Bananas don’t really grow on trees. They grow on stalks, which get to be fifteen feet tall. When they stop having bananas, they’re cut down. Then new stalks appear, which have more bananas and so on.
The old cat didn’t care whether it was a tree or a stalk, and the bananas didn’t interest her. She was content just sitting there, watching the little bit of the world she cared about. She dimly remembered long ago, when she was a kitten. Then lots of things had interested her. Not any more. A bird in another banana tree caught her eye; but it was too far away and besides, she was sleepy. She had just eaten a rather nice mouse, and there were plenty of birds in her world. Maybe some other time when she was hungry, or when a bird was within easy reach. Food was not her problem; she had no problems.
If she had turned a bit, she would have seen the old man with the walking stick. He wasn’t hungry either, but he did have a problem. The old cat wouldn’t have understood. She was a cat, and cats don’t believe in problems.
The old man with the walking stick believed in problems. Truly, he did. He had more than his rightful share. It wasn’t as though he deserved them; he just had them. His most immediate problem was the outboard motor on his little boat. It had been acting stubborn, and he couldn’t trust it to take him where the big fish were, or to bring him back to where he could sell them. If he couldn’t catch fish, he couldn’t sell fish; and if he couldn’t do that, he had nothing. Nada. That was his role: catching and selling fish. Without fish, he might as well just disappear: go “poof”. His wife had told him so, and she was most surely right.
He didn’t always fish. Sometimes, he and the other fishermen met big ships miles off shore late at night and carried their cargoes to the island. It brought them more money than fishing ever did, that’s for sure. Fat Oscar had given him the motor so he could do it. He was good at it. He had no trouble meeting the ships, he didn’t ask questions, and he didn’t care what the cargoes were. He had been paid well, his wife had been happy, and he had been happy. Even when there were no fish to catch. Now, he couldn’t fish, and he couldn’t meet the ships. Something had to be done.
Fat Oscar scared him, but maybe he should find The Man and ask him what to do. He would know. Fat Oscar was smart and had lots of money. Maybe he would just give him a new motor, or at least get the old one fixed for him. That’s exactly what he would do, right now. Then he could fish, and bring in the cargoes at night. His wife would be happy, and his problems would be solved.
Up in the banana tree, the cat slept. As she dreamed about mice and the bird, her paws twitched. She caught and played with both, without either getting away. It was a good dream. It was like being a kitten again.
Fat Oscar had a problem. The mother of all shipments was coming that night, and he needed all the boats he could find to bring the cargo in. He would be very dead if he didn’t manage it; his boss didn’t want excuses. He wanted the cargoes off the ships and taken ashore long before sunrise. How to do it was Fat Oscar’s problem. If Fat Oscar himself became the problem, the boss knew what to do. The boss knew only one way to take care of problems like that, and it worried Fat Oscar.
The damn island fishermen didn’t know beans about outboard motors, and half of them were broken. That old crippled guy had just told Fat Oscar about his. That made five that weren’t working. Damn. There was no way to get all the cargo ashore before sunrise, unless he could get them fixed. Fat Oscar had given them the damn motors, and he paid them good money for not much work. He even let them use them for fishing. The least they could do was keep them running so they could do what they were supposed to do. But they didn’t. They were too stupid to figure it out, he guessed.
The only guy on the island who knew enough about motors to help was Rasta George, and he looked like he was half stoned half the time; the rest of the time he looked completely stoned. Stoned or not, he didn’t much like to work, and he really didn’t like to work for Fat Oscar. He preferred to sit around contemplating Rasta Magic. No matter, he would do what Fat Oscar told him. That’s the way it was. Fat Oscar would take him by his ratty little beard, if need be, and drag him down to the beach to fix the motors. Fat Oscar knew he wouldn’t have to do that, but the picture made him laugh.
Rasta George squatted in the dust outside his shack, contemplating the insides of an old outboard motor. It was in pieces, and he just squatted there, looking at it. When he saw Fat Oscar, Rasta George motioned for him to go away. Fat Oscar didn’t go away. He came up real close, and told Rasta George that he needed him to come fix some motors; right now. Rasta George didn’t budge, at first, until he saw Fat Oscar’s little pistol. Then he moved fast enough. He got his tools together, and went with Fat Oscar down to the beach. He would fix the motors, all right. Real good. Then he would fix Fat Oscar, too. Even better. That would be the fun part; Rasta George liked fun, he really and truly did.
They moved along the beach, from one little boat to the next. Rasta George changed spark plugs, cleaned carburetors, fixed fuel lines, and got them all running. He was good, damned good. Even Fat Oscar had to admit that.
The cat in the banana tree was awake. She saw Rasta George and Fat Oscar. She didn’t know what they were doing, but Fat Oscar and Rasta George interested her. Fat Oscar liked to kick her whenever he had a chance, and that was one of the reasons she liked to sit up in the banana tree, where he couldn’t do it. She wondered if she could turn Fat Oscar into a mouse. That would be cool. She would play with him for hours, and then she would eat him. Super cool.
Rasta George winked at the cat in the banana tree. She twitched her tail at him. Rasta George didn’t kick her; he even gave her food sometimes. She liked that. Rasta George was her friend. Then Rasta George winked at her again, and went back to his shack. The old cat was no fool. She knew that he would give her something nice to eat if she went to his shack that night. She would do it. She liked to prowl late at night, when Fat Oscar wasn’t there to kick her.
The old cat watched as the little fishing boats left. Fat Oscar would be with them, so it would be a good time to prowl. She jumped down from the banana tree, and waddled toward Rasta George’s shack. He was waiting for her; he knew she would come. There was a little bit of fish there too, waiting for her.
“Sister Cat,” Rasta George said, after she had eaten what she wanted of the fish, “come sit here with me so we can make us some Rasta Magic.” The cat understood about magic; she sat next to Rasta George, and after a while they slept; it wasn’t an ordinary sleep, though. It was magical.
The Big Boss was happy. Fat Oscar was happy. The old man with the walking stick was happy. All the fishing boats got to the ship, got loaded, and got back to shore with the cargo. Then they did it again. Not even a little bit fell in the water, and nobody bothered them. Before the sun had even started to consider the possibility of coming up, everything was where it was supposed to be.
When they awoke, Rasta George and the old cat were happy, too. It had been a beautiful dream. But had it really been a dream? It was so vivid!
The boxes from the ship were still where Fat Oscar’s men had put them. Fat Oscar thought he would sneak just a little peek at one of them, only to see what was in it. The Big Boss had told him it was all low grade stuff, and not to expect a lot of money. The Big Boss always said that, and Fat Oscar just knew he was lying. This time, he wanted to see for himself. He knew how to open the boxes, and then close them again, so that nobody would know.
Bananas. Box after box of bananas; rotted bananas, green bananas, and more damn bananas. Nothing but friggin bananas. Big Oscar started to panic. Low grade stuff was one thing, and maybe the Big Boss hadn’t been lying. But rotting bananas, no way. Something had happened to the cargo after they brought it ashore. Big Oscar opened some more boxes. Nothing there, except more rotting bananas. Fat Oscar was so panicked, he didn’t bother to open the rest of the boxes. He just closed the ones he had opened, clumsily, and ran. He wasn’t called Fat Oscar for nothing, and he ran slowly. When he got to his hiding place, he was still too panicked and too out of breath to notice the little bundles carelessly hidden everywhere.
The boxes disappeared from the island that afternoon. Shortly after that, so did Fat Oscar. The Big Boss had come, had seen the opened boxes and what they had in them. Then, he had opened some of the other boxes. They had their original contents. He was angry, and by the time he found Fat Oscar’s hiding place, he was really angry. It didn’t take him long to guess what had happened, and it took even less time for him to figure out what to do about it. Fat Oscar would never steal from him again. Or kick the old cat, thought Rasta George. Or pull Rasta George’s beard, thought the old cat. Even in his dreams.
The old cat liked being able to leave the banana tree whenever she wanted. Now, she could chase the fat mice anytime she pleased. They reminded her of Fat Oscar. She liked to play with them until she got hungry enough to eat them.