Who are these silent strangers waiting for me to know who they are?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Sailor

I researched this book today about a young man who runs away from humiliation and becomes a sailor. At the beginning of the book he is drunk, and depressed. This is an excerpt of a couple pages about his attempt at suicide. For some reason this just gripped me and I couldn't stop reading.

For some odd reason which he couldn’t explain, the feeling of excitement began to grow with the certainty that he was on the line. He cold feel the metals, icy cold, smooth and slippery under his feet. He limped along until a dim shape loomed ahead. It was a signal box. By this time his excitement was almost terrible. . . .

“Now’s your chance, “ said a gentle voice deep down in himself.
Instantly he lay full length in the six-foot way.
“Set your head on the line,” said the voice.
He did as he was told. The sensation of the icy metal under his right ear was so horrible that his heart almost stopped inside him.
“Close your eyes,” said the voice, and then it said a little more gently as if it knew that already he was half dead with fear, “Stay just as you are and you’ll not know nothink about it.”
He closed his eyes.
“Don’t move, “ said the voice. “Stay there and it’ll not hurt you.”
If he had had a God to pray to, he would have prayed.
The engine seemed a long time on the way. He daren’t move hand or foot, he daren’t stir a muscle of his body. But as the seconds passed an intense desire came upon him to change the position of his head. It felt so undefended sideways on. Surely it would be better if he turned it round so that . . .
“Don’t move,” the voice commanded him. “Keep just like that. Quite still.”
He was bound to obey. The voice was stronger than he.
“Eyes shut, and you’ll not know nothink.”
It was as a mother would have spoken had he ever heard a mother speak.
. . .The engine was coming. He could hear it snorting and tattling in the distance. He simply daren’t listen. He tried to imagine he was already dead. But a frightful crash suddenly broke in upon his brain, and then another, and then another . . . he never realized how much it took to . . .
“Fog signals, “ said the voice. “Keep just as you are . . eyes shut . . .quite still . . .quite still.”
There it was, grunting and rattling . . . Know nothink! . . .there . . .now . . .
Grunting, rattling snorting what a time it took! In spite of himself he opened his eyes, and found that he was still alive.
“You were on the wrong line after all.”
The sound of the voice turned him faint.

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