Master and Apprentice

It was a sunny morning. The really crisp kind where you look out the window and think it will be warm, but open the door to a blast of artic air. It was that kind of day. Yes, I remember this clearly. I had been planning this every since I got my boat, Laquida. It was a beautiful boat, twenty eight feet long. And what better day? Not a cloud in sight, a light but steady breeze crossing the air, the swells low.

When I asked the Master if she wanted to come sailing, she smiled and said, “It would be a great experience.” I got some of the other disciples together too, of course. I was positively giddy to show off Laquida. Some of them didn‘t want to come of course. Couldn‘t find a babysitter, had a cold, got seasick... I was a little disappointed at the low turn out, but in the end there were four of us; I‘m including myself here, and the Master. Jackie and Brad were there too. I had already told them a couple times about the boat and they were excited to see it.

Once we arrived at the docks, they were cooing over her. Well, not the Master. She just smiled. I gave everyone the grand tour. Everything from the mast to the GPS to the head even. I had never been so happy before. Of course, the Master‘s silence was driving me up the wall! How could she resist such an awesome thing? And it was MINE! I ribbed her a little, joking around, “Too awesome for words, eh?”

“It‘s a very nice boat,” she replied. Smiling. Always smiling.

“And it‘s mine!” I remember replying. So full of myself. Her next words, they haunt me. Always haunt me, but of course, at the time, I didn‘t think anything of it.

“I think,” in her charecteristic humility, “it is the ocean‘s boat.”

So we launched, left the harbor and entered the wide blue yonder. The Master called the ocean the infinite horizon sometimes. I could tell, from watching her stand at the bow, wind blowing through her long hair, that something like that was filling her spirit. A good experience indeed.

Jackie and Brad played with the GPS for a while, and then started delving into the beer I had brought along. I knew the Master didn‘t drink, and besides, she seemed so contented stareing into the infinite horizon of hers that I let her be.

The charts showed us far from any obstacles, and the weather was so clear, you could easily see anything within a mile or two. So I let her drift, and drifted myself down to the table with Jackie and Brad to join them for a cold one. Did I mention the minifridge? A buddy of mine used to say: “If you ain‘t drinking, you ain‘t boating.” Well, we were laughing and talking on and on.

I remember the moment of interruption. It was like three things as once. I remember feeling the wind and thinking, “It‘s getting cold.” I remember seeing the sky and thinking, “It‘s getting stormy.” I remember seeing the Master, standing over us. How long had she been watching us, motionless? I cannot say.

The laughing stopped. The weight of the moment set upon us like a stone. Even then, we didn‘t really understand. But we knew something tremendous was about to happen. “Master,” Jackie said.

The Master smiled, but it was a grave smile. “I want to thank you,” she said to me, “for your hospitality. Jackie and Brad, remember it thusly. The greatest teachings are not of words, and the fount of words speaks for but a moment. Remember it thusly.”

We were confused. Well, I was confused. But Brad spoke first, “What are you talking about?” He was a little tipsy, I think.

The Master smiled, painfully. Her hair, her beautiful hair, blew strongly in the wind. The sea was bucking now, the boat rocking to and fro.

“I‘m going to take us back,” I said, confidently.

Advancing to the helm, I powered the engines (I wasn‘t going to attempt to sail back in in foul weather!) and begin the trek. The Master spoke with Brad and Jackie, but I couldn‘t hear anything she said. The boat had drifted some distance away, further than I expected really, so it looked like about an hour back into the harbor. Meaningwhile, fat drops of rain were falling all around me. Visibility was very, very low. Thank goodness for the charts, and the GPS. I was scared, I was out of my league. I didn‘t know how to deal with something like this.

Then the Master was at my side. I remember feeling so much calmer since she was there.

“Who is driving?” she asked.

“I am,” I said.

“No,” she replied, but said nothing more.

For a moment there was only the swells of the crashing against the hull, the shreak of wind and the pummeling of rain. Someone, either Jackie or Brad, vomitted. The Master was motionless.

“Now is the time to ask whatever has been on your heart,” she queried.

I remember snapping. “Are you insane?” I alternated between looking forward and looking at her, “I‘m trying to keep us from dying out here!”

“I know,” she said, “but are you so focused on the future that you have forgotten the present?”

With that, she disappeared from my side. I didn‘t pay attention to her at the time, I was fighting the boat, fighting the storm which was rising and now pelting me with heavy rain and massive swells which tossed my poor little Laquida like a child‘s ball. My feet were slipping on the slick surface of the boat, and I was using the wheel as much to hold myself as to steer the boat. I couldn‘t even read the GPS anymore, darkness and rain had so obscured it.

Then she was back, this time carrying a life jacket. “You must put this on,” she said.

“I‘m trying to drive,” I quipped.

“You‘re trying to die,” she said. I stopped, took the vest from her quickly and put it on. Without my attempts at control, and they were really just attempts, the wheel spased wildly.

“Are you afraid?” she asked, nearly shouting over the wind, but it still seemed like she was speaking calmly.

I was terrified. Bone-chillingly terrified. “I‘m ok,” I shouted, “I can get us there.”

“No,” she yelled back, “you can‘t.”

I‘d never been dressed down like by the Master before. Never. I was stunned. She motioned forward. I grabbed the wheel and returned to the task at hand.

There it was. Off to port, just a little. A rock, jutting out of the surf, with waves crashing against it. I screamed and torqued the wheel in the opposite direction. It didn‘t matter. Maybe nothing mattered. Maybe it was all predestined to happen. The boat flew through the waves, splashing over the deck, toward the rock. A large, jutting, angry rock. I imagined it a mouth trying to swallow us.

“Master, save me!” I cried.

She turned me, her foothold on the deck uninterrupted by the rain and washing of waves. “I already have,” she replied, her voice carrying crisply over the raging sea.

I saw, Jackie and Brad, also in life jackets, huddling down and grasping the mast. The Master, in her wet robes, her hair having lost much of its majesty, standing before me. There were only three lifejackets. I remember that now. I figured they were a stupid idea anyways. Not like I‘d ever be dumb enough to be caught out in a storm.

“SHIT!” What else was there to say? The boat hit the rock. Sickening, crunching, my precious Laquida was torn asunder, broken, smashed, and torn. And as fast as it had hit, the current reversed it‘s pull, and sucked us away from what had first been the enemy but then perhaps a friend. Now we were in the midst of the raging sea, with a broken hull. We sank.

Jackie and Brad held on to the mast as long as they could. I just bobbed in the water, trying to stay above the surface. The boat twisted and rolled. The Master remained standing on it, effortlessly adjusting her feet to its whims. Not falling even at the most extreme angles. She stood, like a beacon in the sky, above me.

Laquida sank. As the last bit passed beneath the waves, the Master stroad across the water, rising and falling with the swells, until she reached me. I could not speak, as the waves washed salty brine into my mouth and forced it down my throat. I coughed.

“Remember it thusly!” she cried out.

And fell.


Into the water.


I tried to scream, but only gargled.

Her head passed beneath the waves. Seconds later, she emerged directly in front of me, and grabbed my liftvest. I was afraid. Honestly, I was afraid she was going to tear it off, to drown me and save herself instead. I started to fight. Or try to fight. Yet she held us both in place, in a bubble of calm while the storm raged around.

“This water,” she coughed, for once, imperfect.

“Beautiful water.” Cough. Cough. “Holy water.”

NO! I was repelled, I wanted away. I didn‘t want to die, didn‘t want to drown, didn‘t want the water. Didn‘t want the Master.


I don‘t remember.

Well, I do remember, but I don‘t want to talk about it anymore.

I didn‘t mean to, of course. At the time...

I hit her. I just wanted her to let go! I just wanted to live! I hit her across the face. Pretty hard I guess, I don‘t know. I didn‘t mean to.

Her head turned. She let go. She slipped away. Beneath the waves again, rolling away from me. I never saw her face again. I tell people that she died in the storm. That‘s not a lie you know! It‘s still true. She probably would have drowned anyways. Besides, no one can walk on water like that, I was just hallucinating. She was probably gone from the moment we hit the rock.

Besides, anyone else would have done the same thing. It‘s just instinct, you can‘t fight it. It wasn‘t my fault.

Brad and Jackie?

They were fine. The coast guard found all three of us, a total miracle. I really don‘t know the details. We were all in the hospital. Pretty bad apparently. Heh, by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins. I didn‘t tell them about the Master. I haven‘t told anyone. Well, anyone except you. It‘s been a while now. I‘d like to think I‘m older and wiser, but I‘m just not sure. I don‘t think I‘ll ever be able to forget the images. But really, I think it‘s the fear and the guilt that get to me. Why did she have to come over to me? It doesn‘t make any sense. She knew that my lifejacket couldn‘t hold two people.

I don‘t want to talk about it anymore, ok?

Just forget it. Forget I ever said anything.

-- Fin

This beautiful drowning, this holy water... This holy water is in my lungs, and I am overcome.

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