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Chapter 54
It rained all night. I had a horrible, sleepless time of it. Itwas noisy. On the rain catcher the rain made a drummingsound, and around me, coming from the darkness beyond, itmade a hissing sound, as if I were at the centre of a greatnest of angry snakes. Shifts in the wind changed the directionof the rain so that parts of me that were beginning to feelwarm were soaked anew. I shifted the rain catcher, only to beunpleasantly surprised a few minutes later when the windchanged once more. I tried to keep a small part of me dryand warm, around my chest, where I had placed the survivalmanual, but the wetness spread with perverse determination. Ispent the whole night shivering with cold. I worried constantlythat the raft would come apart, that the knots holding me tothe lifeboat would become loose, that a shark would attack.
With my hands I checked the knots and lashings incessantly,trying to read them the way a blind man would read Braille.
The rain grew stronger and the sea rougher as the nightprogressed. The rope to the lifeboat tautened with a jerk ratherthan with a tug, and the rocking of the raft became morepronounced and erratic. It continued to float, rising above everywave, but there was no freeboard and the surf of everybreaking wave rode clear across it, washing around me like ariver washing around a boulder. The sea was warmer than therain, but it meant that not the smallest part of me stayed drythat night.
At least I drank. I wasn't really thirsty, but I forced myselfto drink. The rain catcher looked like an inverted umbrella, anumbrella blown open by the wind. The rain flowed to itscentre, where there was a hole. The hole was connected by arubber tube to a catchment pouch made of thick, transparentplastic. At first the water had a rubbery taste, but quickly therain rinsed the catcher and the water tasted fine.
During those long, cold, dark hours, as the pattering of theinvisible rain got to be deafening, and the sea hissed and coiledand tossed me about, I held on to one thought: RichardParker. I hatched several plans to get rid of him so that thelifeboat might be mine.
Plan Number One: Push Him off the Lifeboat. What goodwould that do? Even if I did manage to shove 450 pounds ofliving, fierce animal off the lifeboat, tigers are accomplishedswimmers. In the Sundarbans they have been known to swimfive miles in open,............
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