In an earlier century he would have been an explorer, he thought, like Magellan. Maybe a poet too. Hed always loved the sea, dreamed of a life at sea, and often felt nostalgic about his childhood on Tasmanias coast (darting in and out of the marine lab where his father had studied the platypus - an animal without a scrotum!).
A month after the trial, hed set sail with his man Ramon, a first-class Mexican sailor, steering the Zaca through the Panama Canal, heading for Haiti.
At night watch hed lain on his back on deck, looking at the stars, feeling like a weightless speck on the planet, or a kind of deviant Ulysses willing to sail anywhere but home. His house on Mulholland Drive was about as appealing to him as a pile of unread newspapers. Good Lord, anywhere but home.
One night during his watch the air grew unusually still. The next day the sky turned red like a puffy wound. The barometer fell. The radio signals went. Then the hurricane winds hit suddenly, unlike anything hed ever seen or heard, ripping the storm sail. Theyd put out the heavy anchors but even then the boat had skittered across the water. Then the galley put out, washing away all their supplies, their maps and passports.
Thered been hours when he hadnt been able to distinguish between the elements - black sky, black water. Strangely, the thought of death hadnt crossed his mind. Death wasnt action, and this was action: straining muscles and nerves. It had revived him. Yes, it had taken a hurricane to lift him out of his middle-aged slump.
The storm passed quickly, but for two days theyd drifted in a shark-filled sea with no radio, no supplies, and no idea where they were.
Then he saw a body of land in the distance, a hazy outline of mountains against the sky. They drifted toward it, almost running aground at a small desert island along the way. It was another hour before the current pushed them close enough for him to make out a harbor town nestled below the most serene mountains hed ever seen.
As he got closer, he grew puzzled. He knew hed never been to the place before, but there was something familiar about it, especially the stone fort at the edge of the water with its black cannons pointing to sea.
There were some boys sitting along the forts wall watching the Zaca drift in.
What is this country? Flynn shouted across to them.
He laughed. Jamaica!
Onward to Jamaica and to victory! had been his battle cry on the set of Captain Blood. His first leading role, it had made him a star. Of course, the whole thing had been filmed at the studio, not on location, but hadnt he defeated a Spanish fleet here - not once but twice - and saved the island? And won Olivia de Havillands admiration to boot?
Some fishermen towed the boat in. They seemed unfriendly, and particularly suspicious of Ramon, whom they mistook to be Cuban. Cubana? Turtle? Tortuga? they kept asking Ramon, who looked at them, baffled.
Flynn saw a sign that said, Welcome to Port Antonio. A coastguard officer led them to a small wooden office that looked like an army barrack. Like the fishermen, he seemed agitated by Ramons presence. Later Flynn learned that thered been trouble with Cuban fishermen stealing sea turtles from Jamaican waters.
The coastguard officer telephoned his superior: I have a Cuban here, sir, and hes with an American named Earl Flint. What should I do, sir?
Flynn found a scrap of paper and wrote out his correct name, and the man spelled it out over the phone. Awright, sir, yes.
Flynn looked around. The boys who had been sitting on the seawall had gathered outside and were peeking in the doorway. No one seemed to know who he was. For a moment he had an odd feeling, like a man suddenly aware of himself dying, that something real and unfilmable was happening to him.
Excerpted from The Pirate's Daughter byMargaret Cezair-Thompson Copyright © 2007 by Margaret Cezair-Thompson. Excerpted by permission of Unbridled Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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