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Things That Are Funny on a Submarine but Not Really (FSBNR)
Things that are Funny on a Submarine But Not Really— The torpedo man named Grenadier who lives in South Carolina and thinks North Carolina is the North. The XO who hates my bucket hat I wear printed with cherries, but would rather me wear it than the other one I have that says, “Bigfoot is Real.” The swim call we have where no one swims, but instead we sit topside and smoke and Baitz tells us the story of how he was beat to shit as a boy, and we all tell him if he were our son we’d beat the crap out of him too, and he tells us that’s why he loves us. The gay guy Manning who tells me I’m fat, and he’d never do me, and I’m actually relieved for once for being fat. The one exercise bike we have that is in such a tight space you have to lean your head to one side in order to use it so you always look like a dead man in a noose. The Would You Rather game we play, and Grenadier says he’d rather be with all of us on the boat than at home with his wife who used to be a stripper and wears more clothes to sleep in than she ever wore stripping, including wearing her underwear and socks to bed. The stupid Brooklyn accents we decide we’re going to talk with the entire underway. The fucker who stole my headphones, even though I bought them in bright pink so no one would want them.

     Things that are Funny on a Submarine But Not Really— The shit ass becoming an expression we use for both a person and a thing that we can’t shit ass remember the name of so shit ass pass me that shit ass thing over there, I need it to fix this brokedick shit ass thing in front of me. The email my father sends me telling me that when I’m done being a radioman on this submarine I should really go to college and I wonder if there’s a shit ass college for me out there. One that will let me tell guys like Baitz to shut the fuck up, we don’t care. How my mother and father keep asking me where we’re going on the sub, like I could really tell them, and I tell my mother she’s probably some Russian spy because she always asks me where we’re headed.
     Things that are Funny on a Submarine But Not Really— The exercise we do where we’re constantly being pinged by sonar for over a week round the clock, and I still can’t get the song, “Pretty in Pink” by the Psychedelic Furs out of my head because we just watched five eighties movies in a row, and Pretty in Pink was one of them. The way the gentle snoring of Grenadier across my rack reminds me of waves rolling onto shore. The way, when we’re close to the surface to receive transmissions, Grenadier’s always checking to see if he got an email from his wife, and when there isn’t one and he looks upset and I tell him what the fuck, Grenadier, you don’t even want to be with her, and he just looks at me and says, “Fuck you, Davis.”

     The way we’re all cleaning and playing loud rap music and dancing around and then I play “Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes,” by Aaron Copland, which is what my Dad likes to play, and everyone just shuts up and listens to the rest of the music. The next swim call in the evening when I’m swimming, floating on my back, and looking up and realizing I’ve forgotten what the moon looks like, and think maybe the next time we surface there might be two moons and I’m in another world. How everyone here from Texas loves Texas more than they love any woman. The survey that says 70 percent of men rate the movie “Predator” as more important than getting married. Talking about tatts and Kentucky Fried Chicken and how when we’re back in port we’re going to get as much of both of them as we can. The email I get from home saying my room’s been ransacked and my sisters took my desk, the shelves, the dresser, and even my favorite plaid flannel shirt. How an LT is talking to a group of five of us and says he knows Brisbane well, and what’s the first thing we’d like to do when we pull in, and how all five of us say, “Whores” at the exact same time. The coners who work at the front of the boat who decide to become a frat called Alpha Phi Nu and walk around calling each other Brad, Chad, and Brett. 

     Things that are Funny on a Submarine But Not Really— The way Tintin, my buddy in Radio whose real name is Smolensky, has a cowlick just like the cartoon Tintin, that always sticks up, even when he hasn’t showered for weeks and his hair is heavy with grease. How the COB lets me stand on the sail off Hawaii, and in the wind the old U.S. of A. flag keeps clanking on the shaft of the periscope sounding like someone trapped beneath the hatch and banging a hammer on the steel to get out. How everything is an acronym in the Navy and little words get cut, so COB is short for Chief of the Boat.

     Things that are Funny on a Submarine But Not Really (FSBNR)— The way, off watch, I make everyone watch Cool Hand Luke instead of a bad submarine movie, and later we learn Paul Newman didn’t even eat one of those eggs in that famous egg-eating scene. The way everyone now thinks Cool Hand Luke is a really good movie. How the bad submarine movie sunk even lower in standings after watching old blue-eyed Paul Newman become a hero in prison. The way Tintin tells me he wants to marry one of the strippers at the club we always go to on shore. I ask “what’s her real name?” since none of the strippers use the names their parents gave them, and he says for real, it’s Kitten. 

     Things that are FSBNR— A large naval exercise with an Asian Super Power–half a dozen subs in an arena and we all simulate shooting at each other. Typhoon making landfall nearby makes it hard to keep at periscope depth, that and ten- to twelve-foot swells making depth control a nightmare. A fire drill where I’m first responder manning a hose, then I’m relieved by a guy with an O2 mask, so I run aft to escape from the heavy simulated smoke when I see another fire in crew’s mess so I route another shit ass hose to that fire and start fighting it, but then when I’m relieved I’m told I died. But the COB compliments me for saving the ship. So then everyone starts calling me Dead Man, and for so long I haven’t had a nickname, and then I get stuck with Dead Man, which, if you try to tell people is not your nickname they just call you it more, so I don’t say jack and hope that Dead Man fades away.

     FSBNR— Tintin telling me how he and Kitten are planning a wedding in his hometown of Iowa, and I tell Tintin, “You know, marrying a stripper rarely works out,” and I remind him about Grenadier, who would rather be with us than at home with his stripper wife who sleeps in socks and a T-shirt. Tintin says I’m wrong, and I’m jealous, and I tell him yes, you’re right, I’m both of those things, because now he’s redder in the face than usual, which is pretty red considering he’s a redhead, and I think how I bet I could fry an egg on his face and the yolk would turn hard. Which gets us all talking about how if the sub ever sank and we had to switch to cannibalism how would we rate the crew on how good they tasted and how we would prepare them. We figure the officers rate the highest as far as marbling and tenderness go. The XO overhears us in crew’s mess and tells us he can understand our stupid talk. He makes me take off my bucket hat with the cherries on it while he talks and he says that these things happen when we’re under so much pressure considering we are the most combat-ready submarine in case war breaks out. It’s nice to be second to none but jeez, being the literal tip of the spear in this theater can be exhausting. We’re in another exercise for a week where we get pinged all day by sonar and I’m sick of the sound, and Tintin asks how could that bother me in the least, I’m a dead man already.

     FSBNR— The way we talk about food underway, and I tell the others how my mother’s the best cook and so they start thinking about all this food that if they threw it at my mother, what could she make with it. “What if I throw her a reindeer? What can she make with that, Dead Man?” Grenadier says. I tell them how my mother would marinate it first in soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, honey, and red pepper flakes, then broil it to perfection. They throw more food at my mother—a swan, a guinea pig, a marmot, then we have a discussion about what kind of shit ass animal is a marmot really. We talk about how when we’re all done with this submarine, we’ll meet at my house in the woods and we’ll camp out in a tent, and we’ll sleep fourteen hours every day and have my mother cook for us for a week straight and we’ll get out my shotguns and shoot skeet and my rifles and shoot targets like our old TV I once shot up because it turned into the Poltergeist in the TV one day, and only broadcasted snow and fast moving horizontal lines. But really, I know we’ll never do all that, and the future is far away, even for a dead man, and maybe I’ll never want to do all that with these assholes anyway. “Fuck you all, I take back my invitation,” I say, to no one in particular, but to all of them, really. Baitz who is picking some scab on his arm. Tintin who is looking at a picture for the millionth time of Kitten and when he shows us the picture, none of us recognize her because she’s not just wearing a bra and thong, but she’s wearing actual clothes—a wool coat and knit hat and boots that look like she could wear them on the moon and hop from crater to crater. Me, I don’t even want to go to my own party in the woods in the tent. They can all come, then I’ll leave. I’ll get in the car and just drive, who knows where. Maybe I can just climb the Appalachian trail by myself. I know where to catch it off I-91. I’ll bring my father’s Glock, just in case, but really, I’ll be fine and never need to fire it. I’ll walk for miles like Forest Gump and find Jenny at the end of the journey.

     FSBNR— Standing watch off Hawaii knowing the seamount range with mountains named after classical composers is not far away and thinking why isn’t there an Aaron Copland mount? Thinking there really should be an Aaron Copland mount, and wondering why Liszt got the highest mount, at 5,190 feet.

     The whale’s tail I see from the bridge when we’re leaving Hawaii, and how it’s not perfect like all the pictures I’ve ever seen in books, but it’s cut here and there, barnacled and scarred. The liberty brief we get from the COB for our port call where Thompson asks what the drinking age is and Rieger yells “15” and I yell, “No, that’s the age of consent.” And then the COB, after an hour of these non-stop jokes, looks like he’s ready to go back to bed.

     The way I see an email for Grenadier on his account from his stripper wife that says she wants a divorce and I know I have to keep it from Grenadier until we’re back at home port because you don’t ever relay bad news underway. Grenadier talking more and more about his stripper wife, like he misses her, like for once he’d rather be with her than with us, and he wants to start a family. Thompson telling him it would be cheap for Grenadier to clothe a family of strippers because all he’d need to buy is some G-strings. Grenadier trying to land a punch to Thompson’s face, but we all saw Grenadier getting spun up, and held Grenadier back and told Thompson to go hang out with Brad, Chad, and Brett in the cone. Even with a fight almost starting we still use our Brooklyn accents, like nothing will break us out of character. 

     FSBNR— Later, telling Tintin about Grenadier’s email from his wife asking for a divorce, swearing Tintin to secrecy, but telling him because I think Tintin should know how a marriage to a stripper is doomed. Tintin telling me he’s sorry I haven’t experienced true love yet. Me saying, “Yeah, you’re right. I haven’t experienced true love yet because it doesn’t exist,” and then Grenadier saying, “Yeah, that’s because you’re a dead man, Dead Man, and you’re not living in our world.” On the bridge I see dolphins swimming in front of us, and think how I’d rather be them than me. Tintin’s right. I’m not like the others sometimes. I’ll come in early from the night at the strip club and just read random shit on the computer and drink by myself. I’ll call home and ask how they are, happy to hear not much goes on. My dad talks about walks with the dogs and bear he’s seen on the trail, the kid from my high school who killed himself on the snowmobile. When they ask what’s new with the boat, I tell them same old, same old, and say goodbye saying I love them, before my mother can tell me to stop smoking and before they can ask me about what college I’m going to go to after my time is up.

     FSBNR— Me driving the boat and getting tossed out of the chair when the chief tells me he owns my time and I tell him how you cannot own something which cannot be held or touched. I have to clean for an extra hour and then I’m like Cool Hand Luke of submarines doing time in the hotbox, only unlike Paul Newman, I would have eaten the hard boil eggs for real. Hard boil eggs rock. My mother makes them in the top part of the Japanese rice cooker. They come out perfect. How you have to hand it to the Japanese. Even their cities are clean. How in Yokosuka I ate sushi three times a day and when I paid them the money I held it out with two hands and bowed and they took it with two hands, and bowed too, and how that makes the whole thing, the buying and selling and the meal all the more good, and special. 

     Colleges that will never take me—the usual, Harvard, Yale, etc. because of my bad high school grades. Colleges I’ll never apply to—liberal arts colleges that have safe rooms for students who feel targeted, because after five years of being on the boat, I’m probably the one who’s going to say something that’s going to make someone run to that safe room. How I’m reading Nietzsche and he says, He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. And maybe how after five years on this boat, I’ll be the monster. How I have to tell Grenadier, who thinks North Carolina is in the North, what an abyss is. How then I make them all watch the movie The Abyss, because it’s a cool movie. How Nietzsche also said, To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering. How Doc is the only other one on board, it turns out, who’s read Nietzsche, and when he asks me, while bandaging a cut on my head I got from being 6’3” and forgetting to duck enough when going through a door what meaning I’ve found in the suffering on this boat, I answer, “That movies from the ’90s were just better than what they are now.” And Doc tells me, actually, The Abyss is from 1989.

     FSBNR— Talking to Tintin about being bounty hunters when we get out, but then we arrive at the conclusion that we would end up shooting too many bounties. With our high-security clearances from working in Radio we could work CIA maybe, but then we realize we’d have to get a college degree for that. We then realize that fuck, there are a lot of bounties out there that need shooting anyway, and if not us then who?

     How scrubbing bulkheads, I listen to Van Halen’s “Best of Both Worlds.” ’80s hair metal is keeping this nuclear submarine clean.

     Would you rather cut off your arms or cut off your legs? We think about this one for a while. Being able to still jack off becomes one of the main reasons for keeping your arms, or maybe it becomes the only reason.
     FSBNR— Looking through a shit ass old book on the bookshelf in mess about Guam that reads that the island’s motto is “Where America’s Day Begins” because of how close we are to the international dateline. When I talk to my family back home in the states, and I’m about to go underway the next day, I sometimes make the mistake and tell them I’ll call them tonight to say goodbye. Then I have to correct myself and say, “I’ll call you when it’s your tomorrow,” because their tomorrow is not mine, and neither is their yesterday, and pretty much, for that matter, our todays are never the same.

     FSBNR— All of us talking about Wendy’s burgers and Baitz says how when he gets back, he’s going to eat like a whore. The forty-eight hours we’re up straight for drills and watches, and the game we play where we talk about what we’d trade for twelve hours sleep a night. So far, Thompson would trade his new Jeep Wrangler, and Rieger his soon-to-be son, and the XO a medal he got for Distinguished Service. Me, I’d trade my youngest sister, the one who stole my plaid shirt. 

     FSBNR— A storm where I get so seasick I’m ready to swim back to base to our brown, snake-infested island that’s always too hot just to make the sickness stop. How we’ve been away so long we start talking about what we miss the most like we were in boot camp again and being homesick for the first time. 

     FSBNR— The awful beards and moustaches we’re growing because we don’t have to shave out to sea and there’s no point. The marriage Tintin is planning with Kitten the stripper that’s going to be in Iowa, on his family’s farm. We’re all invited one minute, and then the next he tells us we all drink too much and there’s no way he’s inviting us all because the bar tab would be too high. Then he gets the idea to invite us by lottery, and then he decides he’s even going to sell the lottery tickets. How he makes the tickets out of a blank page he rips from the back of the Guam book. How we start buying the tickets with packs of cigarettes and Red Bulls but what buys the most tickets is my extra-large size bag of Atomic Fireball jawbreakers that I brought on patrol. I’m not sure I want to go to Tintin’s wedding someday anyway, because I don’t want to think about how a few years from now they’ll end up split like Grenadier and his wife. I sell my lottery tickets to Woods, the JO, for a pair of headphones that are pink, and that I swear are the ones someone stole from me earlier on.

     FSBNR— The way I wonder sometimes if we’re sailing over wrecks of those Japanese destroyers and cruisers from the great Naval battles of WWII. Even though, back then, we had radar range finding for their guns, the Japanese still tried, in the bitter end, to beat us with the skill of their sailors. 

     FSBNR— Cleaning toilets so freedom can endure.

     The news we get that Gregg Allman from the Allman Bros. just died, so I crank up “Mountain Jam” in his honor and everyone else cleaning starts moving their sponges and brushes and mops in time with the music. The way the whole boat is honoring the man, and I wonder if Gregg Allman ever thought that would happen? Some rusty sub sailing the Pacific full of enlisted cleaning like crazy for an engineering workup about to happen, blasting his “Mountain Jam” on the day he dies? 

     Trying to remember how Prince died, but no one can remember, so we settle on Prince died because he had too much sex. His heart gave out while pleasuring fourteen women at once. We can’t stop laughing because we’ve been awake on duty for twenty-four hours straight. Then I get a déjà fu, not déjà vu as in past, but “fu” as in future glimpses of myself. I’m in college, after getting out of the Navy. I’m sitting in a lecture hall and wondering why I’m here. The lecture hall is packed with over-privileged kids wearing the latest fashions, and trying to suck up to the teacher. The class is some bogus class like “Rock Music’s Effects on Today’s Culture,” and the teacher asks me what I know about Prince, and I tell him how he died pleasuring fourteen women at once, and then I laugh, and I can’t stop laughing, but of course, no one else is laughing, and I’m looking around, wishing I was back on the boat with my shipmates because I’m a fish out of water in the great big lecture hall.
     Baitz says he has a déjà fu as well. He’s in his apartment and his Dad has beat him to a pulp. “That already happened before,” Tintin says. “So technically, that’s a déjà vu fu,” which gets us laughing even more.

     FSBNR— The way a submarine is really boring almost one hundred percent of the time, and that’s how we like it, because if it’s not boring then it’s bad. Really bad. Like how the alarm that goes off when we aren’t supposed to have any drills because the date is the same as our hull number and we’re celebrating and the Captain told us he’d be giving us a rest. Like how I head to the head and upon opening the door, find Grenadier naked, collapsed in the shower, and at the same time the message comes over the comm: “Silence on the line. Fire in crew mess,” and then the alarm sounds. I wish Grenadier had at least locked the door so I couldn’t have walked in on him, but he hadn’t. The message says this is not a drill, and all stations immediately rig for fire. It could be the dryer on fire. I don’t know. I don’t even know what I’m looking at. It’s Grenadier with his wrist cut, and there’s a steak knife lying next to him on the stall floor. The blood’s pooling around him. There’s a look on his face like he’s sleeping. I try and hold the door open and yell for Doc, at the same time I try and apply pressure to Grenadier’s wrist. No one hears me yell. They’re running to their stations. I should be at my station, helping get the hoses. I pull the alarm in the head, but everyone’s going to think it’s just the same alarm for the fire, and not a separate alarm for Grenadier here, bleeding all over the deck. I could get on the intercom and call for help, but Doc’s not going to be able to get through with everyone stampeding in the passageway anyway. I realize I am the only help and I have to stop Grenadier’s blood. The only thing I have to tie off his arm is the sleeve of the poopy suit/jumper/uniform I’m wearing. I grab the steak knife, and slice into the cloth at the shoulder, stupidly cutting myself at the same time, but I cut away enough so that I can rip from the sleeve down. “Grenadier. Fuck, Grenadier. Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I say while tying his arm, which is hard to do because now my hands are shaking and I think I’m going to faint and so I bang my head against the metal shower wall a few times so I don’t. During drill, it takes no longer than a few minutes to put out a fire we simulate with red LED lights, but the alarm is still ringing, which means it’s a pretty big fire. It could be the dryer. Some fucker probably left a gum wrapper in his pocket when they did a laundry load. It doesn’t take much. I sit with Grenadier on the deck, leaning him up against me. “Grenadier, did you seriously do this over a fucking stripper?” I say. I think how Tintin must have shown Grenadier his email from his wife, even though Tintin and I agreed not to give it to Grenadier until we were back in port. I think how if I were in a college and this happened, there would be help right away. There would be some dorm adviser who could come help and take over for me. There would be the campus police who could come in a minute. I could just stand up and walk away, get back to whatever I was doing, playing video games, getting ready to go to a party, doing Adderall, going to a diversity meeting, doing whatever the fuck college students do. The alarm hasn’t stopped. The fire’s been going too long. Are we all going to die? I don’t want to die. Grenadier might die. I have to find Doc now. I stand up, moving Grenadier off me. I stumble into the passageway. At least there’s no one running up and down it any longer. They’re probably all in the galley and mess now, helping put out the fire. The emergency lights are on. There’s smoke coming from the passageway to my right where the galley is, but the other way it’s clear. I grab two breathing masks. I run back into the head and put a mask on Grenadier, then I get on the comm. I tell the JO who picks up that Grenadier’s in the head. He’s dead or he’s dying, I say. The JO says I should get him a mask, the fire’s still burning. “I got him the fucking mask already. He cut his wrists. He needs Doc, fast,” I say.

      “Bring him to the ward room, I’ll find Doc and tell him to meet you there,” the JO says, and hangs up. I throw off my cherry bucket hat and fit the other mask over my head. The mask smells like it’s been hanging on the bulkhead of a submarine for a few decades. The distinct smell of amine seems to have concentrated inside of it so that I’m suddenly reminded of a car garage in my hometown that has oil stains all over the cement floor, and two grungy mechanics who smoke cigarettes while they work. The alarms are still going. This fire is taking too long to put out. I tell myself to think of it as just a drill. It doesn’t work. I know it’s a real fire. What the fuck are they doing? Haven’t we had enough fire drills they know what to do?

     Grenadier has moved. I’m not sure if he fell that way, or he moved himself. He’s now lying with his head closer to the door. This makes it easier to lift him up from under the arms and drag him. I’m glad Grenadier isn’t big like me. He’s only as tall as my kid sister, but still he’s heavy. I think I’m moving too slowly through the passageway, so I imagine it really is my kid sister, and so I better move faster. This helps. I’m running with him almost. What makes it easier to drag him is the blood that’s all over his backside. I get him to the wardroom, and then lie him on the deck.
     When Doc finally comes, we hoist Grenadier onto the table. When Doc examines the cut on Grenadier’s wrist he says, “Well, at least he didn’t go up the road and instead went across the street.” When I say, “What?” Doc explains, while covering Grenadier with blankets, that Grenadier cut himself across the wrists, not up towards the elbow where he’d hit the artery. “He botched the job. He’s going to live,” Doc says. Just as he says it, the alarm goes off, and the message comes over the comm that the fire’s been put out. 

     Manning, walking by, steps into the wardroom. He sees Doc working on Grenadier.

     “What happened?” Manning says. 

     “Tried to slice his wrist like a steak,” Doc says. 

     “You found him?” Manning says to me. I nod, then I feel very tired and faint.

     When I wake up, I’m leaning back against Manning, who’s holding me in his arms. “You’re going to be all right. You fainted and I caught you,” he says, and I’m so thankful someone’s here to help me that I smile up at him.

     FSBNR— The way I yell at Tintin for telling Grenadier his fucking stripper wife wants a divorce, and Tintin says that he was really trying to get them back together again. He was in the middle of helping Grenadier write an email reply about how much he loved her, which Tintin thought he could do really well since he was writing it from the perspective that Grenadier’s wife was really Kitten, Tintin’s wife-to-be. 

     FSBNR— Walking around with a one-armed poopy suit and trying to get back the other sleeve to sew back on. Having Manning tell me my biceps are all right, for a straight guy, but I should still lose some weight if I want to get it up the ass, and everyone laughing. Me telling Manning I’ll put his mother up my ass, and everyone laughing. 

     FSBNR— Having to wear my “Bigfoot is Real” hat now, because I lost my bucket hat with the cherries on it when I had to put on the O2 mask. Asking Doc if he still has my sleeve from when he took it off Grenadier’s arm, and Doc saying I should check the galley, as maybe they’re using it as a rag. Asking Doc how Grenadier is doing, and if I can see him and Doc saying, “No. He’s busy finding meaning in suffering right now,” and I should come back later. The way I find my sleeve still bloody, crumpled up in a corner and wash it and hang it to dry overnight. The huge stitches I use to sew it back onto my poopy suit the next day, and the way I do such a poor job the sleeve is too short so that now I look like Frankenstein. The way Manning says of my sewing that he’s glad to see me expressing my feminine side, and everyone laughing. Me telling Manning that he can fuck himself. 

     FSBNR— The fact that because of Grenadier trying to kill himself, we get to head back to port early to get him to the hospital, and upon hearing the news we all yell for joy, and ask Baitz if next time we have to go underway he’ll do the same for us that Grenadier did and cut his wrists like a steak.

     FSBNR— Being back in port and getting on the pier and seeing the turquoise water, and feeling the sun on my head, and thinking how all I want to do is go to my room and sleep for twenty-four hours while running the air-conditioner full blast. Calling home to tell them we’re back on shore, and my mother saying, “What time is it there?” and me saying, “It’s your tomorrow.” The way my Dad asks again if I’ve thought any more about college and I tell him how yes, I actually thought about college while on this latest underway, but I don’t tell him exactly how I thought about college, and about how I thought about being in a class where the professor asked about Prince, or about how it would be different if I were in college and found my roommate with his wrist slit, or about how if I were in college I’d probably be kicked out for offending someone, so it would have to be a special college, a college I’m not sure exists, but that also has classes about fighting with monsters, gazing into abysses, and finding meaning in suffering.

     “Good to hear,” my father says, and then tells me how the leaves back at home have been changing. The big maple in the mint field is neon bright orange. The dogs have been playing in the stream every morning. The night before a coyote stood right outside my parent’s bedroom window and howled so loud it woke them up from a dead sleep. I lay in bed listening to them talk. They sound old. They have me on speaker phone and my mother yells at my father to stop hogging the phone and holding the phone up to his ear, she can’t hear what I’m saying. They argue while I wait for them to stop. Then the air conditioning stops, the lights go out, and we get disconnected. It happens on this island sometimes. The brown snakes, which have overtaken the place, have been known to climb the power lines, wrapping themselves inside a transformer, catching on fire and causing a short. I lay a long time in the dark, trying to sleep in the heat. When I can’t, I imagine I’m on the boat again in my rack, Grenadier snoring across from me, sounding like ocean waves.

Yannick Murphy is an award-winning author. Her books have been published by HoughtonMifflin, McSweeney’s, Little Brown & Co, Harper Perennial, and Alfred A. Knopf, among others.