By Geoffrey Zimmerman
“My men — I’m got. He’s bit me, the son of a whale. Quick, Raymond, or he’ll have all of me.” Raymond plunged the dagger into the shark’s neck, and brought it around, releasing gushing quarts of blood into the dingy.
“He’s still got me, Raymond. He’s taking my leg.” The shark held fast to Billy’s leg, even in death.
None aboard knew what to do. Billy grasped his leg with both hands, and tried to pry it loose, but only sliced his leg deeper.
The sailors aboard ship had witnessed the shark’s capture, seen Billy haul it aboard the dingy, and now commanded Alexi, Bertram and Raymond to row the dingy back. Spry, wiry sailors stood atop the yardarm, tested the block and tackle, and threw ropes into the sea, ready to hoist the dingy.
Bertram and Raymond took the oars, and feverishly rowed against the choppy sea toward the ship, fifty yards distant. Alexi moved across the center bench, placed his feet atop the quivering shark, and surveyed the injury done to Billy’s leg. “Is it bad, my son? It feels like he’s decided to eat my leg for lunch.”
“Give me your sash,” Alexi commanded. Billy laid back, unwound the sash from around his waist, and handed it to Alexi.
Alexi placed his hands directly alongside the shark’s enormous mouth and bloody teeth – he saw clumps of Billy’s leg held in the animal’s mouth, dripping blood – one open gash pumped blood at regular intervals into the shark’s mouth.
Alexi wrapped the sash around Billy’s thigh, and cinched it tight. “This will keep you from bleeding to death,” he said. “It’s bad then?” Billy said, becoming lethargic and pale. “Yes, but when we get aboard, they’ll do more.”
“The ship’s surgeon is a drunkard,” Billy said.
“I’ll be with you,” Alexi said.
“My dear boy, you’ll see me to the end, won’t you?” Alexi nodded.
The sailors hoisted the dingy in minutes, and dropped it to the deck. The ship’s surgeon, Walter Riley, a sailor himself and experienced with birth, death and all matters medical, hovered outside the mob. The sailors crowded the dingy, gawking. Some shouted, “Get him off the boat,” “watch that leg,” “beware the shark’s teeth.” A few sailors helped Alexi, Bertram, and Raymond pour the shark and Billy onto the deck. Billy said little; only cursed when he was moved. The circle of sailors opened, allowing Riley to approach. His eyes were riveted on Billy’s leg. He set down his bag, knelt at Billy’s side, and inspected the wound. “Let me have your knife,” he commanded Bertram. The sailors stepped back a few feet as Bertram handed the bloodied twelve-inch knife to the surgeon. The sailor’s eyes widened as Riley hefted the knife, and moved toward Billy.
Some sailors were fascinated, others turned away, and some newcomers were moments from throwing up. They believed the surgeon was preparing to remove Billy’s leg on deck, and would toss it over the ship’s bulwarks to the circling sharks below.
Riley instead pointed the long knife like a needle at an area just beneath the shark’s milky eye. He placed both hands on the knife’s handle, settled and braced himself – and pushed. The knife sounded as if it were penetrating dense wet sand. He twisted the knife, blood ran from the gash, and spread across the deck to the sailor’s boots.
“Come here, boy,” he commanded to a nearby sailor. The wide-eyed boy knelt on the deck. “Put your hand in that gash I just made, and spread the hole.” The sailor secured himself on the deck, and did as the surgeon asked. Riley placed a hand on the shark’s upper jaw, the other on the lower, and as the sailor’s hand disappeared beneath the shark’s eye, Riley spread the shark’s jaws.
“Take Mister Bang from that shark,” he shouted. Bertram and Alexi grabbed Billy under the arms, and slid him across the deck.
“Onto the litter, boys,” he said, and the ring of sailors opened so Billy could be propped onto the cloth and pole litter. Alexi grabbed one pole, Bertram beside him had the other, and Raymond and another sailor held the other two.
“To his quarters,” Riley said. Riley pulled himself to his feet, and staggered behind the loaded litter, wiping his bloodied hands on his pants.
By Geoffrey Zimmerman
The ground beneath her feet
Was merely a point of reference
Up and down mattered little
From years of tasting the hurricane
She had irrevocably opened her doors
To invite it in
Far and near,
Then and now ablur
Had he left with purpose to throw her awry/?
Had he been swept up to be carried away?
To leave her – as detritus – as rubble
My new day was a cup
Barely an aim to my archer’s quiver
And my cup meant nought when her tornado of life
Pulled my head
I was swept in
The stream will not flow up with no reason
And the bird shall not fly inverted
I rang the alarm
She is off – like a top
Let’s set her right
The tempest does feed on itself
On those within – and those near
I came in
And then unleashed the stables
And she looked – through blurry eyes
At my heart
And she saw sabers
And they neared
For I had rung the bell
To come save her
To stop the tempest
And I left
To meet the men
To rake the path
And they did show
And they did drill
But as I fretted
My flag a-ready
To point the way
She rose up
And reentered the tempest
And it pounded her
And threw her down
To the stone
And her head
Like a coconut against a sharp rock
And my heart did still
And my eyes did flare
And my legs did rush
And my hand was to her shoulder
And they came
They all did come
As if a war
Did she unleash
And they said nought
But laid a path for me
And said to me go
We have her now
Her tempest was mine
And still is.