Posts tagged ‘ship’

October 4, 2010

The Ship, Part 2

Illustration by Tim Durning

Cynthia never wears shoes before the first frost.  On the walk from the cabin to the shore—surely one of the last barefoot this season—the dewed stones outside the door chill her awake. She gasps sharp air. Thick grass slides between her toes; the soil keeps its warmth better than the stones. She passes the first trees covering the cliff leading to the water, making sure to touch their trunks. The bark is smoother where her hands have often passed over it.

Moss lines the steep descent, coating Cynthia’s feet in slime. She holds on to chest-height limbs to keep her balance until the cliff eases to a gentle grade by the water. After she emerges from the trees, there is sand, stone, and sea—all gray beneath low morning clouds.

Stone to stone, Cynthia hops across the beach—no footprints—to the water, where the waves rush over her ankles. Her skirt clings to her shins. She focuses on the firmness pressing into her arches.

Where they go must have stone and trees, both old enough to be smooth.

With all the lumber he has accrued, and all the time he spends there, Harold has built a small shack by the jetty. November wind can be cruel, especially on the water. In the shed he keeps his tools, a small generator, a space heater, a chair, a blanket, and a map of the planet. The map is covered with pencil lines marking wishful destinations; the most exciting of them are circled again and again.

Harold’s hammer is nearly silent beside the din of crashing waves. The craft is nearly complete, but Cynthia has not seen it. Down the beach, when she wades into the water, she always looks away from the jetty. At first, Harold invited her every day, hoping she would join him at the gangplank. They could sit together in the shack and admire their vessel as it took shape.

I will see it when we sail, she said. Now he simply wakes before dawn and begins working; the sooner he finishes, the better—and winter’s on its way.

Only the final touches remain. He places another nail in the molding above the helm compass. A clip will go above the flat surface by the wheel to hold maps. Screws…he needs screws for the map clip. And the cleats for the lines. Wax—he needs wax for the lines.

Ten thousand little things, but still in all… He looks out over the twin hulls he has made by his hands alone. As the ship bobs up and down in the shallow sea, he feels trust in the deck. This can work; we can travel someplace fresh. Someplace brighter. Maybe someplace with fewer stones.

Harold looks up from the helm to see Cynthia turned toward him. His heart races, and he waves to her.

She does not wave back, only walks along the stones to the tree line. Harold shrugs, and turns to the shack to find some screws.

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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.”

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