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Fiction by Mildred Pond

The Stowaway - page 28

my dark linen jacket and he slipped it on. Again I grabbed him, wanting to speak, but he yanked himself free, and heaved himself overboard. In three seconds he was in the water. I heard commotion on the deck below, shouts ordering passengers to their cabins, then sharply, very close, several gunshots. Aimed at us from the land? Or from the ship at Schmidt? He thrashed through the water toward the shore, my soaked jacket swishing like ungainly fins. My heart swelled for him. Bravo, Friend. I heard another shot, saw water splash near him just as a sampan carrying Vietnamese fishermen glided between us, then another. When I caught sight of Schmidt again, he still thrashed, barely progressed, his head and right shoulder soaked in blood. Someone clapped my shoulder from behind. “Go below, Barnes. Im-mediately!” Jacques ordered. He held his pistol, and shoved me toward the stairs. “You shot him!” “Go below. There’s a war going on here, are you deaf?” I gave Jacques a violent shove backwards, climbed over the railing and dove overboard. Out of my wits with fear, gulping air and water, I swam straight toward Schmidt, who was by then floundering. I tugged, he let himself be dragged, the two of us gulping the filthy water, and gasping for air. What was I doing? I heard Hilda scoffing, “Still the small boy trying to save the noose from someone else’s neck.” Schmidt seemed barely conscious when we scrambled on our knees onto the shore. The wound in his right shoulder sputtered blood. “Danke, danke,” he muttered. I heaved him further onto the sand. “Don’t danke me!” My hands dripped with blood. I felt suddenly crazed, seeing the two of us, not just trapped, but trapped together. I collapsed onto the sand. “Schmidt, you called me something once – Schlimazel. What does it mean?”