To The Zoo
Major Hightower, the boy’s tactical adviser, now felt less like a babysitter, or even just a chaperone, and more like a team leader. Sure, the children were still lacking in some areas but she had the confidence to provide the backing this crew of 5 needed. There was something about her that reminded John of a girl named Raven Stone. He saw her in the halls of his high school almost everyday. He never spoke to her and she hardly spoke to anyone else; however, he was under the assumption that she was someone you’d want on your team if you, “needed to kill some monsters and stuff.”
While on the helicopter ride to Zoo Island the boys marveled at the voices of those on the helicopter with them. The bulky headphones protected their ears from the overwhelming chopper blades but also had built-in speakers and a Mic. that wrapped around to the front of their mouth. The boys wore a smaller child friendly version while gaming but this, this was the real deal. Each crew member seemed to have an accent all of their own. Hanson must have hired people from all over the world, although some of the crew weren’t really speaking with accents at all, the onboard headsets just distorted what was being said. As the radio squawk was given by the pilot the boys hoped the air traffic controller understood what was said better than they did. The white noise mixed with static was casted through the air giving them permission to be propelled, what seemed like 10,000 miles high, into outer space. Their eyes were not big enough to take it all in. They communicated to each other through nonverbal body language and looks they exchanged. Once in the air they heard a loud beep then confirmation from the main pilot,
“Chckkkkk (the typical walkie talkie sound of the CB was always at the beginning and end of each statement) uuuh, check, check, onboard private intercommunication is on. Permission to speak freely boys.”
By, “boys”, the pilot was referring to the flight crew members, not the minor male adolescents. Another crew member was heard venting,
“Chckkk, ya know some don’t really give a ‘shite’ if we take off or land safe. The arse holes are professional hypocrites! Chckkk”
The pilot responded,
“Chckkkk, easy their Jonesey. The pay is all the same. The paaay is all the same. Chckkkk.”
Yet another crew member chimed in,
“Chckkkk, I wasn’t there. Chckkkk.”
John mistakenly thought the guy said, “I won the dare.” Ron didn’t mean to speak next. He was pretty sure the communication was only allowed between the official flight crew members. His words came out anyway,
“Oh, I wonder. He said, ‘I wonder there’, not ‘I wasn’t there.’ Yeah, I wonder too…uhh… uhhh…uhSIR! I’ll stop talking now.”
The airmen exchanged looks and Ron sunk into his seat. The safety straps kept him from sliding off and onto the floor. The offensive looks the men threw around turned into smirks and smiles. There was something fresh and even amusing about delivering this type of venture to these boys. They were all accustomed to the way the radio scratched and jumbled their speech. For a newbie the words all ran together. Even Major Hightower had to decode in her own mind what was being said. She knew she may have to translate things that were said directly to the boys, but she also knew the crew aboard this flight rarely addressed her, let alone any guest passengers. She also knew the men still showed some resentment toward her simply because she was a woman in what was predominantly a man’s world.
The boy’s listened in along the way as the men talked trash about their comrades. The overdose of testosterone was almost stronger that the he-man act David’s step dad dished out. Ron, having already spoken once, was not about to say one word more. Jeremy smirked when he was able to translate another man’s words. At first it sounded like the guy said, “It’s whiskey.” What he actually said was, “It’s risky.” The man stationed in the back of the helicopter said,
“Chckkkk, How come there’s still not mushroom in the back here? Jimmer, ya bring too much stuff! Chckkkk.”
The translation of mushroom was, “much room”. The man they called Jimmer responded,
“Chckkkk, It’s school Mark. Let’s fly without that extra gear and try jumping without lines or parachutes!!! Chckkkk, over AND out, Chckkkk.”
John wondered if his friends heard something about school with the way the phrase “It’s cool” came out.
The third man backed up the retaliation with,
“Chckkkk, Twos of the trade. I pity the fool who blames the twos. Chckkkk.”
Dave had a proud moment because he knew the wording was, “tools”, not twos. He recalled how some also said the word jail funny. When some people said Jail it sounded like they were saying, “gel.” In his head he heard the words and accent of this kid named Joe Kilmer saying,
“I hate gel. It’s hard in her.”
It cracked him up how the word, “here”, was pronounced , “her.” The whole phrase untranslated sounded so perverted.
The pilot’s name was Michael Cane. When one of the crew used the full name in a sentence it sounded like he said,
“Chckkkk, well uuh I’m sure glad we got my cocaine on board. Chckkkk.
In Ron’s mind he wondered why they kept calling one guy Monkey. Later he’d figure out the man’s name was Mike Key. This actually left Ron feeling let down. He was looking forward to catching monkeys they had only seen from a distance, using the tree canopy like a highway high far above their heads on their last visit to Zoo Island. He knew he wanted to keep one. That ushered his thought through a sad dark valley, reminding him that he had to return Tiny Tina The Tiger, the creature he had kept since their 1st trip.
When the initial idea about catching animals was presented to the boys they honestly thought that meant catching them on video. Shooting them meant capturing pictures, like a photo shoot. Quickly they realized they were being sent to not just seek out the creatures but succeed in catching them in cages.The boys knew this task was pretty much a suicide mission. They questioned,
‘Was being dead better than serving their sentence out in jail?’
They also questioned,
‘Do the adults involved realize how’ dangerous this mandate is?’
John wanted so badly to talk back to the superiors who were forcing them to tackle this feat. He desires to shout back,
“Capturing 1 house fly is no big deal but many horse flies, flies the actual size of horses, definitely requires someone with the skill of driving cattle and corralling a team of wild horses. The same goes for ants, the type on this island that picked ME up and literally flew off with MY BODY!!!”
Although that is what John wanted to protest he remained silent, like the good little boy the correctional system pushed through the proverbial hamburger grinder. They all knew that speaking up, talking back, expressing themselves in anyway only resulted in more punishment and penal torture. All 4 Boys liked the whole Good vs. Evil, super hero syndrome, but the line between what was right, and what was wrong was not only blurry it was a smear since the start of this project. They were no longer sure what was good, real right, or honest. There was no longer even just black, white, or shades of grey. They were dealing with an array of colors far beyond the acronym of Roy G. Biv, (the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet of the typical rainbow). John, the artist among them, once said to his friends,
“If Zoo Island were a box of colored pencils it would feature far more than even primary colors could form.”
He was still amazed how the 3 colors, red, yellow, and blue formed secondary colors and that from just those 3 there was almost an infinite amount of colors available. He likened it to his 3 friends and how their personalities combined made such an amazing spectrum of colorful characters and language. Their story would not be the same if John (the 4th color) wasn’t blended in.
The aircraft’s pilot called in to the main land before landing on the island.
“Chckkkk, Southport private air strip please confirm permission to land at….”
The boy’s listened as GPS coordinates were rattled off
The pilot’s squawk was monotone, routine, and all business,
“ChckkkkOk. Dr. Kowsinburg our GPS Reads (coordinates were spit out once again. Even faster this time). We arrrrrre uh rrready to land waiting per your approval chckkk. Over chckkk.”
Then they heard the beep, letting those suspended in the air above the island that their communication to the air traffic controller was temporarily turned off. The beep was followed by the co-pilot inserting his own derogatory description, an adjective he always used behind the head traffic controllers back,
“Chckkkk Doctor Fat Cows And Bird Brain! Chckkkk”
The pilot chastised him,
“We all know it’s true but watch yourself. Stay in check ladies. We are almost done.”
Jane (Major Hightower) hated when men called other men ladies.
The pilot switch back as the response from the control tower came in,
“Chckkk. Hawk Flight 90215 you’re confirmed to land. Keep radio channel communications open and clear in the event that conflict or obstructions prevail chhhhckkk.”
Even the kids knew this really meant,
‘Let us know if you end up under attack!’
Jeremy noticed the man in the back prepped a machine gun mounted in the rear. Dave was secretly hoping they’d have to battle some creature opposed to them landing. John’s intellectual mind told him the monsters on the island wouldn’t fight them. These beasts wanted visitors, it was like a full buffet sat out before them. Ron looked out the side door. He wondered if they were going to land or have to propel down on lines, ropes, or long cordes. Jeremy was looking also. He searched for the pet they left behind, Quazzy, the half dog, half Komoto dragon. There was no sign of life. Major Hightower was convinced if there were threatening creatures on this island right now was when they would fight and defend their home. She was wrong. The worst was yet to come.
The Pilot’s Answer came back quickly,
“Chckkk Affirmative (gps coordinates were rattled off again for what seemed like the 12th time) we arrrre free to land chckkkk.”
The pilot flipped the switch once again to privatise their communication, cutting them off from the tower, in spite of the directive. The pilot addressed his crew,
“Chckkkk Let’s drop this shite’ cargo and get the hell outta here kids. Chckkk”
Dave hated when men called other men kids.
They felt the hovering,
bulky, dual propeller machine dropping. The descent was slow but jerky.
“Chckkkk HANG ON! Chckkkk”,
The co-pilot commanded. Then he addressed the soldier in the very back.
“Chckkk GUNNER ALERT. DO YOU SEE ANY HOSTILES?! Chckkk.”
The report came back immediately,
“Chckkkk NEGATIVE! WE ARE ALL CLEAR! Chckkkk”
The boy’s stomachs began to rise acid as the flying vehicle came down. The thoroughly trained military men had only seen some of the life on Zoo Island and that was enough for even them to be nervous and thankful they were going to be able to leave in a few moments. At least they hoped they would be able to leave. There was no guarantee. They knew that at any moment they could possibly be portrayed as bait, prey for the godforsaken predator mongers living there. As soon as the skids hit the ground Major Hightower jumped out, immediately taking a defensive stance scanning the terrain for danger. She held two, automatic, fully loaded rifles, one in each hand. The safeties were off and she was ready to kill anything that moved. The remaining crew tossed the boys and their gear out. The boys felt like they were being treated like luggage but the reality was far worse. The men didn’t value them as much as they valued their own lives and their own equipment. These kids and their female mascot didn’t mean a thing. The co-pilot confirmed this as he shouted four harsh words,
“ChckkkkTAKE OUT THE TRASH! Chckkk.”
The boy’s tumbled out. Dave wanted to get on his feet first so he could turn back to fight the men who tossed them out. It was too late. Even quicker than they landed the helicopter carried the men up, off, and away. Leaving Hightower and the boys there to fend for themselves.
Go to Ch. 8