Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Mike goes nesting.

Mike Goes Nesting


Movies from America were gobbled up by the young and bored population of Ireland during the late seventies and early eighties. One movie which struck a particular cord with our natural dislike of regulation was, 'Smokie and the Bandit.'

Within weeks of it coming out in the cinema, bangers all over the country were sprouting twenty foot ariels, and derricks began appearing on farmers cottages, housing antenna for the all-important 'Home-base.'

The countryside once rang with farmer’s wives roaring over hedges, “Johnny, come in. The dinner's on the table.'  Those quaint beckoning's were replaced with bursts of statistic masking a barely audible, "Breaker, breaker, Soda bread Mary to Smelly John, nosebag imminent, repeat, nosebag imminent - OVER!"

Uncle Mike was a mighty man for the CB radio, he had one in the JCB, a unit in the car, and a home-base set up beside his bed. Mike made sure he wasn't going to miss a thing. A game that proved to be most popular with CB enthusiast was called, 'Chicken Run'. On a Saturday evenings, whole herds of Ford Escorts and Fiat Uno's, took off around the back roads. Their whippy ariel's nodding as they passed along hedgerows and stonewalls, marking their pursuit.  The chicken, being some other young-fella in a car, was driving around aimlessly, giving clues to his location over the radio. First one to catch the chicken, was the quarry for the next run.

One Saturday night, Uncle Mike left the house to chase the Chicken, but came back having captured one very giggly Rita. Granny Begley was heard to comment, "Would you look at your man. He's mad for nesting." It turns out she was right.

That was the start of something really special. It wasn't long before wedding bells chimed and Mike ran up the aisle to claim Rita as his own. Life in an already overcrowded Begley house, wasn't the most comfortable for a newly married couple. Each Morning Rita would wake up, not only to Mikes snoring, but the snoring of his two brothers in the next bed. It was a situation that couldn't last. The arrangements in Rita's parents place were little better, they had only two bedrooms and nearly as many kids as the Begley's. The perfect solution arrived one day, on the back of a flatbed lorry, a slightly worse for wear, mostly watertight, mobile home.

The mobile home ended up nestling against Rita's parents’ house, because it wouldn’t fit next to Granny Begley’s. Mike and Rita spent a long cold winter in that drafty thing. Keeping warm was a priority so it was little wonder, that by spring, Rita found herself in the family way.

"Listen Mike, you’re going to have to do something before the baby arrives," instructed Rita, putting yet another pot under a dripping hole.

"Leave it to me, have I ever let you down?" Mike said with a cheeky grin.

"Alright, but be quick about it," said Rita dreading what might happen next. When Mike got involved, the possibilities for calamity, were endless. As it happened he made an extremely sensible decision. After a quick cup of tea with Rita's parents, it was decided to build on an extension onto their house, for the newly expanding family. That was on a Friday evening, work started the very next Monday morning.

Something I should tell you about my Uncle Mike, he isn't afraid of hard work, but he’s short of two vital things, patience and the ability to see a problem. On the Monday, he'd enlisted the help of his brother, PJ. The two men stood in the small yard, sizing up the job in front of them, scratching whatever happened to be itchy at the time.

"Where's she going then?" asked PJ.

"Feck it lad, she's an extension! It's going up against the house."

"Yea but which way?" said PJ.

"Oh, I see what you're getting at," agreed Mike, scratching his head.

A Rothmans packet was ripped up and the drawing up of plans began. Exact measurements were taken by means of strides, each one exactly three feet, give or take a few inches. On the completion of the exhaustive engineering survey, they both came to the same conclusion.

"She won't fit that side, t'll have to go where the mobile is," decided PJ.

"And where the hell are we supposed to live?" asked Mike.

"Jesus lad, move it over there," said PJ, pointing to the spot they just decided was too small for the extension.

"Do you think she'll fit?" asked Mike, followed by a complete re-enactment of the measuring goose-step.

The very next day, PJ turned up to the house to find the mobile home completely surrounded by a four foot deep trench, resembling a mote circling a besieged castle. In the corner of the yard stood a small mountain of soil and Mikes rusting digger. PJ tried to reach across the gap but, in the end, he had to step down into the trench to knock on the door. When Mike answered, his hair wild from the pillow.

PJ asked, "What the feck happened?"

"Hah?" which is Mikey for 'what'.

"What the hell is this?" asked PJ, pointing to the trench he was currently standing in.

"I got bored and started to mark out the foundation," said Mike rubbing his mop of curly black hair.

"Went a bit deep with the marking, don't yea think?"

"Na Your-sir, just right if you ask me," said Mike with a wink.

"And how are you going to get the truck under the bloody mobile?"

"Ah bollocks," said Mike realizing what he'd done.


After coffee and cornflakes, Mike decided the best course of action was to carry on and pour the foundation, then move the mobile home. That very day the shuttering went in and the mixer rumbled into life. It took three days, but the two brothers eventually mixed enough concrete, with their tiny petrol mixer, to fill the trench. In two more days the concrete had set hard and Mike arranged for the truck to come and move the mobile home.

All day Saturday, Mike waited for the truck. Typically, he got bored and began moving a few things around. The truck never turned up Saturday or Sunday for that matter. By the time Monday arrived, along with the truck, Mikes boredom had transformed into five full rows of blocks, laid and set. When PJ saw what Mike had done, the amount of curse words which came out of him was close to biblical.

When he eventually calmed enough to talk in English, he asked Mike, "What the hell are we going to do now?"

Mike had no idea so he suggested tea and a fag. He'd cleverly left the door for the new house exactly where the door of the mobile already was. Four cigarettes and two mugs of tea later they had a plan. They'd continue with the building and get a crane to lift the Mobile out. A crane was booked and the boys continued working. When the crane landed into the yard and they told the driver what they had planned he nearly doubled with laughter.
"What you laughing at?" asked Mike.
"You fecking ejits, the lifting points are on the bottom," he said pointing to the now encased base of the mobile home.

I think you figured out by now what would happen next. Mike pushed on, PJ said he was nuts. Mike figured when he'd the building watertight he could just dismantle the mobile and take it out the door, piece by piece. After all, once the house was up, they wouldn't need it any more.  It didn't take long to get the roof on, the Windows in and the door hung.

Uncle Mike’s inability to see any problem that couldn't be surmounted, got the house finished. By the time Mike brought my little cousin home for the first time, the extension was as watertight and sung as any you'd find the length and breath of the country. Admittedly, one window was slightly higher than the other, and the front door was a few inches up the wall, where most were level to the ground. You might chalk these differences down as a trick of the light until you got inside. At one end of the building the timber floor was slightly higher than at one the other end. The roof was a little lower than normal, but it was the walls that really took your breath away. Half Mobile home, half stud wall. It was as if the old green and white mobile home had been digested by a carnivorous beast of a house, the arch joining the extension to the Rita's parents old house was remarkably like a gullet. On one wall an old caravan window looked blankly into the sitting room, elsewhere a vent to nowhere, still protruded where a tiny kitchen had once stood.

Mike loved the house and Rita was too much of a lady to complain.

One day when a visitor commented on the strange construction. Mike just laughed at him.

"Jesus you-sir, that's all the fashion! A fella on the telly called it, 'Bespoke Construction'. Nothing but the best for Rita and the lad, it's bespoke or be-damned," crowed Mike.


Saturday, 10 January 2015

The ten commandments

Who's in the mood for a little joke, one of my regulars told me today.

Right so, here we go.
***

A number of years ago, an elderly parish priest needed a few odd jobs doing. He placed an add in a local paper and hired a strapping figure of a young man. While being very talented with his hands, he wasn't exactly the sharpest pencil in the school bag, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, about a week after the lad started, he arrived into the vestry in an awful state.

"Whats the matter?" the priest asked.

"You wont believe it but someone's gone and stolen my bicycle!"

"Ah lad, are you sure,"

"Of course I'm sure how else did I get to work this morning. I've just gone out to where I leave the bike every day and guess what?"

"What?" asked the priest.

"No bike." (I warned you he was a bit thick)


But the priest had a plan, he told the young lad to come along to Mass on Sunday where he'd give a sermon on the ten commandments. He told the boy to stare at the congregation fiercely when he got to 'Thou shalt not steal', and whoever wouldn't look back at him was the one who took the bike."

"Mighty idea Father," he said and walked away home happy in the knowledge the bike was as good as found.

On Sunday the young lad sat along side the Priest, just below the alter, as mass was said. True to his word the priest gave a fire and brimstone sermon on the pearls of breaking the ten commandments. Half way through the sermon, the young man, sprang to his feet and dashed down church, straight out the door, not returning for the rest of the day.

***

On Monday the young man arrived to work, astride his bike no less. The priest was at the door waiting with a smile.

"I see you found out who took your bike."

"Not really Father," said the red faced lad.

"What happened so, where did the bike come from?"

The lad shuffled his feet and said, "In the sermon, when to got to 'Thou shalt not commit adultery', I remembered where I'd left it."

There followed a record number of Hail Mary's

Happy weekend everyone.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Lunch with Laurie


My eyes open all by themselves. I didn't want to wake up, no alarm had gone off, it was still dark outside, which was only natural considering it was before six on a November morning.

I had no reason to be up, but after years of early starts, I couldn’t sleep a wink after six. I rubbed my eyes, frustrated that long lazy lay-ins, the only benefit of being redundant, were denied me. I rolled over and stretch my hand across the wide expanse of empty bed to check my phone. No messages, not even a, 'Thanks but no thanks,' from any of the dozens of job applications I'd had sent out.

"Face facts, Laurie," I said to myself. "Nobody wants you." I never imagined I'd find myself here, searching for a job at fifty-one years of age. I'm a middle-aged woman now, how the hell did that happen? It was only last week that I was a teenager, heading out into the big bad world, with nothing but dreams in my bag. My life seemed to happen all too quickly. Two teenage boys, over two decades in a job, one marriage and one divorce.

I threw off the covers and put my bare toes on the freezing floor. I hadn't turned on the heat, I was trying to save the last few gallons of fuel for Christmas. Seeing as I was a wake, I may as well get some coffee inside me. It was too early to wake the boys, so I checked my e-mails in case a job offer had come through. I’m a nurse, at least I had been one. Can you still call yourself a nurse if you’ve nobody to look after?

I worked at the Community Health Centre in town since I graduated nursing college. I’d never known another job and never imagined they would close the place down. They said it was economically unviable. Since when did growing old have to be viable? I was working there when I married Mikey. It was my wage that got us the mortgage to buy this house. It’s old, and it’s huge. Even back then I told Mikey it was too big. He said it was an investment for the future. Ha! If I’d know how quick he was going to run out on me, I would have told him where to stick his investment. The only good thing he left me were my boys.

That’s my past in a nutshell. Now, I’m trapped in this half-done house, with no money to finish it. I'd applied for jobs all over the place; Greenburg, Youngstown, you name it, anyplace within a hundred miles. They were all either fully staffed or looking for someone younger. I looked at the hand gripping my mug and felt pain radiating up from it. Arthritis. Most people couldn’t tell, but hospital interviewers would spot it a mile away. What good is a nurse that couldn’t hold a needle or fill out a medicine chart? Sure, I could manage now, but what would they do with me in five years’ time? Nobody wanted to take the chance of being lumbered with an invilid.

I sipped my coffee and wallowed in resentment. The government didn't care about people like me, except for election time, then they cared. But not when you needed help, or were looking for way out of bother. Then they turned their backs and hoped you'd go away, or die. It was a blow to me, when the centre closed, but I still believed back then, believed things would work out alright. If I didn’t have savings to fall back on, we would have starved.

I hated thinking about these things, it was like poison in my mind. I sipped my coffee again, but it was cold. I dumped the dregs down the sink and set about starting yet another day of uselessness.

***

Once the boys were on their way to school, I wrapped up warm, filled a thermos with coffee, and walked the short distance to the Mini Mart. I was going to catch the bus into Youngstown. I'd an interview with a temp agency, it was my last hope. I rubbed my hands and stamped my feet to stay warm as I waited. It hadn’t snowed yet, but it was coming. When the bus arrived, I counted out my coins and paid the fare. I missed having a car so much but that was another luxury culled by my finances. Without it, I was even less employable.

Two bus rides later, I’d notched up my twenty-fifth job refusal. God almighty, it was emptying bedpans and giving medication, not heart surgery. What was wrong with these people? Petty bureaucrats in their Wall-mart suits playing with people’s lives. I felt like going postal on the lot of them. The bus rocked, as if it was trying to console me. I felt miserable and devoid of hope. I could see nothing in front of me except the possibility of becoming homeless. They made me redundant and now that word defined me.

As I got off the bus, an old man stepped out of the Mini-Mart. He wore a black hat, a long coat and tapped his way down the icy steps with a cane. In his hand he balanced a bag of groceries. On the second last step, his cane skidded and the man tumbled to the frozen ground. I rushed over, my training overcoming my foul humour, and hunkered down at his side.

"Are you okay?" I asked, helping him to sit up.

He looked about him, as if he'd just woken up in this exact spot. He patted his arms and legs, testing for damage before nodding and said, "Nothing broken, this time."

"Let me help you up," I said, laying the empty thermos on the ground. Slowly, the old man got to his feet. He was as light as a bird and my fingers felt how thin his arm was, despite several layers of clothes. I retrieved the man’s cane, and made sure he was steady on his feet, before releasing my grip.

"My humble thanks for your assistance, Madam," he said, doffing his cap in a very old-fashioned way.

"Don't be silly, it's nothing. I'll get your groceries." I retrieved the spilled provisions. The man had nothing but microwave dinners and potato chips in the bag.

"I hope you're eating more than this?" I said.

"Pardon?"

"I hope you are eating proper food. Do you cook?" I knew I was sounding like a battle-axe matron, but good nutrition was the key to good health. I guess it was ingrained in me after all those years of nursing. The man looked at me and it occurred to me that I might have upset him. His mood seemed to dim.

"Mrs Goldbloom did all the cooking in our house. Sadly, the stove has been idle for years. But I have mastered the art of nuclear cuisine." he said, and it was easy to see that it was the lady he missed, not her cooking.

"Your wife?" I asked, and as I did, It occurred to me I was prying into a life I didn’t know.

"She was my queen, Dear Lady. A soul so beautiful, that God couldn't be without her." A tiny tear moistened the wrinkles framing his cheerful eyes. The two emotions were juxtaposed. Cheerfulness and heartbreak in one moment.

"You have a very unusual way of speaking, Mr Goldbloom. I like it," I said in an attempt to repair the pain my prying had caused.

"Why, thank you, My Lady," he said, taking off his cap to perform a deep bow, which was only made sweeter when he had difficulty straightening up again. I had to laugh. He was a wrinkly old charmer.

"It's been so long since I've encountered a true gentleman,” I said, copying his bow and way of talking. “Might I be so bold as to ask you to share luncheon, if you have no prior engagements?” The invitation was partly out of concern for his eating habits and partly due to my loneliness.

"I wouldn't like to impose," he said in a way that told me he suspected charity.

"You're doing me the favour. I hate to eat alone," I said, taking hold of his arm and guided him the few blocks to my house.

"You have a lovely house Mrs..?" he said, kindly overlooking the half-finished maintenance and the cold.

“Just, Laurie,” I said as I ducked into the cellar to turn on the heat. When I got back, he was still wearing his coat. I helped him off with it and hung it on a hook in the hall. “It was my husband who picked this place, and now I’m stuck with it. It will heat up soon, Mr Goldbloom. Why not sit in the kitchen with me while I get things started?"

We talked about his life and Mrs Goldbloom. He told me how they'd met. He described their first dance, the day he proposed to her, and the day he lost her. It was a gripping story and I didn’t feel the time pass as I cooked. He was a natural storyteller and when I checked my watch and it was nearly three thirty.

"The kids will be home soon, I'd better get a move on," I said and Mr Goldbloom got to his feet.

"Today has been a delight, My Dear. Could I trouble you to get my coat from the hall? I retrieved it for him and helped him get it on. I walked him to the door and handed him his groceries, in a new bag, which he tucked under his arm.

"Will you be okay getting home?" I asked him.

"Perfectly, My Dear. Thank you again for a wonderful day."

"We must do it again," I said with a smile.

"What about tomorrow?" he asked. I was taken by surprise, but covered it well.

"Sure, About one?" I stammered, feeling only a tiny bit railroaded.

"Fantastic, till tomorrow," he said, doffing his cap and tap tapping his way down the driveway.

I closed the door feeling I’d done something useful at last. I had a warm glow of fulfilment inside when I turned off the heating and pulled on a second jumper. I still had an hour before the boys got home from school, plenty of time to get the kitchen cleaned up. When I picked up Mr Goldbloom's plate, a twenty-dollar bill fluttered to the ground. I picked up the note and was tempted to run after him, but need kept me still. I felt tears come and did nothing to stop them.

The following day, just shy of one, the doorbell chimed and I rushed to it. On the stoop was Mr Goldbloom, with an even older man standing at his shoulder.

"I know this is beyond naughty, Ms Laurie, but my friend Andy heard about our assignation and I couldn’t dissuade him from coming along. He said the saint I described could not exist in Ohio. I hope you don't mind?"

I blushed and stood to one side, allowing the men enter.

"Come on in, Andy," I said, happily. The complement was the nicest thing anyone had said to me in ages.  

"If this is putting you out, you just got to say," said Andy, his deep voice belaying his slight size.

"No trouble at all, Andy. There’s plenty to go around."

"What has our cherub prepared for us today? asked Mr Goldbloom, hanging his coat on a hook. The house was warm because I had turned on the heat at twelve.

"Pumpkin soup, followed by pot roast, with apple pie for desert."

"Heaven, My Dear. Heaven," said Mr Goldbloom, clapping his hands and taking his place at the table.

Mr Goldbloom and Andy were like naughty schoolboys. They laughed and joked their way through the meal, making me feel like a teenager for a while. When the lunch was over, and it was time to go home, Mr Goldbloom asked me to fetch his coat. This time I was ready for him. When I came back, I helped him on with his coat then lifted his plate. The twenty-dollar bill was where, as I thought it would be.

"Mr Goldbloom, there's no need for that. You're my guest," I said holding out the note. The old man's features grew serous.

"Please don't, you'll ruin it."

"Ruin it?"

He drew me to one side. "I'd spend that, and more, on junk in the Mini-Mart and have nothing but rubbish in my belly. This way I get real food and the warmth of your companionship. More than that, it gave me a reason to look forward to the day. I'm not a man without means, Laurie. If you make me take it back, I won’t be able to return.”

His face said he was completely determined and I did want him to come again. I wanted to feel needed, to feel valued. I slipped the note into my pocket and he smiled. He kissed me on the cheek and turned to Andy, "Shall we go, my friend?" Andy nodded and the men walked toward the front door. Mr Goldbloom stopped and turned.

"Laurie?"

"Yes. Mr Goldbloom?"

"Same time tomorrow?"

I smiled, "Don't be late."

When I cleared the table, I was shocked to find another twenty under Andy's plate. Forty dollars paid for the whole meal, twice. I held the bills in my hands and felt hope for the first time in ages. The world, apparently, wasn't completely unkind.

The following day, Mr Goldbloom and Andy returned for lunch. The day after that, a third person joined the group. Mrs Casey. As the days went by, the lunch time crew grew exponentially. Soon, I was serving lunch in two sittings. My front room became an unofficial community centre. I so looked forward to answering the door each day; greeting smiling people, and enjoying a few hours of good company, laughter, and home cooking. Under each plate I'd find a note. Sometimes a five, mostly tens, Mr Goldbloom and Andy always left twenty. At the end of the month, I'd no problem meeting the mortgage payment and had enough left over to fill the oil tank.

One lunch-time, Mr Goldbloom didn’t show up. I asked Andy if he knew what had happened.

"No idea. I was wondering the same thing myself. I know his phone number," he said.

We dialled the number, and listened, but the phone rang out.

"Do you know where his house is?" I asked Andy.

"Sure, do you think we should go over?"

"It can't do any harm and I'd feel better," I said. I finished cleaning the kitchen while Andy said cheerio to the last of the lunch time gang. Ten minutes later we were on Mr Goldbloom’s porch. There was no answer and no lights.

"He must be out," said Andy

"I'm going to have a look around, "I said, circling the house and peering through the windows. In the kitchen I saw an upturned chair and a foot peeking out from behind the breakfast island.

"Oh God, no!" I said, hammering on the door but the ankle didn't move. I pulled out my phone and dialled 911, giving the address and telling the officer what I could see. The squad car arrived in minutes, New Middletown is only a small community. The officer ran around the back and after one quick knock he used his night stick to break the glass.

We rushed across the kitchen, my first look told me Mr Goldbloom was alive, but the gash on his head and the weird angle of his arm, said he was far from good.  The ambulance arrived, and soon Mr Goldbloom was racing the thirty minutes to Youngstown hospital.

In the days that followed, I found out that Mr Goldbloom had been standing on a chair to get something from a shelf when he fell, hitting his head on the breakfast island. Mr Goldbloom broke his arm in the fall, but otherwise, he was making a good recovery. I took the bus to Youngstown and found Mr Goldbloom sitting up in his bed. He looked so tiny when he wasn't wrapped in five layers of clothes.

"How're you doing?" I asked, placing a bag of fruit and some magazines on his bedside table.

"It appears I'm still wanted here, despite my mountain climbing tendencies. I think I'll attempt abseiling next."

"It's no laughing matter, you gave me and Andy such a fright. We thought you were dead, seeing you lying on the floor like that."

"You weren't the only one, My Dear," he said, a little more seriously.

"Well, at least you're in one piece. When are you getting out of here?"

"Friday."

"Where are you going to stay?"

"At home, where else."

"You can’t stay alone. You won't be able to look after yourself. Have you any relatives you could stay with?"

"None that I want to stay with, or who'd be glad of my presence."

"What about a nursing home?"

"You sound like my doctor now."

"Don't forget, I was a nurse. We think the same ways. A nursing home while you’re getting better is not such a bad place to be."

"Do you know how much they cost?"

"A bit, I’m sure."

"Nine hundred dollars, a week. A WEEK! Imagine that. It would be cheaper to check into the Ritz."

"God that is a lot. Surely there must be less expensive ones."

"Perhaps if you've got insurance. I've money, but nothing like that. I'll just have to get by on my own. It’s only a broken arm after all."

"I'll call in and make sure you're okay."

"I can't ask you to do that."

"Sure you can. What are friends for?"

"No seriously That's taking charity and I'm not a charity case, never have been, never will be."

"Sush! Stop talking rubbish, I'll call on you and that is that."

Mr Goldbloom looked serous, and not happy, but he didn't argue any more. We talked about the lunch time gang and I filled him in on all the gossip. As I sat chatting with Mr Goldbloom, in a setting I'd previously found comfortable, I became aware of the hissing and beeping machines, the incessant passing of people, busy with tasks, while patients lay helpless in their midst. It was the first time I realised how terrifying hospital could be. I saw that fear hidden in the eyes of Mr Goldbloom, as we discussed mundane occurrences, and I felt for him. The hour flew by and it was soon time to catch my bus home. I was putting on my coat when he made his proposal.

"There would be one way I'd agree to you helping take care of me."

“And what way is that?"

"If you worked for me, officially."

"Don't be silly were friends."

"Yes, we are, which would make this arrangement all the more pleasant. Please hear me out and consider my proposition. As you rightly point out, I'm in need of some medical care, you're a nurse who is currently without position. I propose that I'd stay in my own home, where you can call on me, making sure I'm taking all the right pills. Perhaps some light house work. In return I shall pay you for your time. Let’s say twenty-five dollars an hour."

"Twenty-five dollars an hour is far too much."

"Nonsense, My Dear, it's a bargain compared to nine hundred dollars a week for a single bed in Gods waiting room. I just ask you to consider it. If my terms are agreeable, I'll be home about three on Friday."

I smiled at the funny old man, and the way he pretended to doff his invisible cap, as I left his room. On the long bus ride home, I could only see good in his proposal. That's why I was waiting on his porch when his taxi arrived on Friday. I had his boiler running and the house was toasty. I’d changed the sheets on his bed, and had a pot of broth warming on his stove. I gave him my arm and accompanied him up the snow specked path.

***
That all happened last year. Mr Goldbloom now lives with me and my boys, along with Mrs Casey. The lunch time crew is a fantastic success, and with the money it makes, I have been able to get pay my friend Mary to help with the cooking. This allows me more time to concentrate on my new business. Home Nursing. I have a list of clients I call to each day, making sure they are well looked after. I charge what they can afford and no more. Its more than a job, it’s my place in the world. The truth is, they help me just as much as I help them. When they opened their doors to me, they rekindled hope in my heart. And hope is the best medicine of all. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The magic of words.

Two of the greatest gifts given to man are words and imagination. One without the other, is the definition of potential unfulfilled.

I think of my imagination as a 3D blank canvas. To begin with, it's like I'm floating in a black void, not hot, not cold, without up, or down.  The magic only begins when I add words, to paint the blackness with color.

I see a crack of pink, way way off in the distance. I float towards it, which is no problem, after all, in my imagination, anything's possible. As I get closer, the pink in the blackness strengthens, it's the first glimmer of a sunrise, painting the edges of previously invisible clouds with color. The light strengthens, changing from pink, through gold, to glorious sunshine. With a flick of my arms I fly among the clouds. As the light hits, what lies below me, a sapphire blue ocean appears, flanked in the distance by brooding hills and sandy beaches. Rolling waves march across the surface. Now and again, a wave stubs it watery toe and tumbles over itself, exploding into a million flecks of foam. From this height, the foaming tombstones of dying waves, are but speckles, dotted across the deep blue of the ocean.

On the horizon, a sail appears, then divides into two, then six. A galleon with three masts runs before the wind, slicing through the waves, with a knife sharp bow.  The rigging seems as delicate and complex as a spiders web from this great distance, but as the ship closes upon me, I can see the twisted strands of strong rope straining under the weight of the growing breeze. The clouds around me swirl and darken, while the wind moving under my outstretched arms, quickens its pace. The ships sail cracks like a gun, as its gripped by the squall. The hull bites into the growing swell, and heals far over.

A storm grows. I watch the crew reef in the sail and baton down the hatches. At the ships helm, a handsome man with wild black hair and tanned skin, battles to keep the vessel on course, as wind and wave, crash upon them. The seas are huge now, washing over the rails of the ship, taking men from their feet, trying to drag them into the depths. I see the moment the hull strikes a submerged reef, I hear the sound of timber snap, as the boat is torn asunder. Sailors are tossed into the maelstrom of monster waves, beaten against rock and wreckage until, one by one, they vanish beneath the surface.  Only the young captain remains, struggling to stay above the water. The current sucks him under, time and again. His dark hair streaming water, his eyes full of fear, each time he breaks the surface to take a gulp of spray filled air. A mountain of water appears above him, exploding with the wrath of a cannon, driving the man so very deep. I fold my arms to my sides and dive beneath the waves, following the captains body, as it drifts ever downwards, his lifeless eyes searching for the surface, for help, never to come.

In the depths, something moves, a flash of white. Again, a shadow appears, only to dart away, before I can get a good look. It circles the man, just out of my vision. I dive deeper, keeping pace with the sinking sailor. The shadow solidifies and becomes amazing. An incredible woman swims into view, her hair streams in the water, long and flowing. She has the tail of a fish, where her legs should be, which is the color of gold. I watch her circle the sailor, taking his handsome face in her hands, caressing his dark skin with dainty fingers.  The sailor settles upon the reef, another life claimed by the sea. With a mighty flick of her golden tail, the woman vanishes into the gloom.

I decide to wait with him, it doesn't seem right to leave him alone like this. He looks so peaceful, as if he were sleeping with his eyes open. I move in and take a closer look, the man is beautiful, incredibly so. The water surges around me as the woman returns with powerful sweeps of her tail. She is oblivious to my presence, as she cradles the young sailor, concern pinching the skin above her eyes. She looks into the distance, then to the sailor, then away once more. I feel the water pulse, a deep soundless rumble, ripples, through me, and the water around me. A wall of bubbles advances on us. It parts, and six giant Manta Ray appear, drawing behind them, a crystal chariot.

The girl lifts the sailor as best she can, struggling under his weight. She lays him in the bed of the chariot, before taking hold of the reins to whip the tethered Rays into flight.  Even in my imaginary state, I struggle to keep up, as the girl drives her team forward at a lightening pace. The ocean floor rises towards the light, soon the Manta break the surface, driving for the beach, drawing their precious cargo behind them. As the storm rages, the mermaid hauls the mans body into the shallows. Drawing herself up the beach, struggling in the air, as we struggle under the water. She leans close to kiss the dead sailor. Light glows around them, blinding me for the briefest moment. When their lips part, color returns to the man's lips, his chest starting to rise and fall, injecting life back into his body.

The girl slips back into the surf, the pounding waves wash tears from her face. I noticed her tail no longer glows golden, but it's the silver gray, of an aging salmon. She'd sacrificed so much of herself to save the man, perhaps out of goodness, perhaps out of love. Whatever the reason, she entered the water lessened for her kiss.

***

Words, just words, but what places they take us.