The Greater Good

Entry by: Olivia

26th June 2015
The Greater Good
The drinks flowed as usual, perhaps a little too flowing today. She noticed once or twice the usually excellent crew were mopping up spills a little more frequently.
She got up from the table, leaving Tom with her Dad. She felt a little shaky but put that down to the wine. She looked back at her table and smiled; Tom loved spending time with his Grandad, they were chatty now, her Dad a bit deaf and Tom blissfully unaware that he was really only getting every third word. She reran the ‘little talk’ she had had with her Dad earlier. She now saw he was getting frailer and had worried about his cough for a while, but lung cancer, somehow she thought he’d go on for ages, but it really didn’t look that way now. She was trying so hard to do as he had asked, and just get on with it, but it wasn’t easy.
The crew seemed to be fretting over something and closing the loo door she glanced over at her table. Sad as always, that John wasn’t there, but Tom seemed happy. She saw, too, one of the senior crew members giving three of the waiters some instructions. He looked serious and the waiters, quite frankly, looked petrified. She hurried back to her two men, as she always thought of them and was wondering what to do next when a waiter came over and told them, firmly and clearly just as he had been taught to do, to go at once to the muster points. Jane could no longer ignore the rolling of the boat and wished she had worn more sensible shoes. She’d dressed carefully this evening, wearing one of her new dresses, bought specially for the cruise and had thought she looked ‘not too shabby’ as John would have said.
She picked up her bag, knowing that strictly speaking she shouldn’t, and told her Dad to follow her and Tom. She had to tell her Dad twice and the second time she raised her voice just a bit too much, a shaft of fear shaking her up. Tom snuggled in and luckily wasn’t really bothered about what was happening.
At first it was quite a calm and well-mannered process. But the boat lurched and a few muffled screams were audible.
The loud speaker, previously only gently streaming some ‘light musak’ as John would have called it, started to issue orders. Why couldn’t he be here, so cruel to have gone just when Tom really needed him. ‘Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking’. Jane wanted to laugh – it was just like some B-grade movie with a set script. But somehow it really wasn’t funny right now.
‘Please don’t be alarmed, we are just taking some precautions. Please just make your way to the muster points and put on your life jackets. Thank you all’.
The noise after the announcement was alarming in itself. Requests to ‘tell us more’ fell on apparently deaf ears. The fear was rising despite the sterling attempts of the crew to keep them calm and repeatedly tell them there was nothing to worry about, ‘just a precaution’.
They were pushed as they made their way to the gathering place and they stood, crowded, with fellow passengers. The evening was growing chilly and Jane wished she had her cardigan with her. One of the crew was trying so hard to get them to put on life jackets, there were rows of them, and a few took them and cheerfully donned them. Some complained that the jackets were smelly and uncomfortable and there was no way they were putting them on.
The mood was still upbeat, but the anxiety was tangible and there were a few white faces around. Gradually the life jackets were distributed, it quickly became clear that there weren’t enough to go round and Jane just hoped that too many were mustered in one place and there would be spares at other stations. There was a small one for Tom and she slipped his on and donned one herself. She looked round to help her Dad and felt sick when she realised he wasn’t with her and Tom anymore. There were more announcements but she didn’t hear them as she scrabbled between the feet of other passengers. Pulling Tom, she called his name and tried to search. It was so hard, with so many people squashed into a small space.
The ship lurched over and the table she was resting against just shifted over towards her.
‘Dad’ she shouted, ‘Dad, where are you?’ She clung onto Tom and with increasing panic moved as quickly as she could, running through people, belongings and general chaotic mess. Suddenly, she knew where he would be, back in their cabin. Picking up Tom, she ran back, a steward blocked her way, but she insisted and simply barged past him.
Out of breath she opened their door, he was lying on his bed, reading his newspaper. ‘Hello darling, how good to see you. Been running?’
‘Dad’ she shouted, ‘Dad, what are you doing here? The boat is sinking, we’re getting ready to get off, and you should be there with us. I really can’t do this on my own’. ‘My dear girl’, he said, ‘this is my getting ready. I’m getting ready to find your mother, I’ve had my time on earth. There’s clearly not enough life jackets to go round, I don’t need one, I’ve had enough of struggling on without her, the jackets should go to the ones who can make the most of their lives.
Mine’s been good, and I love you all, but I miss your mum more, so for the greater good of all of you who can get off, I’m taking myself out of it. This is my chance to get some rest at last.’
Jane kissed him, hugged him and took her young son to safety. Desperately sad, but knowing that the pattern of life sometimes has jagged edges.