The Mate a Mighty Sailing Man, the Skipper Brave and Sure
The Minnow Mystery, a dilemma rivaling that of the Marie Celeste in the annals of the unexplained, had its roots in the Skipper's failing fortunes and love-hate relationship with his "little buddy". For some years before the tiny ship's last voyage, the Skipper had been a fixture in waterfront bars. He claimed to have been a merchant marine decorated for service on the Murmansk runs in World War II. In fact, Coast Guard investigation after his disappearance reveals that he spent most of the war in the Portsmouth glasshouse on a variety of charges stemming from indecent liberties with midshipmen. When he last left this tropic port his license was under suspension for dynamiting fish. His huge bar bills had sunk him in a financial quagmire. Just before his final voyage he had taken to passing himself off as an illegitimate son of Ernest Hemingway to credulous tourists, hoping for an "investment" or at least a couple of rounds. Long-time Keys residents still recall his drinking sessions with "Gilligan," whom many thought to have been developmentally delayed or at least profoundly slow. Usually those binges began with socially accepted arm-around-the shoulder bonhomie. They rapidly progressed, however, to open-mouthed kissing. When closing time neared, the Skipper could be seen chasing Gilligan— who ran with a distinctive ape-like gait— into adjoining alleyways, sobbing, "You don't love me anymore."
The Movie Star, the Millionaire, and his Wife
Despite his eccentricities— or perhaps, because of them— the Skipper attracted a large Bohemian following for his "tours." These trips were nothing more than an opportunity to cruise beyond the three-mile limit for open indulgence in topless sunbathing and recently-criminalized marijuana. A rising starlet from Andy Warhol's Factory, the surnameless Ginger, thought it would be "kicks" to take such a cruise. Her sugar daddy, tycoon Thurston Howell III, was more than happy to bankroll the trip, even if it meant taking along his Valium-dependant wife. The Skipper readily agreed. They hadn't bargained for their fellow passenger.
The Professor and Mary Anne
Whatever else can be said about the other castaways, Mary Anne— whose last name is known but to God— appears to have been the one truly innocent victim. Waiting tables at Sloppy Joe's during a summer vacation from Indiana State, she told friends just before the ill-fated trip that she just wanted to see a little of the Keys. And perhaps "get lucky" with the "dreamy" professor who spent hours in the bar, sipping Cokes alone at his table and scribbling notes as he worked his slide rule.
Little is known of the Professor, none of it reliably. Keys regulars assumed he was a vacationing "rocket boy" from Cape Kennedy. Shortly after the Minnow tragedy, the Coast Guard determined that the Professor had no known academic affiliations. He had, however, attracted official attention by appearing at a recent Gemini launching dressed in a suit of aluminum foil and holding up a sign that read "TAKE ME NOW." Mysteriously, after the Minnow's loss, his official FBI file was burned and the ashes buried in an old salt mine. The night before the trip, the Skipper was heard to brag to bar-room friends about the killing he was about to make off an "egghead" passenger. As they later recalled, the Skipper got twice his usual fee to take the Minnow on a special course— through the Bermuda Triangle.
The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed . . .
The Minnow's last radio transmission is sadly familiar to students of the world's most mysterious maritime grave. The Skipper's voice is at first calm. "Uh, c'mon, little buddy, take off your shirt. . . Uh, yeah, Coast Guard, little rough out here, high swells and thunder but no cloud, having a little trouble with the damn compass. . . Damn, you look good. . . .Can't find north. . . . [unintelligible; static for over a minute] Uh, Coast Guard, sweet Jesus, the sea's green and glowing, oh Gilligan hold me [end of transmission]."
A "Three Hour Tour"
The loss of the Minnow was not, of course, unnoticed. Her passenger manifest included a fixture in the burgeoning counter-culture as well as one of the world's most prominent financiers. Two weeks of searches stretched the limits of the technology of the time, ultimately including U2 fly-overs and satellite photography. Nothing. Not even an oil slick. Naturally, the beaches of the Carribean basin were carefully combed by representatives of the various heirs to the Howell estate and his insurers, hoping they would or would not find his penguin-like body as their respective interests dictated. Still nothing. Then the films started to surface. Somehow, for four years the "castaways", through means still unclear, managed to release at fairly regular intervals a video record of their lives on the "island" on which they thought they had been "washed up." Students of the video record soon realized that the "castaways" were victims of some sort of post-traumatic hallucination that prevented them from realizing their true plight. In rampant denial, they at first settled into a "Lord-of-the Flies"-like state of nature. The Skipper and his little buddy finally achieved the open couplehood and cohabitation long denied them in mid-Sixties America. Howell and his wife robotically resumed the routines of grand-bourgeois domesticity. Mary Anne, no doubt thinking it was all "just girls," moved in with Ginger, who could barely take her eyes off her "hutmate's" tanned abdomen. Significantly, only the Professor lived alone. The "castaways" were blithely oblivious to the obvious logical inconsistencies of their lives. First and foremost, of course, was the fact that even though they could have been no more than a few hundred miles from Miami, they were never rescued. Odder still was the fact that they were regularly visited by "others" who appeared to have no trouble getting on and off the island— aviators, astronauts, explorers, touring theatrical troupes, Eskimos. Despite the vast amounts of free time they would unquestionably have had, the Minnow's company seems to have let these events pass without remark or discussion.
And of course the mechanics of their day-to-day lives were equally inconsistent with consensus reality. For five years they all wore the same clothes, even sleeping in them. Yet in the last tape they appear as fresh as in the first. Some students have wondered whether the failure of the islanders to reproduce suggests that their state was other than what it appeared; others speculate that the ever-resourceful Professor simply manufactured crude contraceptives from banana skins and coconut shells. These hypotheses overlook the psychotic and homo-erotic nature of life on the island. Two men paired up; two women paired up; Howell and his wife hopelessly out of it; the Professor alone in his hut and the monkeys visibly nervous. Now we know that there was a reason life on the Island didn't follow the ordinary rules: The "rules" were imposed from Outside.
The Area 51 Photographs
The last tape from the Minnow appeared in 1970. For nearly thirty years, the fate of the castaways crept towards myth, eventually to be left to late-night AM call-in hosts. But less than a year ago, the Minnow company screamed from its watery grave. The first evidence, like the last, came from the Web. Alert students of the paranormal were shocked when anatomically correct pictures of Ginger and Mary Anne were found on the global computer network, posted by unknown hands (http://www.degenerate.deadstars.com) Some, of course, raised questions of authenticity— for example, other entries on that site suggested that Gabrielle Sabatini is a natural blonde. Nevertheless, the context of the pictures— including palm trees in the background— provided overwhelming proof of their genuineness.
The most horrific evidence of the Minnow's fate was soon in coming. After a spate of physiology-text postings of the girls, a UFO site— http://www.nutcase.ravings/~hospital.alt— displayed a treasure trove that the Webmaster had lifted from one of the eighty-four flying saucers mothballed for reverse-engineering at Area 51. We all, of course, are familiar with the alien autopsy photographs that slipped through the government's strangle-hold at Roswell. We have all seen the military doctors working over the pathetic little alien corpses. Those who have bothered to think about it have forgiven our Government— how, after all, can they have failed to slice open the first aliens to have fallen into their hands? So too should we forgive the aliens who got hold of the Minnow. In the last photograph we see a shrieking Skipper held back by four black-eyed grey beings as a fifth cracks open Gilligan's ribcage with a surgical shears. We hope Gilligan was dead when it happened. We see his face and know he was not. The truth, now, is clear:
The Minnow was seized in no-man's-land— the Bermuda Triangle. The Alien Greys dropped the stunned survivors in the Pleidean equivalent of a cageless zoo, observing their habits by "day" and each "night" supplying them with laundered clothes and food to find when they awoke. Finally, when their specimens reached the end of their allotted span, they were vivisected by twelve-fingered exobiologists. Rest in Peace, Minnow. We hope it was quick for the Skipper.
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