GETTING TO THE AIRPORT, SOLOMON’S STYLE (18-September-2012)

Leaving the fishing resort for my next island-hopping flight, the lagoon had one parting surprise.

Reclining on my backpack, in the lee of bow and tropical downpour, I spooled out a rubbery squid lure on tough monofilament.  The handline jagged and my yellow raincoated driver cut the motor.

Local customs revealed: landing fish has priority over check-in times; and with a few sheets of last week’s newspaper I could have converted one barracuda to carry-on hand luggage!

While my first barracuda is long gone, memories of razor-sharp teeth and the driver’s pearly smile as I gifted him the beast remain.

__________________________________________

I wrote this drabble last year in the first weeks of discovering this form of microfiction. The events described are based on something that actually happened to me back in June 1996 while visiting Solomon Island’s Western Provence. We were on our way from Lola Island across Vono Vono Lagoon to Munda Airport on Georgia Island. The airstrip had not seen much improvement since the Japanese army had secretly hewn it from the coral beneath a cover of propped up coconut palms during the second world war. I’ll attribute that fact to having borrowed a copy of ‘The Coastwatchers’ from my local library. Overseas travel with said item was probably a contravention of borrower policy but added to my appreciation of the war that, but for 200 metres strewn with ‘bugger-up wire’, in all likelihood prevented Henderson airfield from being taken, and Brisbane from coming within range of aerial bombing.  There were a range of experiences from standing in a US Marine’s fox-hole to handling the remains of weaponry stored under a villager’s hut, finding shoe leather remnants and ammunition clips, paying respects at small shinto shrines and massive memorials to war and peace. The week before I had been participating as a volunteer in a Rotary F.A.I.M Project in Honiara which culminated with a half-day tour of various Guadalcanal battlefields and an afternoon concert by Lucky Dube’s South African Band ‘Free At Last’ (formerly ‘Slaves’). I have never felt so white as I did sitting in the VIP seats amidst a crowd that covered the front half of the Rove Police Grounds in front of the mixing tent. It was a feeling reinforced by the words of warning from the wife of the manager of the hotel where we were staying: “If there is any teargas, wet your shirt and put it over your face!” (What the?!) Apparently there’d been a riot at the sports grounds the previous year. The next night I watched from above as the gates were thrown open so all the non-ticket holding fans could stream in for the last half-hour. We enjoyed a hilltop, poolside dinner hosted by friends of my absent boarding school friend’s family, while listening to live reggae music as the sun sank on another day in the Pacific. It is amazing what contrasting details stick in the memory!

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