Here is a link to my most recent draft if you want to compare changes. And now let’s get to today’s work.
Oscar opened the throttle and his vessel surged forward, bouncing atop the waves, advancing until its prow pierced through the misty screen. Large and heavy raindrops broke across the windshield, which momentarily obscured Oscar’s vision, but then the curtain parted and darker forms were revealed beyond!
It was a world of muddled black. Pitch skies hung low overhead, whipped by the strong winds into wisps, long and thin, yet so numerous as to crowd out the evening sun entirely. Under the grim ceiling lay a landscape of fomented waves, rolling in endless agony, the green-black hue of ink. Oscar could feel the temperature around him drop by at least fifteen degrees, even without the wind chill. And wafting in on that wind came the stench of sea-things, long dead and decaying, churned out of their slumber by the rolling deep.
I took out the visual description of lightning, and replaced it with details of the temperature and smell. I think this provides a more complete sensation now, and I can always bring the bristling lightning back elsewhere if I need it.
And there, caught in the thick of everything, was Harry’s vessel. It twitched and swayed erratically, entirely at the mercy of the storm. On occasion it would surge to life, just enough to jerk back into line with the rolling waves, and then the engines would die and it would flounder once more. The boat must have taken on a great deal of water already, growing more sluggish by the minute. Growing more difficult to haul out by the minute.
Oscar’s heart fell, but he only allowed himself a moment’s dread before he grit his teeth and grabbed the mic. “You gotta hold it more steady, Harry! I can’t come up alongside just for you to swing into my hull!”
“Okay…” came the timid reply. “I’ll try, Oscar.”
“Don’t just try! You gotta hold her straight. I’m gonna come up on your starboard side and throw you a line as I pass. You be ready to catch it, and then run like anything to get it through your bow cleat.”
“Okay, Oscar. I’ll try.”
Oscar sighed in exasperation. Apparently “try” was as good as Harry was going to give.
The old sailor held firmly to the wheel, maintaining a straight line to Harry. They would have to move with precision and speed, minimizing the number of seconds that their boats would be so treacherously close to one another!
Oscar glanced over his shoulder and punched a button, dropping the net from the trawler’s central beam. He pulled a lever and the rope ran out until fifty feet of it lay unfurled on the deck.
Made some cuts to the paragraph above, and I think it makes a subtle but significant difference. The image I want in the reader’s head is one of tactical precision, so I removed every excess word I could, imitating in my words the sharp efficiency of Oscar’s actions.
Everything was ready, and just in time for Oscar’s trawler to sputter ahead of Harry’s. In one fluid motion he cut the throttle and locked the wheel in its place. Then, as his boat slid backwards, he dashed to the rope laying on the deck, coiled it around his hand, and bounded with it to the port side. Just then the two boats drew level with each other, and he flung the rope through the air to where Harry was waiting to catch it. Harry pulled the coil to his chest and sprinted with it to his bow cleat.
As before, I trimmed down the preceding paragraph to give a sense of quick, hurried action. And even before that, I removed the bit about Harry being out on his deck too early, as it didn’t seem to really contribute anything at this point.
Oscar hurried back to the wheelhouse and spun the helm to account for drift. He raised the throttle back up, moving his vessel a little ahead of Harry’s boat, but not so far as to pull the line out before Harry had it secured.
It was very difficult to hold the boat steady in the rolling waves, but the true challenge would only begin after Harry had his end of the rope secured. Towing another boat was dangerous even in fair weather. They would have to maintain constant tension, since the more often the rope slacked and tautened the more likely it would break. They would have to gauge their speeds so that Harry’s boat didn’t come careening into the back of Oscar’s. They would have to account for the fact that Oscar’s boat would be riding up the crest of one wave while Harry’s was down in the valley of another and vice versa. They would have to keep the line straight between them, or else they might roll each other sideways into the drink.
In short, there were many things that could go wrong–that probably would go wrong–and any of them could easily end in disaster. For any other fisherman in their hamlet, Oscar would have faced those dangers gladly. But for Harry?… Well, evidently he would still face them, but there was nothing glad about it.
Of all the men that could have been caught out here, why did it have to be the one Oscar could never forgive?
“Alright, I’m ready to go,” Harry’s voice came from the radio.
“I’ll pull forward until the line gets tight,” Oscar immediately returned to the matter at hand. “Then you throw your engine on and give whatever you’ve got to keep us aligned. I’ll do the pulling and warn you for every turn.”
“Of course Oscar. And…thank you, I really didn’t think anyone was going to come for me.”
“Don’t mention it.” It wasn’t a polite deference, it was an order. Oscar eased the throttle forward and the engine churned back to life. As he came close to the end of the rope’s length he lowered his speed so that he would hit tension as gently as possible. A slight jolt shuddered the boat from stem to stern and the boom that the rope ran from groaned ominously…but there didn’t come the sound of anything breaking. Looking over his shoulder Oscar could see Harry’s boat coming up to the same speed as his own. They were in sync.
Adding this final sentence about the two boats being “in sync” is a small change, but I think important. From this point on the two men truly share the same fate, and though they are at odds with one another, their journey is now shared.
That’ll do for today. Come back in two weeks as I revise the next batch of this story.