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Chapter 40
Richard Parker did not jump into the water after me. Theoar I intended to use as a club floated. I held on to it as Ireached for the lifebuoy, now vacant of its previous occupant. Itwas terrifying to be in the water. It was black and cold and ina rage. I felt as if I were at the bottom of a crumbling well.
Water kept crashing down on me. It stung my eyes. It pulledme down. I could hardly breathe. If there hadn't been thelifebuoy I wouldn't have lasted a minute.
I saw a triangle slicing the water fifteen feet away. It was ashark's fin. An awful tingle, cold and liquid, went up and downmy spine. I swam as fast as I could to one end of the lifeboat,the end still covered by the tarpaulin. I pushed myself up onthe lifebuoy with my arms. I couldn't see Richard Parker. Hewasn't on the tarpaulin or on a bench. He was at the bottomof the lifeboat. I pushed myself up again. All I could see,briefly, at the other end, was the zebra's head thrashing about.
As I fell back into the water another shark's fin glided rightbefore me.
The bright orange tarpaulin was held down by a strongnylon rope that wove its way between metal grommets in thetarpaulin and blunt hooks on the side of the boat. I happenedto be treading water at the bow. The tarpaulin was not assecurely fixed going over the stem – which had a very shortprow, what in a face would be called a snub nose – as it waselsewhere around the b............
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