“This is all YOUR stupid fault!”
“Is not,” exclaimed Tom.
“Is too,” said Charlie, wishing he had something to hurl at his partner. But their stranded fishing boat was empty, save for a few stinking mackerel, the shredded remains of a net, a broken outboard motor and - and of course - that troublesome Bible...
Their journey started off well, the two men setting out in the early hours of the morning, the boat’s motor humming contently as they headed for their favourite fishing grounds three miles from shore. Unfortunately the fish were playing hide-and-seek and it was a jaded Tom who decided to explore the fo’c’s’le where a few boxes of junk had been left behind by the boat’s former owner. “Look at this!” he shouted in excitement a short while later: “It’s a Mariner’s Bible.”
Charlie was less than enthusiastic as he picked up the well-worn Bible. It looked as if it had dropped in the sea at some point and half the pages were gummed together.
“Away with your disbelief!” laughed Tom. “It’ll bring us luck.” Then, opening the Bible at random, he read: “they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.”
The sudden thud knocked both men to their feet. Charlie was the first to recover, muttering a selection of salty seaman’s oaths. “It’s the nets, Tom. Something’s happened to the nets!” Something had indeed – as if by magic, both nets were filled to bursting with greenish-blue mackerel!
Neither man spoke further about what had happened although they kept glancing over at the mysterious Bible. Within thirty minutes the fish had been hauled out of the water and the boat pointed for home. It was unfortunate that at this moment the motor gave one small cough and died...
“I can’t find the problem,” said Charlie eventually, throwing aside the dirty rag that he had been using to clean the carburettor. “I told you we needed that radio!”
“I know,” said an embarrassed Tom. “I forgot to leave the battery on charge - it’s my fault. Mind you, I think we might have something else to worry about. Looks like a storm’s brewing.”
Tom was quite correct. Within an hour the fishing boat was caught up in a vicious gale that threatened to send everyone to Davy Jones’ proverbial Locker. The nets disappeared first, followed by a mass exodus of fish back into the depths. Charlie was busy bailing out the boat when he noticed Tom flicking through the pages of the Mariner’s Bible.
“What do you think you are playing at?” he screamed. “Come and help me!”
“Just an idea. I want to read something,” said Tom, shouting over the howl of the wind: “He rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”
The change was instantaneous. The wind disappeared, the surface of the sea shone like polished glass. “Wow!” cried Tom. Charlie just stood there with his mouth open...
The sun was setting as Charlie paced up and down the deck. “Look again!” he snarled. “There must be something useful in there. What about a helicopter?”
“‘Fraid not,” said Tom. “Problem is that half the pages are stuck together. There’s a verse here from first Kings about a fleet being wrecked in a storm...”
“That’s not funny.”
“And of course there’s always Jonah...”
“Don’t even think about it!” snapped Charlie.
“Well we can’t stay out here forever! Our drinking water went overboard in the storm.”
“You don’t say! Isn’t there anything in that book about conjuring up fresh water?”
Tom thought about this for a moment. “There might be if we had a rock to strike.”
“Oh, shut your face! I’m sick of this.”
“Take it easy,” said Tom. “I’m sure we’ll find something.”
“Don’t you lecture me!” shrieked Charlie. Then, wrenching the Bible out of his partner’s grasp, he flung it far off into the waters where it disappeared with a soft splash.
Tom stood to his feet in horror. Stepping calmly on to the gunwale, he called out: “Peter got down out of the boat and walked on the water.” Then he disappeared from sight.
Tom made it home before midnight but he never told a soul about what happened – no one would have believed him anyway! Charlie was never seen again. In one final act of desperation, he tried to call for Jonah’s whale. But Nineveh is a very long way away.
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