Here's chapter two!
Tracy had waved to the Skipper and Gilligan again as they exited the Professor's office and headed out of the school. She shook her head in amazement. To think that she'd just encountered two of of the characters from her book!
The next few minutes in the library were quiet, and Tracy was able to read another chapter. Like the ones before it, it detailed a possible solution to the castaways' island imprisonment followed by a botching of the project by the accident prone first mate. She was torn between sighing in frustration as their plans failed again or chuckling at the now predictable behavior of Gilligan. It was even more predictable and amusing now that she had met the man herself.
She turned the page and was about to embark on another adventure with the castaways when new voices in the library startled her. "Ah, Lovey, there it is!"
Glancing behind her, Tracy saw an elegantly dressed older couple walking arm in arm through the library. She'd never seen two people looking more out of place in a public Californian high school. Clearly members of upperclass aristocracy, he looked incredibly dapper in suit and tie and she positively glittered from the number of jewels strung across her outfit.
The lady held a pair of glasses to her nose. "Are you sure, darling? Can you read that from here?"
"No, of course not, but it's got to be his." The man waved an arm at their surroundings, chuckling. "It's in a library for heaven's sake, books everywhere. Where else would our dear Professor hide?"
Tracy followed their eyes to the name plate on her teacher's door across the hall. Wide eyes then followed the couple across the library. "The Howells," she breathed in amazement.
The rich couple stopped, Mrs. Howell tugging on Mr. Howell's arm. "Did you say something, Thurston?"
"I said that's got to be the Professor's office, though it doesn't look like much. I'd have given that brain of his a bigger one if he'd agreed to work for me."
"No, no," Mrs. Howell said, shaking her head. "I could have sworn I heard someone say, 'the Howells!'"
The high schooler swallowed hard. "That was me, ma'am," she stammered, unsure how these wealthy people would take being interrupted. By now she'd read many stories with the Howells in them. In print she'd been quickly charmed by the characters, but it was daunting to attempt conversation with such dominant personalities in real life.
Mrs. Howell spun around to face her, a smile lighting her features. "Ah, see Thurston, I was right! This young lady was trying to get our attention."
Tracy blushed. "Well, yes, I mean, you're the Howells. I've read about you."
"In the Wall Street Journal, no doubt," Mr. Howell replied wittily.
The girl smiled at the famous castaway and his infamous money humor. "Not exactly," she told him. Tracy displayed her book for the Howells, wondering if they had matching copies somewhere. "I was reading this."
Both Howells leaned in for a better view of the title. "Say, I've seen this," Mr. Howell said.
"Yes, dear. That's the Professor's book, the one about the island."
"Plants and the like, yes?" Mr. Howell ventured.
Mrs. Howell shook her head, perfectly coiffed curls adhering to it. "And people, too, Thurston. I believe he ended up writing about the group of us." She looked curiously into the distance. "Though there may be something about plants as well."
A single eyebrow shot up on Mr. Howell's forehead. "This can't be more than a prototype then," he said with a wink. "The Howell name is in far too small a print."
Tracy smiled at the millionaire and his wife. Again she felt her teacher had done a grand job of describing these people. "I don't suppose," she started, "that you would be willing to sign it for me?"
The couple exchanged a look, and Tracy stared up at them with pleading eyes. "You want an autograph, young lady?" Mr. Howell asked, patting his pockets for a pen. "You know, a Howell signature will increase the value of this book tenfold."
"It would mean ever so much to me," Tracy assured him. She rummaged in her school bag for the pen Gilligan and the Skipper had used. "I have a pen."
"We have one right here," Mrs. Howell assured her. "Gold plated. Anything else gives Thurston a rash."
The student watched in wonder as two of the country's wealthiest persons signed her book. "Thank you, thank you!" she told them, admiring the flowing lines of their names. "These are beautiful."
Mr. Howell grinned cheekily. "It comes from a good deal of practice. I write a lot of checks."
"Have a lovely day, dear," Mrs. Howell told the girl, taking her husband's arm and heading towards the Professor's office. "Ta ta!"
Then Tracy was left alone again, with two new signatures to treasure and admire.
The Professor watched as the door to his office opened again. He was puzzled about who this new visitor could be until he saw the beaming faces of the island's wealthiest residents. "Mr. and Mrs. Howell! What a surprise!" He rose from his chair and heartily shook hands with the couple.
"Professor, how are you?" Mrs. Howell greeted him. "It's been far too long."
The teacher smiled at the pair of them. "I'm quite well, Mrs. Howell. What brings you here to Pasadena?"
Mrs. Howell patted his arm. "To see you, of course! You know our summer home isn't far from here."
"We dropped by your house first, but your wife told us you'd still be here. Of course, how you keep away from that lovely creature is beyond me." Mr. Howell slapped his shoulder. "I detest long office hours for the same reason," he said with a grin in his wife's direction.
The Professor smiled at the couple before him. "It can be quite the struggle," he admitted with a smile. "The Skipper and Gilligan just dropped by to tell me of this trip you're planning. It sounds like a splendid idea."
"Yes, that's what we thought, too," Mrs. Howell agreed.
The Howell's found seats in the two chairs in his small office, and the Professor perched himself on the corner of his desk facing them. "I was wondering what exactly you imagined this outing to be."
Mr. Howell got that familiar glint in his eye that appeared when he spoke on his favorite subject. The Professor's suspicions were confirmed. No matter how they sliced it, this trip was about money. "A real estate opportunity, my boy," he said.
When they'd been at last rescued from the island, the Howells had managed to purchase it, making a generous gift of a portion of it to each of the castaways. The seven of them were co-owners of their former home, and at this point at least, the Howells had neither gone back on their deal nor attempted to buy out the others' shares.
Since the whole matter was in official writing, it would take some agreement between the group members before anything permanent could be done with the island. There had been talk among them of building a community vacation home available for each of their use, but as of yet, this plan had not come to fruition.
The Professor raised an eyebrow at the millionaire, requesting that he further explain himself. "The little island could at least bring in some revenue. I'm thinking a resort for the fabulously rich. And whoever else can afford it," he added as an afterthought, laughing his distinctive chortle.
Mrs. Howell joined in her husband's laughter, but Roy remained skeptical. "You realize that you'll have to convince all five of us that this is the correct way to utilize the island. I, for one, am not convinced."
"You think the island could be used for something better? I'm open to ideas so long as there's a profit involved."
The science teacher shook his head but refused to be frustrated by the man's singular thinking. He and Mr. Howell had not seen eye to eye on many island matters over the years, but he valued the friendship they'd cultivated and he refused to allow even this difference in viewpoint to divide them or ruin this trip.
He smiled at his old friend. "I'm absolutely certain something can be arranged. After we've spoken to the other members of our party and spent some time back on the island, we'll have a clear view of what it can and should be used for."
Mr. Howell laughed again. "There never was any deceiving you, my good fellow. Though just to be sure, I don't suppose your support could be bought?" He even went so far as to pull a wad of bills from his inside pocket, but both men knew it was merely in jest.
"Not with that sort of money," the Professor teased, and soon all three were laughing. The matter of what to do with the island remained, but Roy felt assured that a decision could be reached without bloodshed.
It really was a miracle they'd survived as long as they had without murdering one another. But after years of serious testing, their friendship, indeed their family bond, would prevail.
The Howells stood to go, their business completed. He shook hands with Mr. Howell, and Mrs. Howell bestowed on him a brief hug. "We'll see you shortly then, Professor."
"Yes, I'm looking forward to it," the Professor said earnestly, holding the door for his distinguished guests and waving as they stepped back into the library.