During Phaedrus' time of insanity when he had wandered freely outside the limits of cultural reality, this light had been a valued companion, pointing out things to him that he would otherwise have missed, appearing at an event his rational thought had indicated was unimportant, but which he would later discover had been more important than he had known. Other times it had occurred at events he could not figure out the importance of, but which had left him wondering.
He saw it once on a small kitten. After that for a long time the kitten followed him wherever he went and he wondered if the kitten saw it too.
He had seen it once around a tiger in a zoo. The tiger had suddenly looked at him with what seemed like surprise and had come over to the bars for a closer look. Then the illumination began to appear around the tiger's face. That was all. Afterward, that experience associated itself with William Blake's Tiger! Tiger! burning bright.'
The eyes had blazed with what seemed to be inner light.
In the dream he thought someone was shooting at him, and then he realized no this was no dream. Someone was pounding on the boat hull.
'OK!' he shouted. 'Just a minute.' It must be the marina attendant wanting to get paid or something.
He got up and, in his pajamas, slid the hatch cover open. It was someone he didn't know. He was black, with a big grin on his face and a white tunic that was so bright and clean it knocked out everything else. He looked like he'd just stepped off an Uncle Ben's rice package.
'First mate Jamison reporting for duty, sir!' he said and snapped a smart salute, still grinning. The tunic had big shiny brass buttons. Phaedrus wondered where he had found something like that. He seemed to be grinning at his own ludicrousness.
'What do you want?' Phaedrus said.
'I'm here to start workin'.'
'You've got the wrong boat.'
'No I ain't. You just don't know me in this uniform. Where's Lila?' he said.
Phaedrus suddenly recognized him. He was Jamie, the one he had met in that bar.
'She's still sleeping,' Phaedrus said.
'Sleeping!?' Jamie threw his head back and laughed. 'Man, you can't let her get away with that. It's past ten in the morning.'
Jamie pointed to his gold wrist watch. 'Time to get her up!' His voice was very loud. Phaedrus noticed a head from another boat was watching them.
fooled. The way Lila told it this boat was at least five times this big. And all you got is this pee-wee little thing.'
He glanced twice at Phaedrus to check the reaction to this. 'That's all right. That's all right. It's plenty big enough for me. It's just Lila had me fooled.'
Phaedrus tried to shake the cobwebs out of his head. What the hell was this all about?
'What did Lila tell you?' he asked.
'Lila told me to come here for work this morning. So here I am.'
'That's crazy,' Phaedrus said. 'She told you wrong.'
The grin disappeared from Jamie's face. He looked puzzled, hurt. Then he said, 'I think I gonna have a little talk with her,' and stepped aboard. The way he jumped over the life-line showed he was no sailor: no permission, dirty street shoes on. Phaedrus was about to call him on the dirty shoes but then suddenly he saw Richard Rigel coming down the dock. Rigel waved to him and came over. Where did he come from?
'I'm going down to talk to her,' Jamie said.
Phaedrus shook his head. 'She's tired.'
Jamie shook his head back. 'No offense,' he said, 'but you don't know shit about Lila.'
'No, she's tired.'
'No, man. She always talks like that. I know how to fix that.' Jamie went down the hatchway. 'We'll be right up,' he said.
Phaedrus started to feel alarmed. He saw that Rigel was staring at him. He said to Rigel, 'I didn't know you were here.'
'I've been here for a while,' Rigel said. 'Who is that?'
'He's some friend of Lila's.'
'Is she still here?'
'She's in trouble.' He looked up at Rigel. 'She's really in trouble ..."
Rigel squinted. He looked as though he was going to say something but then he didn't. Finally he said, 'What are you going to do about it?'
'I don't know,' Phaedrus said, 'I just woke up. I haven't got anything in mind yet.'
Before Rigel could answer they heard a low deep noise below, then a shout, then a scuffling sound, and then another shout.
Suddenly Jamie's face appeared. His white Uncle Ben jacket had a big spot of blood by one of the buttons. His hand against his cheek had blood on it.
'That fuckin' whore!' he shouted.
He came out the hatch on deck.
He reached for the hatch rail and Phaedrus saw his cheek had a bloody gash.
'God-damn bitch! I'm gonna kill her!'
Phaedrus wondered where he could find a rag to stop the bleeding. Maybe below somewhere.
'Let me off here,' Jamie said, 'I'm callin' the police!'
'What happened?' Rigel said. Over his shoulder the face of another boat-owner now stared.
'She tried to kill me!'
Jamie looked at him. Something in Rigel's expression seemed to stop him. Jamie stepped over the boat's life-line to the dock. He looked at Rigel again. 'She did!' he said, 'She tried to kill me!' Rigel's expression didn't change. Jamie then turned and walked down the dock toward the marina office. He jerked his head over his shoulder and looked back, 'I'm goin' to call the police. She tried to kill me. She's going to get it.'
Phaedrus looked up at Rigel and the other man who was still staring. 'I'd better go down and see what happened,' Phaedrus said.
'You had better get out of here,' Rigel said.
'What? Why? I haven't done anything.'
'That doesn't matter,' Rigel said. His face had that same angry look he had had at breakfast in Kingston.
At the far side of the marina Phaedrus could see Jamie at the marina office saying something to the people standing there. He was gesticulating, waving one arm, holding his face with the other. The man behind Rigel started to walk over there.
Rigel said, 'I'm going over there too, to see what he's saying.' He left, and Phasdrus could see that at the marina office where Rigel was headed some sort of argument was going on.
What was Lila doing now? Down below it was ominously quiet. He stepped down the ladder and saw that the door to the forecabin was shut.
Phsedrus went to the door, opened it slowly, and saw Lila on the bunk. Her nose was bleeding. In her hand was a pocket knife. The hypnotic look of last night was all gone. The sheet underneath her had some small blood spots.
'Why did you do it?' he asked.
'He killed my baby.'
She pointed to the floor below the bunk.
Phaedrus saw the doll lying face down on the floor. He watched her for a moment, wanting to be careful what to say.
Finally he said, 'Shall I pick it up?'
Lila didn't say anything.
He picked up the doll very carefully, using both hands, and carefully set it beside her.
Phaedrus stepped into the head and got a handful of toilet paper for the nosebleed and brought it to her.
'Let me see,' he said.
Her nose didn't look broken. But she was starting to puff up under one eye. He saw that her hand was clenched tight on the jackknife.
This wasn't the time to talk about it.
He heard a rapping on the hull.
When he got up the ladder he saw it was Rigel again.
'He's gone,' Rigel said, 'but they're upset. Some of them want to call the police. I told them you were just leaving. It will be a lot easier if you just left now.'
'What are the police going to do?' Phaedrus says.
Rigel looked exasperated. 'You can be here five more seconds or you can be here five more weeks. Which do you want?'
Phaedrus thought about it. 'OK,' he said, 'untie the bow line.'
'You'll have to untie it yourself.'
'What's the matter with you?'
'Aiding and abetting . . ."
'For Christ's sake.'
'I've got to face these people after you leave.'
Phaedrus looked at him and shook his head. God, what a mess. He jumped onto the dock, grabbed the electric power cord and threw it aboard, uncleated the stern line and threw it aboard too. As he went forward to take off the bow lines he saw that people who had gathered at the office were looking down his way. Crazy how Rigel had shown up just at this minute. And he was right, as usual.
Phaedrus threw the bow lines aboard, and with his hands on the boat's bow, shoved with all his might to get the heavy hull clear of the dock. The current was already starting to move the stern away. Then he grabbed a stanchion and pulled himself aboard.
There's an anchorage inside Sandy Hook,' Rigel said. 'Horseshoe Bay. It's on the chart.'
Phaedrus moved aft smartly over the tangled lines to get control of the boat but in the cockpit he saw the key was out of the engine. The boat was out of control now but for the moment it didn't matter because the current was carrying it into the river and away from the dock. He jumped down below, opened the top drawer under the chart table and found the key, then scampered up again and inserted it and turned over the engine.
This would be a great time for it to fail.
It didn't. It took hold and he let it idle for a while.
At the dock, now sixty or seventy feet away, Rigel was talking to some people who had gathered around him. Phaedrus shifted into gear, increased the throttle and waved to them. They didn't wave back, but they were watching him.
One of them cupped his hands and shouted something, but the sound of the diesel was too loud for it to be heard. Phaedrus waved to them and headed out into the river toward the New Jersey shore.
As he looked back over his shoulder he saw the water of the river between the boat and the marina become wider and wider, and the figures become smaller and smaller. They seemed to diminish in importance as they diminished in size.
The whole city was starting to take shape from the perspective of the water now. The marina was sinking back into the skyline of the city. The green trees of the parkway dominated it now and the apartments rising above the parkway dominated the trees. Now he could see some large skyscrapers at the center of the island rising above the apartments.
It gave him an eerie feeling.
This time he'd just barely slipped out of its grasp.
When he neared the far side of the river, Phaedrus swung the boat so that it headed downstream. Already he could feel the open water and the distance between himself and the city start to calm him down.
What a morning! He wasn't even dressed yet. The dock was getting really far away now, and the people who had been watching him seemed to be gone. Up the river the George Washington Bridge had begun to recede into the bluffs.
He saw there was some blood beginning to dry on the deck by the cockpit. He slowed down the engine, tied off the rudder, and went below and found a rag. He found his clothes on the bunk, and brought everything up on deck. Then he freed the rudder and put the boat back on course again. Then he scrubbed away all the blood spots he could find.
There was no hurry, now. So strange. All that rush and calamity, and now suddenly he had all the time in the world. No obligations. No commitments.
. . . Except Lila, down there. But she wasn't going anywhere.
What was he going to do with her?
. . . Just keep going, he supposed.
He really wasn't under any pressure. There weren't any deadlines . . .
Except the deadline of ice and snow. But that was no problem. He could just single-hand south and let her stay there in the forecabin if that's where she wanted to be.
Dreamy day. The sun was out! Still hardly any boats in the river.
As he dressed he saw that along the Manhattan shore
were old green buildings that looked like warehouses sticking out into the water. They looked rotted out and abandoned. They reminded him of something.
Long ago he'd seen those buildings . . .
. . . There was a gangplank going up, up, up, way up - into a big ship with the huge red smokestacks and he had walked up it ahead of his mother - she looked terribly worried - and when he stopped to look down at the cement below the gangplank she told him to 'Hurry! Hurry! The ship is going to leave!' and just as she said this there was an enormous noise of the fog horn that frightened him and made him run up the gangplank. He was only four and the ship was the Mauritania going to England.
. . . But those were the same pier buildings, it seemed, the ones the ship had left from. Now they were all in ruins.
That was all so long ago . . . Selim . . . Selim . . . what was that about? A story his mother had read to him. Selim the fisherman and Selim the baker and a magic island that they just barely escaped from before it all sank into the sea. It had been connected with this place in his memory.
So strange. Other than a barge and one other sailboat way downstream, there was still nothing on the river. Far to the south, among all the clutter of buildings on the horizon, he could see the Statue of Liberty.
Strange how he could remember the old Mauritania docks from that childhood voyage but not the Statue of Liberty.
Once on a later visit to New York he had joined a crowd of other tourists and climbed up inside the Statue of Liberty. He remembered it was all greenish copper and old looking, supported with riveted girders like an old Victorian bridge. The iron staircase going up got thinner and smaller and thinner and smaller and the line of people going up kept getting slower and slower and suddenly he'd gotten a huge wave of claustrophobia. There was no way he could get out of
this procession! In front of him was a very fat lady who acted like the climb was too much for her. She looked like she might collapse any minute. He could envision the whole procession collapsing beneath her like a row of dominoes, with himself in it, with no hope but to crash with the rest of them. He'd wondered if he'd have the strength to hold her there if she collapsed.
. . . Trapped and going crazy with claustrophobia underneath a fat lady inside the Statue of Liberty. What a great allegorical theme, he'd thought later, for a story about America.
Phaedrus saw the deck was still a mess of lines that needed to be put away. He tied off the rudder, went forward, gathered up a dock line, brought it back to the cockpit and then, while steering back on course again, coiled the line and stowed it into the lazarette; then tied off the rudder again and repeated the process until he had all four lines and the electrical power cable stowed and the fenders brought inboard. By the time he was done downtown Manhattan was approaching.
There were rather pleasant-looking Victorian houses over on the Jersey side. Some high-rises, but surprisingly few. There was some sort of a cathedral up high on the shore and a road going up the bluffs. He could see how steep the bluffs are. That might be why there's so little development there compared to the other side of the river.
As the statue drew nearer Phaedrus could see the old Blake School torch still held on high; a Victorian statue but still impressive, particularly from the water like this. It's the size that does it, mainly. And the location. If she were just an ordinary park-statue most of that inspiration would be gone.
There was more water traffic now. Over by Governors Island some tugs were moving a big ship toward the East River. He could see what was probably a Staten Island ferry boat in the distance. Nearer, a river tour was coming in his direction.
He wondered why it was so heeled-over, then realized it was because all the passengers were on the Manhattan side of the boat, watching the skyline that loomed up above everything.
What a skyline! The clouds were reflected in the glass of some of the tallest buildings. Rhapsody in Blue. For the moment the towers of the World Trade Center seemed to have won the race upward but those other skyscrapers seemed not to know it. All of them together were no longer just buildings or part of a city, but something else people didn't know they could be. Some kind of energy and power that wasn't anything planned seemed to constantly surprise everyone at how great it all was. No one had done this. It had just done itself. The Giant was its own creation.
The Verrazano bridge was drawing closer and closer. Underneath it he could see a line that might be the far side of the lower bay. This was the last bridge. The last one!
As Phaedrus approached the bridge he felt the beginning of a deep, periodic swell. It was a kind of a trapeze-like feeling. But slow. Very slow. It lifted and lowered the boat. Then it lifted it and lowered it again. Then again. It was the ocean.
Suddenly he realized he didn't know where he was going. He tied off the rudder again and went down below and got a pile of charts from the chart drawer - still no sign of Lila - and went back up on deck. He paged through the charts until he found one that said 'New York Harbor.' On the back side of the chart was the Lower Bay, speckled with buoys that marked channels for ships. At the bottom of the Lower Bay was Sandy Hook, and in the middle of Sandy Hook was Horseshoe Cove. That had to be the cove Rigel had told him about.
The chart showed about ten nautical miles from the bridge to the cove. There were so many buoys in the bay it was hard to tell which was which, but the chart said it didn't matter, there was no way he could go aground.
In fact he was safer outside the channel where the big ships couldn't go.
As the bridge moved farther and farther behind he noticed the engine sounded a little odd, and he saw the temperature gauge was up near the red range. He throttled down to just above an idle.
It was probably some debris in the water that had gotten into the engine's cooling water intake. That had happened before. The trouble was the intake was so far below the water line and the curve of the hull was so great he couldn't see the debris or get it with a boat hook. He had to get out into the dinghy and try to pull it off. Now he couldn't do that because the ocean surge coming into the bay would clunk the dinghy all over the place. He'd have to wait until he got into the cove.
A fresh breeze seemed to be building from the southwest New Jersey shore. He might just as well sail the rest of the way.
He shut off the engine and for a moment enjoyed the silence. There was just the faint sound of the breeze and the sound of the waves against the hull, getting quieter as the boat slowed. With what momentum was left he headed the boat into the wind and went forward to the mast to put up the main sail.
The roll of the boat from the surge made it tricky to keep his balance, but once the sail was up and the boat came off the wind, it steadied on a slight heel, picked up speed, and he suddenly felt very good. From the cockpit he put her on course, rolled out the jib and the boat speeded up some more. He was feeling some of the old sea fever again. This was the first real open water since Lake Ontario and the surge was bringing it back.
To the east, there it was out there, the landless horizon. Some sort of ship way off in the distance, apparently heading this way. No problem. He would just keep the sailboat outside the channel.
Old Pancho would be smiling now.
This sea fever was like malaria. It disappeared for long periods, sometimes years, and then suddenly was back again, like now, in a wave that was like the surge itself.
He remembered long ago being taken by a song called 'The Sloop John B.,' that had an unusual speed-up and slow-down rhythm. He didn't know why he liked it so much until one day it dawned on him that the speed-up and slow-down was the same as the surge of the sea. It was a running surge where the wind and sea are behind you and the boat rushes forward and rises as each wave passes underneath and then descends and hesitates as the wave rolls on ahead.
That motion never made him uncomfortable, probably because he loved it so much. It was all mixed up with the sea fever.
He remembered the day the fever started, Christmas Day, after his sixth birthday, when his parents had bought him the most expensive globe they could afford, heavy and on a hardwood stand, and he had turned it on its axis around and around. From it he'd learned the shapes and names of all the continents and most of the countries and seas of the world: Arabia, Africa, South America, India, Australia, Spain and the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea. He was overwhelmed with the idea that the whole city he lived in was just one tiny dot on this globe, and that most of this globe was blue. If you wanted to really see the world you couldn't go there except over all that blue.
For years after that his favorite book had been a book about old ships, which he'd paged through slowly, again and again, wondering what it would be like to live in one of those little ornamented aft cabins with the tiny windows, staring out like Sir Francis Drake at the surging waves rolling under you. It seemed as though all his life after that, whenever he took long trips, he ended up on a dock in a harbor somewhere, staring at the boats.
Sandy Hook, as the boat approached it, looked like it hadn't changed much since the wooden ships of Verrazano and Hudson sailed by. There were some radio towers and old-looking buildings on the northern tip which seemed to be part of some abandoned fortification. The rest seemed almost deserted.
As the boat moved inside the hook's protection from the sea the surge died and only a ripple from the southwest wind was left. The bay became like an inland lake, calm and surrounded by land wherever Phaedrus could see. He furled the jib to slow the boat a little and stepped below for a moment to turn on the depth sounder. Still no sign of Lila in the forecabin up there.
Back on deck he saw that the cove looked quite good. It was exposed to wind from the west, but the chart showed shallow water and a long jetty off to the west that would probably keep big waves out. There certainly weren't any now. Just a quiet shore, and a couple of sailboats at anchor with no one on deck. Beautiful.
When the depth sounder showed about ten feet of water he rounded up into the breeze, dropped the sail and anchor, started and reversed the engine to set the anchor, then shut it off, furled the main and went below.
He put away the chart, then turned on the Coast Guard weather station to see what was predicted. The announcer said a few more days of light southwest winds and good weather before turning colder. Good. That gave him a little while to figure out what to do with Lila before heading out on the ocean.
He heard Lila move.
He went to her door, knocked and then opened it.
She was awake but she didn't look at him. He saw now for the first time that the right side of her face was discolored and swollen. That guy had really slugged her.
After a while he said, 'Hi.'
She didn't answer. She just looked straight ahead. The pupils of her eyes seemed dilated.
'Are you comfortable?' he asked.
Her gaze didn't alter.
It wasn't a very bright question. He made another try: 'How is everything?'
Still no answer. Her gaze just looked right past him.
Oh-oh. He thought he knew what this was. He supposed he should have known this was coming. This is how it looked from the outside. The catatonic trance. She's cutting off everything.