Near the northern tip of Catalina Island we faced a sudden gust of unseasonable wind. It came on heavily for so early in spring, so we tacked within sight of Two Harbors. I scrambled up the shrouds, right over the lubber’s hole, forgetting the harness (it would have taken too long and the ratlines and wood were mostly dry). Owing to lazy hands before me, the baggy wrinkles nearest the topgallant yard were in a state, and somehow the lines to the royals had come loose.
The lines flapping across my ears, high upon the topm’st, I couldn’t hear the frantic shriek of Bethany, our ship’s cook, when a monstrous heron dropped a fat garibaldi on my face. The eviscerated fish flopped wetly against my cheek, its insides slithering down my neck, into my blouse. Instinctively, I reached up, just as we swung aboutship.
The fish and I were suddenly off the mast, in open air high above the decks, nigh on ninety feet. I didn’t hear Bethany’s next cry either, nor the mate’s. I did hear the ragged wind flood the curled holes in my ears, dropping thick thunders upon my eardrums, spilling upward through my hair.
Flailing through the air, the world growing bigger and bigger, the mostly intact fish unfurling with the mast, I thought, that heron must have had a big breakfast this morning to have given up the rest of his meal. It’s funny, in situations like that, what hits you first.