THE OLD MAN and the OCEAN
Here’s the deal … this morning I opened my eyes and was floating around in that Alice-In-Wonderland nimbus where I knew I wasn’t dreaming but my mind refused to latch onto the idea of getting up and plugging in the coffee.
… So, I’m in this rowboat, see? I’m way out in the ocean, so far that there is no trace of the breakers, no sign of land anywhere.
Now, normally that would stress out my conscious mind because I had no bearings. And, my conscious mind looks out for my safety. But, this wasn’t normal and I didn’t really possess my conscious mind at the time. Everything just flowed.
… Besides, I have my sports fishing pole, the butt-end wedged securely under my thigh and the meat of the pole held at a forty-five degree angle with the line sagging lazily some twenty or thirty yards from the boat. What could be more serene? The early morning sun glints off the water. There is the heady smell of salt in the air. A circling seagull suddenly plummets and slices the surface of the water. He disappears for so long I figure he must have surfaced somewhere behind me. Then he emerges, a smelt or anchovy wriggling in his beak. Floating there, he maneuvers it around, gets it where he wants it, throws back his head and gobbles it down in three swallows. Nature, left alone, doing what it is supposed to do. The sun warms my face. I listen to the water slapping against the sides of my rowboat. So tranquil. I could stay here forever!
[ 637 more words]
It’s me now, sitting at my laptop. I’ll get back to the rowboat in a moment. I have to tell you, I really needed those few minutes of tranquility this morning. Yesterday I posted my A Reluctant Manifesto. I’m sure I’ll be getting and answering comments on it for weeks. God is good! Twitter and Face Book was crackling with well-wishes for my three day Free Promotion that begins tomorrow morning for my short story collection and Friday morning for my Mystery/Thriller novel. Anyway, all I can say is I was in a whirlwind of joyful activity yesterday, giddy with excitement—and at the risk of sounding sappy sentimental—a bit weepy over all my friends who came forward and said super-good things about me, about my blog and my promotion! I love them all! I love you all!
Still …that maelstrom of activity took its physical toll on this 73-year-old-beatnik-at-heart. Truly, I needed that early morning tranquility! So, where was I in the story?
… In the midst of this placid outer and inner tranquility, while blankly staring at the lazily sagging line, suddenly the line grows so taut I can see the water droplets snapping off it. Simultaneously, the end of the pole twitches and then dips toward the water. The pole, just beyond where I grip it, slams against the edge of the boat, while the pole tip, at that point is pulled down into the water. It takes every bit of my strength to tug the pole back to forty-five degrees.
I’m no fisherman. But, I’ve read “The Old Man and the Sea“ and I know I’m in for a battle! After a few breaths, muscles throbbing, I hoist it up to close to ninety. Letting it relax back, I spin the reel feverishly. Pulling up once more, I release it and began reeling again. I’ve seen the process in movies and I mimic true fishermen. I continue the process again and again.
Then, about a hundred feet from the boat it breaks the surface of the water. It sails up and out in a slow arc and is back under the water before my mind allows me to register what I saw. Physically exhausted from my efforts, my rational mind will only come up with the thought: hallucination! But the image is there! It can’t be denied. What my eyes took in the instant it severed the bond of its world and entered mine, however briefly, was … was the image of a mermaid!
Well, here I am again. fingers poised on the keyboard, trying to make sense of what happened (now three hours from my bed). I’m not delusional. I knew it was a kind of waking fantasy. But, deeper than that—deep down in my subconscious where the mermaids live—why would I, a day before a promotion into which I’ve put so much of my energy and time, and perhaps tested the patience of a lot of good friends—why would I be fantasizing about a mermaid.
Any Freudians out there?
Mermaids are mystery creatures. They’re part of the unknown, not far removed from Sasquatch and lovely Nessie—not really too far removed, for me, from the mystery veiling what will be the results of my promotion.
If I were to complete the above tale I’d have had two choices. After an arduous, mind-altering struggle, I could have successfully pulled the mermaid into my rowboat. I have no idea where the story would go from there.
Or, I could have cut the line.
Of course, Hemingway’s Santiago had that choice as well.
* * *
See you at the promotion, tomorrow. If you’re nervous, let me know. We’ll virtually huddle together. PLEASE, though, snag your free book, read one of the short stories in it and tell your friends.
From → The Writer's Life