Posted in Antarctica

Ward Round

The officer in charge was puzzled
said he didn’t understand
why people wanted to ski
“ when you’ve got the bar.”
The bar
the military understood bars
had much history of drinking as recreation
the OIC a barroom champion himself.

We appealed to the captain
who said he couldn’t see the harm
said it was okay by him
if it was okay with the OIC at the airfield
a nod and a wink.
The OIC grumbled assent.

It was known as the Willy Road
a 7 mile snow highway
linking McMurdo town to Williams Airfield
graded and rolled to ice rink hard.
Cross country ski heaven
push with poles
shift onto edge
and glide
and glide
the perfect surface
infinity’s ribbon
friction so absent
concentration wasn’t…. until.

The duty doctor said the thumb was broken
reflex he said
protecting the head.
The nurse bustles comfort
“ lucky you…you’ll get to go home early.”
Three doctors, two very senior, arrive with urgency
“everybody out NOW!”
The nurse said it would be difficult
casting was at a delicate point.

Curtains are pulled
voices murmur rising to . . . . “zero eight fifteen.”
the echo of pen on clipboard unmistakable.
Three emerge peeling off latex gloves
“contact the CO
and inform next of kin.”

To learn more click backstage

Posted in Antarctica

Merry Christmas

Orphaned Islands will not post on Christmas Day. The period December 23 until mid January is the annual summer holiday for New Zealand. Most of the country goes to the beach, enjoys barbecues, watches the cricket and tries not to think about work. Unfortunately a website trying to attract and retain readers does not enjoy the same holiday dispensation. So how to produce work when not working?. Do what musicians do of course. When short of material or unable to find the productive spark, rock bands, crooners, songstresses, balladeers, resort to the gold standard filler: The Greatest Hits.
Orphaned Islands has now been publishing exactly 1 year. Over the next three weeks, beginning Monday, December 28, it will post what a selection committee (me) considers its best pieces. An effort will be made to present a range of writing – poignant, funny, quirky and just plain bizarre. Orphaned Islands wishes all its readers a merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.

Posted in Antarctica

Out of Character

The sheep pen
so called because it resembled the temporary cages
used to parcel sheep
Passengers corralled and watched by security
no air bridges for military aircraft
wait in the pen to be freighted
like sheep.
Our grandfather marked his flock with blue chalk
his neighbours with red, green and orange
escapees captured and returned at shearing.

Colour coded
human sheep also.
The military wore green
US contractors and scientists red
and the New Zealand Antarctic Programme yellow.
Our fellow citizens sometimes sniffed at us
hired help doing the Americans’ dirty work
but not Peter.

I first saw him in the sheep pen
wearing yellow
his overheard enthusiasm
without being earnest
even bringing generous envy
that I could be so uninhibitedly excited.
He seemed sweet
if permissible for a man to call another sweet.

I shouldn’t have been surprised
the New Zealand base often imitated a fraternity house
drinking and rituals
rituals and drinking.

In the winter months I would see Peter
wild haired
wild spirited
can or bottle, life raft clutched
chimpanzee grin of a wild colonial boy
having the best of times
but his eyes were of a ship in a bottle.

For the back story click Backstage