A Nickel's Chance
It was about the time my calf cramped the first time that I decided to kill Jimmy King to stay afloat.
After she had slammed into the rock and split her bow, we had grabbed what we could before jumping from our little sloop, the Wooden Nickel, into the Pacific. I had snagged a canteen of water and the outdated life-vest which could barely float itself. Jimmy, always lucky, had clapped his hands on a spar, never letting go. Now, he draped his body across it, as if sunbathing like those tourists we often saw in Chile. He grabbed a spar, and because he was well-liked among the crew, and because he was puny — like a wilted cat-tail — and because he had two twin daughters who could melt your heart — because of all that, no one fought him for his beam. Everyone else just bobbed along and scowled with envy.
That had been this morning, before the carpenter went mad and drank seawater and before Morrison stopped kicking and drowned. After seven hours treading water, with the sun setting, it was pretty easy to forget lucky Jimmy’s twin daughters.
One good hit on the skull and he’d go under.
When my leg stopped its spam, I floated over. “Jimmy,” I said, my salted throat cracking at the word.
He just lifted his head in acknowledgement, like a dog. No one else was watching.
“Jim, could I take a turn?” I croaked. If he would share, I’d let him live.
He shook his head. “Fairs fair, Paul. You could have gotten it.”
“Move,” I said.
“Shove off,” he growled.
My brow furrowed. He’d had his chance. As I got a good grip on the canteen-club in my fist, I apologized to his twin daughters.