“Crabs on the Island”
“Hey, you there! Be careful!” shouted Cookling at the sailors who, standing up to their waists in the water, were trying to drag a small wooden case along the gunwale of the boat. It was the last of ten crates the engineer had brought to the island.
“Phew! Isn’t it hot! Like a furnace,” he groaned, wiping his thick red neck with a bandana handkerchief. Then he pulled off his sweat-soaked shirt and threw it on the sand. “Take your things off, Bud; there’s no civilization here.”
Dejectedly I watched the light schooner rocking gently on the waves at a distance of a mile or so from the shore. It would come back for us in three weeks’ time. “Why the devil did we have to come to this sun-hell with your machines?” I demanded of Cookling as I undressed. “With a sun like this we’ll be peeling like cucumbers tomorrow.”
“Never mind. The sun will come in useful. Incidentally, it’s exactly noon, and it’s just above our heads.”
“It’s always like that at the equator,” I muttered, not taking my eyes off the “Dove”. “All the geography books tell you that.”
The sailors had come over to us and were standing in silence before the engineer. Unhurriedly he put his hand in his trouser pocket and took out a wad of notes.
“Is that enough?” he asked, giving them several. One of them nodded.
“In that case you can return to the ship. Remind Captain Gale we shall expect him in twenty days’ time.”
Then Cookling turned to me. “Let’s get busy, Bud,” he said. “I’m impatient to begin.” I stared at him.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know why we’ve come here. I understand that it may not have been convenient at the Admiralty for you to tell me about it. But I think you can now.”
Cookling grimaced and looked down at the sand.
“Of course I can. I would have told you all about it even then but there was no time.”
I felt he was lying, but said nothing. Cookling stood rubbing his purple neck with his greasy palm. He always did that when he was going to tell a lie, I knew, and now that was quite sufficient for me.
“You see, Bud, we’re going to perform an interesting experiment to test the theories of that. . . what’s his name. . .?” He hesitated and looked searchingly at me.
“That English scientist. Damn it, I’ve clean forgotten his name. No, I’ve got it— Charles Darwin.”
I went over to him and put my hand on his bare shoulder. Continue reading “Read “Crabs on the Island,” sixties Soviet sci-fi by Anatoly Dneprov”