Archive for June 1st, 2012

1st June
2012
written by amber

The wind rose. We fell silent, watching Raf at the wheel, working harder to keep her steady. Waves began to slap against the hull, their tops frosted with white. It was nothing we hadn’t experienced every night of every uneventful trip we’d ever been on, but I could feel my privates trying to shrink back into my body, my bladder and bowels loosening in anticipation of terror. I didn’t want to piss myself again, or worse, so I got up and went below to the head.

I did my business in record time. Being below was bad enough but in the small room I could barely breathe. I don’t know how Joe stood it. The dim light flickered and went out. I knew it was from wet wires, we’d been having similar troubles all day, but I was too far from being sensible about it. Without taking time to wipe, I yanked my pants up and staggered back on deck.

Mak had been into the boss’ cabin and found some whiskey and a bottle of wine, so everyone was drinking. I could see Raf at the wheel, grinning as he swigged the last of the rum.

“Lights out again,” I reported but no one seemed to care. The deck tilted back and forth. As my legs adjusted automatically to the familiar motion, my heart pounded. I wondered if I shouldn’t get into the locker with Joe. Perhaps a confined space wouldn’t seem so bad as long as you weren’t alone.

It was a clear night, the stars bright as fires on a beach, the moon nearly full and seeming close enough to touch. I told myself there couldn’t be a storm on such a night, that clouds were essential for a really bad gale. But the wind still rose and I could only be comfortable clutching the rail next to the deckhouse.

“I think I’ll see if Cap’n Hart is over his mad at me,” Mak announced. “The guys say they haven’t had any decent cooking since he canned me.” Mak had had the misfortune to pick up a pretty woman in a bar – she turned out to be his captain’s estranged wife.

Then everyone started talking about the Priscilla B, Hart’s boat, how it was the best local boat to work on, how nice it was to work on a local boat and get home every few weeks instead of shipping out for months at a time on the big multinationals.

They were getting over their fear, I could see, almost ready to start talking about the storm we’d barely survived. Only the superstition, that a bad trip isn’t over until your feet plant themselves safely on shore, kept them from voicing the stories they were already working out in their minds, how it was the worst storm they’d ever known, how hard they’d had to pump, how the deck went vertical as each wave tried to roll us over, how the port rail snapped off with a terrible shriek louder than the wind, how scared they’d been, scared enough to puke and shit themselves. They’d confess these things in bars, but not the worst, how we all willed Raf to do what he did, how Von handed him the knife and we all nodded, some of us slapping his back, approving his intention.

And even worse, before that, when the boat did roll, tumbling us all together on the ceiling before she righted herself, how we clung to each other in the salt water darkness, certain it was the moment of our death, holding on not just for support but in a final desperate clutch at human warmth, a desire stronger than sex, not wanting to die alone.

This is the last part of my story ‘In the Storm’ which won the Sheldon Currie fiction prize from the Antigonish Review in 2010.