Sunday, April 09, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 6

The next morning it was as if the sky and the sea had never been angry. The Monday sun shined brightly and birds could be heard in the distance. It was those same birds that awakened Angel.

Instead of being on the control room floor where she’d fallen asleep after their long ordeal, she was surprised to find herself back in her cabin. Jamaal had obviously carried her there some time during the night or in the early morning hours. And from the looks of things, he’d slept in the room with her on the cot next to the bathroom. Obviously he hadn’t wanted to be alone, either.

Angel got up and made her way to the bathroom and washed. She tried not to use too much water, especially since she didn’t know how much they had to spare. After she finished, she dressed in a pair of jeans and a red t-shirt that she’d thought pack at the last minute. Angel frowned as she took a brief moment to look at the other garments she’d brought with her.

No use wearing all of those sexy clothes now, Angel mused, promptly discarding the sexy gold dress she’d worn for the last two days in the first wastebasket she encountered on her way out the door. She and Jamaal were survival partners now. As such, they both needed clear, unencumbered-by-romance heads to make it through this trial.

Going up on deck to find Jamaal, Angel spotted him returning back on board. A black do-rag was on his head, a shovel was in his arms, and he was wearing a green army t-shirt and jeans. He immediately approached her with greetings.

“Good morning, Angel. I let you sleep in because I knew you needed it.” Although he’d been exhausted from yesterday’s toil, too, Jamaal’s ragged emotional state wouldn’t allow him to sleep for very long. As a result, he’d been up for quite a while.

“Thanks, I really did need it,” Angel said, attempting to smile. They were both still alive. That was a good reason to smile, wasn’t it?

Jamaal tried to smile, too, but what he’d just been doing had robbed him of all joy. His face suddenly grew very serious as the frown inside of him found its way to his mouth and forehead. Jamaal had to give Angel a status report of their situation and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

“I explored the island and saw no signs of people. Not even animal tracks. Only birds.” He’d tell her about the snakes he saw later. There were other dire things to talk about now.

Jamaal propped the shovel across the back of both of his shoulders and sighed before continuing with the bad news. “I’ve buried the majority of the bodies in the woods, but I’m gonna need your help to carry the rest of them. I buried most of the five women on board together. I tried to do the same for the seven men.” Then Jamaal cleared his throat uncomfortably before going on. “I had to bury your friend with those two guys. It was…a little difficult…to get them apart.”

Angel almost gagged at his words. I know Montez betrayed me, but surely she didn’t deserve to die like that, she mused sadly. Then catching herself slipping into depression, Angel shook her head to try to clear it of all troubling thoughts. Thoughts that she had no answer for.

“Who’s left to bury?” Angel asked, trying to appear braver than she felt. Her green eyes shined with unshed tears of grief.

Just then, Jamaal realized that he could muster up a genuine smile for the courageous woman in front of him. He was so proud of Angel. The fact that she was trying so hard to push past what had happened to all of them made him admire her that much more.

“We still have to bury the causes of this mess,” Jamaal answered, solemnly referring to the captain and the passenger he now knew to be Scott Reeves after having searched the man’s pockets for identification. But who was Scott Reeves really? And why would he and the captain be dead in the same room?

“Okay, let’s go get it on over with,” Angel said, eager to rid the boat of all signs of death. Besides being depressing, it was also unsanitary to have dead bodies lying around.

***

An hour and a half later the corrupt captain and the drug dealer were buried together along with their drugs and money. The drugs themselves took up most of the grave due to the fact that boxes of them had been found in the ship’s storage area. Several guns had also been found, providing further proof of the gravity of the failed drug deal.

Jamaal thought it best that they kept the weapons and ammunition they found. He deemed them necessary in case some unsavory characters visited the island, looking for their lost ‘merchandise’. He even agreed to allocate some time each day in order to teach Angel how to use the weapons.

Jamaal believed that they both needed to be on guard. Especially since whatever organized crime ring that was responsible for all of this mess had clearly thought it necessary to get rid of all possible witnesses. Why else would they try to kill everyone on board?

***

Back on the mainland, someone was missing that shipment. A very dangerous someone named Ray Sucio. And he wasn’t happy about his shipment being two days late at all. Ray didn’t understand why Captain Wilton was not at his agreed upon destination. Quincy was never late with a shipment and he certainly never failed to pick up the rest of his money.

But that wasn’t Ray’s only point of concern. One of his loyal employees hadn’t reported in yet, either. In actually, Scott Reeves was more than an employee to him, he was also Ray’s brother-in-law by his younger, slightly overweight sister, Sofia. And whatever worried Sofia, worried her older brother.

But besides bearing his sister’s concerns, Ray also had to bear his own. After all, Scott was his right-hand man. The eager recruit had learned the business quickly and had easily advanced through the ranks. Then when Scott proposed to Sofia last year, Ray had been in total agreement. Dedicated men like him were hard to find, especially in their line of work.

Now where is he? Ray thought angrily as he sat on the black leather couch of his elaborately decorated condo. And where is my package? He picked up the black cordless phone beside him and dialed.

***

On the island, Jamaal and Angel began to take a more thorough inventory of their surroundings. After the tight squeeze between the narrow rocks, the ship was badly damaged on each side. In short, it was no longer seaworthy and may never be again.

On a more positive note, there was more than enough untainted fruit, packaged bread, and canned goods on the ship for the two of them. And if they rationed it properly and found a way to supplement their diets with other things, it might last for at least three months. The water supply was fairly adequate, but it would not last beyond a month of bathing, cooking and drinking, if it lasted that long. There was limited electricity so they would need to eat as much of the perishables as soon as possible.

It was a great moment when Jamaal and Angel discovered that they could eat those perishable items from the galley. They thanked God that their diet need not be limited to only canned goods and water, but could also include bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, and a few dairy products. When they’d gone to clean up the debris from the storm and the remnants of Friday’s party, they’d made that great discovery. Only that which had been catered by some place called Sofia’s Restaurant had been tainted. All of the catered food had turned a sick-looking green color. Even the opened beverages had turned green.

Together Jamaal and Angel donned plastic gloves that they’d found in the kitchen and collected all of the contaminated material into black garbage bags. Then they buried that, too. By sundown, the two survivors were more than dog tired and famished. And although they clearly had a lot of obstacles still standing in their way, it was not a completely dire situation. They still had God. They still had each other.

***

On her way to meet Jamaal for dinner after a quick wash-up, Angel heard whimpering noises coming from one of the cabins. It sounded like a baby. Now I know there’s no way we could have missed a baby, she mused, thinking about how thoroughly they’d checked the cabins during their inventory period.

Angel and Jamaal could not have missed a baby during their thorough search, but they could have missed a puppy. Especially if it had been scared and hiding from them in every tight space it could find. Quickly opening the door, Angel found a small, black and white patched puppy hiding under the cabin’s bed. With his short legs and thick fur, he looked like a chow/shepherd mix. The collar on his neck said that his name was Martinez.

“Hey, cutie. It’s nice to know that someone else survived, too,” Angel said in a soothing manner to the scared puppy. He was so adorable. Unfortunately, the poor thing was also dehydrated and hungry, too.

Then sprinting to the kitchen and back, Angel lured Martinez out with a bowl of milk from a carton that she found unopened in the refrigerator. When he was done, she took the puppy to see Jamaal where he was further treated like a welcomed member of the crew.

***

After a meal of canned beans and stewed beef chunks from the freezer cooked over an open fire, Jamaal pulled out his green pocket Bible and began to read from Psalm 46:1-3. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.”

When Jamaal finished, he stared at Angel by the light of the fire. “Isn’t that one of the scriptures you quoted from during our most dire time? I’ve held on to that passage ever since. It really was a word in due season. It gave me comfort. Thanks for saying it.” He smiled at her.

Angel slipped the puppy some chunks of beef and smiled back at the man across from her. “It was what came up inside of me. God knows I haven’t been to church in years, but somehow that passage stuck to me.”

“I’m glad it did. Thank God for whoever planted those scriptures in your heart. The harvest of consolation it brought was right on time.” Then he thought of something else. “You mentioned something about not having been to church in years. Well, I don’t know why you’ve been absent from church for so long, but you need to know that if you are a Christian, you are the church.”

When Angel looked confused at his statements, Jamaal put the Bible down and closed his hands together in illustration. “When believers are together, they are the church gathered.” Then he separated his hands and wiggled his fingers in further demonstration. “When believers are apart, they are the church scattered.”

Although Angel nodded in understanding, his comments had prompted a question. “But I was taught that going to church was important. As a matter of fact, I was taught that if you didn’t go on a regular basis then you were in sin. What do you think?”

Jamaal smiled. He’d heard people say that, too. “Yes, I agree that we should go to church regularly. In fact, I’ve been known to be there every time the doors open. But what if we can’t? What if something prevents us from doing so?” He pointed to each of them as a perfect example. “There aren’t any other people on this island, much less a church building to go to. So where does that leave us? Are we no longer Christians? Have we forsaken the assembly of the believers because we don’t have a building to attend?”

Jamaal answered those questions for himself. “No, whether we go to a building or not does not determine who you are. And to forsake or leave something behind implies a certain attitude of the heart, a willful course of action. We didn’t choose to be here. It wasn’t our will to be here at all. Our will was to be back home by now.”

Jamaal leaned in closer to Angel. “Furthermore, we haven’t forsaken anything. And guess what, Angel, we haven’t been forsaken, either. God knows exactly where we are.”

“Are you a minister or something?” Angel asked, before she drank the last of her bottled water. Her facial expression was a mixture of amazement and respect. “I feel like we’re having church right now.”

Jamaal leaned his head back and laughed heartily from his belly. It felt good to do that, especially after all that’s happened recently. “No, I became a Christian seven years ago after I left the military. I also attend a good church that believes in encouraging its members to practice good personal Bible study.”

Military background, strong faith, Angel silently noted. Those two facts explained a lot about Jamaal’s solid and serene personality.

“I’ll have to visit your church when we get back,” she said aloud. Suddenly her eyes misted over. “Will…we ever get back, Jamaal?” Angel asked softly as if whispering the question somehow made it less dismal. She knew the boat’s condition as well as he did. Jamaal had shared everything with her, withholding no information.

He reached for her hands and squeezed them in comfort. “Somehow, someway, God’s gonna get us home. This island may be deserted, but we’re not. Have faith, Angel.” His dark sincere eyes shined brilliantly by the light of the fire.

Angel nodded through tearful eyes. She believed him. Oh God, let it be true, she prayed. Then from that point on, she resolved to practice more personal Bible study for herself. Maybe reading a scripture a day will help keep the blues away, Angel mused, thinking that reading the Bible certainly seemed to be working for Jamaal.


Angel’s Scripture for that night:
“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” Psalm 118:17

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

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