“Cargo” by Nathan Leslie

Dear Susan,

I have no idea when I might be able to send another letter to you. The strangest events have unfolded here. Now David, Josh, and I are the only ones left. We spent the last week scuffing out an existence from our p-boat, floating aimlessly in these waters. Luckily, we became adequately effective at catching whatever fish swam in our direction, mostly or spearing them with sharpened laths from our p-boat, or shooting the ones that approached the surface  (though we are loath to use what scarce ammo we have). We are simply lucky—lucky to have made it this far, lucky to have escaped the fate that befell most of the others.

You can probably guess that food wasn’t our greatest problem. It was water. So many of the survivors simply died of thirst, even with our method in place. What did we do? We discovered we could boil the water and catch the steam in the empty barrels of our automatics, if we angled them just so. It was enough to keep us alive. It’s a shame we didn’t discover it before.

I even became used to the taste of raw fish. You wouldn’t believe it if you saw me. I would whack their heads against the side of the p-boat, scrape their scales against the corner of the craft, and dig in. When you’re that hungry eyeballs, scales, gills, guts, none of it bothers you.

Where are we now?  Well, that’s why I’m writing you today. We reached land two days ago.  We are currently on the shore of some small island in this part of the Pacific. We just found a fresh water source and nearly drank ourselves sick, collapsing in laughter and semi-delirium by the boulders of the creek. We feel as if we are the luckiest souls on the planet.  Yesterday we even managed to shoot two birds, which we were able to roast over an open fire. The birds tasted gamy, but they were at least a change from our recent diet.

I miss you and the boys. Please send my love to everyone including that no-good brother of yours.  I wonder how much he’d like to be in my shoes now. I think it’s possible that my thoughts of home have kept me alive. I dream of you and all the times we have shared, and I feel even more fortunate each day I survive. But then I start thinking of the soldiers I saw wither before my eyes. It is something to see a man dry out like a prune. Many times I have closed my eyes and thought of a big Sunday pancake breakfast with you and the boys flanking me. God willing, I will do that again.





Nathan Leslie has published four collections of short fiction include Reverse Negative (Ravenna Press, 2006) and Drivers (Hamilton Stone Editions, 2005).  Leslie’s work has appeared in over 100 magazines including Shenandoah, South Carolina Review, North American Review, and Cimarron Review. He is fiction editor for The Pedestal Magazine. His website is www.nathanleslie.com