Oliver had a special nickname for his wife. It wasn’t a term of endearment; if anything it was the opposite. Rather, it was a description of what she was; the noise she made when she spoke—an auditory observation.

“Oliver. Where are you—get in here right now. Oliver!”

Shrill. Oliver called her Shrill.

Never to her face of course. He was smart enough to do that much. He had a different nickname he used when he spoke to Shrill.

“Yes, honey?” Oliver said as he got up from the ugly leather chair in his study.

This pusedo-nickname didn’t suit her at all—honey is sweet; Oliver’s wife was not. Perhaps a better nickname would have been “Arsenic” or “Cyanide”, those were the things Oliver would have a craving for whenever he spoke with Shrill.

Oliver entered the living room to see Shrill in her usual stance: arms crossed, eyes narrowed, foot tapping furiously against the hard wood floor.

“I told you, I don’t like coming home to a dirty house. But just look.” She made a sweeping gesture across the entire living room. She was right, it wasn’t neat. The carpet needed to be vacuumed, a thin layer of dust needed to be removed from the T.V stand and bookshelf, and the pile of magazines (that no one ever read) on the coffee table need to be rearranged.

“This is an absolute pigsty! I can’t believe this. I ask you to do one thing while I’m at work and you can’t even do that.”

Oliver took a deep breath, “I’m sorry honey. But you need to understand that I just got back from work too. I’m tired, I was going to—”

Shrill cut Oliver off, she rarely let him finish speaking.

“Oh, you were going to? Yeah well, you’re going to clean this mess up right now.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Shrill uncrossed her arms if only to undo the bun her hair was in.

“After you’re done get started on dinner.”

“But—”

“But what?”

“It’s just that this morning you said you didn’t want me to—never mind.”

Shrill huffed and walked passed Oliver, the room felt significantly warmer when she left.

Oliver picked up the pile of magazines tapped them against the coffee table and set them down again.

“Done.” he said flatly.

Oliver walked to the kitchen and made the only think he knew how to cook to Shrill’s gourmet standards: spaghetti in meat sauce. Once he finished he set three places at the table and went upstairs to call his family to dinner.

He started with his son, Oliver liked to call him Grumpy. It wasn’t a very nice nickname, but Oliver thought it was fair. After all Grumpy called him:

“What do you want, Lazy-ass?” Grumpy said as Oliver opened his door.

“Is that any way to talk to the man who puts food on the table?”

“Mom puts food on the table.”

Sure she does.

Oliver looked at Grumpy. He was wearing his pyjamas.

‘Did—did you go to school today?”

“What do you care, Lazy-ass?”

Guess I don’t. Oliver thought. He sighed. “Dinner’s ready.”

He walked next door to his daughter's room, Sleepy he called her. Sleepy was the nicest person in Oliver’s family, which is no better than being the smartest shmuck. Sleepy’s tongue wasn’t as sharp as Grumpy and Shrill’s, all she did was agree with whatever her mother and brother said about Oliver; even though she knew full well none of it was ever true.

Oliver knocked on Sleepy’s door.

“Dinner’s ready.” He said.

“Coming.” Is what Sleepy would have said, but all that came out of her mouth was a long yawn.

He opened the door a crack. “Call your mother too.”

Oliver went back downstairs and contemplated whether he wanted to eat dinner with his family that night. He took a taste of the spaghetti, it was a bit too soft. Shrill wouldn’t like that. He grabbed a plate from the cabinet.

“I’ll eat in my study.”

Oliver worked one of those generic white collar jobs. The kind that where everybody works at a desk with a computer and nobody's really sure what anybody else is doing. All they know is the work the person next to them was doing—whatever it was—involved sitting at a desk with a computer.

Oliver never liked his job. Not because his chair was uncomfortable, and his computer was slow, or because his taskmaster of boss took sadistic pleasure in working him like a dog. Not even because he seemed to be paid in stress rather than money.

Oliver hated his job because it was inside.

He especially hated how the view from his window allowed him to see a glittering pool of blue in the distance—the ocean. Oliver loved the ocean. There wasn’t a second in his day where he wasn’t imagining he was breathing in moist salty sea air rather than dry, sweaty air in the office, or stale air freshener at home.

He first fell in love with the sea when he was a little boy and his father took him for an afternoon boat ride. The gentle breeze in his hair, the smell of salt water a cool sea spray on his face, to Oliver those were the things that embodied freedom.

“I’d kill for a boat.” Oliver sighed. He let his head rest at an awkward angle; the most comfortable way to sit in his chair.

He sat up.

Maybe I don’t have to. He thought.

Because I think I might already have one.

Oliver lifted the garage door. He’d hadn’t been in the garage since they bought the house fifteen years ago when Grumpy was born. If he remembered correctly there might be something inside the garage collecting dust under a tarp—something that wasn’t a 2005 Chevy Cruise.

Oliver looked inside and saw—a 2005 Chevy Cruise(it was actually very good shape mind you.) and what he was hoping to find: a small sailboat, big enough to comfortably fit one person. It was also in surprisingly good shape—although a fresh coat of paint wouldn’t hurt.

Oliver walked over to the boat and ran his hands along the side of it.

“How could I have forgotten about you?” He asked.

The boat, of course, gave no answer.

The boat was an impulse buy, from an old man by the harbour who’s sole wish was to be rid of it. Oliver had wanted to take it for a sail right away, but at Grumpy and Sleepy were still quite young at that time and Shrill had insisted that if she couldn’t take a break he couldn’t either.

“They’re grown now,” Oliver said wiping the dust off the stern.

“This weekend I’ll. No tomorrow. I’ll take it out tomorrow.”

The sky was the colour of blood the morning Oliver left. He had made sure to leave early in the morning five or five thirty; the time where fishermen get up and his family would still be fast asleep.

Of course, he wasn’t the type of man to leave without saying anything. He left a note. He also left his phone at home so Shrill couldn’t bother him.

A light breeze picked up, filled the boat’s sails with air, and pushed it forward in a neat line, as though someone had drawn its course with a ruler. Oliver adjusted the sails and sat back down in time to watch the sunrise. Oliver was an avid admirer of art, of beauty in general, but the sunrise he saw that day far surpassed the work of any artist past present, and yet to come.

The sky turned from red to orange as a large yellow ball of light rose out from the water. The waves become a display case for thousands of red, orange and yellow diamonds. The breath the sunrise stole from Oliver was recycled into the wind to propel his boat even farther into the horizon.

“This was worth taking a day off work, taking a day off life rather.”

Just then staying up late preparing his boat for sea, waking up at fishermen’s time, and the sound of the waves gently crashing into one another become a melodious lullaby. Eventually, Oliver laid back in his boat and fell asleep.

WOOSH! CRASH! SPLASH!

Oliver awoke to the sound of wind screaming, and waves beating against the hull. He found that most of his face except for his nose and mouth were submerged in water. The boat had sprung a leak. Oliver stood up, only to rip and smack his face on the mast. The fracture he sustained in his tooth wasn’t vain. He found what he was looking for floating around the mast that injured him:

Duct tape.

He located the leak and patched it up as best he could. He reached up to close the sails, but:

RIIIP!

The wind tore the sails open like paper or stretched out silk. All Oliver could think to do then was deal with the water that was already in the boat. He had brought a bucket along for that very reason. Oliver located the bucket floating about the boat and used it to remove the water.

By the time Oliver had finished the waves died down and the wind quieted. He sighed and said back down, his shorts making a soft squishing sound as he did so.

“Survey the damage.” He said.

He looked around.

“Everything is wet.”

Oliver removed his shirt and shorts and hung them on the mast to dry. The sun and wind speed up the process.

Oliver looked around as he redressed: all his saw was water, no land, no boats, no swimmers; just water. His boat no longer moved in a perfectly straight line, instead, it drifted aimlessly across the azure waves.

Oliver laid back down resting his head against the mast. Somehow it was a lot more comfortable than his chair at work. He stared up at the sky and it stared back him with the same listless gaze.

Oliver spoke to a cloud: “Right about now, I’d be at work. Making spreadsheets, crunching numbers. Then I’d go home, enjoy a few moments rest. Before Shrill comes home and screams at me: “Oliver the living room’s a mess!” even though we both know it’s not that bad.

“Then Grumpy would come home. Not from school, from somewhere. I’d ask him how his day was he’d day: “Don’t talk to me Lazy-ass.” Then I’d eat some dinner I don’t like, go to my study contemplate suicide, and then go to bed.”

A warm sea breeze blew by.

“But this. Floating around in the middle of the ocean, with nowhere to go. This is a lot better than any of that.”

Oliver sighed. It wasn’t a sigh of exasperation or exhaustion. Rather, it was a sigh of contentment.

“The only thing that could make this better,” Oliver said.

“Was if I ended up on that island in the painting in my study. I imagine it’s some kind of paradise. I bet there’s a woman on that island. Would she be nice? Of course, she would.”

Oliver turned to his side to take a nap and noticed a small black object. He picked it up. It was a radio. Oliver reached for on switch. He didn’t expect it to work. After all, it was submerged in water for how long?

Oliver turned the radio on and fiddled with the dials. He heard static on some frequencies and broken voices on others.

“It works.”

“I can call for help!”

Oliver hung his head.

“I can call for help.”

He turned over to his back again and spoke with his cloud.

“So I have two options: I can die here. Or I can call for help and go back to my job, Shrill, and Grumpy. What would be the difference exactly? You can’t really call that living. Hating every second of every day from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed at night. If anything it’s worse than dying”

Oliver sat up.

“I hate my life. There’s no sugar coating it. Even so, as long as I live my awful life I’ll get to come back here.”

Oliver looked over at the sun setting on the horizon. He reached for the radio.

“Maybe it’s not so bad if I think about it that way.”

Shrill made Oliver get rid of the sail boat when he got back. It was a shame, it could have been repaired. For weeks Oliver quenched his thirst for the sea by going down to the beach after work. Walking along the shore wasn’t quite the same as drifting across the ocean, but he made due.

While walking barefoot along the shore, Oliver noticed a man carrying a small fishing boat. Oliver asked the man if he was planning on going fishing.

The man shook his head. “This boat’s no good for fishing. I’m getting rid of it.”

“Since you’re going to throw it away, mind if I take it?”

The man placed the boat down.

“Are you sure you want it? The only thing it’s good for is floating around.”

Oliver picked the boat up and smiled.

“That’s exactly what I need it for.” he said.