Day 17 – Maritime Confrontation


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Maritime Confrontation

“Be careful,” my Workcenter Supervisor cautioned me before removing the cover to the seawater strainer. Training had begun on what was to be a monthly task in maintaining the ship radar’s heat-exchanger. Steve was stepping me through the process for the first time, cautioning me against the possibility of a poisonous sea snake popping out the strainer, biting me, liquifying my heart, making my blood boil, and writing a swastika on my lifeless forehead. (I may have imagined a few sea snake tendencies.) After I undid the last bolt, Steve slowly removed the lid. “Oh cool!” he exclaimed. “A tiny crab! Look, Barry!” On-cue, out popped a four-inch crab, claws brandished aggressively.

Fear is my lifelong companion. I don’t overcome it as much as I learn to live with it. My earliest memories involve being afraid. Of the dark. Of being different. Of being the same. Afraid of being teased for being afraid. Of the inevitable violence married to racism. Of getting my ass whupped over bad report cards. Afraid of dad beating mom. Of mom nearly killing dad. Of dad leaving and never coming back. Of mom nearly killing me. Of nearly being killed in gang-fight crossfire. Of mom nearly killing my brother. Of possibly being killed during nearly every pointless police shakedown for “fitting the description”. Afraid of failing. Of not trying. Of not being strong enough for Navy boot camp. Of drowning. Afraid of possibly becoming an addict like dad. Of possibly being a schizophrenic like mom. Of failing my wife and kids. Afraid of being exposed as a pointless muthaphucka with nothing substantial in my soul worth sharing.

But none of my fears prepared me for squaring off against a four-inch crab angrily defending his new saltwater strainer home.

“Aw HELLLLLLL naw!!!” I wailed, wheeling around, tearing through the hatch, through the junior-officer jungle, my slipstream waking the ensigns, narrowly avoiding turning my division officer into a speedbump, out the exit hatch, trying to control my rapid breathing, hearing my bemused Div-O ask Steve, “What the fuck was that all about?!?” which, after a beat, was followed by uproarious laughter.

The navy trained me to rely on my training when confronting fear, but my hilarious fight-or-flight antics must’ve hit Steve square in his empathy chip. He never even tried to assign me strainer duty again after that. And hell naw, I sure as shit never brought it up.

And crabs are delicious. Except for when they’re alive. And bite-sized.

the sea gently rocks

I breathe in her promises

centered and focused

** *

Written for dVerse Haibun Monday: The only thing we have to fear… hosted by Toni Spencer (kanzensakura, hayesspencer). Drop by and check out everyone’s contributions to this prompt.


6 thoughts on “Day 17 – Maritime Confrontation

  1. Barry, this made me cry. empathy, brother. I, too have many of the same fears you write about. Surviving the drunken kindness of my father and the sober malice of my mother. She is 97 and still vicious. There are so many things in your piece….too long by far to be a ‘proper’ haibun, but excellent in any case. Provocative, evocative and just purely human. Loved this and if this is the way you consistently write? I will be a follower. Excellent in any case. My son was in the Navy recently for 4 years. Quite a learning experience. Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tucked neatly in the hilarity of your story is the story of a childhood fraught with fear. I was, in turn, filled with sympathy and laughing aloud. Great read. So glad you survived it all with sense of humor intact!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so glad you wrote this and while it is too long to be “proper” haibun, I totally appreciated it. I did not grow up in a life of fear. My fears came later in life with things I cannot control. Now I fear Alheimer’s the ultimate bite sized crab. Excellent writing in this. This was gritty and real. BTW, the Japanese never use swear words in their poetry but…I understand why you did. Like I said, gritty and real. and frightening. thank you for sharing this bit of your life. I hope you can enjoy big steamed crabs with lots of butter to dip the meat in. And thank you for your service to our country and thank you for this astounding haibun.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Funny and at the same time honestly appealing to my range of fears ~ Such a delicious food, but not when its alive and kicking ~ Loving your haiku of gentle sea ~


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