A Blip on the Radar (40) “The Duel “
Posted on July 5, 2014
A Blip on the Radar
Part 40: The Duel
Of all the duels I have fought, including a strange, oddball jousting session with another helicopter, and sundry other Testosterone indulgence events, the one that comes to mind tonight is one I lost. My opponent, more resourceful than I, although knocked backed against the ropes, recovered quite artistically. And made a monkey out of me. He won. He survived. I, forced to admit defeat, to this day remain awed by an intelligence that I had not expected.
It all started on a Taiwanese tuna boat, somewhere, lost in the middle of that great puddle they call the Pacific. After a feverish day’s fishing and flying, the crew would be in their cabins, sleeping or watching dubious or sadistic videos. Violence and brutality somehow elevated to popular entertainment. I struggle with that concept.
Only one man, unable to sleep, would pace the decks, and ponder.
I walked, restlessly, for hundreds of miles. It was my exercise, as well as a soliloquy within my thoughts, and a nightly pilgrimage, rambunctious, but feeling, through the Universe. I would walk the entire length of the ship. And the entire length of the Milky Way galaxy. Climb up to the helideck. Back down again. Or pace the lower working deck. For miles and miles. The stars would come out, the odd satellite would whizz across, and my tiny thoughts would ricochet off the cliffs of the Great Mysteries. Tiny thoughts. Puny. But, in their own way, indefatigable. I was always at it. Asking questions. Reading. Scribbling. Probing. Pushing the limits of my awareness. Passing dust clouds and quasars, nebulae and dwarf suns. Asking questions, ceaselessly. Like:
Hello up there… Yoo-hoo!…. hey! what the blazes… is going on out there? Anybody home?
Occasionally, I would practice my football skills. It was good exercise. Improved my foot to eye coordination. Lacking a football, and a suitable enclosure, I turned the game on its head. I just watched for a suitable monster cockroach, slithering out after dark. A deft little dribble, careful aim, and a graceful kick was usually all it took. And one Jumbo cockroach would be totally surprised, and sail gracefully through the air. Over the side, out across the waiting waves.
And I would continue my soiree. The eternal perambulation. The never ending soul searching.
Mostly, the cockroaches sank. I noticed that occasionally they tried manfully to swim. But usually they just went around in feeble, diminishing circles. Sometimes too, the tiny splash attracted the attention of a predator. And a dark shadow would flit across to investigate…
The cockroaches were relentless in their procreation. Randy little buggers. I would kick hundreds off the deck every week, and I became very proficient at the stealth approach. My opponents were wary, and if they saw you coming, they would move off to hide at Chinese warp speed. But despite my efforts, the overall population seemed quite unaffected. Thousands of them would foolishly make their home in the huge purse seiner nets, stowed on the stern. You could hear a cacophony of strange clicking noises if you walked past. I guess they were dining luxuriously on fish scraps. And procreating merrily, oblivious of their imminent watery fate when next the Fishing Master screamed “Let Go!” It was then that the hydraulics would release the net boat, which would slide down the ramp into the water. The nets would play out furiously, unwinding and unfolding in a rapid blur. Cockroach Armageddon…
But even the net denizens’ sudden and spectacular parting made no difference. The cockroaches were always there, at night, accustomed to having the decks to themselves. Only I disturbed their routine, preying incessantly on the unwary roach. Usually, I won the game. Occasionally, I wasn’t quick enough, or I simply missed. Then the roach got the last laugh. But, mostly, I controlled the playing field. Proudly, as an emperor, I surveyed my lands, and kicked any rebellion overboard. Homage to the Great One!
Until that night…
That was the night I became aware of another Intelligence. A degree of knowing, and cunning adaptation, that I had totally underestimated.
It started out as routine. A nocturnal rambling, and a sudden sight of a large roach in my path. I dribbled up, he twisted, I feinted, he dashed, I cut him off… a swift kick… and there he went, in a smooth, sailing arc, off the side, plummeting towards the waters below.
I paused at the rail, and watched my victim struggle to the surface. I confess I felt no compassion. That was another living creature, doubtless alarmed and considerably upset at the unexpected turn of events, but I cared not.
Drown, you little bugger. Croak. Hell if I care…
He struggled to swim. The ship was not moving. We were drifting, with small waves lapping against the hull. He started out swimming in a circle. But then, it was as if he figured something out. The ship… lay that-a-way. He struck out, purposefully. But it was a long swim. I watched, coldly. It seemed impossible he should make it. I settled down and watched. After ten minutes, he was half way. Pretty impressive. At one stage, a dark shadow, swift and deadly, fleeted right up to him. Observed. And decided against. Roachie-baby was lucky. The shadow of Death passed on.
After fifteen minutes, he had reached within touching distance of the ship’s hull. But now the gentle swaying of the ship worked against him. Every time he tried to get a pincer hold on the cold, uncaring steel, the motion of the ship, coupled to the splash of wavelets, conspired to defeat him. He would be knocked off and away again, struggling roachfully to overcome each setback. If I was a betting man, I would have bet against him. But he overcame. Remarkable. After what seemed an eternity, he had a firm leg hold on the side of the ship, just above the splashing water line. He had made it. Awesome.
Now came the long climb up the side. He had to be tired, after his epic swim. He rested frequently. But up he came. Watched only by his callous tormentor, in the shadows. Tough little roach. Onwards he came. It seemed another eternity, before he swung his tired team of legs over the edge of the deck. There he paused, and you could sense his intense relief. Subliminally, spiritually, through some Universal language we speak but do not know, I sensed his exhaustion. It had been a bad day. But it was getting better. Here, he could relax for a second. Get his breath back…
I had debated mercy. In recognition of his raw guts. His bravery. That was a plucky roach, if ever I had kicked one overboard. But, mercy… had lost the debate. Fukkit, he was just a roach, and he didn’t matter.
Erupting out of my hiding place amongst the dark shadows, I pounced, he twisted, I feinted, he dashed, I cut him off… a swift kick… and there he went, in a smooth, sailing arc, off the side, plummeting towards the waters below.
I paused at the rail, and watched my victim struggle to the surface a second time. I confess I felt no compassion. That was another living creature, doubtless alarmed and considerably upset, (and now really pissed off) at the unexpected turn of events, but I cared not.
Drown, you little bugger. Croak. Hell if I care…
But I watched. Same-same. Repeat performance. A truly epic struggle against overwhelming odds. And can you believe this: the little bugger made it all the way back to the ship again. Again. Despite the waves that threw him back, that thwarted him, that toyed with him. Despite the fleeting shadows, that encircled him several times, observed, decided against, and swam on. Despite every obstacle and danger, our plucky little roach swam on. And made it.
And there he paused. Eight feet or so above the waterline. Looking up. Measuring the long climb up the side. Observing me, keenly. I could see his twin antennas moving intently. I could sense the beady fixation of his gaze. Minutes went by. He had climbed no more than eight or ten of the twenty five feet. But he was paused. Unnaturally. Observing. Twin antennas going. Brain working. Mind calculating. Keenly aware…of me.
By now I had invested at least thirty minutes of my Life in tormenting this cockroach. I was unable to tear myself away. It was personal now. This was a duel to the finish.
I, the tormentor, the cruel Emperor, I waited. He, the lowly one, watched me.
It was as if I could sense the intensity of his stare. That he wasn’t pleased with me, surprised me not. That he hated me, with a furious intensity, I found unlikely. A roach making it personal? They aren’t smart enough for that, are they? Dirty, low cast creatures. Vermin. Useless.
Then he did something that amazed me. He turned around. A one-eighty. And headed purposefully back down. Towards the waves.
I wondered what he was up to. Suicide? Or had he fallen into madness?
Nope. There was a porthole down there. A window, onto one of the lower cabins. The crew had bunks down there. Carefully, my cockroach adversary circumnavigated the entire port hole. Looking for a way into the cabin, apparently. Defeated in this attempt, he then proceeded ten feet horizontally along the swaying hull, rocking back and forwards, and inspected a second port hole. Repeating the entire performance, unable to find an access, I could sense him reluctantly tearing himself away. And proceeding, unbelievably, another ten feet horizontally along the hull, to a third porthole. Here, his labors were rewarded. And he found his opening. His escape. From his cruel tormentor, lying in wait above him. He passed inside, but not before he paused, and gave me a long, searching look. Again, I could see his twin antennas moving thoughtfully, and I could sense the intensity of his beady eyes transfixed on the hated silhouette above him.
Long seconds passed, and I knew he was thinking. I sensed the intensity of his feelings. If he had enjoyed the luxury of fingers, I’m sure he would have solemnly flipped me the bird.
And then he was gone. Inside. The victor of a drawn out duel.
* * * * * *
They say… that the next World War will cause World War Four to be fought with sticks and stones. That the risks of wholesale human extinction by nuclear brinkmanship, possibly allied with religious extremism, is higher now than ever before. They say that only the (useless?) cockroaches may survive. Somehow, I can believe it.
They say… that all Life is part of a Great Universal Life Force. That there are no two things in this Universe. I wonder if that is true, as well.
They say… there are beings so much more enlightened than we are, so much more compassionate and pure, so much more advanced and harmonious, so much more peace loving and in tune with the Life Forces of the Universe, that, to them, we humans are mere (useless?) cockroaches. To be shunned, and avoided, and given a wide berth.
* * * * * *
I walked, restlessly, for hundreds of miles. It was my exercise, as well as a soliloquy within my thoughts, and a nightly pilgrimage, rambunctious, but feeling, through the Universe. I would walk the entire length of the ship. And the entire length of the Milky Way galaxy. Climb up to the helideck. Back down again. Or pace the lower working deck. For miles and miles. The stars would come out, the odd satellite would whizz across, and my tiny thoughts would ricochet off the tall cliffs of the Great Mysteries. Tiny thoughts. Puny. But, in their own way, indefatigable. I was always at it. Asking questions. Probing. Pushing the limits of my fragile awareness. Passing dust clouds and quasars, nebulae and dwarf suns. Asking questions, ceaselessly. Like:
Hello up there…. Yoo-hoo!…. hey! what the blazes… Is going on out there? Anybody home?
I shake my head. I know nothing.
But give me some credit, please, you Great Beings Above.
For I am the cockroach who just would not quit…
Last edited by Francis Meyrick on May 19, 2016, 6:03 am