Friday, April 30, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

It's hard, rowing against the current. It's demoralizing. Your arms burn, and your shoulders ache, and you barely make any progress. Thing is, if you stop rowing, you're screwed. Even for a second. You'll lose so much, and it will hurt so much more to make up the distance you had already covered. You can just flat quit, lay down in the bottom of the boat with the half inch of tobacco water and old bass rubber, but it stinks down there. You never get dry. You catch a chill when the sun goes down. 

Everyone else is dealing with their own boats. And hell, some of them got two big old outboard motors on them. They create so much wake it's a miracle they don't capsize all the wooden boats, but it is what it is. They must just deserve those big motors, and it's none of your concern. Just keep rowing. Watch out for the wake. Don't question anything. That's what the authorities are for. 

If you need to reach them, they're drinking sweat tea and bourbon on that big party pontoon. 

You can't see ahead of you that well when you're at the water level. Those big bass boats and pontoons have a better vantage. You can stand up and try to catch a peek, but don't fall in. 

Only socialists need help out. 

Now, if you row your boat, don't make no wake with the happy working your way up to a john boat, and don't expect no more...

If you are willing to ignore the folks paddling their canoes like mad, not to mention the poor bastards already half-drowned, trying to keep their heads above water...

If you make sure you're focused on the advancement of YOUR team....YOUR allies...

Man, if you just shut the hell up and row... won't drown at least until the falls. 

We call it retirement. 



  1. Love the punch of this. Great metaphors.

    1. Agreed. I have "Don't drown before the falls" playing in my head now, a sad refrain.

  2. Jude sat on the edge of her organic cotton mattress, sipping coffee while Ethan hunted through the clothing he’d left behind when he moved to LA. She had not wanted to ask the question of her thirty-year-old son, hyperaware of how it might make her sound—like the stereotypical bitch-on-wheels divorcee she so often lambasted Hollywood for portraying. Which she wasn’t. Or at least she liked to think she wasn’t. But on a practical level, a catered wedding taking place next weekend in her own backyard required a head count. Keeping that in her back pocket as an excuse, she readied the words and fired.

    “Is your father bringing Ashley to the wedding?”

    “Ainsley.” He shrugged a charcoal-gray suit jacket over a light gray shirt and tie, looked at her in the mirror. “And I don’t know.”

    The tie was crooked. Jude restrained herself from doing those motherly adjustments. The tie, the collar, the errant curl—his future wife’s territory, now. “We invited her,” he said. “Didn’t Lev send the card back?”

    Jude let out a long breath.

    His cheeks flushed. “I’ll find out.” She might no longer be able to mother him, but that dance would always continue, of Ethan corralling his time-challenged father. He cleared his throat, lifted his gaze to hers, a question in his eyes. It looked like one he didn’t particularly want to ask, either.

    “What?” Jude asked. Part of her wished her coffee was wine. He’d been on his own since he was eighteen; this wedding visit would no doubt pass in a blur like the others and then he’d be leaving again.

    “Are you guys gonna be okay? If he comes to the wedding with her?”

    “For God’s sake, Ethan.”

    “Yeah, yeah. You’re grownups and all. But last time—”

    Shit. “He was pushing my buttons, I didn’t expect—”

    “You stormed out of the restaurant and Sharpied his car.”

    “It comes off with hand sanitizer. I offered to do it.” She smothered a grin, thinking back on it. Not her proudest moment, but at the time, so satisfying to scrawl ASSHOLE across the hood of his midlife crisis sports car. And deserved, too. She sighed. “We’ll be okay.”

    “Ainsley thinks you still love him. Do you?”

    She opened her mouth but nothing came out.

    He sank to the mattress beside her. “Still?”

    Damn him. Damn that man. The one thing in her life she could never seem to quit. She glanced at Ethan, sprang to her feet. “I’m not so sure about that tie. Maybe something with more color—”

    He followed her to the closet. “Jude, I think it’s—”

    “No! No. It’s not.”

    He raised his hands as if in surrender. “All right! It’s not a big deal.”

    It was. It was a big deal. And no doubt he knew it. She sank back to the bed. “No,” she said softly. “You’re right. It’s fine.”

    1. Rewards a close reading. The unspoken parts, especially. It's really deft writing.

  3. Inside the tumbledown tavern, the young man from the north with the black beard sits beside the grey-bearded men like a raven among toothless old wolves. Lanterns gleam weakly. Tobacco and salt and fish mix with the tang of whisky. Quick glances are all they spare him until one of them speaks.

    “New to these parts?” He doesn’t look his way.

    “Aye,” says the young man.

    Then he looks, for a moment; the old fisherman nods at the scars and scrapes on the younger man’s knuckles.

    “See you work with yer hands.”

    “I do at that. Make stubborn things do what they durstn’t.”

    The greybeard clears his throat. “Mite isolated out here.”

    “I prefer things that way.”

    “Mayhap a poet too?”

    “I didn’t mean for me.”

    A few of them grimace as if they’ve tried to smile but can’t quite.


    She walks outside as night falls in a cadence to match her heart. The ocean is silent, the Milky Way a scarf of glitter.

    He will be home soon, having wooed the locals, laid traps for any thoughts of escape.

    Behind the cottage, the early winter fields, dun and featureless under the stars, seem like a place loneliness might go to meet its own ghost and succumb.

    Then, as always, his brisk footsteps along the path. Her nails making moon shapes in her palms. The airless, cheerless land without breath.

    Someone has robbed even the gulls of their voices.


    After he hits her the last time, harder than usual and partnered by a flash of savage joy, she waits for his storm to abate then leaves the cottage and walks to the clifftop and watches the slow grey heave of the sea. It looks brutish, forsaken, near dead. She keeps her gaze distant, not on her feet but on the damn-fool horizon, a thin downturned line of woe, so she cannot tell how close she is to the edge.

    Perhaps she will see a mast. Find a brittle message curled in an ancient bottle. Or someone on the rocks below might hail her. Marvels. Phantasms. Delusions.

    Her hitching breath louder than the surf, her stymied heart a church bell in a blighted land, pealing unheard.

    We will never know if her next step finds land or falls hopeless through tenuous air. All we know is she is there and she is alone and we’ve left this story now.

    1. Love this. The glittering Milky Way scarf, the moon shape in her palms, the gulls robbed of their voices. So many tasty images.

    2. Laurie, it was one of those enjoyable times when all the images fell out of my head effortlessly. I love when that happens, but it's so rare!


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