Born on Monday
A. Kite (Aug 2005)
A thick, wet morning fog shrouded the island of Solomon Gundy as the ferry bearing Roland Saunders approached. As unappealing as that might sound, it suited Rollie just fine. He was back from South Sudan and on an enforced sabbatical. All World Medicine refused to send him on another mission. After fourteen of them, Rollie guessed they had a point. He was tired; tired, world-weary and in sore need of a quiet place to mend. One of the people at AWM's Toronto headquarters had recommended Solomon Gundy and so, here Rollie was.
The first thing Rollie saw as he stepped off the ferry, onto what looked like a new pier, was an arch over the pier that said: Welcome to the Republic of Solomon Gundy. A smaller sign in English, French and what looked like Russian directed all visitors to a small brick building nearby. Over the building flew a white flag that featured a leaping red fish where Rollie was used to seeing a maple leaf.
Rollie wondered about the Russian as he walked over to the building designated Ministry of Customs and Immigration. How many immigrants could an island this size get? And ones that spoke Russian? That was strange. What Rollie couldn't see were the big docks on the other side of the island where freighters from several countries were docked and loading their hulls with fish.
Rollie opened the door and was greeted by a stout, round woman with curly red hair. "Identification, please."
"Here you go." Rollie handed over his passport.
Edna Swinnimer's, her nametag said, eyebrows rose when she saw all the stamps from different countries in Rollie's passport. She stamped it too with a seal that had the same fish as the flag. Mrs. Swinnimer smiled as she looked up. "Are you visiting, Mr. -" she looked down at the passport again and continued, "Excuse me, Doctor Saunders. It's not likely you've come to work the boats or at the cannery, eh? Nothing to declare either, I take it."
Rollie shook his head and smiled. It'd been a long time since he'd heard an 'eh' like that. "No, I'm only staying for few weeks on holiday. Could you give me directions to the hotel?"
"Certainly, doctor. It's just up the main street there." She pointed out the big window to the right. "Just past the Public Library, you can't miss it." Mrs. Swinnimer gave him a big smile as she handed Rollie back his passport. "Welcome to Solomon Gundy. Enjoy your stay."
"Thanks." Rollie picked up his bag and before the door could close behind him, Mrs. Swinnimer was dialing the telephone.
Rollie lit a cigarette and headed down the main street. Everywhere he looked he saw signs of peaceful prosperity. There were people going in and out of the shops, hardy, sturdy people, most wore rubber boots on their feet. They were fishermen, naturally, and fisherwomen too. Rollie almost bumped in to a couple coming out of the bakery. They were arguing about something, in Russian. He excused himself and walked around them. That explained why there were signs in Russian, if nothing else.
Rollie walked past the library, then paused and went back. There was a glass display case on the front of the building. Inside was an old document. The document itself was in some language he thought might be Dutch. A plaque explained that the document was a side letter to the Treaty of Utrecht granting the island of Solomon Gundy the right to be its own republic. There was a story there, and Rollie was sure when he found a bar, someone would tell it.
As Rollie stood there, a very stern looking woman came out of the door to the library and locked it. Rollie thought she must be the librarian. As she came down the steps she looked sharply at him and his cigarette and said, "You will dispose of that properly, won't you, young man." It was an order, definitely not a question. Rollie nodded, and the woman bustled past him.
Not wanting to antagonize the residents just yet, Rollie snubbed out his cigarette in the receptacle provided outside and entered the hotel. Apparently, news traveled very fast here. He was greeted by name at the check-in desk. Dempster Millard, the owner, came out of hurrying out of his office to greet Rollie personally. "Ah, Dr. Saunders! Welcome to Solomon Gundy."
Rollie was skeptical. These people seemed very happy to see him. He shook the innkeeper's proffered hand. In his experience, people that fawned over you had their other hand in your pocket. Rollie filled out the check-in forms and handed over his credit card, reluctantly. He watched Millard closely to make sure everything was on the up and up.
"Rita!" Mr. Millard snapped his fingers for the clerk. "Show Dr. Saunders up to 102." He turned back to Rollie and said, "It's one of our newly remodeled rooms. Tobacco permitted, not to worry. 102 overlooks the harbor, I'm sure you'll be delighted with it. If we can do anything at all to make your stay more pleasant, please don't hesitate to let us know."
It was starting to creep Rollie out. He hadn't been on the island fifteen minutes yet, and everyone knew his name and the fact that he smoked? It was a nice room, though. Rollie had to give them that. All the modern conveniences: big, modern bathroom that was all his, color TV with satellite, even a refrigerator stocked with Molson. It looked like heaven. Rollie didn't bother to unpack. He shrugged off his jacket and slid off his shoes. After that, he nabbed one of the ales and kicked back on the soft, king size bed. Lord only knew how much they'd charge him for drinking one, but he thought to hell with it; I'm on fucking vacation.
Rollie never even knew that he'd fallen asleep until a knock on his door woke him. Who the hell it might be, he hadn't a clue. He'd met exactly three people on this island. Four, if you counted the scary librarian lady. Unless it was that oily hotel manager guy, and Rollie didn't want to talk to him again. "Go away!" he called out, "I'm sleeping here!"
"Dr. Saunders? Please, may I talk to you?"
Well, it was a new voice at least. Rollie rolled off the bed and opened the door. "Yeah? Who the hell are you and what do you want?" Standing on the other side of the door was the best looking man he'd ever laid eyes on. He stood there open-mouthed and stared. He took it all in, the long, messy hair that was graying just a bit at the temples, the lines around the eyes and mouth that did nothing to detract from the sheer beauty of the man, wide shoulders, clerical collar, tight pants... Rollie backtracked, clerical collar? That shocked Rollie out of his stupor.
If Rollie was caught out staring, the same could be said for the man at his door. It took several more seconds for him to shake himself all over and respond to Rollie's gesture to come in. "Excuse me, please, it's just -" he trailed off and rubbed his eyebrow with his thumb. There was a flush on his cheeks. "Damn, let me try this again. Dr. Saunders, I'm Gus Knickel. Welcome to Solomon Gundy." Gus held out his hand. There was nothing Rollie could do but take it, and if he lingered longer than usual with the handshake, who could blame him?
One thing did strike Rollie. Gus' hand was rough and calloused. Unlike any clergyman's that he'd ever met. That was enough for Rollie to put his cynicism aside for the moment and decide to listen to what Gus had to say.
"Have a seat." Rollie waved his hand at the small seating area and got his beer from the nightstand. He took a sip and grimaced. It was flat. "Can I get you - uh, I'm not sure what else is here."
"What you're drinking is fine," Gus assured him with a laugh. "I'm a Lutheran minister, among other things. You won't be corrupting me."
Rollie got two more ales from the refrigerator and opened them. He severely pushed any thought of other ways he might like to corrupt Gus Knickel out of his head. Rollie brought the beer over and took the chair on the other side of the small table where he'd directed Gus to sit. Gus tipped his bottle in salute and took a healthy gulp.
"So, Reverend -"
Gus held a hand up to interrupt. "Please, Gus is fine."
"All right then. I'm Rollie, by the way. Whenever people say Dr. Saunders, I look around for my dad."
Gus smiled. "I have a similar reaction when people call me Prime Minister. I want to look behind me and see if someone important is there."
Rollie almost spewed beer all over the room. Once he swallowed, he croaked, "Prime Minister?"
Gus nodded. "I can't seem to find anyone that wants to take the job except old Dempster downstairs. We've tried holding elections, but even if he's the only one on the ballot, I get it back on write-ins."
Rollie looked at Gus with skepticism. Then shrugged, it was probably true. He looked at Gus and remembered Dempster Millard, and he knew which one he'd vote for.
Gus sighed with a weariness that Rollie was only too familiar with. "I've been Prime Minister for over 12 years. Since we declared independence and broke with Canada."
Rollie got up and got them each another ale. "Tell me about it," he asked quietly.
Gus quirked one side of his mouth up and said, "You sure? It's a long story."
"Yeah. I've been wondering since I stepped off the ferry. I figured I'd find a bar and get someone to tell me, but you're here, the beer is here, why go out?"
"Ah, a practical man. I like that." Gus sat back in his chair and told the story of the day Dexter Lexcannon and Noelle Denoyer came from Ottawa to tell the islanders that their fishing quota had been cut to nil. He told Rollie about the Russian submarine that came ashore, the shooting spree that cost Dexter his life and the accidental firing of the missile that knocked Theodore Roosevelt's nose off Mount Rushmore.
"We buried Dexter on Sunday." Gus sighed and shook his head. "It hasn't been easy. The first couple of years were rough until we got cannery built, but now all of our taxes stay here on Solomon Gundy. Every time the government changes in Halifax and Ottawa, we get officials out to try to persuade us to repatriate. My people still fish, and the ships still come. There are consequences to all this prosperity, though. Young people are leaving the island to go to university now. Most of them don't come back. Which brings me to why I'm here, Rollie, old son. We need doctors."
"Hold on, now. I'm just here on holiday," Rollie protested. "Besides, I have a job."
Gus nodded. "I know, but don't turn us down just yet. In fact, let me take you to lunch and show you around."
Not one to pass up a free meal, Rollie found his shoes and jacket while Gus cleared up the beer bottles. Gus led him to the dining room downstairs. "The best seafood in town unless there's a clambake," Gus told him.
"I'm not dressed for anything fancy," Rollie cautioned.
Gus just laughed and looked down at his own clothing, "Me neither, Rollie, old son. What you're wearing is fine. Don't worry about it."
If Gus' eyes lingered a bit as they swept over his form, Rollie figured it was only his imagination. The appreciative look Rollie thought he saw when Gus brought his head back up was more of the same, and if Gus caught him looking - well, it'd been a long time. Medical missions and sex didn't mix. Rollie had learned that lesson well, the last one being the perfect example.
Rollie had a lobster as big as a Buick. Okay, maybe only as big as a Volkswagen Beetle, but it was one considerable lobster. He managed to get it all down through sheer perseverance. Rollie wasn't used to eating that way. It was surprisingly cheap too. Not that he paid for it. No, Gus insisted on picking up the tab.
All through the meal, Rollie looked up and found Gus watching him. Once, he'd actually asked, "What? Do I have something on my face?"
Gus just shook his head no and kept looking at him. They didn't talk much as they ate, for which Rollie was grateful. On the missions, mealtime was discussion time and one of the reasons he stayed so thin. It's hard concentrate on eating when everyone is looking to you to tell them what's what, and he never learned to keep his mouth shut. The food was never anything to write home about, either. Not that Rollie had anyone left to write to.
Afterwards, Gus took Rollie on a tour of the island. The earlier fog had burned off, and the sun was out in the waning afternoon. First they had a look around the shopping district, such as it was. Rollie had already seen most of it. Gus did point out the two bars in town.
They walked on until they reached Luba's Little Moscow, and Gus said, "Come on, you have to see this." It was half cafe, half something Rollie had never seen before. There was a bar, and behind it a large, clear fronted refrigerator with more types of vodka than he even knew existed.
Luba, herself, came out of the kitchen as they walked in. She broke out in a big smile and dropped the dishcloth she was using to wipe her hands. "Gus!" She ran over and threw her arms around the Prime Minister. When she released him, Gus said something to her in what Rollie guessed was Russian. She spoke back then switched to English as she turned to him with her face wreathed in smiles, "You the new doktor?"
"Luba, nyet," Gus told her sharply. "Dr. Saunders hasn't decided if he's going to stay yet or not."
Luba laughed. "I know what will make him stay." She walked behind the bar, opened the refrigerated case and pulled out a bottle. "You will drink with me, Doktor!"
It wasn't a question. She poured three shots before Rollie had a chance to refuse. "This is best vodka in world. You drink. It is, how you say? On the house."
Gus leaned over and whispered, "She's poured it now. You have to drink it."
Rollie didn't want to offend her, so he picked up the glass as Luba made a toast. "To Solomon Gundy." She threw the vodka back. Gus and Rollie repeated, "To Solomon Gundy," and did likewise. It was like liquid fire going down and spread a pool of warmth in Rollie's stomach.
After three more just like it, Rollie loosened up and asked, "So, you're from Moscow?"
"No," she answered, "Luba born in small village on sea. I leave there when I was old enough. Become cook for Russian Navy until I come here and open restaurant. I call it Little Moscow for tourists."
Rollie looked at Gus and asked, "You get a lot of tourists here?"
"A fair amount. Most come over on day trips for the novelty of it, and we get sailors in off the ships."
Luba poured them all one more. After they drank that one down she slammed her glass on the bar and announced, "Luba must get back to kitchen. Doktor, you stay. Solomon Gundy is good place."
When she marched herself away, Gus turned to Rollie and asked, "Are you up for a walk, Doktor? I'd drive us, but it wouldn't look good for the Prime Minister to be arrested for driving under the influence."
"I'm not sure I can walk, but yeah. Some fresh air would be good."
If Gus weaved a bit going out, Rollie didn't notice. He was more concerned about keeping his own balance. Once outside again, the cool air cleared Rollie's head a bit. Still intrigued about the Russians, he asked, "Well, that was interesting. Did all the Russians here come off that sub?"
"No, thanks to Luba, Solomon Gundy has steady flow of immigrants. I bet half of her old village is living here now. It helps the economy. They pay a modest fee, which is waived for certain needed occupations," Gus told him. The look on his face was so hopeful that Rollie was tempted to say yes then and there just to see Gus smile.
"Some fish, some work at the cannery and the stronger of them work here," Gus continued talking as they walked by the big docks. There was a big crane lowering cargo into the hold of the one ship in port.
The crane operator waved at them. Gus waved back and said, "That's Ivan, one of Luba's brothers."
They walked on to the beach and down where the houses were now further apart. The sun was setting. It was a beautiful sight. A loud sort of barking noise as they passed one of the houses stirred Rollie from his appreciation of nature.
Gus walked toward the house and gestured that Rollie should come along. There at the back was a pen. Inside was a huge pig. The pig had its front legs on the fence, and Gus was scratching it behind the ears.
"There's a good girl. Did Sil come by and feed you?" The pig grunted, and Rollie could swear that it sounded like it was answering Gus back. "Rollie, come meet Ophelia."
Rollie was curious enough to come closer. Tentatively, he reached out and scratched the pig on its snout. "You know a lot of pigs by name, do you?" Rollie teased.
Gus laughed and said, "I do when it's my own pig."
That took Rollie back. "You're joking, right? This is your house?"
"Well, it was my grandfather's first, but he left it to me when he died," Gus explained with much amusement in his voice.
"That's not what I meant, and you know it." Rollie was getting irritated. He didn't like practical jokes. "You're the fucking Prime Minister, you've got a big, official residence somewhere, right?"
"No, actually I don't. What kind of example would that be for my people?" Gus was serious. "Come on then, let's go inside. That should prove it's my house."
Gus walked up the steps and opened the door. It hadn't even been locked. The inside did confirm a few things for Rollie. First of which was, Gus was certainly a bachelor. The house was a mess. No woman that Rollie ever knew would stand for it.
Gus lit an oil lamp and took Rollie over to the mantle where several framed photographs stood. "This is me and my grandfather the day I graduated from Evangelical College." He pointed to the next one, "My parents and me, taken about six months before they drowned at sea during a storm." The next one was of Gus and a woman with brown, curly hair with their arms around each other looking very happy.
"And this?" Rollie asked.
"Her name was - is, I don't suppose she's dead, Noelle Denoyer. She was one of the people that came out from Ottawa. I told you about it," Gus answered quietly. "Well, obviously not all of it. She stayed on after," Gus tilted his head in a gesture that Rollie interpreted as meaning after the missile incident.
Gus' eyes filled with pain. "Two years. She spent two years trying to change things that aren't meant to change, me mainly." Gus shook his head. "Noelle never understood what this island means to me. I did this, and I have to see it through."
Gus had his head down trying to regain his composure. Rollie stepped closer and gently touched Gus' face down the jaw and under the chin, drawing it back up to meet his eyes. "She left you, didn't she?"
Gus nodded and tried to smile. "She left, vowing to never set foot on this stupid, God-forsaken island again."
"Stupid bitch," popped out of Rollie's mouth before he realized he'd spoken it out loud.
"And you, Rollie Saunders, will you leave me?" Gus asked as he leaned toward Rollie to kiss him.
Rollie slipped his fingers back into Gus' hair and met the kiss barely before he jerked back. This was going altogether too fast. "What the hell is this, Mr. Prime Minister? A part of your sales pitch? I stay here and I get you?"
Outrage clearly showed on Gus' face as he pushed Rollie back and stalked away. "Is that what you think? Is that really what you think?"
"I don't know!" Rollie shouted back at him. "I come here, and you know fuck-all about me, and suddenly you're taking me out for lunch, try to get me drunk on Russian vodka, then try to seduce me here in your own house? What am I supposed to think?"
"Good Lord." Gus pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers and said, "I never - I didn't mean it that way. Damn."
Gus shook his head and started again. "I'm sorry, Rollie. I never would have dreamed you'd see it that way. I do know fuck-all about you."
Most of the belligerence Rollie had been feeling faded away. "Yeah?" he asked. "What do you know about me?" he challenged.
Gus took a deep breath and began. "You're Roland Michael Saunders, born in Calgary, Alberta on September 14, 1960. You graduated from the University of Alberta Medical School in 1985, and you worked in your father's practice until your parents were killed in an auto accident in December 1988. You married Anne Marie Falco shortly after that. When your marriage ended in divorce in 1990, you left Calgary and joined All World Medicine. You've been on fourteen medical missions to places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Sudan. And now you're here."
Rollie didn't know what to say.
"You're here now, and we need you. I need you." Gus moved as he spoke until he was in front of Rollie again. "And whether you stay or go, if I don't kiss you again right now, I might explode."
Rollie laughed. He felt the same desperation. Had felt it since Gus knocked on his hotel room door. It wasn't all wishful thinking on his part. "Can't have that, can we? Where'd your people be if their Prime Minister exploded?" Rollie moved closer, putting Gus' back against the wall. He kissed Gus long and hard. Then he pulled back minutely to trace the seam of Gus' lips with his tongue. The unspoken request was answered when Gus opened his mouth.
Sweet, Gus' mouth was so sweet. Rollie thought he'd never get his fill of it, but breathing became a necessity and he had to stop. As soon as he let Gus' lips go, Gus was moving, reversing their positions to where it was Rollie's back to the wall.
Gus let Rollie gasp for air while his mouth went wandering. He slid his lips slowly over Rollie's cheek and over to his ear. Rollie let out a small sound as Gus' tongue traced the whorls of his ear and flicked the lobe. Rollie arched his hips out and met Gus'. The evidence of arousal was unmistakable. Gus was hard too. Gus moved one hand down between their bodies and stroked Rollie through his pants and whispered, "Bedroom or here?"
Rollie's head was swimming. How was he supposed to answer a question like that? He could only moan as Gus cupped his cock tighter. Gus chuckled just a bit and said, "Here then," as his fingers went to work at the fastenings of Rollie's trousers. "Been a while, eh?"
Rollie let out a gust of air and nodded, even though Gus couldn't see it. It had been a while, since his second mission with All World Medicine. The repercussions of having an affair with a fellow member of the team even of the opposite sex could last for years. In Rollie's case it was worse. It left him cynical and more inclined to putting his heart into the work and less into relationships with others. It gave him a reputation of being a hard-ass, but he wasn't. Rollie merely learned his lesson well, sex was something best left to other times and places, not on a mission.
Gus had Rollie's pants open, and he made a surprised sound of his own when he found that Rollie wore no underwear. Rollie had gotten out of the habit from working in places where underwear was one more thing that stuck to you. Gus worked Rollie's cock with his hand as his mouth found Rollie's again. He kissed and thrust his tongue in the same rhythm as his hand. Such wonderful hands, Rollie thought. Gus pulled away from Rollie's mouth abruptly and sank to his knees.
Gus held Rollie's hips tight to the wall as he shoved the interfering pants down to Rollie's knees. He leaned forward, taking the tip of Rollie's cock into the wet warmth of his mouth. It was good. So good. Gus flicked his tongue at the sensitive spot just under the head. Rollie whimpered. He wasn't going to last two minutes this way.
Gus rocked forward, taking Rollie in all the way to the root before backing off and using his hand to hold Rollie steady as he moved up and down while his tongue flicked back and forth on each upstroke.
Rollie made one last inarticulate noise that signaled he was going to come. Gus pulled completely off and used his hand to finish Rollie off. Rollie watched as his semen caught Gus on the chin and neck, even onto the white collar Gus still wore around his neck. If he wasn't sure that he was going to hell before, Rollie was now. The sight was so wicked.
Rollie sank down the wall and joined Gus on his knees. He pulled Gus to him and licked the come off his face and neck as he panted. Rollie got a hand down between them and opened Gus' pants. He gave Gus' cock one hard stroke, and that was enough. Gus moaned low in his throat and came all over Rollie's hand.
Rollie woke up the next morning with three things on his mind. First, he was in bed with someone. Secondly, he needed to pee. Urgently. Lastly, he had a bad case of cotton mouth. Rollie eased himself from under the arm Gus had thrown around him. Gus made a little sound of protest at that but settled back down into sleep quickly. Rollie found the bathroom and took care of the second and third needs.
Rollie came back into the bedroom unsure of what the protocols were in this situation. He needed a shower, a change of clothes and some breakfast, but he didn't want to wake Gus if he wasn't used to getting up this early. Rollie gathered up his clothing and stood by the bed, and watched Gus sleep as he tried to make up his mind whether to wake him or slip out quietly and walk back to the hotel. He really didn't want to leave without saying goodbye. It'd be pretty tacky of him to sneak out after spending the night. The decision was made for him when Gus' eyes fluttered open.
Gus smiled at him. "Rollie? Wha' time is it?"
Rollie sat down beside Gus on the bed and answered, "Shhhh...it's early yet. Go back to sleep, and I'll see you later."
Gus woke up a little more and protested. "No, come 'ere." He pulled Rollie back down with him. Gus rolled until Rollie was under him. He kissed Rollie and rubbed the palm of his hand over the bristly hair on Rollie's skull. Gus thrust his morning hard on into the hollow of Rollie's hip. It didn't take Rollie long to get with the program. Soon he was as hard as Gus was. He grabbed Gus' ass and pushed his cock up into greater contact. They kissed and rocked together. Slowly at first, before they succumbed to the need and rocked faster and faster.
Afterwards, Rollie only wanted to curl up with Gus and go back to sleep, but it wasn't to be. Gus hopped up and held out his hand. "Let's get a shower. Then we'll head over to the hotel for breakfast. I'm starved." Rollie groaned and pulled a pillow over his head. Not one to be thwarted, Gus continued, "It's free. Included in the price for the room. After that I'll take you over to have a look at the hospital."
Rollie peaked out from under the pillow. That got him moving.
Three weeks later:
Rollie's first duty on his very first day at his new job at Solomon Gundy's small hospital was to deliver a baby for Luba's brother Ivan's wife. It was a boy, born on Monday.