The best place to have a picnic if you lived in Long Beach was over the bay to a little Island called “Bird Island” which was a bird preserve. Long Beach is on the Atlantic Ocean. On the west side of Long Beach there is a small bay. If you go about a half mile across the bay you get to Bird Island.
When I told my friend Seymour and his brother Martin (who loved sandwiches even more than I do if that is possible) about my plan for a picnic on Bird Island, Martin jumped with joy. Seymour, who was very philosophical because he had just finished reading all the works of the ancient philosphers including two or three of the modern ones, only snickered but agree to come. We planned to make forty Lwo sandwiches (twenty for me,.twenty for Martin and two for Seymour. We tried to be nice to Seymour and hoped that he would eat only one sandwich so that Martin and I could split the other ones.
One thing you can sure about cousin CC. If there is food around be is sure to appear. On the very day of the picnic, which was on a Saturday, CC appeared. He lived in Boston, quite a distance from Long Beach but somehow he got wind about what was going on. He asked to come with us and promised that he would not be hungry and ask for any of the sandwiches, “Well,” he said, “perhaps only three or five.” It was just like CC to skip "four"since he was not very good in arithmetic.
We liked cousin CC and did not begrudge him the food but we knew that every time he was around something strange would happen. It was to be no different this time. Anyway, we decided to keep a careful eye on him to see that we did not get into trouble.
Now to get to Bird Island we needed to rent a rowboat. When we got to a pier across from the Island, there were several rowboats for rent. We picked the largest and sturdiest looking boat. When we all got into the boat, cousin CC was the happiest. “See,” he said, “I have been with you guys for an hour and nothing bad has happened!” Martin said he would row and picked up the oars. CC said wait a minute. He told us about how when he lived in Cairo which is on the Nile river he was acclaimed as the best oarsman on the Nile and begged us to let him row. When Cousin CC pleads for something he rolls his eyes in such a way that it is difficult to refuse him. The right eye rolls clockwise and the left eye rolls counterclockwise. If you refuse him, he reverses the rolls until you give in.
We let him take the oars. If he was the best oarsman on the Nile, the others must have been a great disaster. The more CC rowed, the furthur from the Island we seemed to be. “Row harder!” we told him, which was a mistake. He rowed so hard that one oar slipped into the water. The current took it away from the boat. Cousin CC did not seem worried—in fact he began to smile. Whenever CC smiles there is more trouble.
Before we could tell Cousin CC how angry we were for his losing the oar, he told us that on the Nile he would never use two oars but he would row with one while standing in the rear of the boat. Before we could stop him, he slipped to the rear of the boat, stepping on our sandwiches, and began to paddle. His paddling was even worse than his rowing. All we did was to go around in a circle and as he changed his footing he smashed more and more our sandwiches. Not only that, but with every stroke he splashed water in the boat. Soon, our feet were soacked in water, let alone the smashed sandwiches.
Seymour began frantically to search his brain trying to recollect if there was anything that the philosophers have said that would rescue the situation. When we complained to Cousin CC about all the water he was splashing into the boat, he said not to worry. He walked to the bow of the boat and bent down. We thought he was searching for a pail. Strangely, Cousin CC had bent down , taken a small drill from his trousers and drilled a small hole in the bottom of the boat. “See,” he said, “now all the water will run out—just like in the bathtub!”
Cousin CC could not be more wrong. Tbe ocean water gushed through the hole. Our poor sandwiches were swept out to sea. Suddenly, Seymour remebered that Plato, a philosopher he admired, had sald something about the big toe having some useful purpose, or was it Darwln? Without wasting time to determine who said what, he ordered Cousin CC to take off his shoe and stick his toe into the hole. CC did as he was told, feeling proud that he was being noticed. It was a tight fit for the toe but CC squeezed it in.
The trick worked. The water stopped coming in. Martin grabbed the oar and paddled us back to the pier. Seymour, Martin and I scrambled out of the boat and called for CC. CC could not move—his big toe was firmly stuck in hole. His eyes began to do their roll. Try as we might, we could not pull the toe out. Cousin CC suggested that we burn the boat and then he could pull his toe out. This was a dumb idea, even for Cousin CC.
This time the solution came from Martin who was more practical than Seymour and myself even though Martin had built a boat in his garage that turned out to be to wide to be pulled out. He said that we should carry the boat with CC stuck in to the hospital and have a doctor operate on the boat. It was a bright idea, at least CC said it was. We turned the boat upside down and carried the boat on our shoulders. Cousin CC was dangling upside down, his big toe firmly in the hole.
We had to walk through the town to get to the hospital. No one we met acted surprised at seeing a boat being carried with a person hanging upside down because in those early days people were very polite and did not stare or laugh at uncommon sights. Things are different these days because of television. People laugh at everything now to become part of canned laughter.
When we got to the hospital Cousin CC asked for the most skilled surgeon on the staff. It was Dr. Sawbones. Dr. Sawbones took the boat with CC attached to the operating room. A series of x-rays indicated that Cousin CC's foot was stuck in a hole at the boat's bottom. Dr. Sawbones asked for two skilled assistants and for the hospital carpenter. We went to the viewing gallery. The operation took three hours and forty minutes. We could not really see what was going on but we did hear a lot of sawing and hammering. Cousin CC was given an anesthetic not because he needed one, according to Dr. Sawbuck, but because he started to criticise the way the operation was being done. Anyway, Cousin CC came out fine except for a little swelling in the toe. He said he had a great tlme at the picnic.
Note: This story is partly true. There is a cousin CC and Seymour and martin were my friends in long beach. There is also a bird island reserve which scouts were allowed to visit. The loss of sandwiches really happened when my Uncle Ted invited thirty people including myself on a fishing trip and forgot to bring the food. Cousin CC lived in cairo before coming to America at the age of eight.
|CC is the guy in the middle of the women, with his thumb up. Click on picture to enlarge it.|