Survival Kit

Donald Shephard

Roger listened without enthusiasm as the perky young man explained the nature of the training game. The future managers must list the top ten items they need to survive on a desert island. Roger attended this seminar to show an interest he did not feel. The real world, where he scraped by, consisted of his loving wife, three teenagers, and more mortgage, credit card debt, and car payments than he cared to admit. He needed no tropical island fantasy but dutifully listed his top ten survival items in true Letterman order.

Ten. Roger decided to bring the Oxford English Dictionary, which contains a smattering of history, geography, mythology, the sciences, and word derivations. He trusted it to interest him for life.

Nine. He had to have a means of writing. Charcoal would take the place of ink. He considered making notes in the margins of the dictionary but opted instead for a ream of paper, which had many alternate uses. Roger imagined launching a paper airplane from atop a palm tree and reminded himself to concentrate.

Eight. A harmonica for music soothes the savage beast. He could take this small instrument to wile away the tedium of waiting.

Seven. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, Roger liked his clothes to be neat and clean. He packed a large sewing needle in his imaginary survival kit. Thread from palm frond fibers should work, he mused.

Six. He planned not to remain a castaway and made a minimal list of tools to escape. Like most aboriginal people who used a bow for a drill, he would make one from wood and twisted fiber. He only required a drill bit to make holes and joinery.

Five. Roger knew he could achieve crude shaping with a chisel using a rock on a stick as a mallet. Between the drill and the chisel he figured he could build a boat.

Four. He put a mirror on his list to signal ships. Not for vanity, he told himself but his conscience said, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”

Three. I am getting down to the nitty-gritty, he thought, how about a pair of binoculars to see those passing ships. They are handy for bird identification and whale watching too.

Two. Roger leaned back in his chair and thrust his hands in his pockets. There he felt his Swiss Army knife which encompassed a blade, a screwdriver and file, a pair of scissors, a toothpick, tweezers and oddly enough, a pen. This seven-items-in-one, appealed to his frugality. What kind of man did not carry a trusty knife with a well-honed blade? Of the items he had selected so far, Roger liked the knife the best. He carried it everywhere except when he stowed it in his luggage to fly.

The last item must complete the list, which contained no mention of his company that financed this training, but commerce had no place on a desert island. Where were his priorities? Any risk he took to survive, and to escape, he would take for his relatives not for the firm. Perhaps he would take a family portrait.

He sat back thinking of his wife and tried to imagine life without her. Chaos reigned in her absence. Their high school friends called them “an item” and he still felt that way. He doubted that this was what the company looked for in their managers. Still the thought of some time with her alone on an island without the kids and absent the mortgage, credit cards and car payments, made him smile.

Using the pen of his Swiss Army knife, the number two item on his list, Roger wrote the first item.

One. My wife.

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