(Just joining us? Go back to Part 1)
Old Jacob hurled the rope into the wind. It uncurled and slapped the water. A close throw. But the man adrift didn't see it.
"Grab it!" Old Jacob yelled, shaking his end. "Grab it!"
Barely able to spare his hands, the man groped in the gloom. The boat dropped behind the next swell, and the man disappeared.
The rope zipped tight.
Old Jacob hauled while Patrick rowed against the drag. They towered high, and man splashed beneath them. The ocean rolled, and their positions reversed.
Jacob's strength plowed him closer through the storm.
They reached out. Up and over the side, the soaking man flopped into the boat. He coughed and wheezed.
"How many more? How many aboard?" Old Jacob said.
"Gone," he croaked.
The decks of the burning schooner caved. The appetite of the fire was dwindling.
"Where? In the water?"
Strings ran from the man's mouth and nose. He gagged and spit water.
"The life boat," he said. "Told them not to go."
He pointed to the bowels of Diamond Shoals. Madness. The sea witches danced their lethal dance.
"They didn't make it far."
Old Jacob nodded, peering across the shoals. The others watched him.
He turned to Patrick.
"Give it back to your father, son."
Patrick pried his cramped hands from the wood. His father retook the seat.
"We're going in!" Jacob bellowed. "Keep a strong hand!"
The oars dug in.
"There!" Jacob said, pointing the course. "Keep that angle! Stretch out those seas!"
Old Jacob sized the next wave. He timed it's approach.
"Now! Turn to!"
The boat swung toward land. A mountain rose up behind them. Patrick gripped the gunwales. It pushed them, but the oars fought the desire to turn.
Grasping and grasping, the wave finally released them, and they fell down the back side.
Already, the next assault approached. Patrick felt the boat's confusion, it's itch to swerve in every direction.
Patrick's father battled. He clawed and strained and almost conquered the sea. But halfway to shore, they landed in breakers. So difficult to spot from behind.
Shallow water nipped their feet. The next wave behind them leaned.
The stern dug in. The boat surfed forward.
Patrick saw it coming.
The prow dipped and burrowed. They careened sideways and broached.
Seven men clattered into the icy ocean. The boat tumbled on.
Seven men fought. Cursed the paradise below. But one by one, the stillness reached out, and soothed them.
* * * * *
A roaring wind consumed the sea. Driving. Furious. Mountains of water rose from the deep and smashed the land.
Patrick shivered. The sand rumbled beneath his feet.
The voices sang, and he listened.
His father. Old Jacob. The men of the town. The lonely sailor whose name he never knew.
The wind thrashed his greying hair and carried them.
"Father? What do you see?"
Patrick's son. A stout man of eighteen.
Patrick gazed out. Another wreck kneeled in the delirium of Diamond Shoals.
His fingers squeezed the sandy gunwale of the rescue boat.
"Are you ready?"
Five men waited for his command. He had walked the sea the longest. His skin was gnawed by the salty years.
The surf pounded in a dangerous rhythm. Patrick's mind wove with the whispering. Men calling beneath the waves.
He straightened. Blinked away his own heirloom of loss on the seas.
"Hup!" he shouted.
He watched, and the waves opened for him.
Back to Part 3