Death on the far side of the world
Part 6: True account from Peggy’s memoir “Potato In A Rice Bowl”
As Glen, Gordon and I lay in the ship’s cabin soaking and ruining the tatami mats, the story of our rescue unfolded. The crew told us that, sure enough, we had been hit by a severe storm, striking without warning. (Actually, we’d pretty much figured that out on our own.)
As it turned out, the first ship—the one we thought had abandoned us—had been a Good Samaritan after all. Deciding that it was too large to rescue us, the captain radioed the smaller ship behind it; the one steaming back to Tokyo Bay from a trip far out to sea where it had unloaded a hold full of trash. Glory be! Our guardian angels were seafaring garbage men!
But, call it what you will, to us that ship was a golden gunmetal gray chariot and the sailors in it nothing short of saviors. Besides we were in no position to cast aspersions. As Mark Twain once said, “A man with a hump-backed uncle shouldn’t make fun of another man’s cross-eyed aunt!” To be sure, we were the ones with the humps.
Our rescue ship was as immaculate as a garbage ship could be, barely displaying even the slightest olfactory hint of its function. Moreover our benefactors were gracious and exceedingly kind, even sailing out of their way to deliver us to the port in Yokosuka that was closest to Gordon’s office. Upon docking, we three arose on skittish sea legs and began pouring out our thanks all over the place to our kind deliverers. Yet as sincere as we were, our words, nonetheless, felt haplessly inadequate as gratitude for their having saved our lives.
As shaky and fragile as I felt after our long harrowing ordeal, I was still not so inept that as I left the room I missed seeing a sign posted on the wall outside the cabin:
“For safety of life cargo and ship body
it is prohibited to bring swords, guns
rifles, six-shootings and other inflammable
inexplosives into cabin without permitted.
If you have such a things with you, please
apply to informant. Crew will keep them
as long as you are among us.”
I paused, trying desperately to remember if I had had any swords, guns, rifles, six-shootings or other inflammable inexplosives in my pockets and if so, should I now ask the informant to return them before I departed?. But, unable to recall anything at all, including my name, I let it go.
Slowly our ship returned to shore. We three teetered down a very long dock and dripped toward an unsuspecting taxi where we promptly laid waste to a perfectly good backseat. The ordeal was over for Glen and me, but not so for Gordon who had to decide if his boat was salvageable. As for me, I just wanted to get home to my babies. I was feeling dry land under my feet and it felt divine, and I could almost begin to give myself permission to relax. Almost, but not quite.
You see, I needed a bathroom NOW! All the time I’d been floating in the water, I kept telling myself it would be perfectly alright to do “it” in the Pacific Ocean—bringing to mind that old moral debate over the appropriateness of urinating while in the shower. It had given me something to think about down there in my dark blind tube. But, honestly, would my personal contribution to such a gargantuan body of water really be noticeable?
“What a ninny,” I had chided myself as I floated in the deep sea. “Just do it. Besides, it’s not as if anyone is going to notice a wet stain on your pants.” But, try as I might, I could not relax enough. Therefore by the time we got to Gordon’s office, I was in Desperate City.
I stumbled towards the first bathroom I saw. Pushing open the door, I looked at the toilet. Taped to the open lid was a sign written in childlike block print. “PREASE FRUSH.” A hoot of jubilation burst out of me. Once again I was safely back in the land of ridicurous Engrish.
How good it was to be “home.” How good it was to have not drowned.
“When you’re safe at home, wrote Thornton Wilder, “you wish you were having an adventure. When you’re having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home.” He must have, once upon a time, gone sailing with Gordon.