The Castaway Engineer
as retold by Rotua Lumban Tobing
A rather inhibited engineer finally splurged on a luxury cruise to the Caribbean. It was the craziest thing he had ever done in his life. Just as he was beginning to enjoy himself, a hurricane roared upon the huge ship, capsizing it like a child's toy. Somehow the engineer, desperately hanging on to a life preserver, managed to wash ashore on a secluded island.
Outside of beautiful scenery, a spring-fed pool, bananas and coconuts, there was little else. He lost all hope and for hours on end, sat under same palm tree. One day, after several months had passed, a gorgeous woman in a small rowboat appeared.
"I'm from the other side of the island," she said. "Were you on the cruise ship, too?"
"Yes, I was," he answered. "But where did you get that rowboat?"
"Well, I whittled the oars from gum tree branches, wove the reinforced gunnel from palm branches, and made the keel and stern from a Eucalyptus tree."
"But, what did you use for tools?" asked the man.
"There was a very unusual strata of alluvial rock exposed on the south side of the island. I discovered that if I fired it to a certain
temperature in my kiln, it melted into forgeable ductile iron. Anyhow,
that's how I got the tools. But, enough of that," she said. "Where have
you been living all this time? I don't see any shelter."
"To be honest, I've just been sleeping on the beach," he said.
"Would you like to come to my place?" the woman asked. The engineer nodded dumbly.
She expertly rowed them around to her side of the island, and tied up the boat with a handsome strand of hand-woven hemp topped with a neat back splice. They walked up a winding stone walk she had laid and around a Palm tree. There stood an exquisite bungalow painted in blue and white.
"It's not much, but I call it home." Inside, she said, "Sit down please; would you like to have a drink?"
"No, thanks," said the man. "One more coconut juice and I'll throw up!"
"It won't be coconut juice," the woman replied. "I have a crude still out back, so we can have authentic Pina Coladas."
Trying to hide his amazement, the man accepted the drink, and they sat down on her couch to talk. After they had exchanged stories, the woman asked, "Tell me, have you always had a beard?"
"No," the man replied, "I was clean shaven all of my life until I ended up on this island."
"Well if you'd like to shave, there's a razor upstairs in the bathroom cabinet."
The man, no longer questioning anything, went upstairs to the bathroom and shaved with an intricate bone-and-shell device honed razor sharp. Next he showered--not even attempting to fathom a guess as to how she managed to get warm water into the bathroom--and went back downstairs. He couldn't help but admire the masterfully carved banister as he walked.
"You look great," said the woman. "I think I'll go up and slip into
something more comfortable."
As she did, the man continued to sip his Pina Colada. After a short time, the woman, smelling faintly of gardenias, returned wearing a revealing gown fashioned out of pounded palm fronds.
"Tell me," she asked, "we've both been out here for a very long time with no companionship. You know what I mean. Have you been lonely . . . is there anything that you really, really miss? Something that all men and woman need? Something that would be really nice to have right now!"
"Yes there is!" the man replied, shucking off his shyness. "There is
something I've wanted to do for so long. But on this island all alone, it was just . . . well, it was impossible."
"Well, it's not impossible, any more," the woman said.
The man, practically panting in excitement, said breathlessly: "You mean you actually figured out some way we can check our e-mail?"