copyright ©2008 All rights reserved.
(Author's note: This is an adventure/love story.)
PART 1 -- REVIEWING IT ALL
He flexed his palms against the back of his head and kept staring at the endless blue above him. The smooth, dark gray rock beneath him was becoming too warm. He would have to move into the shade soon. He wished he had some sunscreen, something in SPF 1000 if it existed. He had gotten burnt badly when they first hit the island. Everyone had.
He wondered what Cheryl was doing and thinking, right... now. It was a momentary mind game he played once in a while that was was on the verge of being worn out. It was the reason he had probably thought more often about her since reaching the island than he had for any other, what was it? Six weeks? Seven weeks? Than any other seven week period of their four year marriage, no, actually just the past three years. He must have thought about her fairly often the first year they were married.
He realized sometime after the first week on the island, that he should have told her it was over months ago. He wished with all his heart that he had, maybe have told her to coincide with his early retirement from teaching. Downsizing had hit academia. The first cut backs had been in the Art Department. He had twenty-one years of service. The deal wasn't bad, or so he thought at the time. He could retire at 45, and start collecting the retirement annuity immediately, including health insurance. It wasn't a large monthly check, but it was enough to get by, plus he had saved almost every penny he could during those twenty-one years.
He had gotten close to marrying a few times, but Cheryl was his first wife. He was her second husband. She had been widowed. Brian's will had included guardianship over his daughter, Cheryl's stepdaughter, Ann. He used to joke with Cheryl sometimes about how he had a step-stepdaughter, or a stepdaughter once removed. Ann was a very pretty girl, maybe a little wild from what he could tell living in the same house with her the last two years of her high school education. Then it was only Thanksgiving, and the Christmas and summer semester breaks.
He had wondered if she'd attend the university where he and Cheryl taught. She had vehemently said she wasn't going to college in town no matter how big a break it would be on tuition. He was glad she had chosen a different college. He had realized near her high school graduation that she had too hot of a bod for him not to start thinking about her day and night. Over his twenty years of teaching, he had short lived affairs with a handful of his students. He liked sleek youthful bodies, but then again, what man didn't?
Yeah, he should have told Cheryl it was over before this "adventure trip of a lifetime" ever came up. He didn't because he hadn't really cared. He had a lousy marriage and just went with the flow for the most part because he just didn't give a damn, about his marriage and most everything else, including his art. He knew part of the reason, maybe the main reason he had decided to take the early retirement was that he was burnt out as a teacher, and completely dried up as a artist.
His art had been mediocre at best, but he had made a few pieces over the years that he actually thought were good. Works that actually had something worthwhile to say, and at times, he even thought a few of those had also advanced art in general. He only thought the latter at infrequent times though, because in his heart he had known it was all bullshit. There are no glimpses of genius from a mediocre mind and mediocre hand. The rest of the art faculty and all the other artists he personally knew had the same problem of mediocrity. Not being alone in that had never been a source of solace for him.
Right before he retired, what was that? Five months... no six months ago, he had thought retirement might be what their marriage needed. He had envisioned himself thinking about screwing Cheryl every minute of the day, because he had guessed he'd be bored as hell. He had known he wasn't going to be setting up a studio at the house right away, if ever. During that last year teaching he hadn't drawn a line or made a brush stroke unless it had been a goddamn demo for some course he had been teaching.
Well, that passionate sex had never happened. What did happened was very intense beating off. At the end of the first month twiddling his thumbs he had walked to campus one morning and sat in the library for nearly five hours. A book on his lap in which he hadn't read a word. His eyes had been scanning every coed who walked in through the main entrance. He just sat there looking, didn't talk to any of them, didn't even consider talking with any of them. Just looked and undressed them with his eyes. A few had shot him angry looks. One had smiled at him.
He began doing that three or four times a week. He was eventually on a first name basis with the circulation desk clerk. He would sit in various locations in the library, usually high traffic areas, around the elevators, the reference floor, and the snack room. Once in a while he'd doodle drawings of pussies in a notebook. Sometimes he'd count the girls he seriously gazed at and would figure out the percentage of those he would definitely have screwed given half a chance. He'd ususally make his way back to the house with enough time before Cheryl came home to fuck his hand at least once but usually twice. After a couple months that had gotten boring too. There were only three times during those months that he had seriously considered approaching some hot chick and see where things led, but he had always stayed in his library chair.
He had then joined a gym, not a big one, just a small workout place that was associated with an orthopedist's office. He had exercised with free weights beginning in high school and continuing through the two decades of teaching. He thought it was to keep his body in shape for his infrequent sculpting periods and doing what he called the 'construction guy' aspects of making art. It had made him physically feel good too. He liked being slim and having his muscles defined, and to have the strength for those jobs that required some physical strength. He gave it up at the end of the third year of his marriage, when he realized that maybe it had always been nothing more than a vain attempt to hold onto his youth.
He picked it up religiously again, working out six days a week in a futile effort to stop thinking about fucking girls half his age, and to get back into shape for whatever was to come in his retirement. He had also vaguely hoped that maybe as he toned up, he would want to screw Cheryl more. He might have more energy and want to use a fit body more, and somehow that would put some excitement back in the relationship; and after the excitement returned, maybe the sensation of love would follow.
Of course none of that regarding Cheryl ever happened, although the long hours at the gym did get him into good shape within a couple months, his abdomen even had the look of a six pack sometimes, at least before eating a meal. In fact he was probably in the best shape he had ever been.
Yeah, he should have told her it was over long before her idea of taking this trip. He grinned as he wondered what he might be doing at this very moment if he had told her it was over. Undoubtedly it would be nothing of value. He had guts all his life, but when his art went dry, his intestinal fortitude had also disappeared. He figured now, as he had when Cheryl brought up this tropical adventure, that it was her attempt to get their marriage back on the tracks. He had finally agreed to it because it was going to be his final attempt to do the same.
Thinking back now, it seemed odd that she had even wanted to try. He was sure by then that neither of them loved the other and definitely were not "in love" at all. Maybe she really had been hoping for something to happen within both of them, something that would make love and lust blossom again. He knew and guessed she knew too, that nothing can grow without some solid soil around the roots. Well, that wasn't true either. He had seen more than enough orchids around the island to know that soil wasn't necessary. He shook his head. He was too tired to think up a better metaphor. What did it matter anyway?
Yeah, what was Cheryl doing right... now? Maybe she was sitting on the bed. He wondered what her face would look like if he walked into the room and said hi. Would she shit? Scream? Laugh? Jump for joy? Would she just say she was sorry for insisting they go on this tropical adventure?
And jeezuz, she had insisted. It was going to be the opportunity of a lifetime. It wouldn't cost terribly much, just sharing the cost of the boat lease and supplies. He would just love Barb and Jeff too, her longtime and close friends in Florida. Both of them had sailed all their lives, had taken long voyages, Jeff had been a member of the crew on a boat that had sailed to Europe and back, and he had sailed throughout the Hawaiian Islands during three summers when he was in college.
They would have to be part of the crew but it would be fun. Ann was also invited and could bring a girlfriend if she wanted, and there was another couple who would crewing too, with their daughter, plus Barb and Jeff's daughter and a few of her friends. The girls would share a large cabin, and each of the married couples would have their own little private cabin during the voyage from Honolulu to Sydney, Australia. Of course they'd be making stops at various islands along the way. Cheryl wasn't scheduled to teach any courses for the summer. It would be just perfect!
The rock had definitely heated up too much. He got up and moved over to the gnarled tree. He looked at the trunk and around the ground for any centipedes or scorpions before sitting down and leaning his back against it. He wondered again what species it was. He rested his forearms on his knees.
Yeah, Cheryl had been excited and a good saleswoman about the goddamn tropical adventure. He had eventually become interested, but mentioned some of his concerns, the first one being that he was a terrible swimmer and could barely do two lengths in a good sized pool. Cheryl had quickly dismissed that, saying salt water was easier to swim in and in heavy weather he would wear a life vest like those everyone wears riding sea doos.
He told her having a bunch of teenaged girls on a boat might be like they were chaperoning a Girl Scout troop. Cheyl had said they were all college aged. Ann would be twenty when they left. He asked if there'd be any guys on the trip the same age as the girls. Cheryl was fairly sure it would only be girls, and then asked why he wanted to know. He said he had this image of waiting at some port for the guys to return from balling some local native babes. She told him not to be ridiculous, and then when he returned to the chaperoning a bunch of girls complaint, she had pointed out that Ann and all the other females her age were not girls, but young women.
After some thought during his hours pushing iron, he had finally agreed and had become somewhat excited too. He had hoped the voyage and experiences might be fodder for some future art, huge canvases of saturated bright colors had entered his mind at the time, although no images within those colors. If the trip wasn't good for their marriage, maybe it would be for his art.
They had arrived in Honolulu on June 1, for a week of daily instructional "shakedown" cruises before they started out on the "adventure voyage," June 8.
On June 7, while he and Cheryl were trying to have at least somewhat hot sex the last night in their hotel room, the phone had rung and Cheryl had abruptly halted the project at hand which wasn't anything anyone would call 'hot,' saying that Barb had told her she'd call if any weather problem might delay the start in the morning. It hadn't been Barb on the phone, but Cheryl's sister. Their mother had a heart attack and the doctors said the next few days would be critical, she might pull through, or they had implied, she might die.
He and Cheryl had talked after that. Obviously, Cheryl was going to take the first plane to Florida. She would call Barb, explain the situation, then, pray to God, her mother would improve and when the worst was past, Cheryl would fly back and meet up with the boat at the first island port that was serviced by a regular commercial airline. She said she didn't want to ruin the trip for Ann and him.
He offered to go back with her, but she had said that even though he had no experience sailing, that Jeff and Barb definitely needed him on the boat. In fact Barb had told her that he was fast learner on their short "shakedown" day excursions. He had only seen Cheryl's mother a half dozen times. He liked her but he didn't feel any real connection to her, and, it seemed, Ann didn't feel much of a connection to the old woman either. Ann had been an older child by the time Cheryl married her father. Ann had never called Cheryl's mother "grandma" nor had she ever called Cheryl "Mom." He had thought the way the sex had been going with Cheryl for the week they had been in the hotel, it really didn't mattered to him that she'd miss part of the voyage.
It was somewhat funny now, but at the time he hadn't given the gaggle of "young women" a thought. He had imagined just going to sleep alone in the little cabin, without any hassle, without any concerns about having any possible sex, or even worse, some discussion with Cheryl about their marriage or their future. He had agreed with her, saying her plan seemed the most logical course, especially after she had also pointed out that they couldn't ask Barb and Jeff for a refund, she just couldn't do that.
It wasn't until the next day after Oahu had sunk below the horizon that Jeff mentioned if Cheryl couldn't make it back within eight days or so, it would be another month before he saw her again. It would take that long to reach another island that had an airport that handled large commercial airliners. Her mother hadn't improved much during those eight days.
It was about three weeks later the storm hit.
When the sky had begun to darken in late afternoon, and the waves had started rising, Jeff had told him that it was going to be something they'd all remember the rest of their lives. Jeff had grinned at him with his eyes afire, apparently with the thought of a true man against the sea competition.
He knew his own face hadn't been anything like that, because Jeff's hand had clapped his back when he said it really wasn't going to be that bad according to the reports they were getting over the radio. It would be exciting enough though to be a great memory and a decent challenge. There really wasn't anything to worry about.
Jeff had then told him a list of things he had better get started on, punctuated by a laugh, adding it was good he already had on his life vest. Jeff told him to get a couple of the girls to help him on deck and to make sure everyone was hooked to a lifeline. Jeff laughed again at whatever his own expression had been. At the time, the boat was cresting and pitching on rolling waves somewhat severely, but at that point he had only been very concerned, not scared shitless.
When he got below, he discovered two of the eight "young women" vomiting into buckets. A couple of the other girls looked scared if not terrified, and the rest were either busying themselves picking up items that were sliding on shelves and dropping to the floor, or looking excited, some even laughing, talking about how they'd be able to tell so and so that they had been in a storm at sea.
Maybe to hide his own fears he had smiled and then asked for two volunteers to go on deck to ready the boat for the storm. He remembered tossing in a couple recently learned nautical terms in his request, hoping that would make the scared or puking girls less afraid, possibly make them believe there was another guy on the boat who knew what the hell he was doing. Of course it wouldn't have fooled Barb and Jeff's daughter, Amy, but she was already on deck helping her mother.
Ann and Samantha, "Sam," had volunteered. He had gotten the life lines from the storage cabinet and clipped a line to each of the girls' vests. When they went above, he had been surprised how much higher the waves had gotten in such a short period of time. Sea water was sloshing onto the deck periodically.
Barb went below to man the radio. He saw Bob and Bob's wife, Deb, in the stern doing something hurriedly back there. Jeff was shouting at them once in a while, just to be heard above the wind and waves. Jeff's daughter and another girl were manning the two sail winches, paying very close attention to Jeff's commands. He, Ann, and Sam, clipped onto the lifeline cable, and then did the chores Jeff wanted done. Most of it was securing things down or storing various things below.
When he was moving the last item below, Jeff had shouted for him to come over. He told him to check with Barb about the weather, and then to relieve the girl who was on the sail winch. He had gone below and was getting the weather information from Barb when they heard an odd sound on deck. Barb had known immediately what it was -- the radio antenna had been blown down. He had hurried along the narrow corridor to the ladder to get above to see what help was needed.
As he opened the hatch sea water had gushed in and pushed him off the ladder slamming him to the floor. For a moment he had been terrified, thinking the boat had somehow capsized. Barb had come running to him to see if he was injured, then as she stepped onto the ladder to close the hatch another wave had washed in and thrown her down on top of him. A couple of the girls below had seen it and started screaming hysterically. Barb had virtually jumped straight up from his body to the handle of the hatch and slammed it shut.
She had asked again if he was injured and he said he was fine. Barb said she would settle the girls down. He wondered if she might have more pressing things to do. He got up and saw that Barb was doing both, trying to calm the growing hysteria, and looking in a storage closet. He was much more careful opening the hatch, got above, snapping his lifeline on the cable immediately after shoving the hatch closed. He made the relatively short distance to Jeff grabbing every handhold he could along the way. He told Jeff what he had probably already known, that the radio wasn't working anymore. Jeff nodded.
He then asked Jeff for "orders." He had actually used that word, not that he was fantasizing he was in some film about the navy but with the wind screaming and waves crashing he hadn't wanted to use a lot of words. Jeff said they had to get the radio working, a temporary antenna needed to be put up. Just then Barb came on deck with a coiled cable. Jeff had shouted at him to help her.
Both on lifelines, he and Barb moved down to the highest mast. They secured the antenna cable to the mast rope and then he started pulling the rope which was looped around a pulley on top of the mast, and started raising the temporary antenna. Barb coiled the rope as he pulled, and made sure the coiled antenna cable didn't get kinked as it went up the mast. The boat angled up to breach another a wave. When the boat crested it was hit by a rogue wave coming in broadside. In an instant, he had almost been washed to the edge of the deck and probably would have been if he hadn't grabbed a handhold. When the water disappeared he turned around to Barb intending to say something like "Holy shit!" He would have, but she wasn't there.
That was the first moment of true terror for him in a sequence of terrors. He stupidly dropped the rope in his hands, grabbed whatever he could as handholds as he made his way to the edge of the deck. He saw Barb's lifeline straining over the rope railing. The lifelines weren't supposed to be able to get passed the railing. He had instantly feared his line was also too long. He grabbed Barb's line with one hand and kept his other hand gripping a handhold. He turned towards Jeff at the wheel. He shouted as loud as he could but Jeff didn't see nor hear him.