Pearl Divers

Photograph – William Plante

Windward and Leeward are sisters, born and raised in French Polynesia. One is named after the Windward Islands the other the Leeward Islands. Both dive deep into lagoons and retrieve Pinctada Maxima clams noted for their rare black pearls.

Windward lives on an island that shelters 4400 inhabitants, offers 9 taxis, 3 doctors, 2 infirmaries, 1 bank, 1 post office, 1 police station and 6 romantic resorts.

Leeward is on another island, held captive.

No Problem

A bushy mustache, black leather bomber jacket and American jeans marked the Russian gangster. Fist pounding, he ordered, “I want a red corvette, brand new, from the factory with these accessories delivered directly to me here in Yekaterinburg in four weeks. One day late or one scratch on it, people will die, how much?”

“Yes sir, a new corvette car is half-price, cash in advance 50,000 dollars, no problem”

The mob boss peeled off 50 crisp one thousand dollar bills. He owned a bank, filled with money from sales of drugs, oil, and other illegal enterprises, no problem.

The sales agent kept a thousand dollar bill and wired 49 thousand to a bank on an island along with explicit instructions to a car theft ring in the states, no problem

Hacking a Central Chevrolet database, to determine which dealerships on the eastern seaboard had their specific auto in stock, no problem.

Hiring an experienced thief to heist the auto, drive it into a trailer and take it to a coastal town, no problem

The gorgeous red Corvette, put into a wooden crate, blocked into place and foam piped into the crate, surrounding every inch, packed solid, no scratches, no problem.

The crate was loaded aboard an ocean freighter, lashed down, and shipped over the Atlantic to a St. Petersburg port and off-loaded onto a flat rail car. Two days later the crate arrived in Yekaterinburg, no problem.

The cover and walls of the crate were removed, revealing a block of foam, and carefully peeled off the red Corvette, not a scratch on it, the gangster drove it away, no problem.

A week later the gangster drove his red Corvette on a bank heist. He was shot and killed. Now there was a problem.

Yekaterinburg harbors a famous cemetery where members of the Russian Mafia are buried. A steam-shovel dug a humongous hole. The dead gangster, in his best outfit, cigar stuffed in his mouth was placed behind the wheel of his beloved Corvette. A crane lifted the auto up, the gangster inside it and lowered them into the grave. The steam-shovel filled the hole with dirt – no problem.

The Tailpipe

Inga stepped off a curb. The chauffeur of a Rolls Royce did not see her as it backed up. The Silver Shadow about to hit the girl, she dropped to the cement. The vehicles’ under-carriage hooked her designer jeans, dragged her under and braked; inches from her nose a long stainless steel cylinder.

Squeezed below the auto, Inga peered out, saw patent leather shoes, a man in a tuxedo looking at her, handsome – upside down? He flattened himself on the street, crawled under the car towards her, reached, took her hand, and thought, ‘My God, look at what I’ve run over’ and asked, “Are you hurt?”

“I don’t think so.”

He, “Don’t move. I’ll stay with you while they jack the car up. We didn’t see you. I’m so sorry. What is your name?”

“Inga, I should have looked where I was going.” She thought, ‘What a throb. I wonder if he looks this good standing up.’ “What is your name?”

“Clark, I feel rotten running over you, but it is great to meet you. Kind of romantic under here isn’t it?””

She said, “I’ve never met a man under a car before, if only there was candlelight, who knows what might occur?”

He, “A little cramped for that.”

A switch in topic advisable, she asked, “What am I looking at directly above me?”

“A tailpipe, made of stainless steel, runs almost the entire length of the car.”

Inga, “Tailpipes are awesome.”

Clark, “I suppose so.”

The two didn’t see reverted faces peering at them under the car, nor hear the jack ratcheting up the Rolls. They were busy shooting love arrows at each other. They knew – this was it and had many dates. One day he pulled his roadster up to a six car garage. Escorted her to a door, opened it. First thing noticed, his Rolls Royce, up in the air about three feet, on cinder blocks. A glow spread out from underneath it. She stooped and looked; dozens of small candles on the garage floor, flickering.

He wheeled up a mechanic’s dolly for two, custom upholstered in satin, on their backs, side by side, she snuggled in his arms. He slid them under the car. In candle light he asked her, “Inga, will you marry me?” Placed a ring on her finger, a gorgeous ten carat pear shaped diamond.

“Clark, this ring is positively vulgar. I love it. Yes.”

“Wonderful and where would you like to go on our honeymoon?”

“I know where I would like to spend our first night.”


“Here, under the tailpipe.”

Her Dog

Two Russian sisters never stood a chance. Their story was not of teenage romance or youthful escapades. German tanks brought their dreams to a halt. Most days their family had less than half a loaf of bread to eat. Thousands of people a day died. Parks became burial grounds. During the Wehrmacht 900 day siege of Leningrad the sisters were assigned to neighborhood ration squads, pulling the old and weak on sleds to food depots, it took strength.

One day the younger sister heard whimpering behind a pile of debris. A dog struggled to free a paw from a snare;  it was only a mutt, but with such beautiful brown eyes. Patience and pieces of food enabled her to free the dog and stroke its fur before running off.

Little sister, on most days, was able to coax the animal out of hiding and share her rations with it. Much time was spent searching bombed out homes for scraps to feed her dog. The parents would not allow it to be brought home. The family was starving.

She kept her dog alive until the enemy retreated and the war ended; food was in short supply.

Older sister could not bear the thought of what may happen to her sister’s pet. People were hungy. She made arrangements to live with her aunt. Carrying a worn satchel, she walked out of their tumbled down home. Little sister sobbing, big sister held her in her arms. “Don’t cry, I talked with mother and father. They said you may now bring home the dog.”

Island Girl

The island girl stepped off the ferry onto cement. Strange, in her village there was only sand. She saw pictures of streets, but never stood in one with a curb and sidewalk.

Entering a cafe, not sure how to sit on a chair at a table, always sat on the floor, legs crossed on a mat. No problem reading the menu. Tahitian, however, missionaries taught her French, English and some German and knowledgeable of Papeete history.

Not much use for math, no bills to pay, little to purchase, food on trees, in the ground and water, traded for what she needed. A man spoke to the island girl; she knew what that was about.


Photograph – William Plante

Years before being married I joined the infantry and left on a train from this station.

 The day before, I dropped my girlfriend and her three suitcases off here to board a train to New York City. There to visit a school roommate who had an apartment in the ‘Big Apple; never there or on a train, maybe find a job. She kissed me in the car; no one could see.”Let me off in front, I can handle the suitcases.” No need, I heard a young man carried them, another to her compartment who invited her for a drink in the club car where she also had never been.

The young man bought her a drink, she ordered water. Invited her to dinner; “Thank you, I have a sandwich in a suitcase.” An older woman overheard, asked my girl to join she and her husband in the dining car. No surprise to me they found her fascinating, knew every state capital in the country and those in Europe. They offered her a job in their Manhattan Travel Agency.

The counterweight to shyness is courage.