position as Chief of the Industrial Import Section. This company imports everything from ball bearings from Japan to bottled beer from Germany.

It’s not that the work is boring; no, wait, let’s be honest: it is that the work is boring after all this time. The same mundane tasks day after day, year after year have left me with a feeling of restlessness. I love Chicago and its many venues for relaxation, but I long for more.

At thirty-five years of age, I’ve reached a milestone in my life. I’ve dated several girls and women, (there is a difference), who have been introduced to me by my coworkers and friends. I’ve even enjoyed an affair or two over the years, but nothing has lasted. We eventually drifted apart, neither of us hurt, but both realizing the grass is greener somewhere else.

But, it’s not these thoughts that are uppermost in my mind. I have this recurring daydream that is an impediment to my accomplishing any of my insipid tasks.

I dream I’m on an idyllic island in the sun, somewhere, possibly in the Pacific Ocean, or elsewhere. I really have no idea of the location of “MY” island. All I know is that this is where I want to be.

The ides of spring bring trade winds that blow lightly over swaying palm trees and lovely flowers lining the shores of my island. The sun seems to jump out of the water on the horizon in the morning dawn, and then pushes slowly upward through puffy white clouds that hang quietly in the blue azure sky as another fabulous sunrise appears. The brilliant sunlight reflects off the pure, white, immaculate sand on the beach.

Long-legged Ibis birds stand like statues in the foamy surf watching for the telltale swirls in the water that denote small fish. It’s lunchtime for the gulls. (And when isn’t it lunchtime for those pesky birds?) High overhead, snow-white seagulls glide on extended wings, like the mythical Icarus, waiting for an invitation to dine on the inexhaustible supply of fish that inhabit the lagoon.

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Since it is MY island, I’ve placed restrictions on the inhabitants. There are no flies or mosquitoes allowed here, nor any other stinging insects. Ants have been banned for life. Any picnic I plan will not be interrupted by those pests.

A cooler is close at hand, which contains my favorite ice-cold mixture of Jim Beam and Coca Cola along with ice covered glasses. An attentive and attractive, well-tanned, young lady is at my beck and call, waiting by my side to rub suntan oil onto my back or arms, should I require her services.

The only flaw in my dream is that I can’t picture the face of this mysterious woman, no matter how hard I try. I wonder about this imperfection of my dream.

As the glaring sunlight intrudes into my area, I reluctantly rise from my beach chair and move it to a more favorable place in the shade. I enjoy a small sip of my icy drink and lie back again, contented and relaxed.

My isolation from reality inspires my imagination to new heights and I wonder, where is this island and when can I go there?

Impervious to the noise and people who surround my office, I find it is almost impossible to stop dreaming about my island and I continue to dwell on this fantasy.

I suddenly have the idiotic urge to up and quit my job and find my island. Life in this impersonal world where most of my coworkers are fixated on their career isn’t important anymore. There has to be more to life than this!

At first, the irrational inclination to take the plunge and strike out for independence is just an iniquitous itch, which I am leery of scratching, afraid it may lead me astray. The issue of retiring early would definitely have an impact on my life as I know it now.

As far as finances are concerned, I’m okay. My father left me a considerable inheritance and I’ve managed it well until it has grown into a sum that will support me for many years.

Of course, losing my monthly income could pose a problem, but I stand to receive a substantial bonus when I retire, so perhaps I’m worried over nothing. If my island lives up to my expectations, who will need a great deal of money? Not I!

My medical and life insurance will continue in effect, as an investment against any unforeseen illness or injury or the inevitable, so I consider those items as inconsequential.

As I disclosed previously, I have no long-term relationship with any lady friend, so my intended departure wouldn’t pose any problem in that respect.

When I stop and look at my overall situation clearly, I think “Why not? - Why not indeed!”

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Inviting some of my friends to discuss my “inspiration” was a definite mistake. Obsessed with their individual careers, they either think I’ve lost my mind, or I’ve had a mental breakdown, whichever is the worst. They couldn’t imagine an island for themselves, let alone deciding to find it. I’m wasting precious time.

Trying to influence me, my friends implore me to rethink my situation and stop this foolishness. They just don’t understand me. I just hope I do!

“Don’t be an idiot, Bryan,” Joan, a secretary from down the hall interrupts my thoughts with her innate impatience. “Your ‘island’ is just an illusion in your mind, there is no such place. And, even if there were such an island, for you to just up and leave without a moment’s thought into what you are doing is ridiculous.”

Others question my sanity in undertaking such a drastic move at this time in my ‘career’, as they put it. What better time is there? Should I wait until I’m old and gray and my dream has faded into obscurity? I don’t believe so.

The intoxicating intrigue of finding my island becomes too much for me. I have fallen under the spell of this mysterious place and realize that my desire to be away from it all is insatiable. My imaginary island has ignited a flame in my soul which is unquenchable. Regardless of the outcome, I’m going to find my island.

Inquiring about early retirement at the Personnel Office, I am met by an ill-humored, standard-issue, jackass who seems indifferent to my request. When he asks the reason for my leaving and I unwittingly tell him the truth, he looks at me with the same expression as my friends. I know what he’s thinking, “This guy is insane!”

But, I don’t really care.

“I’ll inform Mister Jacobs, your immediate supervisor, of your intentions,” the jerk named Joe states icily. “I am sure he will want to advise you against this move. Have you considered what your leaving during our prime season will do to the workload of your associates?”

Already sensing ill-will toward me from this ill-mannered jerk, I steel myself for the interview with Mister Jacobs.

My supervisor is an introvert and a very insecure person. He idolizes the import industry and won’t leave here until they have to carry him away. Impressed with his own importance, Mister Jacobs lets me know my leaving is “very inconvenient” and in his words, “an impractical imposition” on both him, (as if I care, at this stage of the game), and my coworkers.

Mister Jacobs also questions my sanity, (I’m getting used to that), and after listening to my plans about finding my island, I am sure he thinks he is dealing with a nutcase.

“Join the gang,” I think to myself, fed up with his bull.

“Even though I find your request is improper, I can sense that you will insist on my approving your retirement, so I will - reluctantly,” Mister Jacobs informs me with just the right amount of indignation in his voice.

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“I’ll inform the administrative office of your departure effective today. They will send your severance pay and any bonus you may have coming. Please stop by their office on your way out and sign the necessary forms.

“If this action is an indication of your true ability, I fear you have an imbalance in your mental facilities,” the pompous ass continued. “As a result, I could never in good faith, recommend your employment with any other firm in the future. It is my intent to include such a statement in your personnel file.”

Feeling I had nothing to lose, I informed Mister Jacobs, “There is a certain orifice on your body where you can stick your recommendations!”

The country singer, Eddy Rabbit said it well in the words of his song - “Take this job and shove it!”

Emerging from the interior of Mister Jacob’s office, I have a secret smile on my face, picturing my ex-supervisor fulfilling my last request. I am relieved by the sudden overpowering feeling of improvement in my inner soul. Instead of being upset or irritated, I feel wonderful and infused with a new meaning to my life.

Watching my coworkers bent over their desks, acting as if they didn’t know me, (so as to not be associated with “the crazy one”), I recalled the immaterial inroads I had blindly followed over the past years. The idealistic infighting and self-promoting style of life is now over for me.

I was free! Now to find my island and complete freedom.

Excited by my sudden happiness, I exited the building to find that Indian summer had also retired and fled before a massive cold front. Icy sleet covered the sidewalks and roads and a damp snow was blowing almost sideways.

“How ironic this is,” I whispered to myself, with an inflection of inadequacy in my voice, as I fashioned a temporary cover for my head from a discarded newspaper.

“Here I am, feeling invincible and indestructible after making such an irreversible decision. And when I get home, (if I get home), my street will probably be impassable and my inefficient furnace will pick this time to become inoperable.”

Slipping and sliding like an intrepid ice skater in the Olympics through the impenetrable mist and instability of the ice storm, I tried to reach my “igloo” which is situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, overlooking the water.

The slightly audible “sigh” of the ice particles sailing past my ears filled me with an improbable feeling of well-being. Here I was, with insufficient insulation in my lightweight jacket to stand up long to this storm; yet I was indifferent to both it and to the icicles forming on my improvised paper “cap” as I hiked through the inhospitable weather in the direction of my home. I guess you could say the fire in my heart was keeping me warm. At least it felt that way.

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I knew I was innocent of the accusations of incompetence thrown at me by my ex-supervisor, and after having signed my retirement papers, I found it was all irrelevant at this time. What did I care about those things? My island awaits me!

With intuitive instinct, I realized that I didn’t have an inkling of how to find my island. You know of course, that finding an invisible island in reality is a bit more difficult than inventing one in your mind.

My investigation is in its infancy, but, I was fired up and ready for the challenge. I plan to spend my free time in the public libraries, pursuing my dream to its fulfillment.

But, first, it seems the ice age has returned. Immobilized in my apartment by the storm, I find the supposedly infallible, but not inexpensive furnace has indeed failed, as per my prediction.

Invoking my wide vocabulary of varied inflammatory invocations against this monster of a machine fails to do any good. So I am forced to bow to my inability in the mechanical field and call a repairman.

I feel like an Icelandic fisherman as I await the repairman. Ice water flows in my veins instead of blood. Fire is my idol as I glare in inept ignorance at the furnace.

“Why today of all days?”

The repairman arrives and inspects the ignition system of the furnace. Jim, the expert, gives me a fifteen minute indoctrination into the functioning innards of furnaces, (at forty-five dollars an hour). After an inspired, informative oration, Jim informs me that my supposedly indestructible furnace is beyond repair. Great!

Insinuating that I was ill-advised to buy this “pile of junk”, Jim talks me into installing a new, innovative heating system, which I can easily pay off in about twenty years through “insignificant” installments. Yeah, right!

I pack a few clothes and move by taxi to a Holiday Inn nearby for an indefinite period. Leaving my dependable Ford pick-up stuck in my garage, I wait, indoors, alone and inconsolable, for the duration, until the installation is accomplished. Whether this will be a week or a month, your guess is as good as mine.

Incarcerated like a jailbird, I decide to put my spare time to work searching for my island. But, alas, it seems fate has once again stepped in to ruin my plans.

Although I was impaled with a syringe the size of a darning needle, and inoculated with an influenza immunization against the illness, I find I am infected and ill with the flu. My cold walk home from the office has paid off in dividends I don’t desire. My stomach is queasy, my brow feels inflamed and my skin is afire from this inhumane disease. I am miserable!

A call to the front desk provides me with a medical assistant, who tells me, (guess what)? I have the flu! He recommends drinking lots of fluids and staying in bed until the fever and chills pass.

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A house call from a physician, (I didn’t know they made those anymore)! plus a trip to the drugstore by an bellboy eager for a tip, provides me with the proper medicine to fight the disease.

The medical assistant suggests breathing with the aid of an inhaler, so I buy one, (again with the help of the well-tipped bellboy), which is instrumental in my rapid recovery.

Amazingly, my new furnace is installed within two weeks from the time of the ice storm and I am able to return to the welcome, but still confining confines of my own bedroom, which also aids in my recovery and add to my boredom.

Growing tired of being immobile and being in incubation like a baby because of my infection, which seems to me to have abated, I ask the doctor to allow me to “return to the living” again. After a thorough check-up, he relents and allows me to make short forays out into the world of light and sound. Hallelujah!

Being unsociable is foreign to me, I love to converse with my friends and I miss being out and about in the lively town of Chicago. When I encounter friends, they now think I am a chatter-box, (and still a little crazy)! But, what’s new?

Indisposed to being imprisoned again, I am careful about my re-introduction to the intimacy and impurities of the outside world. In other words, I don’t kiss anyone on the mouth and I wash my hands frequently. I follow a strict routine of healthy exercises and take my medicine on time. I want no more of the flu, believe me.

By the time I am completely well again, spring has arrived and I am drawn like a fly to honey, to the ivied walls of Wrigley Field. Why there, you might ask. I’ll tell you.

A lifelong involvement with the long and ever suffering “Cubs” of Chicago, as illogical as it is, brings me once again to this institution of immortality. The infield, where inning after inning, we irresolute and incorruptible fans pleaded and implored our team to win, (and they seldom did), shines like the diamond it is. God, how I love this place!

Cub fans are easily identifiable by their undying love of the game of baseball and their incurable and ever hopeful adoration of the “Cubbies”. Ingrained to losing by a life of following this ill-favored and in most years, an inferior team since its inception, “Cub” fans are decidedly “different”.

Irrespective of their team’s ability, the fans, like me, continue to swear their allegiance to the “Cubs” and rally round the team with the ever familiar catch-phrase, “Just wait until next year!” I’m proud to be a “Cubbie”.

Continuing to seek “my” island, I invest additional time in the halls of the public libraries throughout Chicago. Reading every available magazine or pamphlet concerning life on Islands, I inspect every picture I find, always comparing it with the images I have in my mind of “my” island.

So far, all of them have failed to meet my expectations, and I’ve eliminated them all from any serious consideration.

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I’ve even taken to interviewing newly arrived immigrants from various parts of the world. Bless their hearts; they try to help me in my search, even in broken English. They are tolerant of my inquiries and do their best to humor me when I ask them if they have seen my island during their travels. I am sorry to say, their replies have all been negative.

I allow nothing to interfere with my desperate search, but after months of hunting, I am no closer to finding my island. I have reached an impasse and am stymied.

I’m starting to get a little concerned about the actual location of my island. Is it only in my mind? Am I a fool? Should I go on, or give up? Questions! My mind and my back both ache.

I take a break and go out for some entertainment. Drawn to a movie about the South Pacific, (naturally), I meet some friends who introduce me to Irene Jones. I’ve seen Irene before, working as a librarian at one of the libraries I visited recently.

Irene is a tiny, impish, English girl with a mane of naturally curly raven hair and blue eyes that interlock with mine upon our first meeting. She is lively, entertaining and actually truly interested in me as a person. I can’t believe my luck.

As an icebreaker, I invite Irene for ice cream at a parlor nearby after the movie. She accepts my invitation and we enjoy picking out different flavors while we talk about ourselves and our plans. We find we have identical likes and dislikes, and to my amazement, I discover Irene is a “Cubbie” too.

What a difference from the first time I saw Irene in the library. There, she was all business. I could tell she loved literature by the way she handled books as she replaced them on the shelves. Irene had an air of inborn intellect about her.

I wished then, that I could meet and get to know her, but for some inexplicable reason, I thought at the time that she was inapproachable.

Irene was indignant of any infraction of the library rules, no matter how small or unimportant it may have seemed to others. She definitely had backbone, conviction and fortitude when dealing with anyone breaking the rules.

Displaying her love of books, she inspired children to read more and often. Even though I never had the chance to speak with Irene on that day, I did note she was lovely. I was impressed and remembered her well. Meeting her accidentally like this was fortuitous. Or was it fate in disguise?

At the ice cream shop, Irene and I developed an immediate liking for each other. We even liked the same flavors of ice cream. Our lives became intertwined as she smiled innocently and not condescendingly at my infatuation with “my” invisible, and possibly impossible to attain, island.

“If you have a dream, Bryan, you must follow it to its conclusion or you’ll forever be sorry you didn’t,” Irene said encouragingly. “I admire your ambition and hope you find your island soon.”

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I discovered Irene’s family had immigrated to America is 1911. As illiterate and impoverished immigrants, Irene’s parents’ one desire was for their only daughter to attend school and finish her education, no matter how long it took, nor the sacrifices they would have to endure.

Working hard and managing their resources, they saved their pennies and nickels, which allowed Irene to attend public school, where she excelled.

Infinitely inquisitive, but shy and silent at first, Irene soon flourished in the intellectual environment. She graduated first in her class, both in high school and again in college. As the Valedictorian, Irene soon found employment in the Chicago Public Library system.

During her off-duty time, she became involved in correcting the imparity and inequality of the availability of public education for children of illegal aliens. Fighting for the rights of these children, Irene took on the entrenched politicians who had failed to update funding for public education and she won.

As I said, Irene was some kind of a woman. And, amazing as it was to me, she was my woman.

In the meantime, I continued my compulsive search for my island. With no success, I suffered from insomnia at times and felt like I would explode if I didn’t find some clue to help me find my place in life.

Irene was my lifeline in this time of crisis. She inspired me with her words and with her love. Her faith in me remained constant when I felt I was failing.

Then, one sleepless night, I looked inward instead of outward, and like a lightening bolt out of the blue, I discovered with brilliant insight, that I had found my island and a face for my mysterious female companion.

You see, an island of refuge doesn’t have to be an indistinct, inanimate object. No, my island was something, or actually someone, that provided me with all of the things I’d been searching for: tranquility, harmony in my life and an unending love.

My island was named Irene. And you are all invited to our wedding next week.

So, if you feel the urge to find your island away from the maddening crowds, my advice to you is to make sure of what, (or whom), you are seeking. Take the time to search both the visible and the invisible, looking both outward and inward. And when you are sure of your destination, don’t let anything or anyone stop you from finding YOUR island in the sun!

Irene and I wish you well.

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Short Story Collection

True Competitor
Ballad of Billy Bob & Bubba
Grandmother & the Wicked Witch
To Kill or Not to Kill; That is The Question
Frank's New Boat
My Island in the Sun
George and the "Thunderbolt"
Honesty is the Best Policy!

 


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