THE SHIP'S BOY
Dreamed 12/1/1996 by Chris Wayan
We're on maneuvers, learning how to fight in a limited space. A tricky business for a sailing ship. Today, we're wallowing around a huge square tank or pond. Our ship's boy gets in a rowboat and plays the role of an enemy warship. He does brilliantly--one maneuver new to us all would clearly sink us if he had even a modest bank of cannon. Still young and needs education, but he's already formidable. His forte isn't military strategy so much as propulsion and turning--he grasps the nature of wind and waves.
Even as the captain praises him, the boy's mind has moved on to a new fascination: the peculiar wave patterns in a square pond. They form standing waves like tiles, rectangular, not square, around our boat. Shimmering grids. But is this an artifact of our sailing parallel to the shore? It takes him some begging, but eventually the Captain holds a diagonal course long enough for the wave-pattern to stabilize. V-shaped ridges, very different. Interaction of the wind, sides, and the boat's course.
I said the boy needs education, but clearly he's had an excellent foreign one. Some time back, we picked up the lad--he claimed he was British by birth but raised by foreigners most of his life. He'd jumped ship and wanted to go home to England.
While we practice maneuvers in the pond, a huge vessel sails up and drops anchor. They send a delegation to demand we return the boy! His former shipmates, then.
But they look like demons--horns, pointed ears, scaly skins, fangs!
Our crew's appalled, except the boy, who's used to them, of course. And me. I know them, though--they're not demons. Dinosaur people! No worse than Englishmen.
But the English always did rely on race to predict behavior. I turn to ask the only African or Afro-Brazilian among us if she knows of this saurian tribe too--can't she vouch for them to these suspicious English? I'm astounded to see she's suddenly grown huge, pointed animal ears! I didn't realize how subjective appearances are here. This is a tale from the era of sail, and I see through the eyes of the time. And to these Englishmen in deep shock, this perfectly normal woman suddenly seems an African savage, half-beast!
Expectation and ignorance are formidable wizards! There's no telling what the lizards are really like: I can't trust my own eyes unless I'm alone, away from this English race-haze. And even alone, am I without expectations, truly culture-free? Oh, I try so hard to be! (And oh, I laugh to think of the Russian edition of my book of dreams someday--no doubt titled "Nekulturnirvana") All I can be sure of is that the boy doesn't seem to fear these dino demons at all. I think he was adopted, raised by them. He just wants to explore his human heritage too. Surely he has a right to do that.
Though if this crew is a sample, he may be in for a disappointment. He's gifted and strange, and no doubt half a lizard in his mind; how long before they demonize the lad, too?
People who live in two worlds are bound to have a complicated life.
NOTES NEXT DAY
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