Drinking Coffee while Dinosaurs Roam My Backyard
One of the basics about the universe is that time is relative. For physicists it’s all about mass and speed of light and stuff, but most people are aware of this effect in another context. When you are bored time passes slowly. You stare out of the car window while the scenery just keeps on rolling by and you wonder when will you actually get there. Is it yet? But it never is and time feels like it’s standing still. You know the feeling?
I’m fairly positive that Milla and Meri have done something to the car. Again, I might add. We’re on our way to a summer cottage that a couple of friends invited us to. Unfortunately it’s an hour and a half drive away in the archipelago hopping from island to island across short bridges. The girls of course started talking about teleports and transport beams the minute we got the call to come over but I don’t consider those exactly safe. There’s something to what Bones keeps telling Kirk about how your molecules get scattered all over the universe, and is it really you you that gets there in the end? So I insisted on taking a car.
And that’s how I ended up driving a hundred kilometers per hour some ever narrowing dirt roads, roads where a quarter of that speed would be more than enough.
When the girls get bored my time starts running really fast.
But seeing how this isn’t my first rodeo, not even in the early hundreds, I actually manage to keep us on the road. Bushes and trees whizz by in an emerald flurry and the small pebbles and rocks fly all over the neighborhood launched by the skidding tires. I’ve got enough adrenaline in my system for an entire Roman legion getting ready to fight the Goths and feel like I could give Keke Rosberg or Mika Salo a nice run for their money.
Finally the car slides to a stop and we arrive rolling gently across the property line. I check my clock. Twenty minutes since the ignition got the motor humming and not a second more. Oh well, I guess I have that much more time to laze around on the rocks by the sea and tan myself like a walrus sans the fangs.
The second the car is no longer moving Milla and Meri are running towards the cottage to meet their friends waiting on the porch already in swim gear, all three of them. I take a glance at the back doors. They are still closed. Did the girls tunnel through them? I open the window and bellow after them.
“Don’t go anywhere yet, they said we’ll have lunch when we get here.”
“Mom hasn’t even started making it yet”, says Alarik from the porch. “Did you bring the water balloons?”
Right, we got here about an hour earlier than anyone expected. Hmm, maybe not anyone, after all. Alarik, Miljaana and Juho have five ice creams at hand and in this heat they’ll melt in one minute flat. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that no adult was expecting this schedule.
“We have the balloons,” says Milla.
“We can have a balloon war,” Meri continues.
“First we can go swim”, says Miljaana and points downhill. “Water’s really warm.”
“We’re gonna play pirates”, says Juho and waves an inflatable plastic sword over his head.
“Yay, pirates!” shout Milla and Meri in unison. I get a bad feeling immediately.
“Remember, no real cannonballs. That admiral from the navy was not very amused the last time and I promised to make sure no one will have to call him about that kind of thing while he is vacationing. And the food will be in an hour.”
I can’t really tell if I get heard or not as the herd of huns stampede down the path towards the sauna, small pier and glistening sea. Slowly the shouts and screams of joy recede. I shake my head and start lugging our stuff towards the cottage.
The place is some fifty years old and while it serves its function just fine, it really does look the part with the 70’s color palette strewn all over. There’s no toilet with running water, just an old time outhouse, but no matter. The most important thing is that a few years back they got an A/C unit installed.
“Welcome. We just finished the food prep and just have to boil everything. Did the kids go swim already?” The trio’s mother helps me carry our luggage inside.
Did I really pack this much? As a matter of fact, how did all of this fit inside the trunk to begin with? I recognize the food bags, all the clothes for various weather conditions and a huge tent for all five kids to sleep in, but some boxes look more than suspicious. What did the girls pack to bring with and how did they enlarge the trunk to fit it all? I guess it was a bad idea to let them watch a whole season of Doctor Who.
We can hear water splashing all the way from the shore so that answers the main question.
“Would you fancy some coffee by the way? And we got this new game with nature spirits trying to fend off the Swedes if you’d like to give it a try.”
So for the next hour we fight the invading forces of a far off Nordic Empire.
* * *
In the end our island gets overrun. I’d like to suggest a game of building insane castles but the food is about done so me and the trio’s father decide to go get the kids in person. Calling them would be less than ideally efficient. When we reach the shore we notice two things.
The constant barrage of laughter and splashing is not there.
And neither is the small wooden pier.
The pier is excellent for jumping into the water. There’s a ladder you use to climb back and two poles you can tie the rope on while letting people off the boat. I guess it’s also an excellent substitute for a pirate ship. At the moment it is probably sailing in some lagoon the Jolly Roger hoisted high. But where? The closest islands are blocking most of the view. I suggest that we take the boat for a brief ride.
We get the small motor boat into the water and drive across the calm sea. Behind one island, then the next. Some are just fifty meters apart so the nautical chart is critical so we can see where all the barely sunken rocks lie. Or so I’m told. I couldn’t read a chart like that to navigate my way out of a bathtub.
“Strange,” my companion says. “The island chain isn’t that long. I know, I’ve been sailing these waters for at least thirty years. There should be a wide lane for the large passenger ferries to pass through but these islands just keep on going. And the chart agrees which is also strange because I updated it yesterday when I found a new rock and then it looked normal.”
I guess it would be boring to hunt for treasure on an open sea. I check my phone for time. Good, there’s two three hours until the ferries will be coming. But how can we find five pirates who are on the run from the crown and lunch time?
With a bait of course. “Gold. We have lots of gold aboard,” I shout as loud as I can. But nothing happens even if we wait.
“And lots of shiny jewels and glittering diamonds,” I try but the result stays the same.
“What else do pirates want beside gold and jewels?”
“Rum, I guess.”
“We’re not letting them have rum,” I point out.
“I wasn’t suggesting that. Just saying that it’s a traditional pirate trope.”
I sigh and open a bag of candy I had in my trouser pocket. Fruit drops. I pop one into my mouth. This could take a while.
Suddenly there’s a loud boom. Like cannon fire. I look up. Something is careening towards us along a beautiful ballistic trajectory. “Evasive maneuvers, captain!”
Then we get hit.
The water balloons we bought were on the small side. You could make them the size of a fist at most before they simply burst. They have been modified somewhat since. We get hit by something that is basically a fragile five liter ball of water. It impacts with the gunwale and utterly drenches the both of us.
The pier floats from behind a nearby island. I was right. It does have a flag of skull and bones letting people know on what sort of business the crew is roaming about.
“Stand and deliver,” Milla announces. The pier is moving rather fast for something that at least in theory is lacking motorized propulsion.
“Surrender your candies,” Meri threatens and swings a plastic sword. They all seem to have one.
“We’ll make you walk the plank.”
“Arr, do you have any parrots?”
“No use hiding any sweets. You will be searched.”
We are overwhelmed by a barrage of pirate related phrases and soon after by the crew itself. A quick switcheroo later the candy bag is gone and I’m left holding a fistful of seaweed.
“You can eat the candies but only after lunch. Time to sail home now,” my companion says. The pirates grumble and groan in response but defer to the demand. We start heading towards the shore.
“Oh and if you could fix the ferry lane at some point. The ship captains would really appreciate that I expect. And it’s for our benefit as well. Otherwise me may encounter some problems when we go on a cruise the time. They might not be too keen to let us onboard if we cause them delays here.”
One by one the extra dots on the chart start disappearing. I look back and watch a thousand islands sink back beneath the waves. It’s quite majestic to tell the truth.I wish we’d be back already. I’m starting to get hungry already.