Sample N24 from T. K. Brown III, "The Fifteenth Station," Playboy, 8: 7 (July, 1961), 36-38. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,005 words 963 (48.0%) quotes 3 symbolsN24

Copyright1961 by HMH Publishing Co., Inc. Used by permission. 0010-1750

T. K. Brown III, "The Fifteenth Station," Playboy, 8: 7 (July, 1961), 36-38.

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Now , the next morning , they were anchored at The Elbow and the boat was riding directly over the underwater ledge where the green water turned to deepest blue and the cliff dropped straight down 600 fathoms , with the weighted line beside it ; ; and Robinson Roy , who had gone down this line ten minutes before to set a new depth record for the free dive , was already back on the surface .

He and his safety man , Herr Schaffner , swam up to the boarding ladder together . The German courteously indicated that Robinson should mount first . Robinson clambered heavily into the boat , sat down , and stripped off his triple-tank assembly . He was frowning . He took his mask from his forehead and threw it , unexpectedly , across the deck .

`` Temper , temper '' , Mrs. Forsythe said , laughing uneasily . A phony blonde hanging onto a bygone youth and beauty , but irreparably stringy in the neck , she was already working on her second gin and tonic , though it was not yet ten A.M.

`` I loused it '' , Rob said , with a savage note in his voice . `` All I have to do to set the record is to go on down . So instead I come up '' .

`` Was it my equipment '' ? ? The German asked . `` Was it something went bad with the breathing '' ? ?

`` The equipment was fine '' , Rob stated , standing up . He was a huge young man of twenty-four , clothed in muscle , immensely strong , with a habitual gentleness and diffidence of manner that was submerged under his present agitation . He stared stonily at the floor . `` I was down to 275 . I've been that far half a dozen times . I don't get it why this time I should pull such a stupid trick '' .

`` Well , I get it '' , Artie said , still on the ladder . `` You are a big muscle-bound ape and you got this idea about setting a record . And you also got this little spark in your bird-brain that tells you to turn around before you drown yourself . So you turn around '' .

`` No , it wasn't that '' , Rob said . A note of awe came into his voice . `` When I came up , damnit , I thought I was going down . I came up maybe fifty feet before I knew what was happening '' .

`` Pressure-happy '' , Artie said , and climbed in .

`` That's right '' , Robinson said . `` I was expecting it , sure . But when it happens to you like that , I tell you , and you're a hundred feet from where you thought you were -- well , it makes you think . You don't head back down again . Not me , anyway . Not right away '' . He had his voice under control again : no one became aware that he was terrified by what had just happened to him .

Waddell , the newspaperman , was a fellow in his middle forties , with a graying crewcut , heavy-framed glasses , and a large jaw padded with fat . Now he was going to show how much he knew . `` Our boy didn't chicken out , no sir . He ran into the rapture of the depths . Nitrogen narcosis . It makes the diver feel drunk '' .

`` Well , that's the only way to be '' , Mrs. Forsythe said , and gave her brassy laugh .

`` Maybe not , if you're 200 feet under water '' , Artie said .

`` Anyway '' , Waddell went on . `` It's nothing to fool with . It can kill you . Personally , I don't blame him for giving up the dive , much as I regret losing the story '' .

`` Nobody's giving anything up '' , Robinson said . He stood there , towering over them all : gentle , mighty , determined , the moving force in the group ; ; and yet like a child among adults . `` You think I got you and Artie and Herr Schaffner all the way out here just for the boat ride ? ? I'm going down again '' .

`` That's my boy '' ! ! Mr. Forsythe exclaimed . `` Rob's not going to give up as easy as all that '' . He was a florid , puffy man in his early sixties , very natty in his yachting cap , striped jacket and white flannels . He went to Key West every fall and winter and was the only man in town who did not know that his title of `` Commodore '' was never used without irony . Old Commodore Forsythe , who had once lost a fifty-dollar bet on whether he could get both motors started and turn on the running lights without accidentally turning on something else first . Now it did not occur to him even to wonder whether it was wise for Robinson to dive again : Rob was his boy , the kid he had rescued from the streets , the object of his pride .

`` Why '' , he went on , `` when Rob asked me if he could make his dive on this trip , I didn't think twice about it . I've helped him along ever since he was a youngster hanging around his brother's tackle shop . Hell , I gave him the first decent job he ever had , six , seven -- how many years ago was it , Rob '' ? ?

`` Seven years ago , Commodore '' , Rob said impassively . He was thinking , big deal : skipper on his drunken fishing parties for seven years and no better off than when I started . `` Excuse me '' , he said abruptly . He went down the steps to the galley and sleeping quarters ; ; went into the forward stateroom and locked the door behind him .

`` When you gotta go , you gotta go '' , Mrs. Forsythe said .

Waddell muttered something about taking a look around and climbed up to the flying bridge . He was disturbed by what had happened on the dive and by what he remembered of a conversation he had had the night before with the German , who had come out of the head while he was fixing himself a drink in the galley .

`` Hi there , Schaffner '' , he had said . `` Can I make you one '' ? ?

`` No thank you very much '' , Schaffner had answered in his accented English . `` I do not drink so much , thank you '' .

Waddell had looked the man over , trying to size him up . He was in his early forties , rather short and very compactly built , and with a manner that was reserved and stiff despite his efforts to adapt himself to American ways . His open face seemed to promise a sort of innocence , until one looked into his eyes , which had no warmth in them but only alert intelligence . Waddell had heard that he had been a commando in Rommel's Afrika Corps , and he said to himself : I'd hate to run into him in the desert on a dark night . Aloud he had said , making conversation :

`` Rob tells me he's using your Atlantis equipment on the dive '' .

`` Yes '' , Herr Schaffner had said .

`` He's one hell of a decent boy . I like that kid '' .

`` I agree , yes '' .

`` And if the dive goes OK he has the exclusive import rights to your line for this country , is that right '' ? ?

`` Well , no '' , Herr Schaffner said .

Waddell turned to face him . `` No '' ? ? He asked . `` But that's what he told me . Why , that's his main reason for making the dive '' .

Shaffner looked at him , altogether without guile , and shrugged his shoulders , making a little spreading gesture with his two hands .

`` What do you mean '' ? ? Waddell asked , frowning .

`` Please let me explain '' , the German said earnestly , his face still devoid of deceit . `` I have in Europe a gross business of seven million dollars the year . Now I wish to enter the American market , where the competition is very strong . I must have a powerful representative here , a firm with a national distribution and ten , twenty thousand dollars to advertise my products . With all respect to a fine young man , Mr. Roy is not able to provide these necessaries '' .

Waddell was not an eminently moral person , but he did not like what he had just heard . `` Did you tell him all this '' ? ? He asked .

`` Perhaps not in so many words '' , the German said . `` But surely you have misunderstood Mr. Roy . Never , never did I offer him the exclusive rights . We spoke of the need for advertising , and I agreed that the deep dive would be most useful for publicity . He was most eager to make the dive ; ; of course , I was willing . But there was no definite agreement about business arrangements '' .

`` Well , damn '' , Waddell said . There was the end of his front-page feature story , with byline . He started out the door .

`` One moment '' ! ! Herr Schaffner said . `` You intend to speak with Mr. Roy '' ? ?

`` What else '' ? ? Waddell asked .

`` If you will pardon , I think it would be better if not . Mr. Roy is determined to make this dive . Whatever you tell him he will dive . I know this from my talks with him '' .

`` Well , let's let him make up his own mind , OK '' ? ? Waddell said . `` On the basis of the facts '' .

`` You will make him unhappy and anxious '' , the German said . `` At 200 , 300 , 400 feet under the water , when he must be paying very much attention , he will be thinking about what you are telling him . It is not good , Mr. Waddell : you will do him great harm '' .

There was no doubt that Herr Schaffner meant every word of what he said . Waddell came back from the door and sat on a bunk .

`` I am an honest man '' , the German said with fervor . `` I will give Mr. Roy his due for this dive . I will make him distributor for all of Florida -- a big market . All tourists come to Florida . This will help him to get out of his little tackle shop . Yes ! ! But there is no use causing him to worry at this time '' .

The German's words worked on the newspaperman like a reprieve from an odious duty . He took a big swig of his drink . It would be a colossal shame to throw away a story like this . `` I think maybe you're right , Schaffner '' , he said . `` He has the distributorship for Florida , you say '' ? ?

`` Yes '' , the German said . `` At least for South Florida '' .

`` By God '' , Waddell said , `` we don't want to upset the boy at this time of all times . I guess you're right '' . He sloshed his drink around and drained it in a few large gulps . The story was shaping up nicely in his mind : the young pioneer , as of old , altruistically braving the unknown ; ; the rewards prompt and juicy in modern big-business America . `` Join me in another '' ? ? He had asked .

`` Thank you '' , the German had said courteously . `` I do not drink so much '' .

Now , in that same cabin , Robinson fell to his knees beside a bunk . Fear and relief mingled in his churning emotions . He pressed his palms together and addressed himself to the patron saint of divers in a hurried and anxious whisper .

`` Blessed Saint Nicholas , I thank thee for getting me out of that mess and sending me up instead of down when I was bewildered . And when I make the dive again '' -- He paused ; ; crossed himself ; ; said a Hail Mary , slowly and with understanding . Folding between his hands the cross that hung from his neck , he took his appeal direct to Headquarters . `` Holy Mary , Mother of God , Star of the Sea , stay Thou with me on this next dive . Make it come off all right . Let me set the record this time , and let me get back OK , so the German will give me the exclusive . And make my life different and better from this time on . Amen '' .

He crossed himself again and rose . He felt a good deal less shaky . As he reached for the door there was a knock on it and when he opened he found Artie , who came in and sat down on a bunk . Artie had picked up a snorkle and was twirling it on his forefinger . He waited awhile before he said , `` Roy , you know your decompression table , don't you '' ? ?

`` You know I know it '' , Robinson answered warily .

`` You came straight up from 275 without a stop '' , Artie said .

`` Well , I was a little bit confused . Anyway , I wasn't down long enough to matter . You don't see me stretched out on the deck , do you '' ? ?

`` You know what they say about two deep dives in one day '' , Artie went on , still twirling the snorkle and studying it intently . `` I don't think you should go down again '' .