The next morning, I am again on the swim step—peering over the side for sharks. There are seven today. The water at the back of the Alcyone is looking like the carpool express lane for large predators. Their attendance is assured by the chum stream we are pumping out from the stern of the Alcyone.
Abruptly, a silver-gloved hand shoots up out of the water with the index finger pointed skyward—one!
My heart leaps as I look just beyond my flippers. This shark is much shallower. The top of its dorsal fin cuts through the water while another shark disappears under Alcyone.
Two—the hand has already flashed two—and the shark is right beneath me.
Paul, our engineer, peers over the side and says with a shrug, “Is okay, Stephen. She’s only a small one.”
The shark is 15-feet long and weighs at least ten times more than I do. The hand suddenly has three fingers in the air. I take a deep breath and like an idiot leap into the cold water.
With the splash of my entry, I have lost visual on the shark. To say I am scared to death would be a huge understatement. I quickly open the top hatches and vigorously pull myself downward—halfway in my tank valve hits the top edge of the plastic cage and jams. My lower torso and legs are hanging outside the top of the cage. For an instant, I panic and swim harder, but still I go nowhere. I easily imagine my frantically fluttering fins attracting the attention of the great white sharks. I have no choice but to push myself backward, freeing my tank valve and then drop rapidly down into the cage. Glancing about, I am surprised to see there are no sharks in close attendance. Later, Capkin would share that my entry so close to the great white shark sent it racing away in panic.
* * *
At dinner, Michel offers to pour me a glass of wine. “No, Michel,” I say quickly.
“What, you don’t want any wine? But this is French wine.” He is affecting a hurt look—he does it quite well.
“Is that all you’re asking me?” I am not in a trusting mood.
“Why, yes,” Michel pours my glass a little less than half-full.
After dinner, I go to the bow and sit down on the fairing that turns Alcyone’s forward metal sail. I lean my back against the curved sail to watch the sunset fade to twilight and then slowly to full darkness. I am deep in thought. Looking at the glittering light of the vast heavens, I hear the rest of the crew in the dining salon. There is the subtle tinkle of glasses and the sound of muffled laughter. The forward salon windows glow warmly from flickering candle light within, luring me toward the camaraderie below, yet I am not willing to leave the quiet solitude of the Wind Ship’s bow. One day soon, all of this will be but fond and precious memories. I want to capture the wonder of these times so I can treasure them always.
Staring at the twinkling heavens, I think about my promise to Judge Takasugi to help motivate youth towards a better life. I also remember telling Ralph that the LORD was preparing me for an important work. These are commitments, I need to honor, as a promise not kept is a lie fulfilled.
I realize that this is a tough time to be a youth or young adult living in America. Teen and adult suicide grows statistically every year. (Note: suicide is now the #2 killer of children 10 to young adults 25-years old). The prison population in the United States is the largest in the world. The answer to these staggering problems is hope. Without hope, children will fall through the cracks in the American dream. Hope is something I understand. I have seen my wildest hopes fulfilled in prison.
Hope offers a way back from a life-destroying mistake. Hope is the kiln where broken dreams are re-forged. As an ex-inmate, I see the world from a different perspective and with a greater sense of appreciation. Hope a person can believe in is worth sharing. With that thought, my decision is made. It is time for me to serve a greater purpose with my life.
The next morning I stand in my dive gear at the stern of the Wind Ship starring at nimbus clouds from a recent rain. In the near distance, a double rainbow stands out against a blue sky. Stepping to the edge of the deck, I pause to look at a large six-foot-tall mirror leaning against an idle shark cage. We are using the mirror to see how a great white shark will react to its image. I stare at my reflection in the mirror. The shiny metallic silver of the Cousteau wetsuit is dazzling in the morning light. The French tricolor ripples proudly over my shoulder and beyond it are the radiant twin rainbows in the mirror’s upper corner.
I am reminded of the LORD’s promise that when we see a rainbow, we are to remember His covenant with us. Taking a deep breath, I smile and step from the stern of the Wind Ship.
For an instant, my splash disturbs the smooth calm water. Then an iridescent stream of bubbles rises to the surface where they gurgle and burst before they dissipate and are gone.
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