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Fiction

There is nothing interesting to be said about John, but one thing is for sure, he owned a small boat.

He was a bland and plain man with a quiet temperament, some gray hair sprinkled on his head, and he dearly loved sailing with his boat.

It was an old grungy sail, with a grumpy attitude and more patches than original pieces. It was called L’Groo, a faded legacy of a kids’ game lost in time.

Despite her rugged personality and rough aspect, you could see John move about her with sweet understanding, caressing the timber, holding her helm and ropes with the firm gentleness of a lover, when they sailed in the late afternoon on the setting sun’s wake.

“Jim, please be reasonable… It’s not even a matter of tightening my belts, I will never get to such figures, even if I stopped eating and stopped paying my rent!” the old pub on the harbor had just changed management, and was now sporting some high-tech loudspeakers booming out the brand new top hit (that, by the time it finished, had probably already been replaced by another song), but the old smell of salt and brine still lingered, ingrained so deep in the bricks that you could not renovate it away. It even permeated the beer’s foam, that tasted like the sea, no matter how many times the management changed the kegs.

“Listen John, it’s nothing personal, I’m just running a business. Some hot chick ‘discovered’ our little town, and now it’s all over the socials. All the millionaires want their yachts here, and I charge what they pay. It’s not my fault if they can pay each month more than an honest man’s yearly wage. Sorry mate”

“Listen to me, Jim. This thing is gonna ruin this place, we’ll be better off without them. My family has been paying yours the rent for L’Groo since my great-great granfather built it, and we are not going to stop, ever. Can you say the same for these invaders? Driving a motor boat is an act of domination and abuse, it pollutes the sea and gives nothing back, and people who seek that kind of stuff are quick to pay, as much as they are quick to drop their fad for a new sparkly toy, to proceed to milk dry like they did the previous one. To sail is to be patient, it is expertise and acceptance. When you love something like that, you don’t drop it, ever. ”

“Puah! Tell that love-is-forever shit to my ex wife and to my child support checks. I tell you, money makes the world go ‘round, and this blokes pay per month more than four generations of your family combined. You got ten days, then your berth needs to be free. Nothing personal, I just can’t afford to loose this opportunity, enjoy your little boat for the time you have left with her”.

To sail is to be patient, it is expertise and acceptance. You are not simply gonna get what you want, you have to listen to the sea, to feel the winds, your boat and yourself. You can’t just point straight and go where you want, you have got to ride the currents, to use what nature offers you to get to your goal, you have to leverage your skill to get the most out of it, but have to accept that when nature says no it is a no.

And that week was a no. He had ten days to part with his ship and the heavens had to send a storm.

As the storm raged on so he stormed, stomping up and down the dock, watching his L’Groo rocked by the waves, unable to jump on it for one last ride.

“John, get away from there, the sea keeps on rising” it was Jim, shouting at him from the harbor, covered in a yellow oilskin and rubber boots.

“What do you even care, you want me away anyway” his words come muffled by the pouring rain, his face fixated on the open sea.

“I don’t want you dead, just drop the damned boat and go on with your life. Don’t drown on me, mate, come back to some solid ground. You’re soaking wet, how long have you been there?”

“I’m sorry Jim, I won’t drop the damned boat. It is MY boat, I sailed before I walked, mom and dad guiding my hands in hauling the mainsail sheet before I spoke my first words. My whole family lived with L’Groo from dawn ‘till dusk, I am going to live the same” with this he jumped on the boat, hoisting the sail to depart in the storming sea.

It was the fist time that he sailed against destiny’s currents. It was a battle of luffing and hauling, of bearing and casting off, against waves crashing and winds wailing. In a dance with death, John danced, slammed at starboard by a rolling wave, trampled downwind by thunder crashing, fighting with tooth and nail, sailing more close-hauled than he ever did, facing bursts of wind that should have ripped his sail to smithereens, dodging bolts of lightning that set the sky aflame.

The small figure of the man on his family’s heirloom vanished from the sight of the people of the town in and handful of minutes, swallowed by the black storm besieging the harbor, but the fight raged on for what seemed like hours, if not days, to the small, lone man bearing his will against the scorn of mother nature.

With muscles burning for the strain, skin abraded by the salty gusts, John was at his last stand. With no more energy to speak of, he saw a wave rising at the bow, growing like a giant of sea and fury. He had tried to defy his own rules, and he failed.

But it was then that he saw, there behind the rising giant coming to kill him: a clearing in the sky was timidly glancing over the terrible monster, bright like a new life, powerful like love unbound.

In that single hope John found a reservoir of energy, the strength to haul the mainsail one last time, rushing at full speed against the wave advancing to crush him.

Now, who knows how many years later, the neon sign of the pub on the harbor blinks at a limping pace, while the speakers murmur an electric buzz. The docks are empty, with few decrepit yachts abandoned ashore in a shipyard, no one working on the rusted paint.

There is nothing interesting to be said about John, but one thing is for sure, one day he jumped on his boat in the middle of a storm, and he sailed for the rest of his life. 

July 15, 2022 08:19

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2 comments

Yves. ♙
21:03 Aug 07, 2022

What an ending! And what an interpretation of the prompt. I particularly appreciated the setting here; I know nothing about boats or sailing and really felt transported to another world.

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08:13 Sep 01, 2022

Thank you Yves for your kind words and support! I'm not an expert myself, just an amateur, I was mostly dragged forward by the story itself :D

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