Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What If People In Books Were Like the Guys I Date?

The tempest came out of nowhere. One minute the moon hung majestically in the sky, its pale sapphire light silhouetting the seacoast, and the next thick black clouds had formed a blanket overhead and the wind was so strong I could barely hold myself upright.

An old clipper ship, caught unawares, was fighting a losing battle to stay clear of the coast. I watched fraught with concern as the desperate captain fought in a vain effort to turn the ship, but he couldn’t compete against a determined sea. The enormous wooden vessel slammed into the ragged skiff of rock with an unearthly howl and its men were flung into the churning foam. The ship creaked and shuddered as the relentless waves pounded the doomed vessel, wrenching whole timbers off its hull and sending them floating onto the currents of foam.

I ran as fast as I could up the road, frantic to summon help, but the utter blackness hid the night’s details. My heart thumped in my chest and I wheezed for breath when I spotted a small wooden shack whose windows glowed with light. I pounded on the door, and when it finally opened it revealed a startled man wearing the refined clothes of a shopkeeper.

“There’s been a shipwreck,” I cried, wiping the salty froth from my brow. “Please. Help!”

The man instantly sprang into action. Here he’d been sitting quietly in his cozy little home, and the last thing he expected was a poor local boy -- an ironmonger’s assistant, walking home from another hard day’s work -- to appear at his door in need of aid, yet he didn’t waste a moment before his surprise turned to concern. “Of course!” he called, running for his closet. “Just let me get my coat!”

He pulled on a heavy woolen jacket and met me at the doorway. “God, it looks like bloody hell out there,” he declared. “I’d better get a hat too.”

I peered out anxiously. Angry black clouds had completely obliterated the sky, and the trees -- tall and majestic minutes earlier -- threatened to pull out of the ground and take flight.

“Shipwreck, you say?” the stranger yelled from his closet. “I’d best bring a blanket, and rope.“

I nodded as a gust of wind whipped through the tiny cabin, making the candles shudder behind their yellowing shades. “Close that door, boy!” the man bellowed.

I barely managed to get the lock fastened before the stranger grabbed the telephone. “Confound it,” he said. “Let me just call my mom. She always calls on Sunday nights, and she’d be frantic if I wasn’t here.”

I tightened my scarf and peered anxiously out the window, listening to the anguished sounds of doomed fishermen mixed with shudders of the vessel being rent apart beam by beam. Fifteen minutes later, the cries had faded. The stranger had put out some dry food for his cockapoo, paid a few overdue bills, and set the VCR to tape Ellen. I watched as the clouds parted and the moon regained its cerulean glow. The wind vanished as quickly as it’d appeared and once again the trees stood straight, each green leaf at rest.

The stranger pulled an armful of sweaters from the washing machine and switched the iron to Wool. “These’ll be completely useless unless I get to them like now,” he advised. He eyed me in the doorway, wearing an anguished expression and ready to turn on my heel. “Once I finish this I'll just pack up a few sandwiches, and then we'll be ready to go."

“Oh, fuck it,” I said, settling into an overstuffed chair. “They’re probably all dead by now.”


1 comment:

George said...

omg I dated that guy. Getting him to go out anywhere was like pulling teeth. At least you had a shipwreck to tempt him. All I had were balcony seat tickets to Wicked.