Contemplating On New Juan Atoll a short story by Bill Mc Neice

Alexie was instantly wakened by the enormous blast. The explosion was so loud she thought it had to be a volcano or something. Running out to where she could see the beach, Alexie saw, about a hundred yards out, a massive fire on the water. Silhouetted against the flames she could see something trying to make it to shore. Not thinking of how she might appear, Alexie ran down, across the sand, dove into the surf, and swam to the young man struggling to stay afloat.

Getting to the man just as he was sinking, she had to dive down to reach him. Though she had never had any formal training, she was able to get the guy back to the surface and eventually to the beach. Dragging him far enough up the sand to ensure the tide couldn’t reach him, she turned him over and began giving resuscitation. When the man started to revive, she quickly ran off to the cabin where she was staying because her nightie was wet enough to be virtually see through. Besides, even if it weren’t so wet, it was too low cut and short.

Quickly drying herself, Alexie dressed more appropriately, and went to where she could keep an eye on the guy now on the beach as she began to eat her breakfast. She noted the man was beginning to move his arms and legs a little as he gradually began recovering. As the sun broke the horizon and continued rising toward the noon apex, she could tell the guy was waking up as his clothing was drying out. If he wasn’t up and about within an hour or so, Alexie would have to go down and talk him into finding shade. It wouldn’t be right for her to let him get too sunburned.

It was indeed fortunate that Alexie happened to be there on the island at that time. Normally, during that time of year she would be getting along easily. She would have just enough work to keep her busy, but not enough to require any real effort. This past year, however, things had gone crazy. Several key people in important positions had left the company for a wide variety of reasons. The result was that those who stayed were under extreme stress as they tried to keep things running as normal.

Then her husband ran into problems at work that increased the amount of stress he was under considerably. He was having to struggle just to remain civil at home. With Alexie and her husband laboring under such conditions, naturally it was adversely affecting the children, as well. Their school work had declined sufficiently to leave each of them in danger of being held back a year in school. The family was on the verge of collapsing underneath all the pressure they were experiencing from every side.

It was then that Alexie had realized what she needed to do. There was a four-day weekend coming up. She talked things over with her husband, and even though he didn’t like it, he agreed it would be good for her to spend those entire four days out on New Juan Atoll alone. The children, when she consulted with them, readily agreed because they knew she would come back as the mother they loved, rather than the overwrought witch life was turning her into.

Getting the time off from the job was not that easy. Things were so bad it looked as though the whole company would collapse if she missed even one day. In their hearts they all knew no one person was indispensable, but still the pressure of the job made it look like she had to stay. Finally, she told her boss, “Either I can leave Thursday evening with your approval and be back first thing Tuesday, or I can walk out Thursday night without it and just keep on walking. It’s your choice, but I HAVE TO HAVE the time off. Do you want me back on Tuesday, or should I find a job elsewhere?”

The boss was none too happy at what she heard, but she didn’t see where there was a choice. “You’d better be back Tuesday, or I will PERSONALLY see to it that NO ONE will ever hire you AGAIN!” the boss spat out. Then she turned and left in a huff. Alexie had hated making a threat like that, but her life depended on it. Later Alexie went to the boss privately and apologized. They talked in the office for over an hour. When Alexie finally came out, she and the boss were both smiling. Even though the work situation was putting a strain on their relationship, their relationship was still as good as it had ever been.

Wednesday, about four days ago, Alexie had spent the evening packing. Then Thursday evening her husband took her down to the marina. From there she took a small craft out to the island. She pulled up to a sheltered dock on the windward side of the island that was protected by a sea wall and natural rock outcroppings. From there it was a relatively short hike up to the cabin her family often rented there. It wasn’t much, but it was close to the beach on the leeward side of the island, and gave good protection from the sun and the occasional storm that came by.

The rest of Thursday, Alexie spent getting settled in. Early Friday, just after breakfast, she went down to the edge of the beach, sat on the remains of a fallen tree, and let all that was weighing her down flow out. She spent a long time crying. The tears were washing away all the pain and anger and frustration she had been feeling for so long. When she reached a point where her tears were running dry, she knew the worst was over. She gradually was able to make it back to the cabin where she had a light lunch. Alexie was already feeling the best she had in months.

After lunch, Alexie went back to the edge of the beach and began contemplating whatever came to mind. She had a journal where she was writing down each person she had wronged, and needed to ask for forgiveness. For each person who had wronged her, she was taking all she could remember about the situation, committing herself to never hold any of it against that person, choosing never to let any of those things occupy her mind ever again, and forgiving that person as thoroughly as she could. By doing this two part process, she was able to keep her conscience clear, and easily sleep at night.

By early afternoon, Alexie was writing poetry in her notebook as the sights, sounds, and feelings she was experiencing inspired her. The gentle sigh of breeze whispering through her hair was energizing her in ways she’d almost forgotten. Hearing the gentle rustle of leaves gave her quiet quivers of happiness through her soul. The solitude there on the island was rejuvenating her as she contemplated. Her soul was breathing deep breathes of contentment, and her spirit was soaring to the clouds. She couldn’t find the words to express how wonderful all she was living through there in the sun on that fallen tree at the edge of the pristine sand leading to the calming surf really was for her.

Alexie almost felt like crying again when she realized she had to have dinner. The experience there that afternoon had so renewed her being she didn’t want to leave. She knew, however, that such bliss was possible whenever she took the time to immerse herself in solitude like that. She had her meal that evening on a table on a little rise where she could easily see the entire beach.

When she had finished, she got out her journal and wrote whatever came to mind as she allowed herself to become one with the sky now filling with the moon and stars. When she finally drifted off to sleep, she drifted free through one ecstatic dream after another, giving her great joy beyond measure. It was about an hour before dawn on Saturday morning when her fantastic dreams were suddenly interrupted by the explosion from which she saved the person who was now recovering down on the beach.

Jake, the guy on the beach, suddenly realized he was waking up, though he couldn’t remember going to sleep. He ached all over like having been hit by a freight train, and he had a brain crushing headache. It took all the strength he could muster to just open his eyes. When he finally got them open, he instantly closed them again because of the glare. It took a few tries before he was able to keep them open. All that really showed him was that he had been sleeping on his back on some sandy beach.

Looking down past his feet, Jake saw the marks indicating that he had been dragged up the beach from the water. The drag marks went from where he was lying down the beach about a yard and a half to where the waves were gently licking the sand. Beyond that no marks could be seen. The gentle caress of the waves had smoothed out the sand down to where the water really started. Apparently, someone had dragged him far enough up the beach to keep him from drowning. … But who? … And why?

Looking both ways across the beach showed him nothing. Getting to his knees, he was able to see behind him. It was then he saw the footprints leading from where he had been lying, across the sand to a small gap in the trees at the edge of the beach. For some reason that reminded him of two statements he had seen one night on the door of a dorm room when he was a university student. The first one said, “A fifth goes into three evenly, with one to carry.” The second said, “Everyone leaves their mark on the sands of time. I know. I have left the mark of the heel.” Jake smiled. He had certainly been leaving the mark of the heel in the lives of the women he had known between then and now. And there were times beyond number when he had gotten together with friends to drink, only to find himself waking in bed a few days later unable to remember how he had gotten there.

Realizing he was feeling very warm, Jake decided to follow those footprints into the trees as a way of getting out of the sun. While heading across the hot sand to the cool shade, he tried remembering what he could about getting to the beach. The last he could recall was standing on the bow of his boat looking in the general direction of the island. He heard some strange noise behind him, and instinctively dove forward. Just as he was about to hit the water there was a blinding flash. That was the last he could remember before waking.

As Jake followed the path through the trees, he eventually came to the picnic area where Alexie was sitting and writing. When he realized she was there writing, he stopped and just stood there quietly until she looked up. “I’m so sorry to be disturbing you,” Jake said.

“That’s all right,” Alexie said. “I’m just writing short pieces, and this one’s now done. … You’re certainly looking better than you were earlier.”

Jake asked, “Are you the one who pulled me out of the water?”

“Yes,” she responded. “I made sure you were okay, and then I came up and got dressed. … You looked like you were sleeping with no problem, so I got a little something to eat, and got out my journal to continue the writing I was doing last night. I was getting ready to go back down and check on you, but then I saw you wake up and figured you would find your way up here.”

“The last I remember,” Jake said, “was hearing a funny noise and diving off the bow of my boat just as there was a big flash somewhere behind me. Did you see what happened?”

Alexie said, “I was wakened by a loud BOOM! When I looked out, I could see you floundering in the light of your burning boat. Apparently, it was some kind of explosion that destroyed the boat. I ran down, swam out to where you were floundering, pulled you to shore, and made sure you were safe before coming back here to change and eat. … I don’t have very much to offer, but are you hungry? Can I fix you something?” Alexie asked.

Jake answered, “Yeah, … I could use a little something, … and maybe something to drink.”

“All I can offer you to drink is water,” Alexie said.

“That’s fine. I probably had too much other stuff last night,” Jake said. “I could use some toast or something soothing to go with it. My stomach is a bit queasy.”

As Alexie got up to get Jake something, she realized she hadn’t introduced herself. Running up to the cabin, she grabbed two bottled waters and a box of matzo crackers. She figured if Jake’s stomach was giving him trouble, unsalted, unleavened crackers would probably be best. She took the second bottle so she could drink, as well.

When she got back down to the picnic area, Alexie said, “I forgot to introduce myself earlier. I’m Alexie.”

“People call me Jake,” he replied.

“Well, … Jake, … I brought a box of matzo crackers and each of us a bottle of water,” Alexie said as she handed Jake a bottle and the box of crackers. “That should carry us over until lunch. The crackers are awfully bland, but they should help settle your stomach.”

“Thank you,” he replied while opening the bottle. He finished about half the bottle, and then he started in on a cracker. Each one was about half a foot square, so he was taking it slow.

“Your name, Jake, is interesting,” Alexie said. “It’s short for Jacob. Back in ancient times, the name Jacob meant supplanter or con man. When I was a child, I heard a story about a guy named Jacob who later changed his name, and became the forefather of a great nation. … But that was centuries ago.”

“Since my boat blew up, I’ve got no where to go,” Jake said. “Besides, … I could use a nice story right now.”

With that as a lead in, Alexie began to share an old story she heard as a child. It was about the youngest of paternal twins Esau and Jacob born to the couple Isaac and Rebekah. When Esau and Jacob were born, Jacob came out second holding tightly onto Esau’s heel. Because of that, the midwife named him Jacob, the supplanter and swindler.

The two brothers were nothing alike. Esau had a reddish complexion and was hairy all over. Jacob, in contrast, was a real “smoothie” in more ways than one. His skin was soft and smooth. His technique in dealing with others was equally smooth. As a result he swindled his brother Esau out of the “First Born” birthright, and cheated brother Esau out of his father’s blessing, as well. At that point, Jacob had to leave town to keep from being executed by Esau.

Jacob went to the homeland of his mother, and went to work for his uncle Laban. He tended Laban’s sheep for seven years to win the hand of Laban’s daughter Rachel in marriage. At the end of the wedding, however, Jacob found out that he had been tricked into marrying Rachel’s older sister Leah, instead. To make it up to Jacob, Laban offered to let him tend the sheep for another seven years to truly win Rachel’s hand in marriage. The second time around Laban was true to his word, and Jacob was married to Rachel.

Laban, out of the kindness of his heart, offered Jacob, the husband of Laban’s two daughters, a permanent job tending Laban’s sheep. In return for keeping Laban’s sheep looking the best, Jacob would be allowed to keep all of the speckled, spotted, and striped sheep for himself. Some might not think that was a good deal, but it would give Jacob a good flock of sheep all his own, and for free.

Jacob saw the potential in the deal and accepted the offer. However, Jacob was not willing to be patient enough to let his flock grow at a normal rate. So he worked out a scheme that would greatly increase the number of speckled, spotted, and striped sheep being born while decreasing the number of ordinary sheep being born. It worked so well Laban’s other workers were concerned about Jacob getting rich off his own flock while Laban’s flock was becoming almost worthless. There was a rumor that the workers were seriously thinking about putting out a contract on Jacob’s life.

When Jacob realized that he had worn out his welcome, he took his two wives, their children, and the massive flock he had developed working for Laban, and headed back toward his own land. On the way back, Jacob had a life changing encounter that caused him to give up his swindling ways, and change his name to Israel. His twelve sons each became famous in their own way, and Israel’s descendants eventually settled in a nation of their own which became known as Israel, a major world power at the time.

When Alexie finished her little story, Jake confessed, “Well, … to be honest about it, … my given name is John. I took the nickname Jake because I thought it was a great short form of John. I guess I was wrong about that.”

Alexie simply said, “The short form of John is Jack.”

“At least I lived up to the meaning of Jake,” Jake said. “Although I’m not so sure that’s a positive thing. … That may have been the reason my boat exploded. … Some husbands will do some rather dangerous things when they think one’s messing around with their wives. … Changing his name seemed to work for that Jacob you told me about. Do you think it might work for me?”

“It might,” Alexie responded. “Under the circumstances, it’s probably worth a try. If someone is so upset with Jake that they’re blowing up boats, you need to do something. Changing your name would be a good first step.”

“Yeah, … you’re right,” he agreed. … “Tell ya’ what. From now on, just call me Jack! We’ll let Jake go down with the boat that exploded. … You don’t happen to know what Jack means, do ya’?”

Alexie looked just a bit embarrassed. She hated coming across as a know-it-all. However, he did ask, and she did happen to know. “Like I said a moment ago, Jack is the nickname for John. … And John means gracious gift.”

Jack smiled. “How about that. … I just went from being a real con man to being a gracious gift just by changing an ‘e’ to a ‘c’, and rearranging the letters a bit.”

Alexie warned, “Of course, you realize for the name change to work, you’ll have to live up to the new name.”

“What do ya’ mean?” he asked.

“No more swindling, cheating, or fooling around with the ladies,” she said. “You’ll have to be a perfect gentleman in every way, and as honest and trustworthy as the day is long. You’ll have to prove your presence in a person’s life is a real gift, and not just some kind of curse inflicted on them by someone who’s a real creep.”

Jack turned and looked off into the distance, deep in thought. What Alexie had said was true, but he wasn’t sure he had what it would take to make such a change. “I’m very grateful for what you’ve done so far, but I think I need to do some real soul searching. Would you mind if I took off down the beach for a while? I really need to think all this through.”

“That’s fine,” Alexie said. “I really came here to the island to have some time to myself. In a while I’ll fix some lunch for us, and if you’re not back, I’ll track you down. How’s that?”

Rising up and turning to go, Jack said, “That’s fine.” He started slowly walking back down the path to the beach. He had a lot to think about. As Jack disappeared down the trail, Alexie picked up her journal, turned to the page on which she had been writing, and slipped back into a deep contemplative state as she pondered how all of this was going to fit into her life. Gradually, all the contemplation led to her writing several more pages as her mind and heart converged in meditation.

About the time when one would have a late lunch, Alexie went back up to the cabin, and prepared a lunch based on foods that didn’t need cooking or refrigeration. While it certainly wasn’t fancy, it was enough to stave off hunger. About the time she got the food moved down to the picnic table, she heard Jack making his way back up the path.

“How’d I do on the timing?” he asked.

“I just got it out. Your timing is perfect,” Alexie said. “Have a seat and dig in.”

They sat across from each other and started eating. Jack started asking Alexie how she happened to be on the island. She shared about knowing the environmental group that owned the island and rented time on it to interested parties. She and her husband would often rent the island for a weekend now and then to help them de-stress. The group was usually able to let them have the island with no problem.

As Jack kept asking questions, Alexie began to share about her job, the stress that had driven her to the island, and the rejuvenating effect of her seclusion there. She even reached the point of sharing some of her writings with him. Jack was amazed at the quality of life that Alexie exhibited. Her writings showed a true understanding of life and the beauty that was woven all through it. He was amazed that someone could get so much out of life. It reminded him of a saying he had never understood before now, “Don’t just live the length of your life, but live the breadth, as well.”

As a way of coping with Jack’s inquisitiveness, Alexie started asking questions of her own. As she did, she found out that Jack had really lived up to the name Jake. He had conned, swindled, and cheated his way from being a poor boy who was barely able to make it into university into a successful business man who was well on the way to being a millionaire by the age of thirty. Unfortunately, he had left any traces of ethics, morals, and integrity in the dust in the process. The only good thing she could say about it was that he had avoided anything openly illegal. No illegal marketing of controlled substances, dealing in pornography, human trafficking, gambling, or anything of that nature.

He did, however, manage to separate many people from large sums of money in ways that were highly inappropriate, though not quite illegal. That left him with many people who wouldn’t mind if he were to turn up dead. Add to that the fact that he engaged in illicit affairs with married women, and Alexie realized he was a creep with a capital “CREE”. She now understood that the explosion that happened the night before was probably no accident.

When they had finished eating, Alexie carefully packed up all the remnants. One thing about the island being owned by an environmental group meant that you packed out all your trash to keep from having an adverse impact on the place. It was a bit of an irritation, but it was one she could live with. While she was packing away everything, she kept talking with Jack in ways that were meant to help him change his ways.

The story of Jacob and what happened in Jacob’s life had touched Jack deeply. When coupled with the boat explosion, it became enough to guarantee that he wanted to change. With that strong desire in his heart, he was willing to listen to all Alexie had to offer in the way of advice on how to proceed. He knew it would be hard, but he now wanted it more than anything he had ever wanted before. He was trying to pump Alexie for information on what he now needed to do, and was glad when he sensed her trying to help in such a way.

The time from lunch until dinner was spent there at the picnic table. Jack kept asking questions about living a more appropriate life while Alexie shared principles of living that would help him relate to people in a more ethical way. Jack realized it wasn’t going to be easy, but the way Alexie was presenting things made it seem very doable. Jack felt his being saved from the boat explosion was a major warning. He had been given a second chance to live a proper life, but he dare not blow it this time. He could tell there wouldn’t be a third chance, and he’d have Hell to pay if he blew it this time.

When the shadows started to get long across the table, Alexie excused herself to go fix another picnic type meal. Jack just sat there pondering all that they had discussed that afternoon. About half an hour later, Alexie came back with what amounted to a rather simple, but very tasty, dinner. It amazed Jack to find out how wonderful a meal could be made out of non-perishable foodstuffs and without any actual cooking.

During their dinner together, Jack asked, “Do you know a story about some guy named John like that one you told about that Jacob character this morning?”

Alexie thought for a few minutes, and said, “Well, there is one fellow named John that I used to here about in Vacation Bible School when I was a little girl. He was a cousin to the JESUS boy that was born on Christmas morning. … Well, … not exactly Christmas, but that’s when we celebrate HIS birthday along with Santa Claus and the Reindeer. … Let me see how much I can remember.

Long ago, back when the Romans were ruling over a major portion of the then known world, there was a couple, Elizabeth and Zacharias, who were old and childless. Zacharias was a priest at the big temple in the city of Jerusalem. One holy day when he was doing his thing in the temple, he had a vision concerning him and his wife. An angel appeared to Zacharias there in the temple, and told him that Elizabeth was going to have a baby boy that they were to name John.

Zacharias asked, “How do I know you’re not playing a joke on us?”

The angel said, “Since you doubt me, you won’t be able to say a word until the boy gets named John!” Then the angel disappeared.

Because Zacharias was taking so long in the temple, the others were getting worried that something had happened to him there in the temple. About the time they were going to do something drastic, Zacharias came out. It was clear, based on how he was behaving, that Zacharias had seen some kind of vision that had left him unable to talk. As soon as he could wrap up the things he had to do there at the temple, the leaders sent him home until he could recover.

It was a very short time later that Zacharias and Elizabeth realized that Elizabeth was going to have a child. To keep from having to deal with well intentioned folks trying to control how they were dealing with the situation, Zacharias and Elizabeth moved out to a secluded place where she could be pregnant in peace.

About three months later, that same angel appeared to a teenager named Mary, and told her that she was conceiving and the boy she was going to have would be the Savior of Israel. Since Mary was a virgin, she asked, “How is that possible?”

The angel said, “GOD can do anything. Even your cousin Elizabeth is three months pregnant now.”

Mary spoke with her parents about Elizabeth, and got their permission to stay with Elizabeth until Elizabeth gave birth. So Mary went to where Elizabeth was staying, and lived with her until Elizabeth gave birth. Elizabeth knew Mary was pregnant, and helped her cope with being a pregnant teen in a society where unwed mothers were executed for being immoral.

On the day Elizabeth gave birth to her boy, the in-laws were all there insisting that the child be name Zacharias Junior after his father. Zacharias demanded a slate and chalk so he could write what he wanted, and Zacharias wrote, “His name is JOHN!!!” At that instant, Zacharias got his voice back, and said a long prayer prophesying about his son John. Everyone there was amazed, and knew that boy was going to make a major mark in History.

Mary returned home when she was about six months pregnant and showing. To keep her from being executed, a guy named Joseph who had asked her father for her hand in marriage, was planning to have a quickie wedding, and then divorce her quietly, so no one would realize he was not the father. One night when he was sleeping, Joseph had a dream in which that very same angel that had spoken to Zacharias and Mary appeared, and told Joseph to go through with the wedding and to stay wed to Mary. When the time came for Mary to give birth to the child, Joseph was to name HIM “JESUS”.

However, the story of John doesn’t end there. About 30 years later, John, the cousin of JESUS, became an itinerant preacher who was going around baptizing people. As it turned out, JESUS was starting HIS own career as an itinerant preacher, as well. It was at that point that JESUS came to HIS cousin John and was baptized. Afterwards, JESUS started traveling all around the area doing miracles and making quite a name for HIMSELF. However, because of the fame of JESUS, people overlooked John, and started following JESUS.

The king at that particular time had a brother who married a woman with the looks of a love goddess. The king was so infatuated with his brother’s wife that he took her as his own wife. John, being the religious person that he was, openly spoke out about how wrong it was for the king to take his brother’s wife as his own. The wife was so upset over the situation that she wanted John dead. The king was afraid to have John executed because he was afraid it might cause a riot. The king knew the people thought John was someone extremely special, and would not tolerate John’s execution. The king, however, had John arrested and thrown into prison as a way of shutting him up.

While John was in prison, he began to doubt if JESUS was who John thought he was, the Savior of Israel. John sent some of his followers to ask if JESUS was. JESUS sent back an answer that only JOHN would recognize as an answer, but that would convince John of who JESUS really was. John was now at peace, knowing the Truth about JESUS, and was willing to accept whatever came his way.

On the king’s next birthday, the king threw a great party attended by many other kings and princes at the time. During the party, the daughter of the king’s wife did a dance that so stirred up the king, he promised the girl anything she wanted up to half his kingdom. The girl asked for John’s head on a platter. The king was deeply grieved by the request, but because he could not bear the embarrassment of welshing on the promise in front of his guests, the king had John beheaded.

John had been a very humble person who did little more than have an interesting birth, baptize JESUS, and get executed for openly speaking out against the king. However, he died in peace, having fulfilled his purpose in life, and by just being a such a humble person, had forever made a major indelible mark on the History of Mankind.

As Alexie began cleaning up after dinner, she realized it was getting late enough to be concerned about sleeping arrangements for the night. “Um, I don’t know how you will feel about this, but I am a happily married woman who will not do anything to compromise her relationship with her husband!” Alexie said matter-of-factually.

Jack knew he had to respect Alexie’s honor. “Tell ya’ what. If you have a sleeping bag, or even just a good blanket, I will sleep here on the picnic table,” said Jack. “I wouldn’t want to do anything that would be a problem for you. Um, … why don’t I just take a hike for a while, and when it gets late enough, I’ll just come back here and bed down.”

Alexie breathed a sigh of relief. She had realized that if Jack wanted to, he could easily overpower her, and do whatever he wanted with her. “When I finish cleaning up, I’ll bring down a good sleeping bag and bedding for you. … I might stay here and write for a bit, but when you get back, I’ll go up to the cabin and let you rest in peace,” Alexie said.

“Well, I will bed down, but I hope it’s not the time for me to ‘Rest In Peace’ yet,” Jack said with a chuckle. “I would hope to have at least a few days left to live. Otherwise, your saving me last night and spending time with me today was a waste of time.” Having said that, he laughed out loud.

Alexie, when she heard what he said, blushed slightly, said, “You know what I meant,” and laughed a bit herself.

Rising from the table, Jack said, “Take as long as you want cleaning up and writing. I’ve got a lot to think about, … and it’s the kind of stuff one needs to think about alone.” With that he went heading back down toward the beach.

When Alexie opened her eyes Sunday morning, she realized she had forgotten to set an alarm, and had slept much later than she had intended. She quickly arose, dressed, and went racing down to the table where Jack spent the night. Arriving there, she found the sleeping bag and bedding neatly packed back up. Jack was nowhere to be seen.

Looking down toward the beach, she noticed that he was sitting at the edge of the trees on a piece of fallen log. He seemed to be looking out over the water, deep in thought. Moving to a place where she knew he could see her, Alexie called out and waved vigorously. Hearing her call, Jack turned in her direction, called back to her, and waved to let her know he had seen her.

Alexie made some motions like eating. Jack made some similar motions, smiled, and nodded. As Jack started to move down the beach to make his way up to the table, Alexie grabbed the sleeping bag and the bedding and went back up to the cabin to fix breakfast. It was just a short wait from when Jack got back to the table until Alexie came back with a nice non-perishable breakfast. Such a meal certainly wasn’t fancy, but it was filling.

As they talked over breakfast, Alexie noticed that Jack no longer seemed to be pumping her for information about how to live. Instead, he seemed to be taking a genuine interest in her as a person and what she enjoyed in life. Responding to his questions as honestly as she could, she got to feeling that he was genuinely interested in her and what she liked to experience. As a result, she found herself opening up to Jack and sharing more of herself than she normally would.

After cleaning up from the breakfast, Alexie went for a walk around the island with Jack. Continuing their talk together, Alexie got to asking Jack questions about his life similar to the ones he had been asking her. As she did, Alexie got a strong impression that Jack was allowing her to see deeper into who he really was than he normally did. That seemed to draw them even closer together.

They made it back to the picnic table up the hillside from the beach at a time fitting a rather late lunch. Jack waited patiently as Alexie went and fixed a simple but adequate lunch. When she returned to the table, she brought her journal with her along with the lunch.

As they ate, she allowed Jack to read what she had been writing since Friday afternoon. She asked him to explain to her what each piece said to him. It amazed her at how he was able to connect so strongly with what had been filling her being as she had written each piece. It was as though Jack was experiencing exactly what she had experienced in writing each of the pieces. Finishing lunch, they kept sitting there going through the journal piece by piece. The more they went through, the more they felt themselves sharing their hearts and souls with each other.

By the time the sun began drifting toward the horizon, they knew they shared a strong common bond with each other. Alexie suggested that they take a break for dinner. Jack suggested that instead of eating at the table, they take a blanket to sit on and a box to use for a table down to the beach, and have their dinner on the sand where they could see the surf, moon, and stars. Though it seemed like a bit of work, Alexie was so touched by the suggestion she couldn’t refuse.

Alexie, for her part, was able to find a couple of candles and two candle holders to take with her. The blanket was large enough to give them lots of room to sit. For a table, Alexie spread a cloth over two suitcases she had brought to the island with her. While the two place settings were paper plates with plastic flatware, the candles and the atmosphere on the beach made the dinner exquisitely romantic.

The afternoon had brought them so close together, the conversation over dinner caused tingles to dance through their bodies. After they finished, rather than clean up right then, they let things sit as they gently sang the lyrics of songs they could remember back and forth to each other. Running out of other songs, they gradually began singing love songs to each other. Eventually, Jack took Alexie’s hand, and standing, gently led her into dancing with him as he continued singing love songs gently in her ear.

Hearing such words in her ear and feeling his arms around her, Alexie found the sensations flowing through every fiber of her body forcing her to squeeze herself into him more and more tightly. Finally, after a particularly passionate song, Alexie found herself gently turning her face to Jack’s as he gently pressed his lips to hers. They held the kiss for what seemed like an eternity as their two bodies melted into one under the glow of the full moon overhead.

When the kiss ended, they pulled slightly apart and stared into each others’ eyes. Their gaze went deep into each others’ innermost being. Suddenly, Alexie pulled away from Jack blushing a bright crimson as she went racing across the beach, into the trees, and up the hill to the cabin. Jack could do nothing but watch her as she ran from his embrace.

Not knowing what else to do, Jack cleaned up everything from their dinner together, and carefully packed it all up, including the trash. He then took it all back up to the picnic table. When he got there, the sleeping bag and bedding were already set out for him. Alexie was nowhere to be seen. Rather than seek her out, he simply got into the sleeping bag and went to sleep. Jack slept more soundly than he ever had in his life.

Alexie, as she ran up to the cabin, realized she could never interact with Jack again. She quickly got the sleeping bag and bedding he would need together and down to the picnic table. She then hurried back to the cabin, and went to bed. There she stayed motionless as her mind poured over all that had taken place that day. Contemplating in the darkness like that, she was finally able to get her emotions back under control. Then she quietly slipped down to the picnic table, grabbed everything that Jack had brought up from the beach, and took it all back to the cabin.

The next morning, Jack awoke to find breakfast for one set out next to where he was sleeping. There was a note with his name on it folded neatly and laying next to the plate. As he ate, he carefully read the note.

In it Alexie shared that she had already left for home. She shared how much the last two days had meant to her. She shared, as well, how Jack had so touched her heart that she could now see how totally committed she was to her family. In having become so close to Jack, she now understood how completely united she and her husband really were. That was why she had to leave so abruptly. To do otherwise would only lead to her irreparably breaking Jack’s heart because she could never be close enough to Jack to fulfill his needs.

She finished the note by saying he should take the gear up to the cabin. There he would find all the information he would need to get safely off the island and back to civilization. Jack packed up the sleeping bag and bedding and took them back up to the cabin. There he found the note explaining how to stow the gear in the cabin for the next occupant. He found, as well, instructions on how to go down to the dock on the windward side of the island, and call the shore patrol to get transported back to the mainland.

Alexie, when she got back home, was able to reconnect with her family in ways that she had not experienced in years. Her children were strongly responsive in such loving ways. It was clear that her time away had worked in her life and their lives to draw them all closer together than they had ever been before.

Her husband responded to her in a way that made it clear his love for her was stronger than ever. Her time with Jack on the island had revealed to her that her love for her husband was stronger than she had ever realized before. It was now obvious to him and to her that they were truly one mind, one soul, one spirit, and one heart. Their time alone together that night confirmed that they were not just soulmates, but they were as one as humanly possible physically, as well. When you are one, intimacy is far greater than it ever could be any other way.

When Alexie got to work Tuesday morning, she quickly started carrying out the plans she had made that first day on the island to clear up the problems she had inadvertently been contributing to at work. By the time lunch had come along, things were already so much better. Though nothing had changed in the work load, having cleared up the relationships with her coworkers made the work significantly less stressful. Her boss was amazed at the difference that Alexie’s long weekend had produced there in the office.

As for Jack, he was able to contact the shore patrol on the radio link with no problem. They did have a lot of questions concerning how Jack had gotten to the island, and the loss of his boat. However, they readily provided his transport back to the mainland. Since he was unharmed and there was no evidence of wrongdoing on his part, they just took him ashore, and let him go his way unhindered.

Over the next several months, Jack spent a great amount of time making a list of all he had treated improperly over the years. It took a while, but he was able to use his resources to make full restitution in all of the financial cases. When it came to how he had wronged the ladies in his life, the best he could do was stop any further misbehavior, and do what he could to heal the relationships he had injured. It took some doing, but when he had finished, he could finally live in peace without his conscience bothering him any longer. Being a Jack was so much better than being a Jake had ever been.


3 thoughts on “Contemplating On New Juan Atoll a short story by Bill Mc Neice

  1. Jessie,

    Thank you for the positive feedback. This was actually inspired by some pieces done by Heidi Willson. I just took what she had written and some of what I know of her, mixed it all up with a vivid imagination, and out came this little tale. As you have probably already read, I detailed the general process in earlier postings to this Blog. I explained the four steps:
    1. Seed of inspiration
    2. Contemplation
    3. Writing the first draft (This short story is that first draft)
    4. Revision

    I have gone through the seed of inspiration by explaining the details of the pieces that Heidi had written, and how they had spoken to me. Then I continued by sharing what my contemplation was bringing to mind. Finally, I wrote this first draft of the story that had come to mind.

    I will probably not bother doing any real revision to it. I will include it in a future anthology that I’m doing, but I seriously doubt that I will revise it at all.

    I greatly appreciate your taking the time to read it and think through what is presented. It means a great deal to me that you would take the time to do that. 🙂


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