Five minutes, we say, starting the clock. I grab scissors and oranges, plus my grandmother's crystal candlesticks. He takes his laptop and a Buster Posey bobblehead.
It started on our honeymoon cruise. Proceed to the lifeboats! We didn't know it was a drill. Something is required when the ship is sinking. He took his wallet, a throw pillow, the watch that used to be his father's. I took tampons and the two bottles of water from the minibar. We met our fellow passengers who had assembled casually, laughing, empty-handed, while we stood, red-faced, clutching our treasures.
"A pillow? Really?" I asked on the way back to our cabin.
"I just grabbed it. Maybe I was thinking floatation device," he said. "The water was a really good idea."
"So were the tampons, believe me," I said.
Randomly throughout the trip, one of us would call "Lifeboat drill!" and we'd stumble-rush through the cabin, grabbing the cleverest or silliest things, depending on our moods. A Mazatlán sombrero. Nail clippers. Mini soaps. Sunscreen. Q-tips, sarong, sandals, stuffed fish keychain. Then we'd debate the merits:
"Nail clippers are tools. I might need to cut something."
"The keychain could make a good fishing lure."
"I could eat the soap."
We could always find a situation desperate enough to use anything.
Now, on land, we yell, "Lifeboat drill!" We start the clock. We take the practical, the sentimental. We always choose separately, never coordinate.
Because when the ship is going down, it's every man for himself, competing to take the most meaningful and useful objects for being adrift on the open sea.
writes: "My work has been published in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Bayou, Laurel Review, Sou'wester, Corium
and SmokeLong Quarterly
. It has been selected for the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions, won the grand prize for prose in a Spark contest, and has been presented onstage by Stories On Stage. I am a graduate of the MFA program at Queen's University of Charlotte."