A seaman's story. 15 July, 2007.

General fiction short stories not related to Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror.

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LightBrigade
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A seaman's story. 15 July, 2007.

Post by LightBrigade »

A seaman's story is not scifi and it is not typical Fantasy since there is no magic. People may think there is myth.

Seamen think it is reality. Non-fiction.
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Tonight I attended a music concert. The event was held in an ancient theatre. Along with other such ancient theatres here, this one is known for its extraordinary and perfect acoustics, especially considering the time it was built and the technology and progress of science in those times.

The concert characterised the career of a singer who slept recently. He was not only appreciated by almost all Hellenes, he was loved. Coming from a poor family of refugee Hellenes from a country where they sent them away as enemies, confiscating their property and creating a criminal environment long before the hostilities of the Second World War broke out, this singer was not musically educated in the sense of having done any relevant studies. Yet he is considered the best among our singers even today. Some may think differently, but they must be so very few really. He is like a hero for the public. He sang about the daily struggle of the average man, the injustice suffered by the weak, the heartache of the young in love, the brutally frustrated hope of the unemployed, the misery of the homeless, the painful life of the have-nots, the simple pleasures of life which are not dependent on the columns of wealth, national matters, the unending agony of parents for their offspring, all this as a devout man. We feel the world is poorer without him now.

People of all ages were present. Soon after the concert started, everyone in the large theatre made of ancient marble stone was singing along. Summer nights in this mild climate, in ancient places we inherited, among people who feel the same about the themes sung and express it spontaneously, can create a magical atmosphere. If not very emotional.

After the concert, I ran down to the port and jumped into my sailing boat to find a glass of some drink I needed so much in the emotional state I was in. I used the small engine to come out of the terribly congested port, shut it down to fix the main mast yard and opened the main sail and the jib homebound. I poured a second glass.

Soon the port was behind me on very calm seas and a steady, soft, mainly west wind – I was on a south-southeast course. Getting to the theatre was more difficult in this wind so I was going downhill now. I checked the coast marks, the compass and lit my pipe to escort the drink. The route is well known so even though it was night time, the moon shone a little, the sky was almost free of clouds so the stars could be seen all the more clearly as I moved away from the city so it was easy to find my way without going to great lengths with the map or the Global Positioning System. Some new sailors prefer to go about thinking they do not need the moon and the stars since they have the GPS. They may be right. I did use one radio communication with the portmaster for permission to leave port though as a typical measure of precaution more than a compulsory step. He had no news for any change in the weather.

Seeing the wind was holding steady, as predicted, I corrected the yard position a little, checked the sail ropes and gradually relaxed. I realised it could have been the sea, the breeze, the motion of the boat, the drink and the tobacco or the experience I have just had at the concert that made my mind turn to the history of the singer and the present of the talented songs he bequeathed us with. Perhaps I was too influenced by the experience, perhaps I meant to prolong the echo of it in my mind, but I did not turn on the portable music system on board. Sometimes the music of the sea is more therapeutic to the soul.

I was well past the halfway point, when I started murmuring a song of those I had heard in the concert. But then the atmosphere showed ionization. My hair stood on end (like the hairs on my forearm stand on end in winter if I rub a woolen piece of cloth against my arm) and the sea surface showed sings Poseidon was becoming a little upset. The first sign was not good. Yet, the sky was clear all around the horizon, most unusual for a squall. I lowered the main mast sail at once, mounted the storm jib in the place of the standard one and prepared a couple of thick ropes to throw in behind the boat as floating anchors at the first sign of any high wave.

Only one came and the boat strangely appeared to stop in front of it even before riding it! I saw a dark mass rise above the surface and dive back under again, its tail vanishing quickly. Dolphin! A dolphin I imagined it must have been! What was it doing on the surface in this weather?

The dark body of a mermaid surfaced to stop still a metre away facing me. The wind had grown strong so when she spoke I am not so sure I could hear her. She called the name of the singer I think, and then I heard her ask.
“Does he live?”

Her tail rose higher than the deck and bent threateningly towards the boat.

“Does he live?” She repeated taking a formidable face after she named the singer by his name.

My initial surprise in the middle of this dark hour in this sudden game the sea was playing at me and at the appearance of a dolphin which was not a dolphin but this mermaid before me, escalated immediately into complete amazement. The mermaid spoke!

But her stare was compelling. I had to reply.

I stood up getting a grip at the railing with the right hand and the yard with the left, took half a step towards the edge of the deck and stared back at her peering into the moonlight to assure myself I was not dreaming.

I nodded, tightened my left hand and released my right, bringing it to the chest in a fashion like the Roman soldiers did when they saluted their officers.

“He lives!” I shouted out. I then repeated the gesture, intending to make clear I was pointing to my heart. “He lives! Here!”

The tail flapped onto the sea and then she bent her waist backwards. Her grimace showed pain, her mouth was left open as she slid to the side, but I am positive that before she sunk to disappear, I saw a moonlight tear drop on her cheek. The wave passed, the wind was the earlier steady mainly westerly three, four strength, the sea surface unruffled.

When I tied at the dock a little later, after a calm, uneventful rest of a journey, I greeted the old port guard good evening. I told him about it, handing him the bottle of ouzo I had opened to have only two glasses.

The ancient-old seaman thanked me for the bottle of drink and nodded. “Lucky. You’re lucky.” He said in a sleepy tone and turned to get back to his post cabin, bending over a bad leg. As if he had suddenly changed his mind he turned around to add.

“They bring down their tail and crush the boat if you reply he’s dead.”

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Post by angolafool »

I liked this piece. There are a couple points I might raise, though.

The first has to do with style. It came off as a little unusual. I don't know that I could point to many problems specifically, but reading it was a little, I don't know, difficult at times. That's me, though, and it might be that others have no problems. It seemed almost halfway between a creative essay and a story, and I think you might want to think about choosing one or the other or finding a better way of combining the two.

I thought that the story had an almost timeless quality to it, which was broken with the bit about GPS. I'd like to see the timeless quality maintained, but that's personal preference and not necessarily the right thing to do.

I thought the encounter with the mermaid, the end of the story, was strong.

Overall, a good story that struck me as a little rough.

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Post by Bmat »

I liked it. To me it has an elusive quality similar to a dream.

Who is the singer who was mentioned?

Oh, and is the mermaid real?

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Post by LightBrigade »

Thank you, angolafool, for going into the trouble of reading this, and thank you for your very kind words.

- You are right about the GPS, it feels harsh to me, too. It must go then, right?

- “I don't know that I could point to many problems specifically.” I hope you will allow me to ask, what do you mean by this sentence, please? (It is a sincere question in appropriately low tone.)

- It is possible that we detect what made reading difficult at times, perhaps? Is it probably many problems you found but you could not point to?

- “…halfway between a creative essay and a story…” It is merely part of my diary.

On the other hand, Paramythia, about which we have talked here at SV, is in few words, an ancient-old style where a story presents realistic development of events (for credibility and readability hook), adding mythical elements intending to be didactic or targeting other literal aims. Aesop, Euripides, Aeschylus, Plato, Pythagoras and other classics have used it.

- Rough makes an interesting observation! It may be related to the unusual we saw above. I would appreciate it if you helped me with tracing these characteristics and discussing how far amendment to these directions would be useful.

Bmat wrote:… is the mermaid real?

Thank you for being so generous.

Right under my avatar it reads I live in Hellas, where myths live.

Bmat wrote:… is the name of the artist?


The name will mean nothing to people who have hardly had any experience of his talent and offer. Yet, of all the people I know abroad, you are the only one who has heard him singing a song, and followed the lyrics. It was 'Petrina Chronia', meaning 'The Stone Years' in music, lyrics, orchestra conducting and recording engineering by Stamatis Spanoudakis. The song title referred to a recent period of dictatorship here and was part of a larger music work of Spanoudakis. (More in less conspicuous conversation.)

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Post by angolafool »

I'm glad you thought my comments were worthwhile. I'll address your response in hopes of clarifying them a bit.

I would get rid of the GPS myself. If you feel it jars as well, then perhaps it should go.

The part where I say that I cannot point to many specific problems really meant that, for the most part, the story reads the same throughout and so it would be difficult to pick out this or that. It isn't poorly written, so I can't say this needs to go or that needs work just because I would do it differently. It's just that the style is a little different from what I am used to seeing or doing myself and so I am not entirely comfortable with it. This also addresses what I mean by difficult. I don't mean to tell you what you should do with your work. I just thought I'd tell you my take on it in the event that it might make you see things you yourself might think need work. I could pull out sentences and comment on them, but it would be sort of like me rewriting the work, which I am not qualified to do.

The rough thing was probably a poor choice of words. I merely meant that it did not read in the way I am accustomed to. Again, my take on the piece. It was a personal thing, and I shouldn't have used a word that slights the work like that.

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