Historical setting: A dark age in Gaul
At this waking I’m lying in the soaking hull, but now I can see a pale of light through strips of bandages. That brings a promise of healing and an assurance of again having sight.
“The hull is taking on water faster than men can pump the bilge, so you will have to move to the empty bench astern or you will be the first to drown. I will help you, Man.”
He seems to be talking to me. I’m more surprised than anyone that I can be pulled up to standing and dropped again, seated on a rower’s bench.
“Don’t mind the oar here. We won’t ask you to row today.”
That assurance to me seems to draw a roar of laughter or maybe it’s just taunts from the others. Perhaps, in the eyes of the men at the oars I look so broken it would only be in jest that I could ever be useful to them.
Seated on this bench I find resting my sore head on the ship’s hard rib-bone is nearly debilitating. And the dirge of the coxswain drum and the draw of the oars skews a sour dissidence with the pounding in my head. So I sit here upright and I choose to let the pounding head find the newer, better tempo. Possibly no one will notice if I should try dipping the oar that is here across my knees. Possibly I can help row. But in an instant the rage of river snatches the handle from my grip and it flies past, and snaps through the lock as another man has grabbed it fast and recaptured it, bringing it back in place before it would be torn away and lost in the river. So much for my subtle attempt to help; all I can do now is apologize.
“I’m sorry I tried the oar. I was hoping I could be useful.”
I feel another next to me like a warm lion after a weasel kill shoulder-to-shoulder with me.
“You want to row Lazarus, Man? Put your hands this way on the oar while it is flat inside.” He places my hands as though he were shaping the straw of a lifeless scarecrow in a field to make it appear alive and fool the crows. He seems surprised I actually have a grip on it. “Now, Man, when you are ready we can dip the oar, and immediately the instant it touches the froth, together we will draw it back with our full strength.” His hands are doing the work. My hands are pretending. It is indeed humiliating and…