"I know!" Mr. Perry roared, and stepped on the gas.
When we reached the policeman, who looked understandably furious, Mr. Perry stopped the car, rolled down the window and leaned out into the rain to shout something at the man in uniform. Astonished, I saw the policeman's fury vanish. Even more astonished, I saw him wave us on. Mr. Perry rolled up the window, tramped down on the gas and sent the car churning through the rising waters. By what seemed to me a combination of completely undeserved good luck and surprisingly good driving, we managed to reach the parking lot behind the yacht club. It was covered with a mere four or five inches of water. Clambering out of the car behind Mr. Perry, I felt for the first time the full fury of the wind and rain, which caught me in the face. In 10 seconds flat we were both as soaked as sponge fishermen at work.
"Holy smoke!" Mr. Perry shouted suddenly as we reached the yacht basin and faced the churning seas, "look at that boat!"
I followed his pointing finger and saw a neat little 16- or 20-footer—even in bright sunlight and a flat calm I would not have been able to estimate its correct dimensions—slowly but inexorably slipping her mooring. In a matter of minutes, obviously, the winds would begin to pound her back and forth against her neighbors on either side, like the clapper of a bell.
"Those three boats are goners!" I yelled.
"No, they're not!" Mr. Perry bellowed. "Here, grab this!"
Before I knew what was happening, I had seized the rope he handed me and, like a Volga boatman in a painting of the pre-Turgenev era, I was hauling in the slack. To say it was hard would be to describe the job Hercules did on the Augean stables as a bit of a strain. To say I knew what I was doing, or why, would be as close to an outright lie as this admirer of George Washington ever permits himself to go.
Slowly but surely, however, the rope came in. And slowly but surely, as it grew taut, the small boat's wild pendulumlike swings from side to side narrowed down to a more controlled swaying within a greatly reduced arc. Not so slowly, and with a skill that was surprising in a man whose sport was archery, the 120-pound Mr. Perry disposed of the slack I hauled in by winding it on a small drum with a geared handle attached to the mooring post. He accompanied his deft and effortless movements with little yelps of admiring ecstasy. When it was all over, when Mr. Perry's cheers and my muscles had clearly saved the boat, I was aware of a curious sensation. It was probably some distance from the emotion that surged through Sir Edmund when he finally stood upright on the roof of the world, but I think it was undoubtedly—if a metaphor, instead of being mixed, may be churned into a froth-cut from the same bolt of cloth. It was immediately followed by what was unmistakably a severe shooting pain in the small of my back.
"What a job!" Mr. Perry roared as he put his entire 120 pounds into the congratulatory whack he deposited squarely in the center of my brand-new pain. "I don't know how to thank you!"
"Don't try!" I managed to gasp. "Just get me home!"