THE ONLY THING
by Ramon Vanden Brulle
The place was bright and noisy, full to bursting. The waitresses, the only women in the room, wielded thick china and shrugged off the jokes, clumsy passes, and general air of flirtation, giving as good as they got. The tips were piling up, and they knew plenty of these guys, or at least the type: men in the company of men, on the verge of the outdoors, excited and nervous as boys. Harmless enough.
Outside it was still too dark to see the low, thick sky. The pavement was dry, but the gravel and grass were damp, the potholes full of muddy water. The café was one of the few places with the lights on, and it shone like a small moon landed in the center of town. In the dim glow of the streetlamps, the small business strip gave the impression of never having projected enormous prosperity. This is a long way from anywhere, plagued with one of the dampest climates on earth, 200 inches of rain a year and a mean temperature around 50 degrees.
When Europeans first saw this place from the sea, they did not want to come ashore out of fear. Never mind the lack of moorage, dangerous reefs, and giant, bone splintering breakers. The Devil himself lived in places like this, beneath these dark wet thickets of towering trees. In fact, the first Europeans to set foot on this shore were set upon within moments of landing their small boat, killed, dismembered, and cooked before the eyes of their horrified shipmates anchored beyond the surf line. Explorers spread fantastic tales of savage, cannibalistic natives waiting in ambush for God’s children under the impenetrable green canopy.
Some of the natives actually were effective raiders and warriors. They thought they lived in the richest paradise on earth, and pretty much just wanted to be left alone. They had no idea how right their first instinct was. Europeans are nothing if not avid, especially once they’re squeezed through the American can-do filter, and Satan notwithstanding, those enormous trees were like money lying on the ground. Thus grows a resource outpost, the logging town, an operational testament to who the real cannibals are. (more…)