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  • Pru Warren

Playing Hookey


Sunday, November 14—7:02AM


I’m filled with grumpiness. Among my boundlessly negative thoughts this morning:


This ice is just untidy. Left littering about on the glassy gray water; someone should sweep it up into a pile. Or a sheet. This scattering of fragments is unpleasing to the eye.


And


This place COULD be more foreboding, I suppose. If screaming missiles were inbound.


And


I love both the art AND the architecture of the Italian Renaissance.


And


This sky is the color of the furnace filter when I forgot to change it. For four months. It’s a BAD color.


There are plenty of return travelers on this ship who assured me—oh, Patagonia is nothing. Wait until you get to Antarctica. Man, you are just going to love it.


I find that they are—so far—largely incorrect. If the captain said “We’re turning around and heading home now,” I’d do a happy dance. God, I am so fucking negative today. But—LOOK at it out there. Just how unwelcome can a species be? This is the least hospitable place on the planet. Weirdly, oddly beautiful—but determined to kill us. Antarctica is the Mata Hari of the natural world. I’m sitting in the observation lounge/library in my parka (inner and outer layers) because it’s cold up here. Inside. With the heat going. Fucking sheesh.


Sunday, November 14—11:41 AM


I’ve had a long nap in my bunk, and this time I took the precaution of putting my parka over me so I stayed warm and comfortable. As I slept, I heard various announcements about how we’d arrived at a place where we could go ashore—and how the chinstraps could some down to disembark—and then the diatoms—and then the adelies (my group) and I curled up tighter and happier and resisted the siren lure.


Not getting up, not getting up, going back to sleep, ahhhhh!


And now I have the ship pretty much to myself. We’re in a mirror flat bay littered with tatty ice, white against the silvery gray. The hills around us—and mighty icebergs floating alongside—are variably white or grey depending on the clouds overhead. The snow has stopped. The best thing is, I have a great view of the hillside opposite, where some 60 orange coats are strung out in a jagged line, climbing climbing climbing up the hill. They’re passing individuals and clusters and flocks of penguins who couldn’t care less that they’re being observed. It’s like a tiny Christmas diorama.


With my binoculars, I can see that people are following the path trod by the naturalists. Little, mincing icy steps that will hopefully keep them on the snow that has been packed down by the previous footsteps—but occasionally as I watch, someone sinks in to their knees, and I chortle with delight that I’m not out there.


Because they’re following one set of footsteps, they’re strung out in long lines. You can only go as fast as the person in front of you, and no passing, please. Like a one-lane road in twisty country, snarling Ferraris are being held up from their preferred pace by the Edsel puttering to the market. And oh, how I would be a creaky old, panting Edsel—and OH how I would feel the pressure of the nimble-footed Ferraris at my back! I would try to hurry. I would step wrong. I would sink into my knees. I would apologize—I’m so sorry. Not to worry, they’d say. No rush. Their hugely-horsepowered engines would be throttled back patiently. Yes, it would be hell.


And then to repeat the process all the long way back down. All in order to have a different view of the exact same monochromatic scene. Another look at some more indifferent birds, shitting their brown guano all over the white hillside.


Yes, my friend—I think I’m very comfortable right here. (That gave me a few moments’ pause; that’s a line from a movie, innit? Yep. Belloque throws Indy into the snake-filled well of souls. My goodness, my friend—whatever are you doing in such a nasty place? Lexie, at least, is saying it along with me.)


I’m chortling. Sitting here alone, except for the sweet waiter who is setting up lunch in the observation lounge, and giggling like a madwoman.


Make no mistake: I DO feel guilty for not going on the expedition. I think that Tua and Eduardo would lose any small regard for me they might have had if they knew I didn’t join the expedition. But I don’t feel as guilty as I feel happy. So? NET POSITIVE. I win. Vacation victory.


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