Shipwreck — part 2

Rocks and sand. Jiro flexed his hand, wondered why he felt grit under it, and coughed. He was seized by a spasm of coughing then, and rolled onto his side.

Apparently he was alive. The sea surged up the beach and washed around his waist, and receded. Sudden fear of a great wave that could pull him back to death make him push himself upright. He felt weak and dizzy, and he started crawling. When he came to a strip of large rocks and sea litter, he stopped and rested against a rock. He still felt breathless. Another fit of coughing took him, and left him too exhausted to move.

Rain was pouring down on him. For a long time he huddled there, piecing together fragments of present and past. The water: the deep, cold, infinite water. The rain, in contrast, felt warm.

The ship, of course, was gone. He remembered the terrible shudder, the pitch of the deck, and the shock of the water. He heard the cries of the men who fell into the water with him. He remembered the brief struggle for air and life, and the confused tumble in the storm-driven sea.

A wave washed over his legs, and he raised his head in panic. Get to land, he told himself. Out of the sea. On high land. Why don’t you move?

He pushed himself up, and waded heavily through the foaming surf.


And then he stood on shore, facing green forested hills inland. In the wind and torrential rain, they were a restless green blur. He became more aware of his condition. His kimono clung around his waist, twisted and uncomfortable, and his upper torso was bare. His shoes were gone. Absurdly, he straightened his clothes and pushed his hair back.

He saw no one else. Something lay on the beach. When he walked closer, he saw it was a tangle of sail and lines. He looked back out to sea, and shook his fist. “Susano-o!” he shouted, and then coughed and began again. “Susano-o! I curse you if you wrecked our ship!” He considered. “And if you saved me, then I add my thanks!”

And then he jumped up into the air and made a gesture of defiance. On stage, it always earned huge laughter. Here was silence. But it did make him feel a little better. “Ha!” he added.

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