Bill took a
fishing rod and fumbled to free the hook. The parachute was drifting past us,
30 feet to port. He cast beyond it, hooked the chute and reeled it in. I leaned
over the side and grabbed at the colored silk, and then our fingers tangled as
we reached to the small wooden canister. The message inside was handwritten in
pencil. A helicopter was coming. One line read, IF YOU NEED MEDICAL ATTENTION,
STAND UP AND WAVE ARMS OVERHEAD. We had to laugh.
The plane roared
above us. The sea was unbelievably rough. We leaned and clung as we watched the
plane bank. Another parachute burst bright. Bill shielded his eyes from the
sun. "I bet it's supplies," he said.
It had been
released too late. It carried over our heads and landed in the water 100 yards
downwind. Before I knew what was happening, Bill was at the stern, over the
side and in the water. Horror swept through me. He would drown. The only thing
I thought of doing was to jump in after him. It would get his attention. He
knew I couldn't really swim. I was in the water, shocked by the cold and the
turbulence, struggling to keep my head above the surface as I yelled for him to
come back. He came back, and we scrambled into the boat.
fool!" I yelled, hardly able to talk. "You crazy goddamned fool! You
couldn't have gotten that thing!"
I sat on the
bottom of the boat, breathing quickly against the pain in my side. I didn't
want to see how far the chute had floated. It was water, food, maybe another
message from the people overhead.
The plane began
to circle, sending out a consistent drone. They had found us. Thank God! Thank
humanity, thank whoever had caused that plane to appear in the sky, to be
flying low now.
Close to two
hours passed before it left us, heading east. My stomach tightened in panic,
but then a helicopter appeared from the same direction and was soon huge above
us, maneuvering slightly upwind, bearing down. The wind from the sea whipped
us. The wind from the chopper whipped us. The sound of the motor built to a
roar. An object streamed toward the boat, trailing a colorful piece of silk.
The canister was plastic this time, bright orange.
A CAGE WILL BE
LOWERED TO YOU. DO NOT TOUCH IT BEFORE IT TOUCHES THE BOAT. ONE MAN AT A
The Lazy rose
sharply on a wave, but the cage settled in beautifully. Bill pushed me.
I tumbled into
the cage, felt it swing as soon as it left the boat. The roar of the engines
grew louder. I was level with the door. Hands grasped the cage, and I was
pulled inside. The members of the crew had to shout their instructions.