A Titanic Allegory

Ezra Azra

Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The ship had sunk. There was debris floating all around. There were several lifeboats with survivors. Some lifeboats were receiving survivors who swam or drifted within reach. There were shouts, screams, and other human noises heard from various distances.

This story is about one of those lifeboats. This one was like most lifeboats in that it had places for six persons, and that the places were numbered on the surface of the rim of the lifeboat, in large fluorescent numbering.

Number one on this lifeboat was occupied by a Sailor from the ship. That was sheer happenstance. He happened to be the first to swim to this lifeboat. So far, he had helped the five others to climb into the boat.

After the Sailor had helped the sixth person, he made an announcement.

"I am in charge, because all of you are here because I helped you be here, and because I am a Sailor from the ship."

Somebody asked, in a troubled tone, "What made the ship sink?"

"I do not know. It happened very fast. I can assure you the ship was not torpedoed, as I heard some persons claim. Yes, there is a war happening far away. Too far away from here, and our Nation is not in that war. My guess is that there was an accidental explosion from a malfunction in the boiler room. But that's just a guess. I suggest we do not spend time thinking about the cause. We have more immediately serious life-and-death problems we have to cope with. I can assure you, radio signals were sent out repeatedly in the last minutes. There are rescue ships on their way to us this minute. Night will be on us in a short while. I have a flashlight, at your service. In the dark, our names will not mean anything, so, please, if you need to, identify yourself by the fluorescent number of your seat.

Allow me one last note. All sailors on our ship are trained to be in a situation like this. By that training I have to make this observation to you. Normally, when we are among people, we are under obligation to relate to others. In this situation nobody is under obligation to relate to anyone. Keeping to your seat is your only obligation."

"What if the seat is uncomfortable?"

"I daresay no seat on this boat is comfortable. Mine definitely is not as comfortable as I would wish."

The Sailor did not announce he had a loaded pistol hidden under his lifejacket. He was the only one wearing a brightly colored yellow lifejacket. He kept it to himself that he was aware that Number Six, a woman, had a pistol hidden in a pocket.

Someone called out. "Are we in danger of sharks." Number One replied, "Yes. Everyone is, in every part of an ocean, all the time. We, on the ship, did not see any sharks around the ship. Perhaps we can thank that far away war, which must be providing sharks with more than enough food." A lone attempt at a laugh came from somewhere.

Number Two was a man who coughed repeatedly. Most of the times he succeeded in mostly stifling the attacks. He persisted in struggling to apologize every time he coughed.

Number Three was a tall, highly strung woman. She had declared she was a retired Opera singer, and that she would be happy to entertain them if they wished. Someone called out if she could lead them in "Row, row, row your boat." She immediately began singing, and a number of others joined in; Number One, too, loudly and boisterously:

"Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream. Row, row, row your boat gently down the brook. If you catch a little fish, please let it off the hook. Row, row, row your boat
gently down the creek. If you see a little mouse, listen to it squeak."

Number Four was a man who struck Number One as suspicious. In the dark of night, no one, not even Number One, could know that Number Four had food items in his pockets. He kept them a secret, and from time-to-time he would silently feed himself small pieces. Because he dared not risk being suspected of chewing, he suffered discomfort swallowing unchewed chunks. To further hide his eating, he would lean over and pretend to dip a hand pleasurably in the ocean.

Number Five was a whiner. She continually complained. Her seat was too hard; she asked that someone, anyone, exchange seats with her. She whined about nobody caring to exchange seats with her. She whined about being hungry; about being thirsty; about being cold and wet. She was, probably, the only one that did not join in the singing.

Something bumped against the boat. Number One searched the sides with the flashlight.

The light showed a body in the water, at Number Three's position. The person was weakly trying to get a grip on the boat. Number Three was the retired Opera singer. She stopped singing, and struggled to turn enough to provide assistance. She lost balance, and fell away from her seat. Number Two, the cougher, grabbed a hold of her and saved her from tumbling to the floor of the boat. In the confusion in the dark, Number Five, the whiner, made a clumsy dash to occupy vacant seat Number Three. Someone else, probably Number Six, woman with a hidden gun, plunged into the confusion and threw Number Five, the whiner, into the ocean.

Number Five, without emitting a sound, hit the water and sank instantly. Someone helped the man in the water to climb into the boat, helped by the light from the flashlight. He sat in seat Number Five. If anyone, other than the Number who threw the former Number Five overboard, was aware of the throw, no one made mention of it.

Far away in the dark, a ship's horn announced its approach. A warm rain started to fall. In the distance, from various directions, feint shouts of joy were heard from other lifeboats. And waving feint lights from flashlights.

Nobody ever came to know that the new Number Five was the Captain of the ship that had sunk.  

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