I treated my training in Atlanta like a vacation; I didn’t write a word more than I felt obliged to. I vowed to post daily, so I did, but nothing of substance. Except maybe the haiku. Now we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Like where Homecoming came from.
I read a story once in an 80s-era copy of Asimov’s Science Fiction called Sea Change or Sea Changes. All I can find on Google is a Hemingway story–definitely not it.
It’s a about a trader trying to finish tanning her hides to bring them back to sell, but comes upon a stranger who’s helpless as a baby. She camps to care for him, and gradually, his lost malaise seeps into her psyche, while he takes over her tanning and trading, leaving her behind to stare vacantly into space as he rides off with her gear and her pack animal.
That story has stuck with me for most of my life. Not the plot so much as the technique, the feel of the thing. I’ve tried many times to write something that feels the same way as that story, and I never have until now.
It feels good. It feels right. It’s that feeling when you’re struggling to put an earring in a seldom-used hole without a mirror, and finally it slips right in. It feels like I finally did it justice.
I think it’s because I combined Sea Change(s?) with Prufrock. Two pieces of writing that have always called to me and inspired me, brought together into one. It flowed out so easily.
It wrote itself. That’s how I know it’s right.
Although it could use a slight bit of tweaking.
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T. S. Eliot
I should have; I should have. But I was not. I was placed here, in this shape, in this body.
But the claws, the ragged claws. They call to me. I hear their scratching in the night, while I lie in bed in the place between wakefulness and sleep. I jerk from my half-sleep to find myself pinching the bedclothes furiously.
In the mornings my fingers are bloody, my nails splintered and bleeding, and the sheets dotted with my mortality.
Once, long ago, I went to the beach. I needed to hear the ocean roar, to feel the salt spray, to dig my toes into the sand until they vanished.
The seagulls screamed my name as they circled overhead.
It was too much; too much, too soon, and I struggled to yank my feet from the warm, comforting embrace of the sand, a million millon grains rasping against my tender skin.
I left my shoes there when I blindly ran to the car across the searing heat of the parking lot blacktop. The terror had me in its steely grasp; I didn’t realize my blisters until I woke again to my bloodied sheets. I expected the spots by now, not the pain in my feet.
I nearly screamed when I rose to empty my bladder. I hobbled back to bed with the trash can and called in sick.
They said I’m going to lose my job soon.
I don’t care.
I stayed in bed all day that day. Since I didn’t consume any liquids, I only used the trash can one time.
I feel that I am beginning to spin out of control.
What kind of a man picks his fingers bloody on his bedsheets and pisses in a trash can?
I scuttle; I scuttle ‘cross the floors.
I’m sure my pink slip is in the pile of mail that climbs higher and higher, blocking me into my home. I stopped calling three weeks ago.
I don’t remember how to use the phone.
It doesn’t matter anymore, anyway.
I can hear the ocean all the time now. Crashing, splashing, echoes of longing bursting my eardrums.
The seagulls still call my name. It falls from their beaks in rotting pieces. The stench drives people away; they seek their pleasure and leisure elsewhere, bright towels and umbrellas no longer cluttering my shore.
It is time for me to go home.
I push the mail out of the way and leave the door open behind me. This place will never interest me again: let the squatters take it, and the taggers paint it.
I’ve forgotten how to drive. No matter, my feet know the way better than my head does.
Is it a miracle that no one hits me with their careening car, that I do not breathe my last as a black-and-red mess on the double yellow line? Some may think it is. I don’t believe in miracles.
I see the ocean, and the waves beckon me home.
I break into a run, faster, faster, until at the place where the waves break on the sand I launch myself into the air.
My body arcs up and then down, sliding into the water like a hot knife through butter. The water heals itself over me, and I am gone without a trace.
The seas grow silent, and I am finally at peace.
Tonight I went to eat burgers and drink beer at Flip with a friend from high school. We split a tuna crisp appetizer.
Meet Clarence Steve Phillips III Esq. Pretty serious sprout mullet he’s got going on there.
i thought i would write
some stories or some essays
but i read instead