My brown cotton robe soaked my weight down in the ocean with my shoulder paralyzed from the right side. The darkness sunk my spirit underneath the waves as I choked from the salty water. I struggled to breathe as the pain from my right shoulder caused me to lose all hope for life. The water splashed over me as I swallowed some into my mouth. The ocean moated my soul, although I escaped something worse, more sinister than crashing waves.
A small boat with a fisherman was ahead of me, floating over the waters. His flashlight beamed in my vision as my feet pushed against the waves. With every shoulder push forward towards the boat, I raised my left arm to signal to the boatman.
The boat drifted smooth towards me as the boatman reached into the water, pushing my shoulder down and letting my bouyancy lift my body as he pulled me in.
Sloshing over the hull I grabbed onto the seat and laid down near his feet. His eyebrows furrowed with drops of the ocean dew from his temple over me.
"No more fish, but got a survivor." His cheeks drooped down, making his frown like a circle about his mouth. "What happened to you?"
"Bitten by a snake," I said, my lips trembling with my eyes in sobs of tears masked by the salty water. "My right side is gone."
"Too bad. Always need a right side," said the boatman.
My dreary red eyes looked away to the waves, afraid of his stare and embarrassed by my vulnerability.
"You're either dumb or brave. Don't know which," said the boatman in his white robe. "Did you have a boat? Whose snake?"
"The mafias. Bit me behind my right shoulder," I told him. "They stole my boat, so I jumped."
His brown eyes watered, as he pulled onto a tarpaulin bag near the back seat of the boat. He took a small canister and twisted the cap.
"Might help," he said, offering me the can.
"What is it," I asked.
"Solid cod oil," he said. "Rub it on your shoulder."
With my left side pushing onto the bottom of the center seat, I slid it closer to his feet. I took the can and scraped some oil and rubbed it over my right shoulder. It did nothing.
"Why did you jump?" He asked.
"I didn't want to die in front of them," I said, still choking from the salty water. "Would you have picked up a dead body?"
He stroked his brown beard, and replied, "Nothing substitutes grace," as he searched for something else inside his tarpaulin bag. He took out a thermos, and opened it.
"Water, drink," he offered.
I took the thermos and gulped down some fresh water, as I felt his eyes on my face. I wiped my mouth and asked him, "Why are you here at night?"
"I'm lost," he said. He turned his shoulders behind him and pulled a large fishing net and threw it in front of me. "Haven't caught a fish, since dawn."
"I'm almost a cripple," I said, as I took the edge of the fishing net and threw it over the water. "They got only half of my body and my mind."
The boatman took the rest of the fishing net and spread it across the water beside the boat. Waiting for a few moments, he hoped for a tug and a pull. Nothing.
"Did you want to die?" he asked me. I lowered my head as I felt a stabbing pain on my shoulder. With my left hand I squeezed my right shoulder and felt mucus over the bite near my nape. I looked on my left palm and red blood with some white fatty body oils smeared over it. "I did," I answered.
"Why did you ask for help?" he asked.
"I don't know," I said. My chest bone cracked within, realizing my attempt was not destiny, but I would be alone on the shore. "I felt scared to leave."
"That answer has got the flu," he said. The net was limp and the waves calmed over the ocean. The mist cleared and the sky over us parted, showing the moon and the stars. "I wanted to drift away."
"Why did you save me?" I asked.
"Choosing the way of the faithful. Prayed something would stop me," he said. The tug of the net from under his feet startled him.
He pulled it in, and fishes were caught in between the nettings.
"One more cast," I told him.
He took the fishes out of the netting and cast the net over the waters on the same side.
"This is the same spot where there were no fishes." In just a few moments, the netting slipped down into the water as the boatman pulled it into the boat.
My right side felt prickles of needles as I tried to move it around on my shoulder. I rotated my right cuff and felt myself move. "I'm not paralyzed," I shouted. The cod oil might be magic.
"Snakes can die," he said. The netting was too heavy for him, and as he began to pull it harder, he stepped outside of the boat and walked over the ocean.
I gasped as I saw him walk over the water, pulling the netting into the boat as fishes flipped onto the seats filling the boat. There were hundreds of fish, what kind we didn't care, but he caught them.
"The way of the faithful servant never loses hope," he said, pulling the netting and eventually the last few knots of the mesh.
He took the netting into his boat and with a big grin, he said, "Let's get back to shore. I did somethin' good."
I stood up on the boat and watched him put the fishes into his buckets. I looked to the waters where the waves choked me several miles before.
The water was still, and I was alive.