Columbus, a man of action and intelligence, did not court frivolity. One hand directed Johan to keep swabbing the deck while the other pushed buttons on a tiny Korean phone that didn’t need recharging.
“You said the boat would run on biodiesel!” he shouted into the mobile. A starboard breeze brought tears to his clear blue eyes. At times like these the infinite ocean around him felt like the edges of his mind. Any thought was possible, but everything looked the same in every direction. Canvas sails creaked in the wind. The crew – mostly illiterate – had begun to vandalize the sails with crude drawings of genitalia and caricatures of their captain. The doldrums made everybody restless. The corn oil wasn’t working. And the possibility that he had he been swindled out of all that royal gold filled Columbus with rancor, which in turn exacerbated his heartburn.
“How do you expect me to reach India if my ship has no fucking fuel!?” It was a legitimate question. Rebecca Stead, a sallow-faced English girl staffing Eco-Go’s Bangalore call center two days a week to support her outrageous heroin hobby, didn’t know how to respond. She pushed a yellow button and quietly cradled the phone on its receiver. Eco-Go BioSolutions couldn’t afford wireless headsets yet – at least not for their sales representatives. But the pay was okay. Ten thousand leagues away tinny music poured out of the phone. Rebecca sighed, requested a bathroom break, and went to snort a line. Needles mean habit. This was a hobby.
In the perfumed Iberian courts everything had seemed so easy. Too easy thought Columbus bitterly. Look at him! Columbus stood stranded in the middle of an unknown ocean populated by monsters and mermaids and mannish seals with humanoid chest hair that sang like castratti, unable to control his crew, sick of tuna casserole and vitamin C tabs and dried cod, lugging around 200000 litres of potentially useless corn oil. On hold.