The breeze crept
up slowly as the sun sank. I hated the nighttime, feared the cold and the dark.
But at least everything was dry. Bill took the dinghy from on top of the bow
and shoved it underneath with the towels and cushions. Our bedroom would be
ready when we were. The sun set.
The cold came
quickly and the dark as well, but both were pushed away from a tiny sphere
whose center was the fires of the still. Stars appeared overhead and a long low
bar of orange lingered on the horizon. The breeze was steady. The boat rocked.
Rhythmically I changed the rag on the hose. Into the water. Out again. Over the
hose. I was saying the words in my mind. Where had I learned to make sounds?
"No, doe." I said them aloud. What did I do different with my mouth?
"No, doe, no, doe. Nothing. Dothing." Ah! The no went through my nose.
Where had I learned that? Who taught me? "No. Doe."
Was I crazy? No.
No crazier than in land life, life-insurance life. Just closer to the
The wind kept
increasing as the hours passed. It started to come in gusts. We adjusted the
windshields closer to the burners. The flames fluttered. Within an hour the
waves had steepened as frighteningly fast as they had the first night. We had
pulled up some of the floorboards and used them to build a wave-breaking
extension to the tiny foredeck, but water continued to come aboard. Tending the
still was again a two-man job. The wind forced painful dryness into my
nostrils. Its whistle was joined by the sounds of crashing sea and of creaking
boards. One of the fires blew out. Bill relit it from the other. A gust hit,
and then darkness. I scrambled to the battery to spark the wires and relight
"Do you think
we should?" Bill said.
He was scared. We
had used the last of the extinguisher the day before, when three times flames
had set fire to the boat. He was scared of the fire. But wasn't he scared of
the dark, too?
I sat down, arms
around my legs, shivering. Part of the night was behind us. I looked at the
stars. Orion and Taurus danced frantically. The waves were huge. I reached for
the plastic bottle. Fresh water. There must have been close to a pint. We had
done what we'd planned. We'd kept the still going as long as we could.
"Let's get up
there before we freeze," Bill said.