Johnny, It Was Really Nothing
By Jennifer Lyon
It had been three and a quarter hours since they had made the decision to toss Johnny overboard.
Three men had sat on equal terms within the limits of a small life raft, when accidentally Morris and Ben had met eyes, nodded and pushed. It was a voiceless, gesture-less decision. Johnny had capsized easily. He was in a sleepy-haze and did not realize what had happened until he was fully submerged within the cold Pacific waters.
Johnny had gone without a fuss. He had swore a string of profanities, then cursed God, cursed Jesus, cursed the devil, the ocean, and both Morris and Ben before giving up. He didn't even bother to try and climb back into the raft. Morris and Ben would have pushed him back out and broken his fingers so he could not try again.
At first, Johnny had tried talking with them. Not reasoning… just talking.
“So what do you think of this weather- Quite sunny, huh?”
And was met with strong resistance.
“Don’t make me drown you.”
Johnny tried ruthlessly for either Morris or Ben to acknowledge his existence- and more recognition than threats, or for Johnny to shut his yap.
“I tell you guys, once we’re rescued and I’ve forgiven you for tossing me over, we’re going to laugh real hard about all this.”
But all too soon they began to ignore him, and he was left with their hollow banter.
“Do you hear something?”
“Must be water lapping against the raft, what else could make noise in the middle of nowhere?”
“Sharks don’t make any fucking noise, retard.”
“What about Jaws, asshole?”
So Johnny gave up and let his wrinkled, pre-mortem carcass trail after the tiny yellow boat.
Morris and Ben sat guiltlessly in the dry haven of raft number AA5998-930- christened F.U.C.K This by Ben in tribute to Van Halen. Morris didn’t like Van Halen, but he was much too tired to complain over the contrived name. He sat with crossed legs while Ben was at the opposite end, stretched out and looking surly.
Ben’s mocha eyes squinted against the sun. “Johnny’s still behind us. I can see him… it’s at a bit of a distance though.”
Morris turned around and raised a hand against the sun. “Yeah, I see him too.”
“Hey, Johnny!” Ben hollered suddenly. A moment later, a faint “Yes?” could be heard.
“Are you tired yet?”
Another moment passed, then, “No. It’s rather comfortable to be floating along like this. Sorry.”
“No need to apologize.” Ben responded. Morris turned back around to face Ben, who snarled (in a much lower voice) “That prick is never going to drown.”
“I heard that.”
Ben smirked and began to pick off the dry skin from his feet and eat it.
The three had been aboard a small luxury liner, bound for the sun and sand of Papa New Guiana and her surrounding islands when disaster struck, and the ship was sunk. If other survivors had made it to a raft, the three did not know. The incident had occurred in the wee hours of the morning and had involved a lot of alcohol and some not-so-illegal-anymore fire works. One thing had possibly led to another and the ship was lost. Morris had the vague recollection that he had released all but one raft, thinking in his intoxicated state that it would be easier for everyone to get into them when they had already been set adrift. Of course he didn’t think it appropriate to bring up now since Johnny was floating behind them.
The raft the trio had been condemned was not suitable for more than two people. It could support three- but Ben was rather tall, and Morris had a little extra weight in his gut. Though Johnny was small and skinny he added just enough for the raft to float dangerously low to the water’s surface. At first, they had ignored the obvious risk, but as the burning sun of the southern hemisphere began to toast the skin on their necks and thighs, friendliness gave way to paranoia, which gave way to low-key hostility, and they had sat in silence waiting for the inevitable. At least until Morris and Ben had met eyes.
Taking a cue from Ben, Morris yanked off his sneakers and wiggled his toes in the hot sun.
“Gee, will you look at that. I’m in a fucking ship wreck and there is still sand in my damn shoes.”
He held his shoe high above his head, and let the grains descend gently to the bottom of the raft.
“Now, don’t be messing up my boat.” Ben jested.
“Seriously dude.” Ben said sternly. Morris decided it was best not to empty the other sneaker.
Ben went back to picking at his feet. He rotated between that and rubbing his scalp, or clawing at the numerous blisters that covered his body. Sometimes Ben slept, to which Morris was grateful for. Except he snored, to which Morris was not grateful for. Morris was fairly certain that Johnny did not snore.
“Christ is this sun awful. I can’t believe I wanted to spend my entire vacation time in it.” Ben said reflectively, looking up from his chore.
Morris smiled, “If we ever get out of here, I think I’m going to move somewhere very inland and very overcast.”
“You and me both, pal!” Came the distant voice of Johnny.
“We’re not talking to you, asshole!” Ben hollered.
A lot of Ben’s behavior bothered Morris. His unusual grooming habits were one thing, but his treatment of Johnny was another. While Morris wasn’t about to pull Johnny back into the raft, he at least had the decency to respond to him when directly spoken to. He was a human being after all, and Morris figured spending your last hours alive being harassed and yelled at would be very unpleasant.
Regrettably Morris was not a man consumed with passion, so he went along with Ben's caddish behavior.
The weather, not unlike the ocean, was stagnant and unpleasant. The sky was cloudless, and there was no wind. The sun was a flaming hot ball that seemed frozen at high noon. Only a weak current carried them along a directionless path through the water. At times Morris thought of taking a dip to cool off, but conceded it would only intensify the toasting of his skin. Or perhaps the sun would cook him to a desired shade and Ben would simply eat him in his sleep…
Morris raised his eyebrows with disbelief and disgust as Ben pulled a big toe to his mouth and picked at a large patch of dead skin with his teeth.
“That’s fucking gross.” Morris said, making a face.
“Yeah, well when you get damn hungry you figure out a way to curb it!”
“Just don’t eat me!” Johnny yelled back.
Ben sat upright suddenly, almost flipping the raft. Morris had to adjust his position quickly to balance the vessel.
“Don’t think I haven’t considered it!” He screeched, waving his hands about like a maniac.
If Morris had been facing Johnny’s direction, he would have seen him give Ben the middle finger.
“I don’t know where that kid gets his nerve,” Ben muttered, reseating himself. Morris said nothing, using all his concentration to block the overwhelming heat, and idiocy of his raft mate.
Ben reexamined his feet. He now began to pick out the dead skin and dirt from underneath his nails. Morris had more than watched his fill, when Ben proposed suddenly, “Can I do your feet now?”
“Jesus no!” Morris yelped, recoiling his feet to a very personal space.
“My, my, aren’t we testy?” Ben said snidely.
“Yeah, well that’s fucking gross what you’re doing.”
Ben threw his head back and cackled. The tattered shirt wrapped around his head was almost lost within the murky depths of the ocean. “Harsh words like that make me wonder if you wish I were Johnny instead.”
“Oh, I’m thinking that!” The two matched eyes (and whatever wits they retained) for a moment, before Ben broke the glare and went back to his feet.
But Morris was considering Johnny to have been the better choice. There was no way anyone had more repulsive grooming habits than Ben. But on the other hand, Johnny was the one who always had the bad jokes, always bugging Morris with corny puns. Asking redundant questions; unknowingly declaring idiotic statements. Morris could just picture it now… he and Johnny adrift in their little yellow raft, Ben was long sunk behind them. The two were blessed with silence and possibly a light breeze, when Johnny would pose (in his clever little way) “Say Morris, if you were stranded on a desert island, which three things would you want to have with you?”
It was neither the time nor the place for that question.
There was never a time or place for that brainless question.
“Oh Christ,” Morris said with distaste at the very notion. He turned around in the raft and bellowed to the small, white form floating in the distance.
“Hey Johnny, we’re trading places! NOW!”