A young seafaring adventurer, Cy, fights for his survival since his sailboat sank in the South Pacific Ocean. Just as it seems there is no avenue of hope remaining, an albatross lands on his life raft and enters into a conversation with him. From that point on, his view of the world changes and his philosophical overview of man’s relationship to the planet change. These changes are not minor or insignificant---rather, they are major and mind shattering.
In the course of his relationship with Awhi, the seabird, the ocean, and with the final stages of desperation itself, Cy comes to understand that death is not to be feared, and that losing physical life is nothing compared to a barren mortal.
He also comes to understand that Awhi is the symbolic challenge of adversity itself. Through the apparition of a harmless but all-knowing bird, he sees himself overcoming all of his earlier fears, angers, and doubts.
Awhi, in a sense, becomes the drop of water that becomes a fountain that can save a life.
But, in an even grander sense, we see that Cy’s eventual death is not a defeat, but its antithesis.
“How are you, Cy?” the bird said, he imagined, exposing the whiteness of her huge underwings. Her artificial-looking, pinkish, webbed-feet pushed forward to land on the life raft brightly exposed by the sun.
“Beautiful landing,” he encouraged, even though she had landed awkwardly and unsteadily on the bobbing raft.
“Got any idea bigger than the ocean?”
“I wish I could drink a glass of chilled water from a glacier this afternoon,” he said. A glass of chilled water from a glacier for him referred to a fish. It was not the flesh that mattered most; his greatest need was for moisture to quench his thirst.
Cy, tall and slim, was used to leisurely sailing alone in the South Pacific Ocean. But now, he was fighting for his survival after his small sailboat, Confidence, had sunk abruptly. The mental struggle to live paralleled the counter-balancing of the sharply tipped full sail with every ounce of his strength.
He had seen neither any ships nor birds about him except for a few occasional exhibitions of flounder escaping and chasing over the surface. Sandwiching himself between the sky and the sea, absolute isolation was what he had come to understand as the worst form of punishment. But, in a sense, he was proud of himself because, somehow, he kept a distance from despair. It was the same degree of pride that he had when sailing on the rough sea lightly and skillfully. He wished he could talk to someone, anyone! To maintain his sanity he started to talk to himself. He also let his mind travel to many different places that he knew well in order to obliterate the shallowness of being alone. He also considered his Life Raft, his Hook, his Hope, his Will and his Memories---both good and bad---as friends, but, in fact, these were his only possessions in the whole world. Sarcastically, he had named his life raft, More Confidence for the sake of capitalizing on courage and to support his firm belief that fear of uncertainty is a human vice. Playfully, --yes, playfully--he considered it as his “gymnasium” since he believed activity is a human virtue.
Then after the first twenty days, a bird had first visited him. Cy talked to it softly, imagining what it might reply to ease his cheerless solitude, as if he played chess with the bird. Not bad idea, he thought, if stones could talk. The bird visited Cy religiously, almost daily. Glue, produced by the fear of loneliness, binds people together. Was the bird also lonely?
Realistically, the wandering albatross did not need him, but he needed her to break his solitude. It was very much a one-sided relationship. “No problem,” he thought. “I have to take good care of her. She might bring me good luck.”
Cy was just taking life a day at a time, for the best, not knowing what the future would bring. His gloomy eyes looked like a losing fighter with hardly enough strength to continue. Yet there was a gleam of confidence in his eyes, indicating his resolution to meet any obstacle, which might present itself.
Cy was carrying a heavy baggage of anger, frustration and disappointment, which even a camel would run away from. But his spirit was still high. He had not lost hope, which rose and ebbed like the tide, even though he had lost considerable weight. The hope was that somehow an aeroplane would spot him and send a distress signal to a passing ship to set him at unrestraint.
“Tell me, Cy, how is it going? Where have you been today?”
“I watched an old black and white movie-----a bowl of shrimp salad with Thousand Island dressing.”
“Chop-Chop. I’m glad you had a good time today. I don’t want you lying on your bed all day long.”
“Freedom kicks me kindly.”
“A poor old bird showed his love for Mekko. Isn’t it wonderful to see one who has soul? His wings weren’t sufficient for that distance of flight.”
Cy remembered what he had heard from her.
“In Badao there is a brightly colored baruo [as if someone had colored him with a full set of Crayola crayons.]. His name is----- On fine days he usually perches----- Whenever I see him he hurts me,” she had said. “-----robbed his po-----”
“Oh, I feel sorry for him. Probably the koko-to is spiritualizing his restaurant with him.”
“He looks as if he would fly away at any moment. It’s not until you get closer to him, his sad secret is revealed. You can’t see the trimmed feathers held close to his body. Mekko’s job is to attract people into the cafe.”
“As a sandwich man.”
“People love Mekko. They stop by and eagerly talk to him and Mekko talks back with his short, thick black tongue involuntarily and mechanically. But none of them feel sorry about his inability to fly.”
“People are heartless.”
“Mekko’s claws and beak have been trimmed [with emery boards] by the koko-to. I can’t believe the koko-to is so cruel.”
“How long has Mekko been serving the koko-to?”
“About three years. He gets plenty of free sunflower seeds for his work. I feel sorry for Mekko, even though his job isn’t as hard as those kao-too [performing all day long for their tiny portions of free sunflower seeds.]”
“Where did Mekko come from?”
“Saro. He doesn’t remember how he was brought to Maro. All he remembers is that he was captured in a forest with his friends by a toro [man] with a net. He was kept in a cage with hundreds of fellow baruo [prisoners]. He was then smuggled out along with a few other baruo.”
“It sounds like the slaves who were kept on Goree Island until the slave ships came to take them away. They couldn’t escape because of the dangerous sea with many sharks around.”
“I am working hard to get Mekko his freedom. We are collecting quo from all kinds of karo to have his case heard in front of the court [civil court] in Badao. But we can’t begin till we garner enough quo to equal all of the leaves of a big tree to fill a nest.”
“I hope the tree can bear fruit.”
“Mekko should be freed immediately. He was born to fly, like as a fish to swim. The Koko-to must have the responsibility of taking care of him until his po [damaged wings] fully restored. The good thing is koko-to didn’t cut any of his flight muscle tendon-----”
“I wish you good luck, Awhi and good luck to your friend Mekko. Let me know what’s going on with him,” he had said.
Inspecting the sky, which was covered with white clouds, Cy hoped to hear the vibration of an engine.
The celestial songs of fragrance of friendship drifted out of the raft.
Nourishment was a matter of choice, he thought. He examined the mass of the two-day-old fish’s organs that hung down from the hook hoping it would attract a tastier and larger fish. He managed a mirthful grin as he tossed into the murky water hoping the scent of it attract a tastier and larger fish. Narrowing your choices of food avoids ruining your intestines, he said to himself. Rotten intestine harms your spirit-----books, friends and places.
“What a funny matter!” Cy muttered, longing to hear the sounds of engines in the sky, which gave him a headache whenever he heard them while covering the civil war in Afghanistan as a freelance journalist.
The high pine forest was so quiet. They often had to grab the lower branches of pine trees as they were climbing down in order to prevent themselves from slipping. The branches swung back and forth after they were released and the dry snow fell off the needles like powder. Often Cy picked up a handful of clean snow from the needles to quench his thirst. That was after they all climbed every carefully in the snowcapped rugged mountains of the southeastern Province of Konarha, Afghanistan. They helped each other with rifles stretched out to reach the higher places safely. Virtually everyone in the small band of mujahideen, mostly young boys, was walking towards the town of Asmar, wearing grass-rope-soled shoes, so badly worn, that they might as well have been barefoot. Cy was the only one wearing a fine pair of proper boots and he felt sorry for his companions. He marveled at the way they walked skillfully and tirelessly up and down the steep and rugged mountain slopes. They hardly stopped to rest as if they were competing to make a trip around the world in the shortest possible time .Beneath the big open sky, they hid themselves behind large boulders as several helicopter gunships flew high above them. They were flying very high, appearing very small. The rebels wore the apple-pie-shaped flat brown hats like ID cards identifying them as insurgents.
Sometime, in the violent mid-day heat, he fell asleep drifting as he was riding the bulginess of brine with the line around his big toe to wake him until he heard the whoosh of a long set wings soaring above him.
“I hope you still keep my picture with you.”
“Until I get tired.”
“Have you eaten, Cy?”
“I made an octopus sandwich and I enjoyed it with wine,” he said resourcefully.
“Great,” she said playfully.
“I have some more. You want some?" he asked teasingly.
“No thanks,” she replied drolly. "I did fly too long, didn't I?"
"You were just drifting."
"I didn't want to be hanged."
"Oh, stop it."
"One who destroys one's dream is no worth than a flier."
"Don't be too harsh."
"Tell me. Do your wings rattle when you fly through the clouds?"
"Didn't you notice that? That's why I am angling as much as I can."
"I wish an eagle eyed pilot could spot me out easily, like you from up high can easily spot the fish swimnmning near the surface."
"Don't you have any idea, yet?" asked she ominously.
"What it mean?"
"Oh, forget it. cy, what are you going to-----"
“Write a book about this.”
“Oh, you told me. A happy ending is what I’m looking for then.”
“Without a happy ending, actually, there won’t be any beginning of it.”
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