Moving with the boat’s pitch and reel is the only thing keeping me alert. The temperature, from the frost on my whiskers, must be minus eighteen or twenty, wind chill minus thirty. Supplies are dwindling.
I sit surveying Boyle. “Chin up,” says he, “They’ll find us yet. If we must suffer a little while longer, the more to live, I won’t complain and neither, friend, should you”.
That is classic Boyle. “You mean if we must live a little longer the more to suffer,” says I. Reader, I shall complain if it pleases me, being neither optimist nor stoic nor Boylean heroic idiot-king. “We’ll not be reacquainted with the ship this week or next. Let’s not lose our heads, Boyle, and give up on the facts - they’re friends to men. We are waiting here to die”.
Boyle shakes his head and smiles simplistically. Ocean madness, I fear, has lost no time in claiming him.
Temperature below sea level: unknown. Temperature-measuring instruments: below sea level. Experiments aborted. Failure total.
The minute hand journeys 180 degrees before either of us speaks again, and in that time I feel the outer jelly of my eyeballs seem to set. Icicles needle in my blue throat, apt to unvoice me. When the half hour is up, Boyle, in a sudden orgasm of haplessness, casts his oar from our vessel, stares at me with that wild stare of the ocean-mad, and says, “There. That is how much faith I have that we will be saved.” He even thinks the tide might taxi us back to the ship, but he is most bitterly wrong. I perceive distant penguins and a continent called oblivion.
Latitude: inestimable, cheerless. Temperature in Perth: a shimmering memory, perhaps 21 degrees. Boyhood: Fremantle, hub of shipwrecks and wreckgold. Broken wineglasses like whittled amethyst dredged from the cabins of luckless sailors, and in my bedroom cabinet a schoolboy’s booty of forks and rusted buckles and bright green pennies.
State of mind: given to fancies. Visibility: poor. Visibility of fancies: increasingly good.
I fancy I fashion a very small raft from some old ship’s canvas, wax it, seal it, and on it float a bonfire to thaw my beard by. The flame is so bright and healthgiving that Boyle and I can free our frostbitten fingers from their deerskins and play pork, powder, biscuit in the orange glow, till the rich fictitious dawn.
[Fremantle, Summer 2008] [Juvenilia]