In the late 1980’s I was on a long sea voyage into the South Pacific. I moored my boat for over three months in Guam to avoid being out in the open ocean during typhoon season. I had lived on Guam back in the early 1960’s and received most of my University education at the College of Guam.(back then it was an affiliate of Ohio State University) I passed through the island several times transiting to and from Vietnam and the Philippines a few years later.
When I arrived in the late 1980’s the sleepy little island I had experienced in 1960-1963 was no longer. It had been invaded by the Japanese. (again!) In twenty-five years, the Japanese had recaptured the island by purchasing the beachfront real estate and building high-rise hotels and resorts.
I was appalled at first and then humored after I looked more closely. The Guamanian culture had changed drastically. What was once a laid-back Polynesian lifestyle was only evident in some of the villages in the countryside and a long way away from the hub of Agana. Many of the land owners had become millionaires. Their huts near the beaches were selling at downtown New York prices. Everyone had jumped on the ‘tourist’ bandwagon.
The tourists were predictably humorous, too. Since Guam was the closest tropical “foreign island” to Japan, the younger generations flocked to the US possession by the thousands. On any given week-day the tourist population from Japan usually numbered almost four thousand people. The guys wanted to shoot guns, eat steak and partake of the ‘pay-as-you-go-lust’. Massage parlors were located on every corner and in most strip malls near Tumon Bay.
The young Japanese women wanted to shop, spend time on the beaches, and sample the men; any men except the Japanese men. It’s true. I’ve never seen so many horny tourists in my entire life.
My eighteen year old son, who normally repelled women like a puddle of fresh puke, was able to get laid more than once. Of course he fell love right off and whined like a puppy when his Japanese squeeze climbed on a plane and flew back to her boyfriend and job in Tokyo. It took him a month to ‘get it’ and by then I was ready to continue our voyage. Mother Nature interrupted my plans; the late arrival of a typhoon that came close to our route south; so I waited another 30 days to get shed of Guam.
I finished the outline and began the novel, THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM, while waiting for my son to play out his libido string with the Japanese chicks. As it turned out this sexual anomaly was the only opportunity my boy had at ‘swinging’. He returned to being the ‘puddle of puke’.
Skid, the beach bum entrepreneur, was concentrating on the piece of work walking toward him.
Blondie marched instead of walked. She was tall and willowy with a dark gold tan. Her hourglass figure was exquisite. Any Hollywood starlet would kill for her natural look. Dressed in denim cut-offs, a bikini top, and one of her cheap, straw cowboy hats, she resembled Daisy Mae of cartoon fame. Swinging her arms like a Nazi soldier, other beach walkers gave her a wide berth, to avoid being struck by the huge straw handbag swinging to and fro. Blondie’s bag was famous on the beach. Normal girlie stuff; underclothing, sandals, makeup, perfume, comb, hairbrush, toothbrush, lotions, were not unusual. But the bag also contained horseshoes, pliers, a hoof knife, cans of beer, liniment, and a hammer.
Being bonked by her bag could be fatal.
Blondie’s face showed her age. Creased with fine worry lines any makeup base would hide, she looked every day of her thirty years in her natural state with the afternoon’s good light. Wide-set blue eyes seemed always to be smiling when she was in fair moods. When agitated or aroused, they turned steely gray – cold. A wide mouth and full lips were accentuated by light dimples; suggesting she was about to grin. Blondie’s actual smile was broad and beautiful. Straight, white teeth went almost unnoticed as her dimples deepened and eyes flashed. A high brow, straight nose, and strong chin laid claim to her Baltic heritage. Skid suspected she’d added some bounce to the topside. They were just too firm and perky, but he never let on he knew. It was one of those observations best kept to himself.
Skid considered the owner of the Craven Horse Ranch strikingly beautiful. Entering the fruit stand, she was a perfect sight, in spite of the large hickey on her neck. Almost every guy he knew wanted to get in Blondie’s knickers. Especially Watanabee. Skid was one of the chosen few. Blondie and he had sampled one another on and off for the better part of three years, neither willing to commit for more than a few days and nights
“Who’s been gnawing on you?” Skid asked unabashedly.
Blondie touched her neckline and blushed, suddenly self-conscious of the black and blue bruise. “Rabid Richard, who else?” she replied, referring to her Marine sergeant boyfriend.
When I’d lived on the island in the early 60’s, I survived one of the island’s worst typhoons in history. In the fall of 1962, typhoon Karen devastated the island. There was considerable loss of life, the entire infrastructure was down for months, and many people went crazy.
One had to be ‘off’ a bit just to survive the small island’s quirks. Sane people were soon sent over the bank. Being confined to a piece of dirt only thirty miles long and six miles wide at the widest part made for interesting character adjustments.
I have to admit when I first arrived on Guam, I was spooked with the knowing I was trapped on a small island. I borrowed my dad’s car and circumvented the island. I made one lap in less time than it took me to pass security at the Naval base. It gave me the heebe jeebies. I didn’t go ding-bat crazy but the knowledge of how small the land mass was -- gave me pause and certain claustrophobic tendencies. I immediately enrolled in the University, got involved in scuba diving and created a salvage business. Those activities plus the exotic women – diversions – probably kept me somewhat sane.
The people I witnessed coming to the island in the late 1980’s were suffering the same malady or worse; instant insanity. This mental condition, referred to as Island Fever, is prevalent in many Hawaiian and Alaskan communities as well. On Guam, however it reaches epic proportions when it’s coupled with a natural disaster; like a typhoon or a tsunami. I know -- I experienced it! (Sustaining winds of 180 knots with gusts to 250 knots) I witnessed firsthand how some people react when faced with the possibility of imminent death. I didn’t like what I saw for the most part. People I had held in high esteem acted cowardly and petty when the danger was near. (They also soiled themselves) Other’s who didn’t seem the type, rose to the challenges at hand and ‘glared back at the face of death’. I was fortunate to be included in the second category.
I started outlining and writing THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM while on the island and during our journey. I had to set the manuscript aside on and off and finally finished the first draft two years later while commercial fishing in Alaska. It’s a big book – 102,000 words; pared down from the original 160,000. It’s racy, bawdy, irreverent, and laced with dark humor. A lot happens during the few weeks chronicled by the novel. I hope you enjoy THE LAST FRUIT STAND ON GUAM. This reader did:
Literature is like a rope entwined with different shades of twine and it takes some skill to weave the genres into one solid length strong enough to carry the reader through more than 100,000 words. With elements of a disaster movie, a thriller, a character piece, some love scenes that walk the highwire between the erotic and outright bawdy, Robert Hatting in “Last Fruit Stand on Guam” tied me to the page and dragged me hurtling through his face-paced narrative.
I have never been to Guam, but if it is now on my TBV – to be visited list. He creates a cast of eccentric characters, puts them in dark situations and we gasp with amazement as they wriggle their way through them. Comedy scenes alone would not sustain the plot, but Hatting provides enough intrigues and cliff-hangers to keep you glued in what is finally a compelling and very entertaining read.