Contented To Be Alive After the Storm
He let himself sink down, the current pulling his boat in broad waves. Briefly, he closed his eyes and saw silver flashes as his shoulders jerked from all the clinging.
Then he stretched comfortably on the boards, looked up at the sky, and there far above the churned waters she stood in a silver pond, amid the obligatory lotus blossom. The index finger of her hand rested on her thumb, while her three other fingers pointed upward until the clouds flew. For a long time he lay like that and continued to stare alternately at the sky and at the sea, any moment awaiting the appearance of the cross sea that would show him land.
Since the storm no longer whizzed his ears, he thought of things he had not thought of for a long time. For instance, he thought of the boy He’s-right-when-he’s-wrong, who he had counted among his friends as a child. His head tilted, he had mostly just watched when the other boys wanted to prove their courage.
In the lagoon of the atoll, where his family had been living in a fenced settlement, there had been large concrete landing barriers. While he climbed and jumped into the sea alongside the other boys, He’s-right-when-he’s-wrong had only watched. Nor had he ever crawled under the barbed-wire fence with them or climbed over it on the tallest trees. But they had all loved He’s-right-when-he’s-wrong, even when they laughed at him and did the opposite of what he thought was right.
Yet he had undoubtedly shown a sharper sense of danger than the other boys. Once a man had come to the island. He came alone in a motorboat, the inhabitants of the settlement crowded together on the beach to listen to him around the big fire. He and his friends had also followed some young men who had taken the dirt road to the beach, ranting about. The older men who had arrived earlier seemed nervous and excited about the visitor, and some were arguing.
Later, He’s-Right-When-He’s-Wrong did not want to go back to the compound and could not be dissuaded from the conviction that something terrible must be happening. After all, the friends had spent the night together on the beach. Early in the morning they heard noises and shouting from the settlement.
They decided that the boy Lunkonk should go and see what was happening there, and when he returned, he reported that from a distance he had seen them beating someone to death among the plastic garbage at the edge of the settlement. At first Lunkonk thought it was the stranger. But then he saw him again on the way back, Lunkonk said, busy carrying luggage to his boat.
The friends had sat quietly together for a while. Then they had gone home and had not talked much about it again. The adults also did not talk much of the stranger afterwards.
He noticed that he hadn’t thought about Lunkonk in a long time either. He was the opposite of He’s-right-when-he’s-wrong, so he was strong, bold and sometimes overconfident. Lunkonk was the son of a woman whom all the children in the settlement feared. She had been stern, scowling at them and beating them with a club made of enkewood, which she carried around with her all the time and which she blackened in the fire every day. Only her son, who was her only child, she did not beat. She also made sure that the children favored him. Lunkonk had always been embarrassed by this and he was always careful to appear especially daring and not to take any advantage, for which they admired him and forgave him everything.
Lunkonk was the first of his friends who had slept with a woman. Her name was Kria and she had grown up when they were children. When the young fishermen came to them to tell them stories and laugh, they actually came for her, because Kria preferred sitting with the children to rub manjok, not thinking of choosing one of them.
All the boys loved Kria, and although they knew that Lunkonk’s fortunes had actually resulted from her hostility with his mother, they admired him from the bottom of their hearts. Because Lunkonk knew best how he had come to his luck with Kria, it did not surprise him when she soon replaced him with a former lover of his mother. After that, Lunkonk’s mother did not let her club rest. But the boys did not resent Lunkonk for that either, and he was happy to fill his days again with their explorations and adventures.
But one morning Lunkonk hid on the merchant vessel that had arrived on the island before the monsoon, and they never heard from him again after that. The one who suffered the most was He’s-right-when-he’s-wrong. He thought they would all run away now and leave him alone. They laughed at him, but he was to be proven right.