Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Motivation (or Lack thereof)

I really want to write a post about my orientation, but I just don't feel like it. And that's too bad because it was really fun. So instead, I will post a short story that I wrote.

Jason’s Race

There once was a man who was known throughout the land as one of the greatest mariners in the land. But today, Jason was troubled. He had to cross the Atlantic Ocean before his challenger did, or else he would loose his ship. One night while at a local pub, he had made a foolish bet with a pompous and rich Frenchman who was no more a sailor than Jason was a politician; but being as rich as he was, he was able to afford a top-of-the-line boat and the equipment to go along with it. Jason had let this pretentious stranger get to him and now he was paying for it.

Currently he stood on the bow of his ship, the Hercules, with the wind whipping against his salt caked face. It was the fastest ship in all the new world and Jason had made it himself. But now despite his experience and his superior ship, he was already behind schedule by nearly three days. He had had good weather when he shoved off at a port near Chatham, Massachusetts. And although he had left shore with a clear sky and the wind at his back, this last week saw nothing but storm after storm that blew him off course and separated him from the Frenchman.

It was stupid of Jason to leave all of his navigation equipment on the deck, and of course when the storm came he lost it all. So he had been sailing blindly for the last couple of days counting on his instincts to set him in the right direction. Every now and then, he could hear the Frenchman’s taunting on the transmitter radio, but the messages had been getting more and more distorted as Jason sailed on. He was getting less and less confident that he was going to win, but he still returned the Frenchman’s mocking with his own half-hearted gibes because he didn’t want the Frenchman to take satisfaction in knowing that a tiny storm could defeat the mighty Jason. His reputation had spread far and wide after he had won the big race from Portugal to the Canary Islands and back a few years ago on the Hercules’ maiden voyage. That was in fact the reason that the Frenchman had sought him out: to prove that he could beat the famous Jason in a race. So they had agreed to start in America, Jason’s homeland, and finish in France.

After about a month, Jason’s radio died altogether and then a month after that Jason started to get worried. He hadn’t seen land since leaving Chatham, and be should have seen at least something by now. The Frenchman was probably already at the finish line, enjoying expensive wine and caviar. Jason spent the next couple of days stewing over his foolishness at making a bet that was so dangerous. Who sails across the Atlantic alone anyway? It was probably one of the most hazardous things you could do as a mariner. And Jason was also resenting his bad luck that after only a week at sea, he hit a storm that cost him the race. At night his anxiety was keeping him awake and during the day he was bitter and depressed. Soon he gave up hope that he would ever even make it to Europe. In a fit of rage he picked up his transmitter radio (it had become useless as all it ever produced was static) and was in the process of heaving it overboard when he looked up and saw land. His stunned mind lost control of his body, and his hand lost its grip on the radio. He watched with despair as it when tumbling over the rail. He wanted to be upset with himself for loosing such an important tool, but it did not seem to matter any more. He had found land.

Despite himself, he let out a cry of “Land Ho!”, and then started to chuckle at the mere sound of his voice. Being alone for so long, this was the first time in months that he had spoken aloud. His chuckle broke into a mighty guffaw at the thought that he just threw his only source of communication with the outside world overboard; and he was in the presence of land when he did it. After a while when he couldn’t stop laughing, it seemed as if he were going mad, but he pulled himself together and headed for the land.

When he got to shore, he took a walk around, and noticed that the sandy beach almost immediately transitioned into a forest type environment only 20 feet from the shore, then changed slowly into a dark jungle. Not wanting to get lost in the forest, he kept the water in view as he followed the shoreline for about a mile. Jason saw that there would be plenty to eat and that fire wood would be abundant. About two miles away from where he had left his ship, he climbed to the top of a rocky cliff overlooking the crashing ocean below. While the tide was gentle where he had come in, here it was extremely violent, smashing into the rock wall below him. On the other side of where he stood, the cliff gently sloped down into the jungle below, gradually being overtaken with trees. He had a spectacular view of the island, (yes it was an island, he could see that now) and from what he could see it was probably either not discovered yet, or was just not inhabited by anyone.

On his walk back to the ship, Jason mulled over his options. He could refresh his supplies and set sail again, or he could try to survive on the island. It would be silly to leave all this when he didn’t even know where he was going, and he didn’t look forward to meeting the angry, depressed Jason he had seen in the week before finding the island again. What had gotten into him? After all, he was a seasoned sailor, and it was unlike him to have such an emotional breakdown, but that didn’t really seem to matter much now. All that mattered was what he was going to do next. By the time he had gotten to the ship, he decided that he would spend a while on the island until something better came along. He wanted to explore the island and see if it really was uninhabited. After all, he had all the time in the world, as the race was surely over by now, and if Jason kept on to France, he would just loose his ship, not to mention his dignity. He would never be able to live it down, being beaten by a rich land lubber like the Frenchman. So, he would wait. Try to get his bearings. And maybe just try to find out where he was.

He got some fruit from a nearby bush and headed onto the ship to spend the night. He was getting awfully sick of the cabin room of the Hercules, and so on his first full day, Jason started to make a shelter on the island. By nightfall, it was complete, but since he hadn’t had time to do anything else, he slept one more night on the ship. That morning he gathered fire wood, started a fire, and ate a hearty meal of fruit he had found in the forest. Then he brought some blankets into his shelter from the ship and made himself a bed. For dinner he shot a monkey that he found in the thick part of the jungle, and roasted it over the fire. This was his first real meat in about two months, and it tasted so good. When he was on the ship, all he could do was eat the fish he caught. He had packed some beef jerky with him on the trip, but this was completely different. The sizzling monkey juices that dripped down smelled so good that Jason had trouble letting the carcass continue to cook. He wanted to snatch it up and eat it right then. But he managed to contain himself and let the meat finish cooking. When he could wait no longer, he ate every thing, fat and all. When he was done, he put the fire out and went to sleep. That night there was a tremendous storm, and Jason could hear the waves crashing against the shore all night, not to mention the rain water that leaked from the roof.

By morning everything in the shelter was soaked, including Jason. When he went outside to hang the blankets outside to dry, he could not see his ship! It had disappeared! The storm must have carried it out to sea, Jason thought. Jason did not see this as much of a set back though, because now he did not have to worry about what to do next. In fact, there was only one thing he could do, and that was to continue existing on the island, making the best of what came his way. Jason went around tidying up his camp, almost cheery. But the storm the night before had weakened the shelter, and when Jason went inside to put the blankets back, it fell down around him, breaking two ribs and a leg.

Now things started to look grim. Not being able to move around made it almost impossible to survive. He ripped up some blankets and tied them around his chest, and then made a splint out of more strips of blanket and a piece of wood. He went, with great difficulty, to gather wood for the fire, but most of what he could find was all wet, and produced a great amount of smoke. That day, Jason went hungry because all of his exertion in the morning had exhausted him, and he collapsed in his shelter and immediately fell asleep. That night, he was woken by some odd sounds outside. By the dim light of the stars and the moon, Jason was able to make out a human figure stumbling around the camp.

Jason’s mind was suddenly awake and buzzing with thought. So there were people on this island! How many of them were there? What if they are hostile? Suddenly the figure tripped on a log and muttered a French epithet.

Jason’s mind reeled. “Frenchman?”

“What? Oo eez zere?”

Jason was at first unsure, but then replied “Tis I, Jason!”

“Ahh! Jason, mon ami! I ahm zo glad to zee you! Mon dieu, eet ‘as been zo long!”

He then staggered over to were Jason lie and said in a feverish whisper, “You ‘ave to get me out of ‘ere! I ahm going mad!”

The Frenchman was no Robinson Caruso, and was too daft to even build a fire. He had evidently been living a cold and dark existence on this island for the last 3 weeks, his ship had been dashed to bits on the cliff on the edge of the island. He spent his days foraging for food, lamenting his many losses, and slowly driving himself insane. His nights were spent curled up in a ball beneath a tree in the forest, crying himself to sleep. It was really a wonder he had survived for so long. His body just didn’t know what to do with itself, and his mind had shut down when faced with the hopelessness of his situation. It was the smoke from Jason’s fire that sparked the Frenchman into action and caused him to wander over to have a look. He thought that maybe there would be somebody there who could help him.

This was not the same man from the pub in New England, the man who had challenged Jason to a race. The man who crouched low next to Jason now was a broken man, an empty shell of a man, and a pathetic man, pleading for help from a man who he had once sought to humiliate.

Jason took pity on him and realized that in his current condition, a fresh body would come in handy if he was ever going to get off this island. For Jason now came to understand that he had to get back to civilization, especially if failing to do so meant spending the rest of his life with this sniveling git.

When Jason was well enough, he and the Frenchman journeyed over to where he had been spending his 3-week stay in hell, a little grassy area surrounded by trees and only about 50 feet from the beach. It was a good hundred yards further from where the cliff ended, and the beach was littered with scraps of wood and other odd items from the ship that had been washed ashore. Jason could immediately see that in the Frenchman’s inexperience with survival tactics, it had not even occurred to him that he might find something useful by looking among the ship’s wreckage. Jason set to work combing the beach and surrounding coast line for anything that could aid them, and ordered the Frenchman to do the same. Taking commands from Jason did not hurt the Frenchman’s pride, he was just glad that there was somebody there to tell him what to do to get out of this hell-hole.

They were soon able to find a transmitter radio, but it was in bad disrepair. Luckily, the Frenchman knew a bit about electronics, because as a younger man, he had a lot of free time on his hands and was able to fiddle around with some circuits, and even knew how to put a radio together. Here, Jason was out of his depth. He was a man of the sea, he knew about sailing, about life in the port cities, and about surviving when things got tough. The Frenchman was very pleased to finally be helping, and had it working within the hour. As the Frenchman’s transmitter had been far newer and more advanced that Jason’s had been, it only took a few minutes of teamwork to raise a signal in this otherwise dead-air zone.

Within the week, a ship had arrived to rescue them, and during those few days spent together Jason was really able to bond with the Frenchman and enjoy the time the two spent together.

Well that's it. I know the end is bad because I was in a hurry to finish it, but there you go.


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