(Today’s writing comes from Miriam Sallon, a writer from the UK. Her travels have taken her far and wide, across Australasia, South East Asia, Europe and the Middle East. But she has still yet to find as accommodating a misfit as young Wentworth.
You can follow her on Twitter @ToBeRead_UK and you can read more of her work at t-b-r.blog)
Were I writing a story about a feral wild man living on a pirate’s desert island, it’s highly unlikely I would name him Wentworth. But this is not a story, and the name of the feral wild man living on a desert island who was to play host to my friend and I was Wentworth, so that’s what we will call him. It would be rude to do otherwise.
And were I writing a story about a stay on a pirate’s desert island, it’s most likely that I would imagine golden sandy beaches, lanky palm trees, and caves filled with glittering treasures gathered on iniquitous adventures. But as Wentworth rowed us closer and closer in his broken boat, the island gently came in to focus and what he had previously described on his ‘Couch Surfer’ profile as his little piece of paradise was in fact a shack situated on a strip of wasteland, close enough to the mainland that you could hear the traffic, but far enough away that you couldn’t swim to safety…
Wentworth was not a pirate himself, rather he was taking care of the island for his pirate friend, Bunjee. Although the question was asked a number of times, we never did find out how Wentworth and Bunjee were acquainted.
The interior decor consisted of a couch with no cushions, and a fold-out deck chair that had washed up on shore. The walls and cupboards were covered in messages scrawled in felt tip, written by previous guests. I noted one that said “Dear Wentworth, it was really nice to meet you, even though you killed that kitten.”
Our bedroom belonged to Bunjee’s daughter who, Wentworth told us, had sadly never been allowed to come stay with her father. Nevertheless, her bedroom awaited, suitably decorated with dolls’ heads, removed from their bodies and stapled to the ceiling, just what every little girl dreams of.
The morning after we arrived, I crawled into the living room through the hole in the wall provided to enter our bedroom, to find Wentworth on his knees by the fire, cradling a dead bird. It had been the only bird on the island, he told me, his voice breaking a little, and that morning it had flown into the window and killed itself. I tried to console him, though from afar because Wentworth had a very distinctive odour that I had yet to accustom myself to. Anyhow, I suggested we have a burial service which perked him up a little. I called to my friend and we walked slowly outside in a funeral procession to the side of the house, where Wentworth removed the lid off a pipe that led into a big box, dropped the bird in, and with a big pole, started ramming the bird down the pipe. When we heard the small corpse finally land –plunk- into the box, Wentworth gently laid the pole aside and said a few words of tenderness.
We later discovered that this box-pipe contraption powered the house and that the bird would be a very good source of energy. For the rest of our visit I felt markedly sombre whenever I switched on a light or used the stove.
Wentworth did his very best to host us as well as he knew how, but, for instance, it did not occur to him that biting his toe-nails in company was not good dinner-table manners. He never wore shoes, and his feet were covered in pussing cuts and callouses. I tentatively asked him about one particularly oozing gash, and he said ever so casually that he’d got a piece of glass stuck, and figured it would make its way out if it wanted to.
The week prior to our arrival, he had somehow procured mounds and mounds of Brussel sprouts from a kindly farmer on the mainland, and had been eating nothing else since (- this likely goes some way to explaining his unique scent). Though generally eaten raw, he would occasionally put them in the fire for a moment as a warm treat. I think he was a little hurt that we rejected his offer to follow suit, but once he had tried our gourmet tinned tomato sauce and ‘own brand’ pasta, he saw that the life of sophisticates such as ourselves had its advantages.
He asked about London, and though I tried my best to describe the hustle and bustle; the electric buzz constantly generating from the busy streets, his face grew wan, and he said quietly, “Why would anyone want to live there?”
One evening, my nose was a little runny, and I asked Wentworth if he had anything resembling a tissue to hand. He looked slowly around the room, then shrugged and pointed to a crispy-looking towel hanging from the ceiling. He said it used to be for drying dishes, but a while ago he’d had to mop up something sticky on the floor, so now its purpose had been downgraded. I suggested he clean it and use it once again to dry dishes. He looked confused for a moment, then said, “I have a t-shirt for that now…Anyway, what would you wipe your nose with?”