Get Out Of The Boat

For Jonah, dissent was a felix culpa, a happy fault that brought him closer to God. Or like Dante, when doubting pleased him no less than knowing (Inferno, Canto 11), for what he could learn and gain.

Our error brings us closer to Him.

And He knew it would do so.

Then we know he knew it.

Like Noah, we try to make the vessel the treasure, and it doesn’t work.
Like Jonah, we try to go it alone, and imagine we’re succeeding at this.

Obedience is not enough, dissent for crank’s sake no longer satisfies, and there’re more storms ahead.

*

And so there is Peter.

Someone we know in a story we know because it is sometimes our own.

*

“It’s all right. I’m here … Come on, then.”

*

Here’s a version you haven’t heard.

The summer I was nine, I went to the Colorado River with a friend. I don’t remember his name, or very much about the trip.

I remember his dad was divorcing, and taking his PYT on the trip. I remember a long drive, with “Hot Blooded” popular on the radio.

I remember wanting to fish — that is, to learn to fish, though I can’t claim to have expressed it any better than a nine-year-old could among adults he didn’t know, doing something he didn’t understand.

They put me on the edge of a very small pier, probably something like a boat dock, but not for sailboats, more for dinghies or rowboats. Stuck a pole in my hand — I don’t even remember bait — and there, less than 40 feet from shore, I pretended to fish. I didn’t want to pretend, though I may have thought I’d actually done something in that hour.

Much is a blur.

But I remember what the kid and I did later did to one of those boats.

*

First though at a diner in the middle of the lake, we put hot sauce in the metal creamery, and salt in the sugar and sugar in the salt, and unscrewed the cap just the slightest bit on the pepper.

Kids think they’re invisible, but there we were in the middle of a lake in the middle of a diner in the middle of everyone.

I think his dad had to pay for this, literally, and probably we got a talking-to. It wasn’t this kid’s first, likely, and whether it was or not it had no effect.

Want to say there was very little to the talking-to. He was content with reprimand, and little keen on punishment, which requires commitment and work. It takes nothing to verbally dress down a child.

We had to leave the diner, but there was no way we were cutting the vacation short and “going home, young man” if that was part of the threat. This discipline would have reduced his pleasure and he, I may have mentioned, had brought a trophy chick along.

So there was no effect I can recall except a raising, by ignoring, of the dad’s bluff. And the small boat dock had a small boat.

*

A rowboat I think, the wood was nearly as crumbled as our souls are if left unattended for years as the boat had been.

In years after I’d have a crazy thought the father had put it there for us to vandalize. I know: that’s weird; but it was a decrepit thing and didn’t seem useful, let alone seaworthy. It had few dials, the wood in my mind is old and splintering and the boat — tied safely to the dock — seemed like to sink. Anytime.

So somewhere near 2 in the morning — he woke me up for it — we were jamming screwdrivers into the dash, the cushions, the sides. Not the bottom of course: we weren’t stupid, even if our tools and apprehension were limited.

I think we had matches, and when something on the boat started smoking we ran back to the cabin. I don’t remember a full-blown fire. I assume we were found out. We were nine.

But I remember no punishment, not then, not when I got home, nothing. Memories get fuzzy, but here there is nothing for them to forget. I’m sure of being scared, though, the entire time, that a voice from the darkness would say, “Hey! What are you kids doing? Get the hell out of that boat!”

*

We’re vandalizing our boats.

They’re old and splintery, ready to go down, and more than likely tied to the dock. Least Peter’s boat was out on the water, going somewhere.

Despite what vandalism Peter had committed on his boat to that point, that’s not what he heard. Christ did not should, and he wasn’t angry. The words I feared are not what Peter heard.

It’s said that children who act out, alone or with another, are trying to get someone’s attention.

*

Passing strange.

Like Noah, we can take orders and rules, and even take them past where they should be left alone.

Like Jonah, we consent to have others throw us into the ocean, long as we think we’re going to die.

Far harder to, with Peter, step out of our boat when we don’t know if we’ll live through it to the end.

And when we’re looking direct at God.

*

We’re vandalizing our boats. And by now they’re not even our boats.

But if we were destroying our boats it wd at least be resolute, complete … full.

But vandalizing a boat doesn’t mean destroying it. It means not destroying it.

We don’t burn it to cinders, like the Greeks, the better to be brave. We don’t blow it, like Bronson to finish a mission.

We’re just ramming screwdrivers into our sides, and maybe wondering if anyone’s going to notice

It’s just let’s cause some damage to see and to show — to prove — how bad and how badass we are.

*

It’s all right. I’m here.

Come on, then.

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