The Young Men and the Sea

The waves lapped gently against the hull of the boat, just as they had for the past six days. I was beginning to long for a nice big storm, just to break up the monotony. I looked across the boat at Ted, who was still playing tic-tac-toe on the top of the cooler with an erasable marker that he undoubtedly packed instead of sandwiches. And he was cheating, too. I sighed, looking out over the gently lapping waves for shark fins. I found none.

 

“Hey.” I had come to realize over the past six days that Ted’s voice was whiny and grating. I longed to jam one of the fish we kept failing to catch down his skinny throat.

 

“Hey, Steve.”

 

I looked over at Ted without raising my head from where it rested on the side of the boat. “What?”

 

Ted absently rubbed out an “O” and replaced it with an “X.” “You know, we may not make it through this.”

 

“The thought had crossed my mind, yes.” This wasn’t the first time I longed for an oar, but it was the first time I didn’t want to row with it.

 

“I just wanted to say, you’ve been a good friend, and I’m sorry.”

 

“Mmmm.” I absently prodded one of the fishing poles sticking over the side of the boat, as if that would cause a lifesaving fish to bite, Or nibble. “I should have brought an umbrella. Or a tarp.”

 

“I wonder where we are?”

 

“Well, given we left Fort Lauderdale, and the wind is blowing roughly east-northeast, and judging by the angle of the sun, I’d say we’re in the middle of the fucking ocean, Ted.”

 

“You know, I am handling this a lot better than you are. I think you’d feel better if you joined me for a game of tic-tac-toe.”

 

“Can I be X?”

 

“You know I always play X. It’s how my dad taught me.”

 

I grit my teeth. “How about another game?”

 

“Sure. I spy something . . . blue.”

I stared at Ted for a long moment. “Ted, are you sure you got 1280 on the SATs?”

 

“Something like that.”

 

I rolled over onto my back. The sun beat down on my face. I shielded it with my reddened arm. I briefly thought of Caitlin, and wondered what she was doing. She is always so busy that she probably hadn’t noticed my absence. I made a mental note to haunt her.

 

I rolled over, and looked at the jagged hole in the top of the stern where the outboard motor should be. I sat up, and looked at Ted. “At least I learned something.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“There are now two situations where I will Immediately start running. The first is when you invite me anywhere farther away from my home than the mall.”

 

“And the other?”


I looked back at the splintered wood. “Anytime anyone says, ‘Hold my beer and watch this.’”

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