Beginnings — Chapter 2
D. Paul Angel
This is a continuation of “Beginnings,” Mark Gardner’s #FridayFlash from 26 September 2014 on his fantastic blog Article 94. Mark wrote it as a stream of consciousness piece on an old school typewriter. In the comments he gave me permission to continue to the story, and you’ll find that below. Having added my piece, I would now invite someone else to take on the next chapter and see how this story unfolds. Let me know in the comments below if you’d like to write the next chapter!
My body hung in the life vest, gently bobbing with each swell. If I turned my head far enough I could just see James turning the Zebedee in a slow arc to come back and pick me up. I’d been working with him for almost a year now, but this was easily my biggest mistake. And I’d made plenty.
I remembered a lot of the mistakes, and just how many of them James caught before they could escalate. It was frustrating at first. Well, at second and third too; probably more so because he never seemed angry or upset by anything. It was always either a nod, a few words of correction, or a quick tap on the shoulder. It had been frustratingly incessant the first couple weeks. I couldn’t turn around without him telling me something I was doing wrong. Always patient, always firm: always there.
I realized as I was floating that he hadn’t hardly corrected me at all for days. Weeks? I couldn’t even remember for sure, but at least a awhile. And then I up and fall off the damned boat.
I could only imagine what he was going to say when he got me back on deck. I went through everything again: getting tangled in the line, trying to haul up more net than I easily lug, and so on down the list. Well, at least I’d already have the answers when he started asking me about doing things different!
He eased the motors to idle and the boat drifted by slowly. Down on one knee he reached out and clasped my arm. He possessed deceptive strength for an old, scrawny guy and easily hauled me up.
“Thanks,” I said, truly grateful. Nothing really gives you a sense for the size of the ocean so much as drifting in it, even for a short time. “I know what I did wrong, James,” I began, but he cut me off.
“Of course you do, Steve. But I’d wager you’d like to have dry clothes on. Off you go, then back to work. You had your break for the day,” he added with a twinkle to his eye before lighting another cigar.
“Um, uh, thanks again,” I stammered. I ducked into the cabin and came out a few minutes later far dryer and with clean clothes on.
“Do you want to know what happened?”
“I know what happened,” he said, “I watched it.”
“Then why didn’t you stop me? You’ve been on me about everything else the last year.”
“Has it really been a year already? Time flies, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” I said, feeling some of the old frustration from rarely knowing how he was going to react to anything. “But that has nothing to do with why you suddenly stopped correcting me just before I went overboard.”
“Yes!” I admit I snapped a little, “That.”
“Did you like being in the water?”
“Of course not!”
“Are you going to do it again?”
“Well, no. I know what I did wrong. I had some time to think about it while bobbing up and down in the wake.”
“Then you didn’t really need me to teach you anything, did ya? You got the lesson all on your own.”
“But everything else was so much smaller.”
“At the time, yeah. But those little mistakes could quickly become big ones, and, really, how many of them were obvious mistakes to a greenhorn?”
I found myself there for a little bit, looking up and remembering many, many such lessons. He was right. What he had caught me on weren’t necessarily obvious blunders, but in hindsight they could have turned out far worse than an unexpected, late afternoon salt-water bath.
“Huh,” I finally replied, taking it all in.
“‘Huh,’ indeed. Just remember Steve,” he said poking me square in the chest with his index finger firmly wrapped around his stogie, “you can’t rush ready. So don’t get cocky.”