Away From It All

artwork by @jimmywyngaarden

a short story by Jerry Zinn

“Drew and I have talked about getting away from it all for a while, but it’s always been a sort of, hypothetical trip. Sure you can go to Bora Bora or the Maldives or the Seychelles, and you’ll be away from almost everything.”

Mindy pushed the wilted greens to the side of her plate.

“But you’ve been talking about the Maldives forever. Why all the sudden don’t you want to go there now?” Tisha asked.

“No, not all the sudden. Like I said, Drew and I have been discussing this for a while. And he made some good points about how the Maldives and the Seychelles and whatever, they’re just not far enough away. They still have Wi-Fi and hotels, obviously,” said Mindy.

“Let me get this straight. You, you are willingly going to a place where you can’t post?”

“Yes, Tisha. It’s not that hard to understand. Honestly. There’s no people there. How could there be Internet if there aren’t any people? That’s why these kinds of places are called uninhibited islands.”

“You mean uninhabited?” asked Tisha.

“No, don’t be stupid. I think I’d know what I’m talking about. Where’s that over-gelled waiter? I want that panna cotta. They aren’t going to have nice food or anything out there. So I better stock up now. I’m sure I’ll lose a ton of weight eating fish and… leaves or whatever we eat. Maybe I’ll come back looking like you, but hopefully I have some muscle on my body so I don’t look like a skeleton.”

Tisha squeezed the knife handle, and set it down slowly.

“OK, so then where are you going that’s ‘uninhibited?’” Tisha asked.

“That’s where it gets wild! I can’t tell you. I don’t even know! Drew found this island on some old map. You know how weird he is with history and stuff. I can’t believe his first marriage lasted as long as it did. I told him when we got married that he only had me for five years. I want to still be hot when we get divorced. Maybe I’ll even have a kid then. I don’t want my kids to look like Drew. And with the prenup I make out really good, so there’s no need to like give him a son or anything. I told you he thinks we’re ‘trying.’ Well anyway, the island doesn’t even show up on Google Earth, and that has pictures of literally every inch of the planet. Except Area 51 and North Korea.”

“Mindy, that’s insane. What if something happens? You’re in a place that isn’t on maps?”

Mindy’s silver band was inlayed with a price-upon-request diamond. It flashed when she reached for her wine. Tisha rubbed her much smaller ring with her knuckle. For weeks she took it off before going to see Mindy. Tisha didn’t want to hear her patronize. She felt out of place enough just going to the restaurants or to Mindy’s house.

“Oh Tisha, that’s so cute that you care, but nothing’s going to happen to us. Drew chartered a boat to take us to these coordinates and pick us up. It’s just a couple weeks. Plus Drew knows how to do survival things. His dad was in the Army something. And listen Drew’s paying that captain a fortune, so he’ll be sure we get there and back safely.”

“Take pictures at least. Sounds like it’s going to be a real experience,” Tisha said.

But there was nothing she hated more than seeing Mindy’s pictures of her tour of France or Argentina. The stories were boring: luxury hotels and five-course meals. It was getting harder and harder for Tisha to hold the weight of their friendship. Mindy hadn’t always been like that. The only reason she didn’t drop Tisha when she married Drew was because Tisha didn’t fight back. Tisha was Mindy’s punching bag.

“Tisha, I already told you I won’t have Wi-Fi, so I obviously can’t post.”

“No I know that, but just pictures you can show when you get back.”

“Tisha. No Instagram. Honestly sometimes I wonder if you don’t do drugs around the corner before lunch. It’s like your head is in space.”

“I just remembered, I have to be on the other side of town in like ten minutes. Have a good trip.”

“OK. Bye. Sorry you can’t come with.”

“Trust me, it’s OK.”

Tisha felt better when she sat in her Corolla. It was ten years old, and it looked it. The cracked dashboard was a comfort though. It was refreshing just to be around things that weren’t new or expensive. Her car was worth 1% of the engagement ring Mindy flaunted. She was tired of valets looking down on her. But worse than that, Mindy always called Tisha’s car “cute.” Everything about Tisha was “cute” to Mindy.

“Hey Mom,” Tisha said over the speakerphone.

“I can tell by your voice. Why do you keep seeing that girl?” her mother asked.

“I don’t know.”

“You’re loyal. And that’s admirable. But all that girl does is tear you down. I see her on Instagram. I know you see those posts too. That girl is undoing everything women like us have been trying to do. She doesn’t represent us. For her it’s all about the money, the stuff. You aren’t like that. And you know what happens? Guys look at people like her and they say ‘there, that’s the evidence.’ They rope us all into that.”

“I know, Mom. You’re right. It’s just hard for me. I feel like I’m the only one who could bring her back to reality.”

“And when was the last time she listened to anything you told her?”

“High school probably. She and Drew are going to some deserted island for a few weeks. They’ll be totally off-grid. I would pay to see that. The two of them in the wild? Bravo would put big bucks on that. So we’ll see how much I miss her. If I feel better while she’s gone…”

“Then you can end the friendship. If she blows you off or acts like she always does, then you’ll know you’re doing the right thing. Honestly honey, I just don’t want her to drag you into all that superficial mess. You’re too good. You’re too wonderful for that.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“I hate seeing you miserable. And she makes you that way. You deserve to be happy. And you’ve given that girl a million and one chances. And that husband of hers is an evil, evil man. The way he made his money. I just don’t know how anyone could live with themselves. And that Mindy, she’s complicit. I’m sorry. Pretending to be ignorant is not OK. And Mindy turned her back on her upbringing. She forgot where she came from as soon as she got the chance. It’s time to let her go. If she wants to go down, fine, but she’s not taking you with her.”

“Yeah. You’re right.”

“We’ll get through it. Jeny would support you too. Your wife is a wonderful woman. And she and I are on the same page. She told you to leave Mindy years ago in the dust years ago. Would you mind picking up some flour on your way over?”

“Of course.”

That night, Drew and Mindy walked along the dock towards a small boat. Drew grunted when he slipped on a wet plank. It was dark out, but the moon was a floodlight. The boat was covered in fishing net, and the deck was full of crates. Sitting against a shack, a man whittled a stick and paid them no mind.

“Louis Vuitton isn’t very unassuming,” the captain said.

He wiped his hand on his stained apron and took their bags.

“I don’t think that hobo knows the difference. No one else is here,” said Mindy.

“Here’s the first half. Why don’t you keep the criticism to yourself, huh? I’m not paying you to do anything but drop off and pick up, got it? You’re just an Uber on the water,” said Drew.

“Yes sir,” the captain replied. “This is my nephew, Arturo, he’s going to be—“

“What did I just say? ‘Uber on the water.’ Not conversationalist. I don’t care what your kid’s name is. I don’t care what your name is. My wife and I shouldn’t have to talk to you unless we want to. By the way, what’s with this boat? I thought it was going to be a yacht? You said it was nice!”

“Anything nicer than this would draw attention. You can’t turn off the GPS on the new ones either.”

“Let’s just get going, huh?” Drew said.

Not long after they sputtered out of the tiny fishing village, Mindy was below deck, sick. Drew didn’t want to be near her, but he didn’t want to talk to the crew, so he sat at the back of the boat and watched the churning wake. He pulled out a satellite phone and held down the power button. The display clicked on, but before it loaded completely the screen went blank. When he cracked open the battery pack it was corroded.

“Piece of shit!” Drew yelled, hucking it into the water. “Hey captain? Where the hell are we? Are we close?”

“Mr. Drew, we’re not there yet,” the captain said.

“Well I sure as hell know that! Say something useful.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to log this trip? In case something happens?”

“Look Poncho, I’m paying you more than you’d make in 100 years to drop us off and pick us up. We negotiated the terms in good faith. Here’s your check for the first half. You get the other half when you pick us up. And the only thing you have to do to secure that payment is keep your God damn mouth shut. Now that’s gotta be the easiest money you’ve ever made. Or do I have it wrong and you’re some kind of billionaire just running boats for kicks?”

Hours passed like days. The moon lit the ocean. Other than their camouflaged boat, nothing disturbed the surface for miles.

“There, is that it? Is that the island?” Mindy asked. She was leaning over the rail trying to breathe.

“I think yes,” said the captain.

“Think yes? Why don’t you check your bearings?” asked Drew.

“Mrs. is correct. That is your island,” said Arturo pointing to the map.

“Thank God. Get me off of this boat before I throw up more of my organs. Drew I can’t believe you put me on a floating death trap like this!” said Mindy.

“Roughing it for a few hours won’t kill you Mindy. It’ll toughen you up. The hardest thing you’ve had to do is walk from the Cayenne to the nail solon when it’s cold outside!”

“Drew! Just—“ Mindy threw up what was left in her stomach.

Shooting up out of the water like a church spire, the island was the only feature on the flat expanse. No smoke drifted from its volcanic peak. Lush foliage blanketed the landscape, glowing blue. The engine powered down as they approached.

“Hard to believe this isn’t on any maps,” said Drew. “I should name it! What about, ‘Drewlandia?’”

“Why you? Why not Mindy Island?”

“Because you didn’t do anything. You just got sick and complained the whole way. I found the map, I got the boat.”

Arturo hopped into the shallow waters and pulled the boat closer to the shore. He and the captain communicated shouted instructions back and forth. Once the boat was secured they helped Drew and Mindy get ashore with their luxury bags.

“Here, since I know that’s all you’re thinking about,” said Drew handing a check to the captain.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t be pathetic about it. I know you don’t care about me, so don’t pretend. It makes you look desperate. Why don’t you two leave us alone now? You know the deal. Come back in fifteen days and pick us up. Don’t tell anyone anything, and you get another one of these. Got it? Don’t be idiots. You’re winning the lottery.”

The captain folded the check and put it in a dry pocket. His head was spinning from the number. Drew’s insults flew by unnoticed.

“Where are we going to stay?” asked Mindy.

“We’ll build something! I know you’re used to resorts, but this is the real world out here!”

Mindy kicked the black sand and winced.

“How long are we here again?” she asked.

“Jesus don’t do this already!” said Drew.

“Should we go now?” asked the captain.

“Yes. Get the hell out of here! What are you waiting for?”

The captain went back onboard and fired up the engine. Arturo pushed the hull free and climbed up the ladder. They pulled away and got the boat up to full speed.

“Smell that?” Drew asked.

“Fishy. Like dead fish. I’m gonna be sick again. I want to leave. Why couldn’t we just go to the Maldives like I wanted to?”

“God all you do is complain! It’s really annoying, Mindy. Dead fish isn’t what I was asking about. That air you’re so upset about? It’s air no one’s ever breathed! We discovered Drewlandia!”

“Don’t call it that. That’s a terrible name.”

“Yeah and ‘Mindy Island’ is so much more creative. Listen I spent a lot of money to get us here! Just be grateful, and for once don’t whine. It’s not like we’ll be here forever. It’s just fifteen days, and then you can go back to whatever it is you do all day.”

Arturo looked back towards the island, shrinking into the distance.

“Those two were made for each other. What a bunch of pricks,” said Arturo.

“Who do you think will kill the other first?”

“The woman’ll kill the husband. There’s enough of him to eat for weeks.”

“You’re right. Look at this check! Have you ever seen a number this large?”

“It doesn’t even look real.”

“I know this is just the first payment, but I wouldn’t make this in fifty years if I worked every day all day! This is enough for us, don’t you think? You and I split it. Half of this check is more than we’d ever need. I’m getting old anyway. What do I need all that for?”

“So what are you saying then?”

“Let them have their island. We’ve never lived for money. That’s what those people do. That’s why their lives are so miserable. Nothing worth having can be bought. Of course we need money to survive, but this is plenty,” the captain said.

“We’d be doing the world a favor. Let him name the island, and it’ll disappear with them like Atlantis.”

“No one knows this place exists except us.”

“Half of this is mine? Really?”

“50/50 split,” said the captain.

“So that other check, that’s how much their lives are worth?”

“No. People like that. People who treat others like less. People who live for their fortunes? People who don’t do anything good for the world? People who waste the chance to raise others up? They aren’t worth a penny.”

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