Well, here we are at the end of the third draft. I’m anxious to wrap this iteration up and take the whole thing in from beginning to end.
I do think that this is a good story, and I even think there is a real gem inside of this work…but I haven’t been able to fully tease it out. I don’t know if I what need next is to go at it with a hammer or a file, but that’s what I’ll be figuring out when I read over the complete draft.
For now, though, here is the link to the second draft for comparison, and now let’s finish the third!
Oscar clenched his fingertips and contracted his arms. By force of will he raised himself back to his feet, stood at the wheel, and dropped his gaze to the controls before him. There, on the left, was the button to release the line from his boom. He could press it now, and it would cut the cord that bound him to Harry.
As Harry had said, they couldn’t survive this together, so why shouldn’t Oscar save what he could: himself? No one would say that he hadn’t done his duty. No one would say that he hadn’t tried. He had! But there had to be a limit, didn’t there? There had to be a point where he had done all that he could, but it just didn’t work, so he could cut ties and be clear of any blame!
Reworked the above paragraph several times over. I’m just trying to find the wording that sits right with me, and I think I’m closer to it now, though I may alter it further in the future.
Oscar rested his palm on the control panel, fingers stretching for the button, but his arm refused to extend enough to let them reach it.
Because no matter how justified he might be on paper, there was no way for Oscar to press that button without a vengeful heart. There was no way to separate his emotions from the action, to be able to honestly say that it was a simple matter of procedure and nothing more. The truth is there would always be malice behind it. It could never be innocent.
Besides—Oscar sidestepped the controls, exited the wheelhouse, and looked out at the black horizon—what did it matter anymore? It was already too late. Whatever life had remained in him was now expired into the storm. This struggle had taken all that he had, and there was no more desire to find his way out of this place. Cutting Harry loose wouldn’t change that.
And as Oscar stared out into that void, welcoming oblivion, a strange discoloration appeared in the dark before him. A small patch of black grew lighter and lighter, yellower and warmer, larger and larger. Or rather its edges grew larger, but it center grew smaller and more focused. And then, all at once, it pierced through the storm and became a shining light. A light that was tearing through all the mist and dark, crossing the great void of night, and filling Oscar’s eye!
“Sam?” he croaked.
“Oscar?” Harry’s awed voice crackled over the radio. “Is that–is that the lighthouse?”
“Yes,” Oscar said to himself. “I do believe it is.”
And in the face of that light Oscar could no longer consign himself to the watery depths. Dark thoughts belonged to dark places, and now that the path was illuminated ahead all he could think to do was follow it. So he stepped back into his wheelhouse, placed his hands on wheel, and slowly raised the engine back to life.
I made a subtle change by having Oscar step out of his wheelhouse at his moment of deepest despair. It’s a small alteration, but I felt it helped to separate him from the confusion about what to do with Harry. It is him stepping into surrender, and then when he returns to the wheel he is returning to his duty.
I am removing the following paragraph, though, where Oscar muses that the waves have been sending them back home, not consigning them to oblivion. It was just too direct and I couldn’t think of a less clunky way to communicate the idea. So away it goes.
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. Oscar wondered how long ago the two sailors had made it around the treacherous shoals and didn’t even know it!
But never mind that place. Never mind it ever again.
Now with the wind and the waves behind them and the lighthouse and the shore ahead, they pounded forward with all the power of the sea. The buffeting of the storm ushered them forward. As they came into the shallows the deep waves broke into a rapid chorus, giving them a lively rocking on their way.
When the two boats were within a thousand feet of the shore the lighthouse beacon stopped circling. Sam must have spotted their vessels, so now he kept the giant searchlight fixed on them, casting 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 had only enough nerve remaining for one unmissable target: the beach.
Closer and closer the shore loomed, and at last Oscar’s hull crunched across the sand and the boat keeled to its starboard side, and finally the whole thing came to a rest. Oscar tried to let go of the helm, but his clenched hands would not accept the order.
“Let go!” he cried, awkwardly wrenching them loose and immediately stumbling sideways, over the tilted deck, and into the railing! He tried to lower himself over the railing’s other side, but halfway across his arms gave out entirely and he flopped unceremoniously onto the wet sand below, coming to a sitting position with his back against the 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 any of those things. Not a one of them mattered. He just sat in silence as Harry’s trawler rolled onto the sand twenty feet away.
“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 sitting there.
So far I’ve only found minor changes here and there in this final segment. I am intending to make some more substantial changes to this final conversation, though. I’ve tried a couple times already to get it right, and still feel like it isn’t quite what I’m looking for. Perhaps this new take will suit the story better.
“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 sorry. I am!”
“You killed my son,” Oscar mumbled brokenly.
“I–” Harry could think of nothing to say, so he clenched his mouth and nodded solemnly.
“I don’t know what to do, Harry,” Oscar said. “I just don’t know what to do. I’m too broken to feel or think anymore.”
“I know, Oscar.”
“I know I should hate you. I’m sure I will when I can feel things again. I’ll probably even want to kill you.”
“I know. It’s only natural that a man in your place would feel that way.”
There was a long silence, and the two men just stared at each other. The coast was dark and wet and cold, and the two men seemed all alone in each other’s eyes. And though they may have been ill companions, they were together in that dark and lonely place even so.
But then, after a few more moments, they were not alone. For now there came the sound of a voice calling out through the night. It was ringing down from the hill that sat at the back of the beach. That voice was accompanied by a lantern, too, bobbing through the darkness towards them. It was Sam was coming to find them.
“Oscar…” Harry slowly extended his hand. “Oscar, what do you say we go and see Sam?”
“Let’s go meet Sam. He’s a good man, you know. He’ll get us warm clothes and food and rest. He’ll take care of us. Sam will know what to do. He’ll know what matters for right now.”
Oscar thought for a moment, then slowly reached out his hand and took Harry’s. Harry pulled Oscar up to his feet, then got his arm around his shoulder to support him. Together they turned their backs to the shrieking sea and hobbled away, making their way towards the solitary swinging light.