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The Carriage Driver³ – The Man at the Seaside

Updated on August 16, 2017

Chris was fifty-three. He was a man who knew the reference of a ½ pint, pint and a fifth. He amused himself thinking that related to the end of the month, the middle of the month, the beginning of the month. Reflecting on his life, he thought he lost his innocence, his virginity if you will, to the Merchant Marines when he long ago left the land.

He no longer thought of land like most people. The deck of a ship had a roll to it. A ship rumbled with a deep diesel life, with which land could not compete. The sea was clean then and rust quietly ate away at civilization.

Now, he sat here, in the dark, on the rocks by the sea. He knew the lumps below the skin of his arms and back and buttocks were not natural. The heat and the work and the sun had made him crusty. Love had evaded him and that added to his grizzled appearance. Women with innocence in their hearts do not fall in love with men hardened by their lot.

He thought about the back alley in Bahir De Caraquez, in Ecuador, where the man with the knife overestimated his drunkenness. He knew that he left his attacker dead in that filthy alley. He returned to his ship, stitched his own wounds and never returned to Ecuador.

In his shirt pocket was the printout of the information the doctors had diagnosed. But, he knew before he saw the doctor that this was more trouble than he could handle.

He lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and thought about the time he spent with Jacinta in a little port named Aracaju in Brazil. She had made him happy. So, happy he had missed his ship and stayed, engulfed in this tropical illusion, as long as his money held out before being forced to catch another. Of course he promised to return, and she promised to wait. Neither kept their promise.

He took the printout out of his pocket and put the burning tip of his cigarette to it. It burned slowly at first then engulfed the paper. Just like my life, he thought, Up in a flash. He let slip the edge of the paper where it rolled along the rocks, trying to get to the sea.

There was a quick hiss as he flicked the cigarette into the water. Reaching down, he undid the heavy laces of his work boots and took them off. He removed his socks, stood and walked into the water.

He used the path of a moonbeam as a guide. He still had his strength. He was from the breed of men that felt strength was the most important thing a man could have. He knew seaports and shanty songs. He spent time with tough women, and drank bad whiskey. The sharp knife on his belt could be used for shaving. The cold Atlantic washed the tears from his face.

The voice that he heard was that of Jacinta. Follow me, she called. His arms cut through the water knowing that his mind was playing a trick on him. Follow me, he heard. He stopped swimming, pushing water around, he listened. He inhaled deeply and slipped beneath the water.

The darkness, for some reason made him feel safe. The sea embraced him. He exhaled the last of life. A small stream of bubbles marked his passing. A group of Summer Flounder escorted him as he drifted in the gloom.

There was no flash of light. No face of God, to welcome him. A mermaid approached, circling him. She had the face of Jacinta. Follow me, she hooked a finger and swam slowly away. He followed.

He kicked hard. More deliberate, stronger, than he remembered from just a moment ago. She reached a ship, lying on its side and ducked inside a hole in her side. Chris noted the name painted on the side, Equipoise. He swam into the gap the mermaid had taken, but did not see her.

There were a group of men around a table eating. A galley hand carrying a tray spotted Chris and set the tray down. “Who are you? We have not had a visitor in sixty long years.” The men around the table looked up at him. One stood and walked toward him.

“We were sunk, in ‘42 carrying cargo from Panama to New York. What brings you here?”

Chris was taken aback. “This can’t be heaven.”

The men laughed, a chorus went up. “No, not heaven. But nearly as good, not hell, as far as we can tell.”

The galley hand had fetched a cup of coffee. “Plenty of coffee here, a big part of our cargo was coffee.”

A man at the table said, “Next time out we are going to haul only rum.” Again the men laughed.

“Come sit down with us.” He led Chris to the table. “Tell us, what is the news of the war?”

Chris spotted the mermaid lying in a bunk above the men. Her chin was resting on the palm of her hand. The last bit of water was dripping from her tail.

“Oh, don’t mind her.” The man closest to him said. “She brings us fish and when she is here we keep the sharks away.”

Source

Chris ran his fingers down his arm. Then he reached around to his back. The lumps were gone. This was some kind of new beginning. “This is not heaven.”

“We are men of the sea. We trusted in our skills, we know the strength of the winds and the unforgiving upheaval of waves. We led a turbulent life. We all knew of the commandments, but we also knew the temptations. The temptations were more frequent.”

“Don’t forget the torpedo. A torpedo put that hole in our side and turned us with severe force. We did not know much about praying. The night we settled in here we were all willing to learn. It must be the same with you.”

Chris sat and took a drink of the coffee he was handed. The coffee tasted like a cross between diesel oil and coffee just like he was used to. “I remember once we were at the Port of Iquitos in Peru. Our cargo was shoes. The mermaid raised her eyebrows. We heard, though a stevedore that the women in the bars would be very appreciative of receiving new shoes. So, each man smuggled a pair of women’s shoes off the ship to use in trade. Our plans did not work out as smoothly as we had hoped. By the end of the night all the shoes were on the counter. The men who happened to smuggle the right size and the right style were rewarded. The rest of us smuggled shoes back on board.”

The men and even the mermaid laughed. They all settled in. There were new stories to hear, and there was now a reason to retell many of the old stories.

Griffin and Nuelle had taken one of their night walks. When their schedule allowed, in the quiet of the night Griffin would use a bridle and he and Nuelle would take their walk and be fed by the strength and power of the Atlantic. The raging mass of the sea fortified them. It helped them in their perspective and made their choices more palatable.

In the dark they stood quietly. They both watched as this man sitting by the seaside made his final choice. The choice of tossing in the hand dealt him. The hand he played out as well as possible in the big game. Griffin watched the strength which the man pulled himself along the moonlit path and wondered.

e-qui-poise

ekwa,poiz

balance of forces or interest

Coming soon to theaters and drive-ins everywhere. ha
Coming soon to theaters and drive-ins everywhere. ha

Pirates of the Caribbean Theme Song | Bagpipes & Cello | (He's a Pirate)

© 2017 mckbirdbks

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    • mckbirdbks profile image
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      mckbirdbks 7 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Genna - OK, my feet have reached the ground again, after that nice comment. Thank you. A little voice tells me, I should quit when I am ahead. But page count tells me otherwise. Happy Sunday.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 7 days ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Mike, this is one of my favorites in this series. The introductory paragraphs are, I think, among the best you've ever written, with a perfect ending of "the choice." This is a mastery of writing.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
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      mckbirdbks 7 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill – I appreciate your comment Bill. The Carriage Driver stories forced me to think. So, I appreciate that people find some of them of interest.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
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      mckbirdbks 7 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Gypsy - Thank you. I appreciate your visits to this corner of the Hub.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
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      mckbirdbks 7 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello John – I do agree that Chris made the right choice. Some would disagree. I too like stories of the sea. You may like Joseph Conrad, if you have not already discovered him.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 days ago from Olympia, WA

      These are stories which should be read around a campfire, enjoying a beverage, the flames flickering, the night still, and another world comes to life through your words.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 8 days ago from Riga, Latvia

      Really enjoyed this. Great story, nice music,

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 8 days ago from Queensland Australia

      Mike, like Ann, I really liked this tale. It seems anything to do with the sea is appealing to me although I have not written a lot about it. I think Chris made the right choice.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
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      mckbirdbks 8 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Shy - What a nice comment. This is the first episode of the carriage driver where, no one got a carriage ride. (How is that for a twist?)

      Equipoise - the balance of forces or interests. The 'in-between' not heaven not hell. Our hero found himself again left with his lot in death.

      Thanks for the blessings and the nice comment.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 8 days ago from Texas

      Mike, this is strangely beautiful where a man can be at peace with his lot in life and face his end in the hull of a dead ship.

      Blessings my friend.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
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      mckbirdbks 8 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Martie - You are right, the sea has claimed its share of men. There are many tales of men going to sea, never to return. Thanks for the thumbs up regarding the cover of TCD3.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
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      mckbirdbks 8 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Peg - I think the Marines had their brand of coffee also. Anytime I can remind you of your Father, I have to consider the story a success. Thanks for commenting on the cover of TCD3. This has been an interesting ride.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 8 days ago from South Africa

      Beautiful, sad, story! The oceans have taken so many lives, and so many have given their lives willingly to the ocean.

      I love the cover of The Carriage Driver 3.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 9 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Oh that definitely has to be the best cover yet for the next Carriage Driver Series! Loved this seaside tale and the stories within as well. What a great place to end up for a seafaring man. Sea turtles! That's Captain Jack Sparrow. My Dad used to add Jack Daniels to his morning cup of java and called it Navy Coffee. Ha! Another winner of a story.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
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      mckbirdbks 9 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Becky - Thank you. Glad you found this to your liking.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
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      mckbirdbks 9 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello mar - Thanks for the compliment regarding the cover graphic. There seems no good way to convey the message of the Carriage Driver. Equipoise - the balance of forces. The inbetween. Yes, I liked that also. I am glad you like the story and will begin wondering about Friday's.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 9 days ago from Hereford, AZ

      Beautiful story Mike.

    • mckbirdbks profile image
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      mckbirdbks 9 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Ann - Thank you. This episode was different from the formula that has taken hold of this series. The story seemed to flow, which I like, as it writes itself. Glad I could supply an afternoon smile.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 9 days ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Mike,

      This installment was mysterious and magical - at the end, even our Carriage Driver was left wondering.

      OK, I may be famous for this line...but I'm thinking this TCD cover is your best - so far anyway?!

      I may even have a new favorite word - equipoise ... :)

      Thanks for this 'wonder'ful start to my Friday. Hugs, mar

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 9 days ago from SW England

      I really like this one. It is so vivid. Love the phrase 'rumbled with a deep diesel life'. This has solace, humour and the gentleness that always accompanies your Carriage Driver stories.

      I needed a smile this afternoon; thank you, Mike.

      Ann