Copyright © 2010 Tom Reynolds
Doug Parker had woken up next to his live in girlfriend that morning. It was the day after his 29th birthday and he wanted to make this a big year. The thoughts of marriage and children were giving him the creeps. He looked at Sheila and said, “I’m playing hooky today babe; going fishing!” She knew this was unusual for him to ever call in sick. She just left it as partiers remorse and went back to sleep with a grunt.
The breakers were cold Monday morning as Doug shoved off in his kayak: he had a dull headache and lingering hangover from the party last night. It was early June and a bit overcast so the water was still frigid at the Asbury Park shore. He liked that the beach was empty here; the town had been forgotten and was no longer chic.
Finally making it past the breakers with an effort; his dry cotton mouth from drinking too much beer became much more pronounced. He took a swig from his sports bottle and continued to paddle. He made it out about 100 yards, baited his hook and dropped the line, leaned back and relaxed. In the calm quiet of the offshore, the clouds began to burn away, and the gentle slapping of the water against the kayak had slipped Doug into a sleepy trance. He napped in the cool salty June air; what could be better?
When Doug woke from his nap he was a bit concerned. It was quite a nap, and not a good idea to be sleeping in the middle of the ocean. He gained his senses before the panic set in; not only had he not secured his paddle that was now gone; but he couldn’t see land! “OH GOD!” He shouted aloud while breathing heavy and rubbing his head the way he did when trying to make sense of something. He had gotten control of himself; “Time for a swim Jackass,” was his response to his actions, maybe he’d find it. If he could only find it, he knew enough to paddle west, in the direction of the setting sun later that day.
Not being the best swimmer, Doug Parker set out from the kayak with valid worries. His nerves had had gotten the best of him, and panic had used up his breath quite quickly. Not being able to find it, he swam back out of fear of being stranded in the ocean without his kayak. When he got back to the kayak he tried his phone, but a wave must have gotten it because it was wet and not working. “Damn,” he said with a deep sigh. He would wait for help. It being Monday though was a worry as well; not many people out here fishing on a work day. There would be no help for Doug.
Some hours had passed without sight of a single boater. “HELP…HELP!” Doug was getting hoarse from screaming for so long. It was now dusk and he was still adrift. No sight of land. ‘I should’ve gone to work’ he thought to himself as he crawled up into a ball on his kayak and began to tear up. Was Sheila going to be ok without him? The thought of all he was leaving behind for fear of getting older and responsible, and wanting to ‘live it up’ tortured his mind. It was over. The sun was fully set and darkness covered the still calm sea like a moist blanket.
He was woken by the glaring sunrise, so bright he could see the inside of his eye lids. The feeling of impending doom set in once again, as he realized his predicament was not the dream he hoped it was. Then from the bowels of this personal hell he had created for himself, in the distance, he had seen a boat. ‘A BOAT…YES, IT’S A BOAT!’ he thought to himself. Doug’s voice had quickly recovered, as he was able to shout for attention over and over again, standing up and frantically waiving his arms. Then he heard the hum of the dingy speeding his way. His rescuers arrived at his position. He was saved.
“Thank you…thank you…thank you!” Said Doug to his new mates onboard the dingy; “I’ve been out here all night. I was a goner for sure I thought!” But they said nothing in reply. It took Doug a moment to consider that they spoke no English. It must be a small foreign merchant vessel out there. “I hope you guys have some food on board?” He continued while motioning his hands to his mouth. Again however, no reply; “Ah, who cares, I’M ALIVE!”
When they arrived at the vessel, Doug was escorted to a small galley. It was quite filthy with the only light coming from a hanging light bulb, and a small porthole window. He took a seat and was addressed by a deck hand, “Hey!” A large bottle of water had been tossed to him. He sat back and relaxed, as the deck hand left him alone. The only sounds coming from the electrical hum from the light bulb.
In walked a dapper looking gentleman, neatly dressed in a crisp boiler suit, closely cropped salt and pepper hair with matching trimmed mustache and hands in his pockets. “Hello young man, I am John, Captain of the El Caballero. Welcome aboard! You must be exhausted from your troubles.
My steward is fixing up a pot of his original creation, sailors stew. Tastes like crap, but it’s hot and sticks to the ribs,” said the Captain with a slight foreign accent.
Surprised at these men being American onboard, Doug cheerfully responded; “Thank you Captain, I am honored and owe you a debt of gratitude. If I could call home as well I would greatly appreciate it?”
Young replied, “I am sorry young man, our radio is down at the moment and being repaired as we speak.”
“Understood; Captain, if you need any work from me while I’m, aboard I will absolutely not hesitate, it is the least I can do.”
“Well, thank you, that’s quite kind. We are a working vessel and I’ll take you up on your offer, since we are short handed. This journey should end most swiftly for you. In the mean time, I believe this is yours?” Doug was handed his wallet, “It had been on your kayak, one of my men picked it up for you, they said you we quite preoccupied with joy to consider picking it up.”
“Thank you, sir.” Out of habit he had opened it to make sure everything was there, as he always did before placing it in his pocket, “Oh, sir? My driver’s license is missing; did anyone find that as well?”
Yes, I have it in my quarters!” said the captain with a bite in his tone to a confused Doug. “As I have said, I will take you up on your…services. You see, we are a bit short handed for our work. Take a look out of that porthole window; see that yacht? Well, they have what we want and you’re going to help us get it. Just do what I say and you’ll be fine. A good looking young man as yourself should have no damn problem getting us aboard!”
He continued to Doug’s shock, “Hmm, 555 Ocean Avenue, and young lady’s photo in your wallet, my guess is she lives there as well? May I ask, have you ever heard the term shanghaied? Well, we did one better, we now have an insurance policy and her name is Sheila.” John walked within a couple of paces to Doug and smacked him hard in the face with the back of his hand. From the floor boards Doug looked up and watched the Captain storm from the galley.
Doug’s heart dropped like an anchor; pirates in New Jersey, he couldn’t believe it. “I really should’ve gone to work.”
Then with a heart broken and shattered, he got to his feet, looked out the porthole and watched as the little dingy headed out towards the now visible shoreline in the distance; Atlantic City. He would do what they wanted.
To be continued…
(c) Tom Reynolds
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