Monthly Archives: April 2015

Storytime – A Journey to Jamaica

Caribbean Island 2

The months have rolled by, day after day, and I am still alone. I have only my treasured memories of what used to be, as I gaze out to sea. I am in the most beautiful of locations, I am sure, but I am a prisoner, with no way of escape. I watch the waves lapping at the sandy shore, and my eyes fill with tears once again.

It all seemed so simple, as it was explained to me. For the sum of £1000, the sugar plantation was mine, and the sea voyage to Jamaica was only a trifling thing, hardly to be considered at all. I signed my name, my belongings were loaded aboard the Queen of the Isles, and I set sail from Plymouth on a bright, sunny day. After I had made my fortune in that faraway land, I would return triumphant, taking the beautiful Julianna as my bride. Two short years, they said, and I’d be back.

The sea crossing was hardly a trifle, as I felt that I had been lashed to a cork inside a bucket, and the water in the bucket was being vigorously sloshed by a mad giant. I spent many days holding onto the railing, expelling the contents of my outraged stomach. The sails were going slack one moment, then as they caught the wind, they sounded like cannon fire, booming all round me. My misery was complete, as we dropped precipitously down the face of one huge wave, then struggled up the face of the next, endlessly.

The captain and first mate were fighting the wind and the waves, hurling commands at the exhausted crew as the storm worsened. Great volumes of water were coming aboard, and the masts were groaning and complaining at the strain. Men who had to go aloft were taunting death, and two of them met that reaper as they fell from the shrouds, falling with the top foresail, crumpling onto the oaken deck. Their screams as they fell are with me still.

There were few passengers on this small ship, and for the most part they stayed below, in the faint hope that they’d be safe there – warm, dry, protected. At one point a woman came running out onto the deck from below, and we could clearly see that she was mad with fear. She was instantly drenched when she came up, her wild hair was streaming in the wind, and her face was a crazed mask, with large, rolling eyes. She looked across at me, where I was feebly holding to the foot of the mast, then she tottered, danced a bit on the wet, sloping deck, then she was over the side, gone as if by magic. I could hardly believe it – was it a dream?

Just then, a man, perhaps her husband, came running up from below, shouting and wailing, but we could not understand him over the shrieking winds. He was clawing at his face, twisting about, fighting the wind and the water, and hardly a moment later he, too, was over the side.  The door to the lower cabins was banging in the wind, back and forth, perhaps calling the people below, beckoning to them, and urging them on deck. Madness, everywhere.

Then, amazingly, the storm began to intensify. The ship rolled frighteningly from side to side, the tips of the masts barely clearing the wave tops, as we held on tightly. The captain himself was manning the wheel, and the first mate was aloft, trying to reef the mainsail, hoping to gain some control. I looked up, trying to gauge his progress, wondering if I could be of aid, but just then the mainmast snapped in two, with no warning at all, and the remaining men fighting the sails were tossed into the sea. The top of the mast was hanging over the side, held by the remaining lines that had not parted, but soon it was swept away, trailing behind us in the raging water. Some few men holding on to it disappeared in the darkness, lost in the maelstrom.

The captain and a couple of other men ran to the side rail, trying to chop loose the remaining wreckage trailing by the rope ends, trying to prevent them from dragging us into the depths. Just as they were starting to make some headway on that problem, the second mast came down, barely missing them, but causing a new tangle of ropes to be chopped away.  They were still hacking with their axes and hatches, some trying to use their knives, but it was a mighty task, and they seemed to be losing. The ship was tilted toward the stern, and was taking on more and more water, getting more and more sluggish among the giant waves. Many of those huge waves were now crashing entirely across the width of the ship, striking the men, taking them one by one over the side to join their lost shipmates. I gazed in horrified fascination.

There was a new sound now, adding to the cacophony, a booming, crashing sound, somewhat reminiscent of the noise of the sails in the wind, but this had a deeper, stronger bass note. It was rhythmic, pulsing, reverberating in my chest with its power. I struggled, trying to get up, desperate to discover the source of this new assault on my senses. I pulled myself upright against the base of the shattered mast, casting my eyes all about, trying to see through the wind-blown rain, fighting to stay on my feet on the slippery, tilted deck.

There was a momentary lull in the wind and rain, and I could now see what was generating the new symphony of horrible sounds. Our ship was being driven onto the rocks of some unknown shore, inexorably pulled, drawn into the maw of death itself. I stood, transfixed, by this time alone on the deck. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think, didn’t know what to do. I looked into the eyes of the Reaper, as he reeled me in. I closed my eyes and sagged to the deck, accepting my fate.

So, I am gazing out to sea again, hoping for I know not what, but still hoping. I have found abundant food here, and I’ll likely last for years, but… do I want to? I have no companionship, no love, no Julianna. Of what shall I dream?

Storytime – Late Night Diner

This is another short story, derived from a writing prompt.  And, here’s the prompt:

Edward_Hopper-Nighthawks-1942

“Nighthawks” – Edward Hopper 1942

Choose one of the four characters shown in the painting. Why is your character there? What is your character thinking? Are they happy, sad, hurting, suspicious? Tell me a story.

——————–

Late Night Diner

So tired. Walking, walking, my feet are sore, my legs ache. The sun set hours ago, and I’m still walking the streets. I got rained on a while ago, and now my suit is chafing me. My hat kept my hair dry, that’s one good thing.

Poor Marie, I know she’s worried, but I just can’t go home yet, not ‘til I figure this out. It’s not her fault, she didn’t do anything wrong, but she’s the one to suffer now. Why did I do that awful thing? I’m not a playboy, and I wasn’t looking for anything, it just happened. ‘Til death do us part, but now this. Margie just stopped by my desk, and we were talking about this and that, and she seemed to soak up every word, and I felt so important, and then we were walking down the street, still talking, and then… I don’t know how we wound up at her place. After it was too late, I jumped up and ran into the street, trying to escape, trying to make it un-happen, but realizing I could do nothing now, not a thing.

The war over there in Europe is all the news, Hitler and his tanks, overrunning everyone, but now even that seems trivial to me. My wife, my home, our future; that’s what’s important. That’s what needs to be safe and protected, but now I’m like a criminal, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve been unconsciously heading toward the old Benjamin Franklin Bridge, thinking maybe that’s my answer. Yes, I could climb up over the walkway, and with one simple jump, my problems would be over. I can see the lights of the bridge now, at the end of the avenue. I’m walking more quickly now, trying not to think about my decision, just wanting some resolution. That’s it, just step out into nothingness, keep my eyes closed, tightly closed, don’t think about it.

I’m at the pedestrian walkway now, and I look out over the river, then up at the heights of the bridge, and I pause. Is there no way to come back from this? No way to talk to Marie about it? As I mull it over, I’m walking further and further out onto the bridge, jaws tight, fists clenched. Further and further, almost to the halfway point now, just about right. Just then I see a beat cop coming toward me, and it’s like he can read my mind or something. I turn around and walk quickly back off the walkway, glancing back, but I see now he’s not really after me, he’s walking the other direction now.

I glance over toward the city and see this diner over there on the corner. It’s all lit up, but not crowded. Maybe a cup of joe would be good right now, to warm me up, make me feel a little better. The little bell tinkles when I open the door, and the guy behind the counter glances over at me, then away. Nothing to see here, just a ‘nobody’, somebody wandering around the city late at night. He holds up a coffee cup to me, questioningly, and I nod. He brings the steaming cup of coffee over and sets it in front of me.

“Apple pie?” he asks. “Sure,” I say, “why not?”

My eyes sweep the small diner, just verifying what I saw earlier. Just one more guy there, just a lonely guy, just like me. He looks sad, and I’m sure I do, too. While I’m waiting on the pie to show up, I make my decision, and I step into the phone booth in the corner and give the operator the number of my place.

Marie answers right away, “Sam, is that you?” I answer her, “Sure, honey, It’s me. Say, can you come down to the diner at the corner of Eighth and Broadway? I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.”

Right away, she’s wondering, and says, “Hey, what’s going on? You been out all night, and now you want to get pal-sy over a cup of coffee? What gives?”

“Marie, honey, just come on over, ok? Maybe we can talk for a bit, ok?”

“Ok, ok, I’m comin’, but this better be good.”

She shows up after a while and comes over to sit by me, kinda crowded up near the coffee urns. Right away she starts with the questions, but I stall her, “Just sit tight, enjoy your coffee. Want some pie?” This puts a bit of a smile on her kisser, and she nods.

The other guy is still there, on his third or fourth cup, just thinkin’. I wonder what kind of problems this guy has. I don’t see a ring on his finger, so maybe there’s no woman in his life, at least not one he’s married to. He never looks up, just drinks his coffee.

I swivel my diner stool around a bit to face Marie, and she does likewise, wonderin’ what’s up. I’m trying to work up a little smile so I can do this, and it’s not easy, but finally I think I have it, so I start talking, “Marie, have I told you lately what a wonderful wife you are? Have I told you how much I love you and need you?” Marie looks a little stunned, but then seems pleased. She reaches out, puts her hand on mine.

“Well, Sam, you ain’t the most romantic of guys, but a woman knows. I know, and I feel the same about you. Is that what we’re talkin’ about in this here diner?”

“Marie, I was borderline tempted tonight, but I fought off the demons, and I think I’m gonna be ok, ya know? I hope you know what I mean.”

Marie smiled at me, then said, “Yeah, I know how it can be, with those crowded offices, and all those secretaries runnin’ around, but I never really worried about my Sam. But, if you had a near miss, maybe it’s time to start readin’ those want ads, whaddya think?”

I smiled back, then leaned over and gave her a big hug. “Marie, you’re the best. Tomorrow, I’m lookin’ at want ads!”