THIS IS A YEAR OF THE DRAGON CONTEST ENTRY
Ray walked over to his pirate at last. “I want to thank you.” He stuck his hand out for his pirate to shake it. “I want to thank you for robbing me.” This is a Year of the Dragon Contest entry for April.
Ray steered the sailboat Occupy This in the dark night while Hebert sat at the bow. Hebert sat cross-legged with his hands handcuffed behind his back, but that didn’t stop him from chatting casually with the Somali pirate guarding him. It would seem that Hebert could make friends with anybody, including a scarred, toothless Somali who meant to rob them and hold them for ransom. Ray had always marveled at how his shiftless, lazy friend could come out shining after almost anything.
Ray had the weight of the world on his mind, or at least what he considered the weight of the world. After Jane left him, he thought of little else except his plight. Jane was his albatross, following him halfway around the world. But his plight at the moment was having a machine gun pointed at his head by a second desperate and ruthless Somali pirate.
Ray held the steering wheel and spoke to his pirate without looking at him. "You don’t really have to point that at my head the whole time. I get the picture."
Ray’s pirate didn’t answer. Any talking was irrelevant. They would be in the pirate cove within a day’s sail, and his pirate boss would be happy with their catch, a couple of rich Americans on a sailboat. He hit Ray on the head with his gun barrel.
"Ow!" Ray exclaimed.
Ray viewed Hebert sitting casually chatting with his pirate on the bow, seemingly without a care in the world. It’s maddening to be in pain and see someone else carefree.
"How come you get the nice pirate?" Ray asked.
"They’re all nice, Ray. You just have to know how talk to ‘em. Did you know these guys are from Somalia? They don’t even have a government. So we should help them, because they don’t even have a government to have an Occupy movement against."
"We are helping them, Hebert. They’re robbing us and then holding us for ransom."
Ray’s pirate hit Ray on the head again with the gun barrel again.
Ray stared daggers at his pirate. How dare he? Doesn't he know what I’ve been through? Doesn’t he know that nothing he could do can make me more miserable?
It started to rain, the heavy raindrops peppering Ray painfully. He was quickly soaked, making a mockery of his "water resistant" jacket. Ray’s pirate didn’t budge, dripping and pointing the machine gun at Ray’s head, despite the deluge.
"Stop hitting me."
"You don’t make the rules, I do," Ray’s pirate replied.
"I’m telling you, stop hitting me."
"Yeah, or what?"
"Or something, let me tell you." Ray resumed steering, looking at his GPS guide still alight through the rain, glowing in the dark through the round raindrops on its surface.
"I have the gun. I make the rules." Ray’s pirate hit him on the head again.
It started to rain harder, with thunder and lightning. Ray grew furious and animated. After all, this had been a long trip, and it had had the opposite effect that he had intended: instead of impressing Jane that Ray cared about something, anything, she had simply moved on with her life without him. The round-the-world trip to raise money for all of the Occupy movements of the world hadn’t done a thing. She still resented him for working for the investment firm and neglecting her for all these years.
Ray railed against his captor, "You think you can break me?!"
Ray’s pirate remained calm, his gun trained at Ray’s head, dripping water onto the soaked wooden deck.
"You think I care whether you hit me or not?!"
Ray’s pirate hit him again with the barrel of his gun. Ray was broken, finally, and he felt for the first time a dam break and his emotions pouring out.
"Ok! You want to hit me, hit me! Go ahead. But you’re trying to steal from me, right?" Ray ripped the GPS off of its wooden pedestal, throwing it into the water with a splash. Raindrops peppered them on the deck.
"Stop that! That’s valuable," Ray’s pirate objected.
Ray picked up the satellite phone and held it up, threatening to throw it overboard as well. "You want this?"
"Hey. Don’t do..."
Ray threw it into the dark, turbulent water.
Hebert had spent the trip rooting for his friend to come to his senses. What woman was worth this? Traveling around the world to impress a woman? Why didn’t she see him before? It was good to see his friend Ray finally unleash himself. Controlling himself for what? Who will see us out here?
"You go, Ray!" Hebert shouted.
Ray rushed to the cramped cabin below. He had spent the past month viewing old pictures, past pictures, history. They were a ghost that he couldn’t let go of, viewing them nightly with the covers pulled over his head and using a small flashlight in his clenched teeth. Who was he fooling? Hebert thought. Himself. Hebert knew, but had never voice anything to him. It’s so hard to tell a friend the truth.
Ray’s pirate spoke on his satellite phone to his pirate boss on the rusty skiff next to them, like a clinical psychologist talking to a colleague.
"Yes, boss? I think this guy is going through some kind of personal crisis. He’s throwing all of the valuables overboard."
Ray emerged from the hatch and onto the sloppy deck, cradling two laptops in his arms. He threw them into the water. "Gone!"
Ray’s pirate continued his clinical conversation with the leader of the ruthless gang of sea thieves. "No, boss, I don’t think it’s mid-life. I rather think it’s a combination of latent frustration and a sense of inadequacy brought on by some sort of acute personal rejection."
With the hatch open, the rain is poured into the cabin below. Ray disappeared for another batch, his feet sloshing in the rain that cascaded down the steps. He emerged with his cache of photos, his lifeline to a life that he desperately clung to. He pulled them out one by one.
"See this one?! This is me and Jane at the Met." He tossed it overboard. "Gone! See this one?! This is Jane and I eating hummus and falaf... feleef."
Hebert’s pirate helped him, "Falafel?"
"Yeah, Ray, falafel," Hebert contributed.
"Right, that! Gone! I was the worst boyfriend in the world! I never knew what she wanted. I didn’t know what she liked or what she needed. I didn’t care! And now she hates me. I hate me." Ray turned around to the dark sea and screamed into the storm. "I hate me!"
Ray’s pirate, and Hebert’s pirate, and Hebert just sat in the rain looking at Ray, Hebert with his mouth agape, his head propped up on his hand and forearm like he was listening to a children’s story, rain pouring down his face.
Ray continued his battle with no one, with himself, with the world. "So all of these are gone. It’s finished. It’s finally finished." Ray threw the cardboard box containing the rest of the photos in the water.
Ray walked over to his pirate at last. "I want to thank you." He stuck his hand out for his pirate to shake it. "I want to thank you for robbing me."
Ray’s pirate looked at him, fascinated. "You’re welcome."
Ray’s pirate peered at Ray’s outstretched hand. He pulled the machine gun over his head to get the strap off of his shoulder. He held both arms wide for Ray to hug him. Ray accepted his new friend’s gesture, hugging his captor. They were partners in pain, and partners in victory.