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September 10, 2010

The Ship, Part 1

I realize I have yet to complete my essay, but this fiction popped into my head, so that’s what’s happening now. Enjoy.

Illustration by Tim Durning

Ribbons of August noon stripe Harold’s arms. They pull, heavy with their tool, and pause a moment between those light columns. Then in a blur, they arc the axe toward the trunk of an ancient pine tree. The wedged gash becomes a little deeper. Harold pants, readjusts his stance, and pulls back again.

“It’s still summer. We don’t need firewood.” His wife Cynthia has come quietly on the path from their cabin. Half of her glows in the full brunt of a sunbeam; the other half fades into penumbra.

Harold lands another blow, leaving the axe in the cut to wipe his brow. His frame is lean from a life lived by his hands. Cynthia, too—the both of them, pointedly separate from the comfortable world.

“This isn’t for firewood,” he says.

Cynthia simply waits.

“I’m starting a new project.”

Still she remains silent.

“I thought…I thought I’d build the boat.”

“The boat.”

He has talked of the boat before. She has little doubt his hands could craft it. And she has heard in detailed mattress fancies the vessel’s design. A catamaran—stable in shallow waters and in deep. She would be large enough for the open ocean, but not so great as to need more than two to sail.

They would close the cabin and launch from the stone jetty only yards from their door. Harold has a sextant he has labored long to understand, and an astrolabe that yet eludes him. By stars and compass alone, they would travel the oceans and find some other place untouched by comfortable things.

Oh, he has recited this endless times before drifting to sleep on her shoulder. Never before has he taken an axe to pine with intent to fashion a keel.

Cynthia crosses her arms. “Is this really what you want?”

Harold again takes up the axe. “It is.”

She walks up behind him. He pauses in his swings. In his ear, she whispers, “I love you, so we will do this. But I prefer the forest.”

He turns to her. “But I love you, and could not sail alone.”

“I know,” she says, taking hold of his arm. “But where we go is up to me.”

March 9, 2009


We wake, both of us humming the same song. The same song from lifetimes otherwise forgotten—another age, maybe another world. You gasp first, but the breath lengthens into a deep draw, settling out a sigh.

I ask you the song’s name.

Who cares? you say. We can name it as we like today.

I nod. That’s the beauty of forgetting, I suppose.

A smile warms. Spring dawnlight haloes you, reaching in from the window behind your head.

We’ve just been born.

Touching your face, I ask you what my face looks like.

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