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Williwaw: A Novel

Gore Vidal

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
Someone turned on the radio in the wheelhouse. A loud and sentimental song awakened him. He lay there for a moment in his bunk and stared at the square window in the wall opposite him. A sea gull flew lazily by the window. He watched it glide back and forth until it was out of sight. He yawned and became conscious of an ache behind his eyes. There had been a party, he remembered. He felt sick. The radio became louder as the door to his cabin opened. A brown Indian face looked in at him. “Hey, Skipper, chow’s ready below.” The face vanished. Slowly he got out of his bunk and onto the deck. He stood in front of the mirror. Cautiously he pressed his fingers against his eyelids and morbidly enjoyed the pain it gave him. He noticed his eyes were bloodshot and his face was grimy. He scowled at himself in the mirror. From the wheelhouse the sound of Negro music thudded painfully in his ears. “Turn that damn thing off!” he shouted. “O.K., Skipper,” his second mate’s voice answered. The music faded away and he began to dress. The second mate came into the cabin. “Quite a party, wasn’t it, Mr Evans?” Evans grunted. “Some party. What time is it?” The mate looked at his watch. “Six-twenty.” Evans closed his eyes and began to count to himself: one, two—he had had four hours and thirty minutes of sleep. That was too little sleep. The mate was watching him. “You don’t look so good,” he said finally. “I know it.” He picked up his tie. “Anything new? Weather look all right?” The mate sat down on the bunk and ran his hands through his hair. It was an irritating habit. His hair was long and the color of mouldering straw; when he relaxed he fingered it. On board a ship one noticed such things. “Weather looks fine. A little wind from the south but not enough to hurt. We scraped some paint off the bow last night. I guess we were too close to that piling.” He pushed back his hair and left it alone. Evans was glad of that. “We’ll have to paint the whole ship this month anyway.” Evans buttoned the pockets of his olive-drab shirt. High-ranking officers were apt to criticize, even in the Aleutians. He pinned the Warrant Officer insignia on his collar. His hands shook.