Tally did not know his fore from his aft, his port from his starboard. Not that it mattered that he know something of ships. That was for others to know. He was not a sea man, and he wasn’t a sailor.
He came on the cruise to please his wife. Mara thought it would do him good to get away from everybody, including herself. “A good oceangoing voyage might just be the thing,” she said. It would break the melancholies he wore like a suit of clothes. Since the death of his friend, Breaker, they had their way with him. It was his way of coping.
So he chose to return from Breaker’s funeral in London by ship. It had been an uneventful voyage so far. Three days of moping around the decks, then sitting on deck and watching the tides in an easy rise and fall. Rising and falling like Breaker himself.
He had first met Breaker in his freshman year of college. Breaker showed up at every party Tally attended. What would be a boring affair suddenly became a blow-out. When Tally was a sophomore, Breaker was a junior, and his roommate. They had become close. Breaker would share all his dreams. Until Tally met Breaker, he never had many dreams for his future. He’d picked the path of least resistance. He was going to be a cpa. “That’s no life,” Breaker sai. Of course, he was right.
So Tally followed Breaker into the Peace Corps. When Tally finished his time with the Corp, Breaker was already a war correspondent for CBS. Tally decided wars were not for him. Instead he went off to Africa and started a safari business. There he met Mara just about the time Breaker married his English wife, Pamela. Next thin g he knew Breaker was off to Israel. He and his wife were in kubutz.
Mara was pregnant, so Tally sold the business and took his wife and new baby back to the states. That was when he got in on the internet craze and sold his new software company for several million dollars. It seemed that Tally had found that he had a knack for making money. Every so often Tally would hear a new story of his hero. Breaker was always in some place new doing something Tally would never think about doing. Breaker had become something of a legend in Tally’s family.
Then, at forty, a phone call came from London. It was Pamela. “Breaker’s dead,” she said.
“How?” Tally asked, tears in his eyes.
“Suicide. Can you fly over? He wanted you at the funeral.”
“Sure,” Tally said and took the next plane over to England. Tally had been surprised at how well Pamela held up at the funeral. Afterward she gave him a big hug and went back to her apartment for her own private grief.
On the voyage back to the states, Tally took in all that had happened since he first met Breaker. He would not be the man he was if not for Breaker. He would not have believed that he could have a life that was not dull and ordinary. He would not have Mara and the kids. He would not have the friends he had, and the adventures he had lived. Now that Breaker was gone, what was he to do. He was forty. Now suddenly he had no future.
Sitting in a deck chair, he closed his eyes and slipped off to sleep. Everywhere there was water. No sky or land, just water. He opened his eyes.
He walked over to the edge. The sea before him was like glass. Possibly he might walk on the sea. He gazed out at the sea and sky. A dark blue with light only from the ship. And the quietness. He listened and all he heard was the humming of the ship’s engine. What if he stepped off the deck of the ship and onto the sea? Now that would be a happy thing.
A hand reached from behind him. “Don’t,” a voice said. Tally turned and there was no one there.
“What the hey?” Tally asked.
He went back to his deck chair. Where there was only dark blue sky a few moments ago, now there were stars. He didn’t count but he estimated a million and seven. Why a million and seven? Just because.
Then he saw Mara’s face. Not in the stars, not in his imagination. She looked out at him from where she was. She was crying, her face pleading with him. All through the last couple of weeks he had forgotten her. He had only been thinking about Breaker. And his loss. Now there she was and what he was thinking really hurt Mara.
Right then and there he discovered he had a future. It was Mara.