I need a billion dollars. Or thereabouts. I’m considering a crowd-funding push to buy Plum Island, which is up for sale. The small plot of land sits just east of Orient Point, across a narrow channel of water, beyond the northern tip of Long Island, New York. For decades it housed a research facility run by the U.S. government, notable for studying the effects of foot-and-mouth disease in cows. This isn’t to be confused with foot-IN-mouth disease, which is a plague primarily endemic to humans, usually after too many martinis, and characterized by loud and loose talk about that shameless slut, who is just “so shameless, so proud of her home wrecking, hiccup, letting it all hang out in that dress that is two sizes too small for her. She has handled more semen than the state forensics lab, that one has, and she beats her kids and she is standing right behind me, isn’t she? I don’t care. See if I care. I just don’t care. Hiccup.”
There is speculation that Plum Island, this little piece of acreage out where the ocean meets the sound, could fetch one of the highest prices in real estate history. Not since Manhattan went on the block for about thirty bucks and a few ears of corn three centuries ago is such a steep transaction expected. Not surprising, since it is all about location. Plum Island sits right above the playground of the rich known as the Hamptons. It is a bucolic stretch of seascape where hedge fund managers and movie stars sit around in the sand and compare helicopters. For a mere billion dollars I could set up a nice little bungalow and brag about my flashy neighbors like Billy Joel, Sting, Pauly Shore, that wacky family with nineteen kids, Jesco White the Dancing Outlaw, and the honey badger, just to name a few. In fact I’m not sure who lives in the Hamptons. For all I know it could just be a bunch of parvenu drinking cheap tequila and fondling the cousins. Not the immediate ones, of course, because that would be weird. Just the ones with different last names or however it is justified.
So eager was I to acquire the mysterious Plum Island that I gave little thought to what I would do once I was lord and master over it. As is my habit I fell back on the writers of yore. There were a few options. I could use it to hunt marooned sailors, like Count Zaroff in The Most Dangerous Game. Use it to develop my own race of human beasts like The Island of Dr. Moreau, or just put together an army of savages like Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. The possibilities seemed endless. I could rent me some Sirens, the singing mermaid type, build a reef nearby so ships could wreck on it, steal their cargo, imprison their crew and generally cultivate a reputation of terror, fear, dread and madness. I could be my own northern version of the Bermuda Triangle, just absorbing and destroying anything that wanders into my zone. Folks would stand at the railing of the New London ferry and point at the darkened outline of my rocky coast. They would warn their children against ever setting foot on the doomed shore. They would recount horrible legends that eclipsed, just slightly, the truth of the matter.
It occurred to me that I may be heading in the wrong direction on this one. Instead of being a sadistic, homicidal shit-head I could produce an earthly paradise of peace, love and understanding, more like James Hilton’s Lost Horizon. Better yet, develop a reputation for horror and murder, then make it the utopia. That would keep the weasels and rats from crashing the party. It is a regrettable truism that there is a faction of the human race full of resentment and cupidity that enjoys ruining other people’s fun. ISIS, The Huns, and Nazis to name a few. There is water on Mars. Then there was the all-inclusive red desert resort for the rich. Then there was the Fourth Reich. That’s how it goes, as Leonard Cohen says, and everybody knows.
I went down to the local saloon. I needed to bounce some of my ideas for my Island of Saturnalia off of the local rummies. There was Fess, Scrim, Big Frank and Calhoun. They were at the bar and good and liquored up, which meant I had them right where I wanted them. I bid them top of the morning, since Fess, Scrim, Big Frank and Calhoun liked to drink all day and you can’t drink all day unless you start early. I told them about my plan. They seemed eager to sign up. A handful of drunken colonists. They were already discussing the monument that would be erected in their honor, on a hilltop, overlooking the sea. It would be an earthly paradise, a place where ultimate freedom reigned, which is the best kind of freedom. No rules, just life reduced to its purest form of expression.
“I’d watch out if I were you,” whispered Scrim to me in haste. “Big Frank will kill you in your sleep. He sees you as a threat to his rightful position. Tell you what, we’ll pledge allegiance to him and then cut his head off in the middle of the night.” I told Scrim he was being paranoid. Even so, better safe than sorry, said he. And you can’t trust Calhoun. He’d smother his own mother. Eerie rhyme, said I. Didn’t mean it, said he. Then Fess asked what type of currency system would be in place? Which god would be our god? Who could lay claim to the best plot of land? When would we import our slaves and how could we best suppress women’s rights? How could we defend against miscegenation and fight the Islamic scourge? How could we profit off the labor of others? Calhoun suggested we turn it into a profitable penal colony and Big Frank insisted he wouldn’t go in for any gay stuff. Calhoun tried to explain what a penal colony was, but Big Frank had already outlawed “Sodomites.” That was quick. I called them all a bunch of fascist pigs and Scrim went after my throat with a butter knife, vowing to burn the island to the ground rather than see it in the hands of puking communists. “Et tu, Scrim,” I wheezed. We were all about to kill each other when the bartender brought a round of shots and everything settled down. We sipped our drinks, eyed each other cautiously. Maybe we weren’t the right people to run a fledgling society. Then we turned to the television to watch Congress try to pick a new speaker of the house.
More Alembics to come