Revising The Storm- Week 33

Last week I came into a more uncertain part of this story. I’m still having questions about some of the core plot points here in the middle, and I’m trying to decide whether I want to keep the sequences that I had before or let them go.

At this point my plan is simply to finish this draft with whatever path seems best to me now, then re-evaluate when I read through the whole thing afterwards. To that end, today we are continuing with Oscar’s boat starting to tilt sideways into the water, but also making the changes that were discussed last week.

As always, here is the link to the latest draft, and now for today’s segment.

Breaking Apart)

Oscar turned around and began to sprint for the wheelhouse, but even before his first step he knew he was too late. Already his boat was tilting upward into the next wave!

With a snarl of defiance, he lunged up the deck, leaning further and further forward as the floor tipped more and more upward. As he ran, he could only helplessly watch as the boat’s prow began veering slightly to starboard, then more and more, then half of the nose pierced into the water and a torrent of water came running across the deck!

Oscar quickly twisted his arms in the nearest rope as the deluge slammed into his body and swept his feet out from underneath! All he could do was hold fast to the line and hope to come through the other end! The torrent seemed to engulf him for an eternity, but finally his boat cleared the top of the wave and the flood abated, leaving Oscar’s boots slipping on the water-slicked deck.

But it wasn’t just the water that was making his footing difficult, with a shock Oscar realized that he was nearly standing sideways! The boat had been swamped, and the whole thing was rolling on its axis, likely to capsize at any moment!

“NO!” Oscar shouted, moving hand-over-hand along the rope, desperately continuing his scramble for the wheelhouse. Finally, he reached his destination, and immediately began working the wheel and throttle by instinct, unsure of how he even intended to get out of this mess.

The boat had both rolled sideways and tilted its waterlogged prow down into the water. It was so askew that the port-side engine’s propeller had lifted out of the water and was spinning uselessly in the air. With only the starboard propeller available for traction, Oscar raised it to full throttle, using its push to counteract the front-ward descent of the vessel. At the same time, he spun the wheel as hard as possible to port, never mind the compromised rudder shaft, and created an opposite force to the starboard-roll. The boat became taut between all the competing forces, suspended mid-roll and mid-tilt, skating a narrow line between salvation and oblivion.

Earlier on I removed a bit about Oscar despairing that he couldn’t get through this ordeal and revealing a hint about the loss of his son. I liked the segment, but felt it was coming too early. I definitely think that I’ve racked up the tension enough to warrant inserting it here, though.

“I can’t do this,” Oscar cried. “I just don’t have it in me anymore.” 

“I don’t think you have a choice,” another side of him replied.

If at all possible, his weathered face grew even more wrinkly, and his eyes shone with unshed saltwater.

“I should have quit after James died.” 

“No,” his other side returned. “You should have quit before you lost your son.”

The next wave was yawning directly ahead. If Oscar’s boat was still askew when it hit, he would certainly be capsized. 

“Keep it together!” a roar emanated from somewhere deep in Oscar’s throat. In a moment of epiphany, he grabbed the control for the boom and swung it quickly to the port-side. The sudden shift of weight was just enough to break the boat’s stalemate and roll it back to its hull. Then both propellers bit into the rushing water and snapped the front of the boat back above the surf just in time to climb the next hill.

Well, that concludes the new-and-hopefully-improved sequence of Oscar getting out of his boat’s roll. I like the physics described here, with the boat caught between competing forces and the rotating boom being the clever method for tipping the scale. I’m curious when I read through again whether it paints a clear picture, or if I’m overdoing the physical acrobatics again.

“Are you alright there?” Harry’s voice was calling over the radio, though Oscar could barely hear it over the fuzzy ringing in his ears.

“Yeah, I’m here–” Oscar said dismissively. “I was–I just had–I’m alright now.”

But he wasn’t. As soon as he released the mic his whole body began shaking uncontrollably. His eyes welled up with tears, but he refused to let them run out. He had to suppress the emotional breakdown that was lurking in his periphery and keep pushing forward if he was going to survive. Get out of this storm first and then collapse in a heap on the floor!

Previously I had the sailors immediately turn around now, but with how I’ve rearranged things that would mean they did so almost immediately after going headlong into the waves. I think it better to add a paragraph or two here, explaining Oscar’s nerve eroding away before he makes that decision.

But though Oscar was able to keep the wall raised around his heart, the spring of emotions refused to flow back to where they came from. They continued to mount behind his barrier, turning it into a dam under pressure. His hands clenched until the bony knuckles seemed ready to pop out of his thin skin, his lips pursed together until they went white from loss of blood, his breath shot in and out of his nostrils in sharp, erratic bursts.

And navigating each wave was like an all-new trauma, another straw placed on his already buckling back. Every moment that he forced himself further into the storm darkened his very soul. Just maintaining this line made him spend out the last of his nerve and even put him into arrears.

“Harry, let’s–” Oscar’s voice stammered in the cold. “let’s g-get out of here.”

“What? You mean turn around?”

“Y-yes. We can’t keep up like this. Hold steady through this last wave and then we’re turning back.”

“Okay, Oscar.”

So here we are, with Oscar and Harry coming to their final approach. It feels good to have my story this polished, and it also feels daunting how much more refactoring I expect there still to be. For now, I’ll just focus on where I’m at now and go from there. But that’s all for now. Come back next week as we get through the next chapter of The Storm.

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