They met on a deserted island called Phog East, fifteen miles off the coast of New London, Rhode Island. Evan Cooper’s rowboat had capsized while he was fishing for a compliment, and he swam to the remote island in freezing water.
Fanny Gurk grew up with four strapping brothers in a busy fishing village practically run by her megalomaniac father, so at an early age she was adept at handling a rod. Attempting to make sense of a romance that fizzled (in addition to several other personal dramas), Fanny went fishing for logic when a powerful (though predicted) storm tossed her into subzero temperature water and transported her to the western part of Phog East. Soaking wet and freezing cold, she washed ashore in one shoe. The fierce waves had whisked away the tartan ballet flat that had been on her left foot.
On the day they met, Evan had explored the island while Fanny caught up on her rest and resentment. Just as the fog was rolling in, Evan came upon a discarded barbecue and a deceased pig. With the confidence of a master chef, he began preparing his first meal in two days. After lighting the barbecue the old-fashioned way, he secured the sow onto one of the sticks that doubled as a spit.
At first Evan thought he was hallucinating. Out of the thick, eerie gray fog emerged what looked like a lovely young woman in a tattered black tunic and one shoe.
“Hello,” he said to her.
“Who are you?” she asked with suspicion.
“Evan,” he said, approaching.
“I’m Fanny,” she quietly said. Beautiful in a quirky way, her face was a bit roundish and the eyebrows a bit thick, but these imperfections made her vastly more interesting than some skinny model on the cover of Cosmopolitan.
“You’re beautiful in a quirky way, you know that?” Evan asked. “Your face is a bit roundish and your eyebrows a bit thick, but these imperfections make you much more interesting than some skinny-ass model on the cover of Cosmo.”
“You’re a prick,” she snapped.
Evan liked the fact that she was feisty.
With major attitude, Fanny turned away from him and searched for a spot to call her own. After finding a suitable patch of brown grass, she plopped down. “What’s on the barbecue?”
“Pig,” he announced. “Please don’t tell me you keep kosher.”
“I don’t eat meat,” she said. “Strict vegan here.”
“Soon you’ll be a strict dead vegan,” he said.
“Any side dishes?” she asked.
“What are you in the mood for? Steamed spinach? Poached string beans? I don’t want to brag, but I make a mean rice pilaf. Just tell me your pleasure and I’ll whip it up.”
“You don’t know when to quit.”
“Leave room for dessert,” he added. “I have a lemon meringue cake in the shape of Stonehenge. Why no meat?”
“Because the idea of it sickens me,” she explained. “I don’t want to look at what became of cattle that were shot in the head with a metal bolt before bleeding to death, or cows that were dismembered alive, or squealing hogs that were submerged into boiling water to loosen their hide.”
“Gotcha,” Evan said. He took a few steps closer to Fanny and descended to the ground, facing her. “It looks like we’re the only ones here, so why don’t we try to get along? We obviously started off on the wrong foot, but you know as well as I do that in time we’ll bond. We have nothing but privacy here, so we’ll undoubtedly become very close and wildly attracted to each other. Why don’t we skip the middle part and jump to the inevitable?”
“Inevitable?” she asked.
“Passionate sex. Frenetic fornication. Right here, right now. It would be a terrific ice breaker, don’t you think?”
She gazed into his droopy brown eyes. “I think you need a serious psychiatric evaluation. But feel free to toss any other ideas my way.”
“Well,” he said, the wheels spinning in his head, “would you mind very much if I borrowed one of your legs for a while? Either one, left or right.”
“I don’t think so,” she replied. “I might want to walk someplace in the near future.”
“I would hug and kiss it, that’s all,” he explained. “Five short minutes.” His voice was pleading.
Fanny shut her eyes, then covered her face with her filthy hands. “Do you think anybody’s searching for you?” she asked, ignoring the request.
“The entire Coast Guard,” he said. “How about you?”
“I’m not sure,” she replied, opening her eyes but avoiding Evan’s. “I have a feeling everyone I know will think I disappeared on purpose. I’ve done that before.”
“A bit of a rebel? I like that in a girl.”
“You’re a bit of an idiot. I can’t stand that in a guy.” She glanced up at the limpid sky, and emitted a sigh. “How long have you been here?”
“Two glorious days and two exquisite nights. You?”
“What do you suppose the lesson is? There has to be a lesson to learn when you’re shipwrecked like the skipper and Gilligan.”
“The lesson is don’t try to kill yourself by sailing into a heavy storm.”
The smile that had seemed sewn on Evan’s face, collapsed. For a few tense moments, he was silent. “You were trying to kill yourself?”
“I would’ve jumped off a roof but I’m deathly afraid of heights.”
“Drowning in freezing water is a more pleasant experience?” he asked.
“Damn,” he said, suddenly feeling a wave of tenderness for his new acquaintance. “Was your life really that lousy?”
Fanny stared gloomily at the sea that had kept her alive, instead of drowning her as it was supposed to do. “Worse,” she said. “Do you want to know the real reason nobody’s searching for me?”
“Sure,” he said earnestly.
“Because nobody will miss me. I haven’t made any lasting impression on anybody I’ve ever met in twenty-four years. I tend to alienate the average person.”
As the sun began to set, the sky turned pale pink with thin strips of purple. The moon was a round, radiant blur. “Some people would envy us being on an island away from the cold, cruel world,” Evan remarked.
“I guess some would,” Fanny ruefully said. “But even this island isn’t far enough. My greedy bastard of a father tells me I’ll be more forgiving as I get older. So I don’t want to get older. I don’t want to be forgiving of corporate thugs who take away what rightfully belongs to people who struggle for simple necessities. Have you noticed that the lower class is expanding at an enormous rate?”
“When you say expanding, you don’t mean getting fatter, right?” he asked.
“Well, obesity is another serious problem.”
“I’d bet the house you’ve never volunteered at a food bank or donated blood.”
“Ding ding ding!” Evan shouted. “We have a winner here!”
“I once donated so much blood that I passed out and was rushed to the damn hospital. One of the damn nurses actually recognized me from the time I overdosed on valium and vitriol and damn near exploded.”
“Damn,” Evan muttered.
Soon after the sky became a dark ceiling dotted with stars, Fanny felt a deep sleep approaching, but she continued to chat about her unique view of the world. She actually nodded off in the middle of a sentence.
The following morning, Fanny awakened with the sun and watched Evan as he dreamed, changing expressions every few seconds. She was so entertained that she couldn’t help giggling. She also couldn’t help noticing he had thick, beautiful lips some of her female acquaintances would pay good money for. Very gently, she placed her opened hand over his face, an inch away. She could feel his breathing on her fingertips and the warmth of home on the palm of her hand. When he began to stir, she swiftly backed away.
“Good morning,” he mumbled as he opened an eye.
“Hello,” she responded
“Are we still stranded?” he asked, yawning.
“Stranded and starving,” she announced with cheer.
Evan lifted the top half of his body and looked out to the sea. Then he looked at Fanny. Then, in a very slow double-take, he looked back at the sea. “Is it my imagination or is there a boat out there?”
“I think there is,” Fanny said. “But it’s too far away. We wouldn’t be able to get its attention.”
Evan nodded in agreement. “How about breakfast?” he asked. “Should we go to the farmer’s market and get some fresh fruit?”
“You are truly twisted.”
“And you’re brutally honest. I never met anybody like you.”
“I’m honest about things people don’t want me to be honest about.”
“But they need to know about these things,” Evan said. “You have to make them listen. That’s your gift.”
“Gift or curse?” she asked.
“Gift,” he stated with conviction. “I wish I could be more like you, but right now I need to pee.” He jumped up and jogged to the sea. Fanny watched him and she was strangely content. Evan was so simple, concerned with simple, basic activities like eating and urinating. Refreshingly optimistic, he exuded a childlike charm that Fanny hadn’t noticed until that morning.
When he was finished, he splashed cold water on his face. “Fanny!” he shouted with excitement. She came rushing over. “It’s definitely coming our way,” Evan exclaimed. With its large sail, the boat was heading toward the island. Evan started screaming and flailing his arms. “Over here! We’re here!”
“I think they see us,” Fanny nonchalantly said. “Looks like we’re going to be rescued.”
“Promise me something,” he said, looking her in the eye. “Let’s go to the farmer’s market next Sunday morning. Any farmer’s market.”
She chuckled. “Sure.”
As the boat approached, the large sail came clearly into focus. “My God,” Evan whispered.
“My God,” Fanny repeated.
“I can’t believe my eyes,” Evan said with disbelief. “Is it what I think it is?”
“I think so,” she said, stunned.
“A floating Starbucks.”
“A fucking floating Starbucks.”
The recognizable logo appeared boldly on the large sail. A swarthy barista was busy at the cappuccino machine while a grinning guy in an apron steered the vessel. As the boat was docking, the barista shouted to the castaways. “Can I start a beverage for you?”
“Tall non-fat latte,” Fanny shouted back.
“Mocha cappuccino,” Evan yelled. “Venti.” Heart racing, he stepped toward the sailboat, clutching Fanny’s warm, welcoming hand.