patienceIt had been nothing but a speck on the sea when he’d first seen it, but the way it bobbed about had made him stop in his tracks and watch its progress towards to shore. His hunch had been proved right after several minutes; it was a bottle. He began to hope there was still brandy in it. How he yearned for something other than coconut milk to drink. Just to be pissed for a few hours a day. Was it too much to ask? The bottle’s final landfall was to be teased by the breakers. The waves allowed it to kiss the sand, only to snatch it back to the foamy brine. Over and over it played this game until the sea overplayed its hand with a mighty crash, which threw the bottle too far away to be caught again. The man grabbed it, and with the easiest of glances, cursed its emptiness. He was about to toss it back out into the sea again when he saw that the cork was still in place, and glancing further into the glass he could see an object. He relaxed his catapult arm and made for the shelter he’d made all those years ago. Flopping down in the shade, he ripped out the cork with his teeth and shook the contents onto the floor of his home. After a struggle, his fingertips caught the corner of what had been inside, and he was, at last, able to pull out an aged piece of paper with writing on it. The message was straight and to the point:

I am shipwrecked one hundred miles south east of Papua, New Guinea. Please send help. July 1843

He began to laugh, a chuckle that cracked open into a raucous, side-splitting guffaw before breaking down into heartrending sobs. It had been eleven years to the month since he’d thrown the very same bottle into the sea. It had been his last brandy bottle, his last hope. But he’d become a different man to the one who’d flung the bottle into the sea back then. He’d learned to be a new man, a patient man, a wise man. The old person he’d once been would have smashed the bottle on a rock in a fit of temper. Instead, he got out his old pen and his home made ink, scratched out the date and replaced it with the year eighteen fifty-four, pushed the cork back into the bottle’s neck, strode out to the shoreline and lobbed it as far out to sea as he could. Then he returned to his familiar life, and waited once again.

Patience a Short Story by Richard Coppin

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