It was a fair-weather day, and I missed the call. A maiden vessel had radioed for help. As usual, I was unavailable. I missed the call and she sank. She went down beneath the waves of a terribly lonesome ocean.
All of this happened when I should have been at the helm of my vessel. Of course, I had bound the captain hand and foot, locking him into the state cabin.
After this necessary mutiny, I designated myself (quite the remarkable) captain.
Well, there was, perhaps, one small exception: I had taken on this quirky idea about what fun it should be to take my hand drill and drill a couple holes into the deck of my cherished vessel.
I’d always been something of a precocious chap.
At first, I would drill me a few holes, then take up my stately pipe. I would lean hard and proud against some sturdy bulwark or another, observing my handy work with smug amusement.
“Just look what I’ve done, now.” I’d say to the mighty boom. “Now, there’s a laugh to write home about!”
Soon, I became further amused with this crazy passion of mine for taking up the drill and making holes into my vessel’s deck.
“What a fine vessel; just as hardy as there gets,” I would quip.
One day, not certain when, my playing about turned into a deliciously passionate obsession. I kept drilling hole after hole, becoming only slightly concerned when the sun shone through those holes. It cast slanted, shadowy shafts down into my vessel’s hull. I gazed hypnotically at the drifting motion of so many, many motes of dust dancing about within those shafts of light.
I felt a burst of concern. This was short lived, moving on as a mighty gale—the waters began cresting white.
Stealing over me came an obsession quite more somber; It seemed greedily to urge me onward. Truth be told, the damn obsession may as well have stolen the damn drill from out of my hand’s grip.
And then there came gloom, doom, panic.
I began profusely to worry that I should very soon run out of deck!
Yet, I simply had to drill.
Again, my clever intellect narrowed in upon a suitable solution. Straight away, I began climbing down a wide ladder through the hole leading into the ship’s hull.
Gaining my footing, I pivoted to face her stern. My eyes smugly swept the full expanse of solid plank upon plank before me; I blinked, believing for a moment that one of those planks twinkled, glistened, giving to me the sense of an inviting wink.
Thus, I began in earnest to take up my drill, and start up on that first hole I would drill into the ship’s belly.
Soon, there were holes enough that the vessel began to take on quite a bit of water. No worries. I simply turned on her pump and let it begin bailing the water out.
“What a clever chap, am I?!” Now, I could get back to my drilling.
By this time, I had begun to neglect the helm of the vessel. More to the point, I had utterly abandoned my post altogether. And, for good reason. It was all such a monotonous, uneventful affair, after all. The damn ship could run itself! I had better things I wanted to do.
More drilling, of course.
Well, my brilliance had my vessel fair near drowning. My outstanding intelligence had my damn motor locked up, propelling the vessel full speed ahead at 27 knots.
And then there came a squall on the horizon.
Truth be told: it was no mere squall, but a record- setting center-low category-four hurricane that was growing larger and nearer with every rhythmic crashing of the waves against the boat’s frame.
Soon, I found myself carrying pails of water out of the hull, up the ladder, and casting them—seemingly in vain—over her rear port side.
Thanks to my resourcefulness, there I was, my vessel nearing many rocks, where it would certainly run hard aground. So, I went down into the stern part of the hull, where I was met with a wretched smell urging me to climb back up hither.
Yet, I stayed down there, where I had had but a moment’s clarity pass through my apparently quite warped mind.
The captain’s quarters, I thought to myself.
The water was waste deep—swirling, slapping, and rising. I took from my waste clip the many keys belonging to the vessel. The smell of death and rot bathed me.
I swaggered toward the captain’s cabin. I tried every one of those damn keys but one. That one key snapped from the ring and fell with a mild gulp into the slop and muck rising about me.
Then there came a wicked flash, followed by a deep rumble of thunder. Too close. Too close.
I realized my defeat. It was utter. It was complete. I felt as though a dark curtain dropped down over my soul; the hopelessness could be felt. How final, how permanent that hopelessness felt.
I weathered the first half of the storm—stubborn and unyielding.
Then, a flash, a curse from my lips, all followed by a moment’s hushed silence. My eyes darted to and fro—I felt clever no more. I pulled out the hand drill, gave it a lustful glance.
Turning away, I pled with the grand cumulonimbus clouds—grand walls forming what must have been the storm’s merciful eye.
“Help, I beg of you.” I bellowed at the holes in the deck above me. “What must I do? I’ll do anything at all. Just show me. What must I do?” I pled earnestly.
I heard a voice, and momentarily thought I’d lost my mind forever.
“Stop drilling.” The voice was weak and muffled.
I looked back toward the drill and tossed it far from myself into the putrid waters swirling about—I felt relief as one who tosses from his hand a burning ember.
“Then, tell me: are you willing and able to open this damn door?” It was the captain’s voice. My sanity returned, what was left of it.
“I’ve lost the key.” I shouted, moving nearer the door.
“We’re inside the eye—go down and search for the damn thing, before it’s too late!” The captain hollered.
I looked about at the death and slime lapping now at my shoulders. I was willing to do whatever it took. Thus, I went down under the slime and muck. I felt about like a blind man for that key. I was unsuccessful time and again, coming up for gulps of air.
I was about to give it up, but heard the captain edging me on, “Hurry, it’s damn well down there—stop stirring the water so much. Keep trying, you’ll come up with it, Jack!”
So, down I went again, only this time I merely bent at the knees real slow like, so’s not to stir the waters. I went down to my knees and slowly swept the hull’s floor. Just when I knew it was over, and I was completely out of breath—already turning upward in my mind—there came the clink, then I could feel the sturdy, metal skeleton shaped key beneath my left palm.
The joy I felt was overwhelming. I literally felt happy—over a damn rusty old key!
Up I came, and moving as through molasses, I made my way toward that sturdy cabin door. I was so full of willingness to unlock that door. I was shaky but held no reservations whatsoever. Careful not to let the key fall from my trembling hands, I gripped it hard and worked to thread it into the door’s keyhole.
Once in, I turned the key hard left, and moved my right hand to the latch. I heard a click, and the door pitched with a haunting squeal.
The edge of the eye’s diameter had reached its maximum, and the wind stole that door, whipping it back hard against the weight of the waters. Open a mere crack, the captain was able to push through.
Our eyes met—it was an exacting exchange. Such an ordinary looking man. Soon, he had us up on the deck. This seemingly simple man began straight away performing useful actions he had apparently performed a thousand times over.
“The rigging—grab and lash down the…” He yelled into the wind.
Last thing I remember was the ominous boom. I had neglected to tend its tethering. I watched as it began to oscillate back and forth, finally moving with great momentum straight toward me. I must have blacked out.
When I came to, my body lay half on a black slab of rock jutting from the water, and half swaying beneath the calming waters. The storm had passed, yet my troubles were just now beginning. The vessel had run aground along some magnificent volcanic island. The island was treacherous and had no harbor. Surveying the scene, I could see jagged black slabs of rock peppered about the island for what had to be more than a mile out and all around.
“Captain? O, Captain?” My voice was rough and weak. “Captain, my Captain?” I voiced to no avail. No sign could be seen of the man, anywhere. I swam toward the wreckage to see what might be done. Still, no captain.
My eye caught sight of a hand drill never touched—shining with a smooth, sharp bit.
And then there came a magpie.
She swooped, then rose on wings high above me. This cause me to raise my head. What I saw caused my heart to sink. There above me, I saw a massive mountain jutting from out of the sea.
Some Island, I thought.
It was pitched all around, nearly ninety degrees. Stretching my neck upward, I saw prodigious promontories jutting about the long retired volcano. And I’m supposed to climb into that? Woe overwhelmed me.
The magpie descended, perching on what was left of the sides and bow of my vessel. I turned from the bird, training my eyes on that new drill.
“Do you wish to stop? Do you wish to make a go of it?” The magpie spoke.
Well, there goes my mind for sure, I nearly sank in despair.
Knowing not what else to do, I spoke in turn with the bird.
“Make a go of what?” I asked.
“Climbing to safety?” She said. “And, you were supposed to be some kind of smart fellow?” Maggie muttered, more to herself than to me.
I turned toward the island.
“Climb where—climb what? Into that wretched thing?” My eyes motioned toward the pitched volcano.
“Well, you could try and make a go of swimming out with that drill there. Perhaps, you should find some grand vessel you could take over. It’d be great for you—great for all your drilling!” Maggie quipped.
“I can’t—” I began to tremble.
“What, you can’t stop?” Maggie squawked. She flew nearer, and perched on a nearby slab. “Look, if you’d like to solve your drilling problem, there is a solution. It’ll involve your taking a few simple steps.” She calmly stated.
“Who are you to tell me what for?” I felt myself becoming resentful.
“I’m Maggie the magpie. I’m just like you, only you are a driller, and I’m a damn pecker!” She squawked.
I had to think about that for a minute. I looked over the wreckage of my ruined vessel, then rotated my eyes over toward the black mass beside it.
“And how the hell is one supposed to get into that thing? I see no steps?” She was unwittingly breaking me down.
“If I could make it in, so can you.” She said.
“You’ve got wings, all I’ve got are two weak legs and one good arm! I’m certain my shoulder must be broken.” Now, I was getting pissed at this smart ass bird!
“Look here, when I first arrived, both my wings were broken, I was missing three talons, and, well—” had it not been for her beautiful feathers, I swear her face would have been crimson when she finished. “As you can see, I ain’t got much left for a beak. And, yet, I made it in. Here.” She handed me a bit of sturdy rope. A manual had been laced onto it through a large ring.
“You sit on one of these slabs and look over this manual. I’ll sit nearby and you can ask me anything you like. Everything you need is inside that manual. I can’t lift you into Kry, but I can let you know I’m here to help guide you in.
“Kry? What’s that supposed to mean?” I genuinely inquired.
“Oh, yes, this is the Kry Island. There are more like it all about this Lonely Ocean. This is where folks like you and me can go when we find ourselves at the end of our clever bit of rope.” Maggie said.
“What’s inside there that’s any better than this. It don’t look like much, I’ll tell you that!” I quipped.
“Oh, just a bunch of pirates and felons and more of the like—you’ll get on just fine, once you’re inside.” She said.
“Hey there! You just hold on one minute. I ain’t no damn pirate—and it ain’t no crime having a storm like what just passed run one’s ship aground like this!” I hollered.
“Your ship! You the captain of this washed up outfit, then?” She leaned in close.
I fell dead silent. I somehow knew she knew the truth.
“Well?” She badgered.
“Captain didn’t make it. I’m afraid I’m to blame. I was knocked cold. I was useless just when I was needed most.” I bowed my head to hide a teardrop welling in my eye.
“You weeping for your captain, or yourself, there?” Maggie asked. “You want out of this mess and into something greater, or no?”
Well, it was rough going, but soon I made my way through the shoulder deep waters till I reached the sternly pitched wall of rock.
“Well, what now, then?” I hollered, mad as a hornet.
The magpie had flown on. I tilted my head till it was pointing straight up. She’d taken the rope, and was apparently securing it up top. I took hold and began my first wobbly step. I began to sober up, realizing what a fool I’d been. I glanced down toward the wreckage I’d caused, and admitted my hopelessness. My vessel was ruined, I’d let her go, and thought sure I’d killed her true captain.
I prayed no sophisticated prayers, with each step. “Help me, Oh God of my misunderstanding. I done turned my back on you. Yet, help me. I simply cannot manage this on my own. It just ain’t feasible.” At first I mouthed those thoughts, until I got about three lashes up on that rope. My body trembled. I was sick with scurvy, waterlogged, worn out. I feared I could never make it even one more step.
“I give it up, God. I am alone, it is enough. I made my life you give me, useless. Just do as you will, whether I live or plunge down to my death. Just do as you will.
As I climbed, all I had done in my past came flooding into my heart and mind. As I worked to think about how much hurt I done everyone, including my own vessel’s captain, something unusual happened. I raised my eyes to where the magpie had been. She was not there, yet I could see a wet nose over the island’s edge, just sniffing at the air. Then I saw another. Soon, I saw whiskers, then a fanfare of eyes peering down into my own.
I’m not alone, I thought. “I’ll be damned if I am not alone!” I shouted.
“Alone?” A water rat shouted. “What’d you think you’s something special or what? You ain’t nothing special! Ain’t nothing you been through we ain’t been through! Now, get your skinny little ass up here, already! The feast will soon be served, then it’ll be getting cold!”
Feast? I suddenly felt hunger for something other than drilling—for the first time in a long time.
By and by, I gradually made it up all them steps, and found myself being pulled up by numerous arms. They were plump and warm arms. Once atop the promontories, I was welcomed with hardy slaps on the back, shuffling and clapping of paws.
“Come and see.” The water rat pulled me toward where the promontories met the island’s edge.
What I saw when I looked down into the island stunned me. There inside the volcano there was life teaming—and more abundant than what seemed possible to fit inside! I could smell good cookings, and just about fell backward when I heard the words, “Ahoy, mate!”
It was my captain! He’d survived. He’d made it through the storm, and into the island. A sense of peace swept over me. I looked around and saw a motley crew of every sort of creature I would never have crossed paths with in my life. Yet, there they were, clamoring about me just about as helpful and caring as though we’d known one another over twenty life times.
I was awake, so it felt. I was awake for the first time in my life. And, it was a good feeling. It was so good, it was better than my best days, drilling. I had come into a society that understood me. I had turned my heart full astern back to my God. I would learn a set of principles I could begin to practice in my dealings with my fellows.
And, I was hungry at just the right time for a feast. It was a feast that had been being prepared for me, even as I had been drilling holes back in the day—drilling holes into the hull of my own captain’s vessel!
I made it into the island. I enjoyed many more feasts. Some days were good—really good. Some, not so good. Yet, I was not alone. And good thing I wasn’t. As I was being prepared. I wasn’t rushed but told to take all the time I needed. Yet, I knew what it was leading to—my new society was clean and honest about that. I would have to mend my vessel and set back out on the Ocean. I would not be alone, yet I would need to learn how to stand on my own—how to be responsible for what I could do on my own, and how to depend on my God and my captain to do form me what I knew better than trying to do for myself. I would learn how to have faith in other’s promises, and how to keep my own promises made to others.