I must have dozed off while leaning against the icebox. Something started to tickle my foot. The sensation wasn’t continuous but came and went in a random fashion, and it was slippery, as if I was being licked. The feeling was rather soothing. I don’t know how long it lasted — a few seconds, a minute, maybe longer. But then all of a sudden, without any warning, I felt a little prick. “Oww,” I murmured. Was I just dreaming? The prick was soon followed by another, only this one was much, much sharper. In an instant I was wide awake, knew exactly where I was and, most important by far, realized that my feet were still dangling in the ocean — the real, live ocean!
There is no better testament to our survivability as a species than our ability to not only perceive a mortal danger when fast asleep, but to also rise up and deal with it in an almost superhuman fashion (if only to scream bloody murder and run into the bushes).
In less than an adrenaline fueled heartbeat my eyes shot open, my head snapped back, and I let out a hair-raising scream that must have carried over miles of ocean. This was all done as I yanked my feet from the water, or what I dearly hoped were still my feet, and not some bloody stumps.
Damn that movie!
I have heard it said that sailing on the ocean is 99% boredom and 1% stark raving terror. While I’ve never kept track and try my best to avoid any generalizations, for the first time in my life I knew exactly what it felt like to be part of the 1%.
When the “shock and awe” finally ended, I was flat on my back with my knees in the air, my thighs splayed open, looking like a dog that wanted a belly rub. This dog, however, had a sore neck from his head snapping back, and a brand new lump on that head where it was rudely stopped by the icebox frame. Despite these pains, though, he was a very happy dog. Because waving above him, just as they should be, were his two lower paws.
Still, something was wrong with my right foot. So I reached up and pulled it in for a closer look. “What the . . .” Right at the center of my neon-white instep was a red spot the size of a chickpea. The skin wasn’t broken but it was very painful to touch, as if I’d just been burned with a hot poker.
Suddenly the hatch flew open and Mamede’s head shot up. Oh, no . . . I’d completely forgotten that I wasn’t alone on board. My scream must have woken them all up. I felt like such a fool right then. And it didn’t help matters that I was flat on my back with my foot in my face, my ass in the air pointing straight at Mamede.
Bleary eyed and squinting, he looked like he’d just caught me doing something naughty. He blinked a few times and rubbed his eyes, then blinked some more. After several seconds he cautiously asked, “Uh—are you all right?”
Instantly I rolled forward to a sitting position. “Mamede! Yes! I’m fine! I—uh—I was sitting there with my feet in the water,” turning and jabbing my finger at the rail, “and—and I think something bit me!” This all came out very fast and was not spoken in the proper Portuguese. Lacking a better explanation I thrust out my foot to show him.
Look daddy—a boo boo.
He stared at the foot, incredulous, then bent down to take a closer look. More squinting and blinking, finally he raised his hand and pointed a muscular finger at my arch. “You mean that little red spot?”
Now I really felt embarrassed.
“Yes . . .”
Mamede was at a loss for words. He leaned back and scratched his head. After what felt like an eternity he said, “Well . . . maybe it was a jellyfish.”
This hadn’t even occurred to me.
“A jellyfish,” I repeated. “Of course—a jellyfish!”
A voice came from the hold below, but I couldn’t make it out.
Mamede looked down and said, “No, Ze. He’s okay.”
Ze said something else but I still couldn’t hear it.
“No—I don’t know. Maybe he was stung by a jellyfish.”
“A JELLYFISH!” (This was very clear.)
“Yes, a jellyfish . . .”
Ze then asked another question.
My God—will this ever end?
“No, no. It’s just a red spot. On his foot.”
“A RED SPOT?” Both Ze and João together.
“Yes . . . A little red spot . . .” Mamede nodded slowly.
There was a long pause while all parties considered the situation. Finally Mamede reached for the mast and pulled himself out of the hatch. And I grabbed the icebox frame and hauled myself up. He did his little stretching routine while I rubbed my neck. When he finished, Mamede went to the tabernacle and started to take down the canopy.
“I’m sorry I woke you, Mamede,” I said, walking forward.
“No, no, don’t worry,” he waved me off. “We had to wake up anyway. It’s time for dinner.” He stopped what he was doing then and gave me a serious look.
“So how are you feeling?” he asked.
“Better . . . Thanks.”
His eyes narrowed slightly. “And do you think you can eat something now? Are you hungry?”
Ah. . .
This last question was harder to answer. Technically speaking I was very hungry — would have murdered for a juicy hamburger and those crispy McDonald’s fries. Oh, please, please, please. . . But I knew his question wasn’t meant to be general. He was asking something very specific: was I hungry for their food — for their farinha? And the answer to that particular question was still a resounding NO!
“Sure, Mamede,” I lied.
Next chapter: Big Red Spot