Shanghaied Again

OR "You Can Never Get Enough of What You Don’t Want" 

By Charles E. Smith | Bio


A man is sitting in a bar having a beer,
eating cashews and at peace with the world. A pretty woman sits next to
him. He buys her a drink and after a bit she promises him that he can
have whatever he wants, which is usually what he is not getting at the
moment in relationship or what he is getting that he wishes he didn’t
have. He gets interested and then someone hits him on the back of the
head and he passes out.

He wakes up in the dank hold of a
sailing ship bound for God knows where, maybe China or someplace really
foreign. The woman is on the boat and he is given the job of scraping
paint and cleaning toilets and staying out in the cold and wet for long
periods of time. At first, he puts up with it. Later, he hates it and
it promises to go on forever. Some of the mates seem to have joined up
freely while others were similarly ‘shanghaied’, but he can’t really
tell which is which. Every once in a while, there are feasts and
parties and this is nice. There is lots of rum. Every Saturday, the
woman gives a group lecture on how good all of this is and they all sit
and listen.

Then he wakes up in a bar sipping a beer, eating
cashews and at peace with the world. A woman comes and sits next to
him. He buys her a drink and she promises him he can have whatever he
really wants, which is some version of everything that was not on the
last ship. Then someone knocks him on the head and he wakes up in the
hold of a different ship, which is somewhat better appointed. The new
woman is there and his job is still to scrape paint and do what he did
on the last ship, but this one is crowded and there is food to cook for
others and very long hours. He hates to cook. This goes on for years,
again with more sophisticated lectures on why all of this is a good
idea, or his karma calls for it, or he would be fine if he did not have
the painful childhood recollections he had, or maybe he should see the
ship’s therapist. He feels himself aging even as he chips the paint.   

Then
he wakes up in a bar, eating cashews and at peace with the world. A
soft, sensual woman sits next to him and he buys her a drink. She tells
him that she does understand, has lots of history avoiding boats, and
shares sensitive examples of her experience dealing with people like
him. She rubs his back as if she knew he liked that. This time, she
says, he can have what he wants and for sure it’s for keeps. He floods
with tears and gratitude. Then someone hits him on the head and he is
again on a bigger, better ship with no scheduled port of call.

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