This week’s cue word is Clip. Last week’s was Tender. I missed last week’s due to work, so this is my double bill feature to catch up 😊
The Haunting of the Clipper
She was going at a fair clip across the lurching tapestry of the Atlantic Ocean, England to America, blue agate skies and lemony sun, seabirds orbiting the old ship as it sailed westward.
Mary leaned on the rails and gazed at the vast and moving plain, her thoughts turning to the dreams of joining her husband Richard at his plantation; did she love him? Yes, otherwise she wouldn’t be making this voyage, but… the but was as stark as the shrieking of a gull as it made a pass over the deck, a black and white phantom of the seas, all hungry and brutal and vital, and Mary gave a shiver.
And she saw then on the horizon gathering clouds, blooming with the menace of a fantastic storm she might later find herself sailing into; a storm as inescapable as the life she was about to commit herself to at Richard’s plantation.
That night, in her cabin, it wasn’t storms which troubled Mary – but terrible nightmares riddled with pleas for vengeance and retribution; and the moaning and groaning she heard was not the protesting timbers of the clipper, but voices weeping with pain; and the dreadful rapping at her porthole was no striking pellets of rain nor hail, but the knuckles of fists demanding her attention; and the howls which pervaded every inch of the ship were no lamentations of the wind – but people calling out to her “Avenge us” and “Free our souls”.
The next morning Mary told her dreams to the captain, who smiled knowingly beneath a seasoned beard, and through a puff of smoke from his billowing pipe he said: “Ghosts, lass, nought but the ghosts of slaves tossed overboard and now un-resting below, aye, did ye not know this route was once sailed by slavers?”
And upon that following night, while Mary slept and once more bore witness to the moans and the howls and the voices demanding her help, she found she was no longer afraid but steeled with resolve to unshackle those ghosts, and a vow made that as soon as she reached the promised land she would burn her husband’s plantation down to the ground.
Tender is the man who succumbs to the virus, tender becomes his limbs and lungs, palest skin, and fragile eyes as weak as glass panes in cheap picture frames.
Tender is the meat he is helped to eat, hashed and blended, almost a liquid, when not one week ago he was scramming Sunday dinner down his throat, unaided, unhindered, unblemished by the invisible fingers of a virus tapping at his shoulder.
Tender is the bed he slept upon here, de-blanketed and de-sheeted, the mattress disinfected, his worldly belongings put into quarantine before being sent to relatives tender with tears.
Tender, so tender, the placement of flowers at a socially-distanced funeral.
Tender are the sentiments we are left with to nurse: the anxieties, bad dreams, stress and grief machined into relentless missiles lined up at the open hatch of a roaring bomber in a midnight sky –
Yet hearts, made of tough steel to meet the enemy at whichever gate it chooses, strong and vital, beating hard; O virus, ye shall know our wrath in the most tender moments you can reduce us to, and by our acts and courage we shall persist.
Micro story and poem by Ford.
Image: Suzy la Revoltée. Par Tani et Souriau. Lisette N° 24, 1946.