Last week I made it to the point where Oscar finally sees Sam’s lighthouse shining in the distance. Now comes the journey back to shore, and I find myself divided about how to proceed. On the one hand I think I ought to ramp up the catharsis of redemption and push for a feeling of victory at the end. On the other hand, I have invested quite some effort to show how emotionally and physically drained Oscar is. Just a moment ago he was welcoming annihilation, and I don’t want to just let go of that weight like it was meaningless.
So I think I need to actually strike a balance between these two extremes. In other words, I think I’m coming back to the same sort of ending that I originally wrote, one where the victory is simply that Oscar decides to move forward with his life and not condemn Harry. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be doing any “happy dances” anytime soon. This story doesn’t have to finish with him having found all the answers, he just needs to make it to asking the right question.
So keeping all that in mind, let’s push forward.
“Oscar?” Harry’s awed voice came over the radio. “Is that–is that the lighthouse?”
“Yes,” Oscar said, though not into the radio. “I do believe it is.”
And in the face of the light Oscar could not consign himself to the watery depths any longer. He had been willing to quietly accept oblivion, but dark thoughts belonged to dark places, and with the path now illuminated ahead all he could think to do was follow it. So he placed his hands back on wheel and throttle and slowly raised the engine back to life.
“The waves,” he mused to himself, “the waves have been pushing us back home all this time.” The very forces of nature that had seemed to condemn them had actually steered them back to safety. Oscar couldn’t understand it, but if that was the will of the ocean, then who was he to refute it?
As the lighthouse beacon swung in its circle it briefly illuminated the sentinel figure of the Broken Horn. It was far to starboard and a little behind. How long ago had the two sailors made it around its treacherous shoals and didn’t even know it?
But never mind that place. Never mind it ever again.
Now with the waves and wind behind them and the lighthouse and shore ahead, they pounded forward with all the fury of the sea. The the wind, and the rain ushered them forward, and the shallower, smaller waves rocked them on their way.
When the two boats reached a thousand feet from the shore the lighthouse beacon stopped circling. Sam must have spotted them, and now he kept the giant searchlight fixed upon them, keeping their path in permanent illumination.
Oscar didn’t even try to navigate a proper landing at the dock, though. Any other day it would have been the most routine of maneuvers, but today he only had enough nerve for one target: the sprawling beach.
I think this is an improvement on what I had before, going into greater detail for the sailors’ journey to the shore. Beforehand the ending had seemed too sudden to me. There wasn’t any time for the audience to sit with the emotions of the moment, but hopefully I’ve provided enough space for that here without dragging it on for too long.
And with that, I think it’s time to wrap the whole thing up!
Closer and closer the shore loomed, until at last Oscar’s hull crunched across the sand, and the boat keeled to its starboard side until it came to a rest. Oscar tried to let go of the helm a few times before his clenched hands finally accepted the order. Then he stumbled out of the wheelhouse and tried to let himself over the railing. Halfway over it his arms gave out and he flopped unceremoniously onto the wet sand below, coming to a sitting position with his back against his boat.
The breaking waves lapped against his feet, the wind roared in his ear, and the rain pelted at his face, but he didn’t register them at all. He just sat in silence as Harry’s trawler crunched across the sand twenty feet ahead of him.
“Oscar!” Harry’s voice called out from above. “Oscar, where are you?!”
Harry flung himself over his own railing and onto the sand, almost running straight into Oscar before he finally saw him there.
“Oscar, are you alright?”
Oscar just looked up and blinked silently at the other man.
“Oscar, I’m sorry,” Harry cried. “I know that doesn’t change anything, but I’m just–I’m sorry.”
“I don’t know what to do Harry,” Oscar finally mumbled out. “I just don’t know what happens now.”
There was a long silence, and the two men just stared at each other. For the first time since James’ death, they really saw one another.
Then came the sound of a new voice calling out through the night. It came from down the beach and over the hill, where a single lantern was bobbing towards them. Sam was coming to find them.
“Oscar, let’s go talk to Sam,” Harry extended his hand out.
“Sam’s a good man. He’ll know what to do. He’ll know what happens now. Let’s just go talk to him and see what he has to say?”
Oscar thought for a moment, then slowly reached out and took Harry’s hand, letting the man pull him back up to his feet. Then Harry put his arm around Oscar’s shoulder and supported him as they turned their backs to the sea and hobbled away, making for the swinging light.
And there we have it, the second draft is complete! I do think there were quite a few critical improvements made with this pass, and starting next week I’ll read through the whole thing again, polish out any rough patches, and determine whether there are any other structural issues that need to be addressed. I’ll see you then!