The Cousin of Death.

 

The sun speckled on the warm waters off the port. The ships were already stirring with the bustle of morning activity of sailors unfurling sails out in the bay and loading the lazes of their hulks still at the dock. The shouts and cries, the whistles of the bosun and the motion of the daily human feat seemed to be in full swing through the sun was still low on the horizon and the waking earth had seemed to only just be blinking open its eyes to the curious busy creatures among their floating oak towers and tiny crafts.

He had awoken in his bed, under the warm covers in the cool morning air, bottles of grog and rum strewn about the small room like so many moments taken from his memory or wit by the vile drink . Pressing him into the straw was a great melancholia and keeping his feet plunged under his woolen blankets was a paralyzing hesitation to embark on his life’s journey. His head felt as solid as an iron cannonball and it tethered him to this place of immobility as much as the rest. The dry humors of his body constricting his life to the thirsty dying retch he remained. Why must he carry on so?

Through the cracked window he could feel the warm breezes of the coast, hear the tinny sound of the blacksmith’s hammer, the knock of the carpenters, the rolling of carts and the “how d’you do”  of the regular people going about heir morning business. All living life had seemed to start without him and continue, and he wondered if not his own feeling, languishing in his bed was not the same as some diseased wretch in the sanitorium, wasting away while the world lived on without them. Did the rest of the world even exist beyond his room?

He could not raise himself until a bolt of realization coursed through him and his body heaved and lept from the bed. What physical motion seemed impossible a moment ago! As if such an incorporeal thing as a thought could tug him out to push him into the world with no wit or thought in his head other than the eternal dread of any person might when their actions lead them straying the jagged reef of life’s worst possibilities. He clambored for his boots, one under the bed, the other upon the dresser kicked up by uncaring and unremembering feet in the vaunted memory of the drunkerd. His coat in a pile under the coathanger and his bag cast to the far corner near the window. He looked out to the port and could see the ships and an endless curse rang like a fly’s wings through his mind.

He sped from the inn, dropped some crusty salt-stained coins at the innkeep’s desk, and drove into the air of the bright world. How pleasing the outdoor air is to a restful mind and how awful and foreign it is to the sloth. Passing the people and motions of the bustling street, he was as a passing specter he moving along at some speed, carried by his legs like a stork might stalk stiffly through the pond. The undulations of his own body with each step sent a twang of pain into his head and his desicated form. His chest tightened and heaving with painful tobacco resin coating from last night. How jovial and perfect it was last night, how understood and clear things were in such port rituals as drinking and smoking now seemed like the reaper’s work on him. The palms swayed above in the breeze and the cobblestones glistened wetly below, all under in the rising orb of the sun but he felt marred and dull and broken in the perfect world.

He knocked through the people of the market and burst forth hobbling down to the docks. Ships stationed there beginning to make the way out into the blessed open sea with souts from the captains. And yet here he was still on land. He rounded the far building and beheld his own ship, his lifeline back home, his pay and his traveling home. The sleek sloop was moving now a few yards beyond the dock. He could make out the figures of Tom and Jack and the captain standing firm in his big hat on the stern quarter. The jib and the mizzen were set and it’s pure white sails were luffing in the low breezes chariotting the craft out out out and away from him. He ran down the dock and dropped his bag by his side standing on this foreign port. He saw tom glance in his direction and point and laugh.

Utter despair was a single thought to him and it pounded with each beat of his struggling heart.

It was as he saw the ship make way for the open sea beyond the bluffs of the cove that he became aware of a presence next to him. It was a small old man with a big bushy beard. Bursting forth from his majestic whiskers was the stem of a pipe and it billowed the blue wisps of smoke into the wind. The old man’s ice blue eyes were looking out with him to the ship. The sailor had nothing to say, or he could not muster any words in his ruined and hungover state.

The old man spoke to him. “I can see in your eyes what I feel deeper in my heart.” He said.

The sailor furrowed his brow, glazed brown eyes lacking all wit or understanding.

“Did you miss your ship as well?”

“No…but I’d wager you did.”

“Drink and company kept me too long in the comfort of my bed. I see now that it’s not worth it, what a pitiful mess my life is, a horrid excuse I am living, a sham and a sloth and an utter waste my life is. I wish I could only sleep and never know what failure is or fall victim to life’s tragedies, such as this. For now, I am stuck in this port and I am assuredly fired for them to have let me here. I feel death, and I would rather sleep away all the ills of my life.”

The old man smiled between his beard and took the pipe from his mouth to chuckle.

“Does my failure amuse you old man?” he said, now turning to face him. The squat man only laughed even harder.

“Alrighty then boyo,” The old man said. “Remember now the comforting song of Morpheus does not ring in your mind and only freed from him, staunch and stark you stand as a ragged army crying loud into the passing sun as though it is a thing that can be smitten by the fire within. You must be never ceasing lest the dusk should feel cold on thy brow and wit trail away as a wisp. Envious are all the creatures and fools who wile their time in those dark halls, lost as a puppy taken by the great current of time, a spiteful and twisting river that confounds all who are lost to the shoals and rocks of old age, closer to that great ocean of all things and return to thy primordial ooze with never once viewing the trees or shores of thy life. Yet treading up as a salmon might toil, brings the same end save you find yourself in some small pool upriver, but it is their pool, their place of choosing, and O’ they shall jump waterfalls and brave the currents. And all those taken away by the currents of comfort will wag their heads over such a terrable trouble it was. Was it a comfort? Does it prove a greater blessing than achievement? Sleep aways nothing. True endless sleep comes the day after of thy life.”

“What?”

“Get some coffee, I need an able seaman on my brig and you’ll have to do. Dock 7 in an hour.”

With that the old man turned and left. The sailor hefted up his bag after a moment and made his way back to the town…

 

 

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