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Santiago’s Tale

Santiago’s Tale

Santiago is thought to be the best fisherman in the village of Vizcuan because he brings the most fish to market. There are few days out of the year when Santiago doesn’t have fish to sell. Even though he is old and tired, he fishes every day. It is what he’s always done, and what he knows.

When the other fisherman, sitting in their small boats in the expanse of ocean and harsh sky, dream of pretty girls in exotic seaports, Santiago dreams of the small café, drinking his cold beer at the end of the day. He likes the breeze through the café and the hum of conversation among the fishermen. He smiles at their stories, each one expressing more daring than the one before. This is the nature of the men who work alone on the expanse of ocean. At the end of the day, if they come home, they come home with their catch of the day and their stories.

Santiago, his back bent against the strain, pulls in the longline. He reels in twenty-five meters of line between each snood, and if there are fish, removes them and slides them through the small trap door into the bilge, carefully coiling the longline in the hull. Though his back aches and his hands cramp, thoughts about the café and the beer at the end of the day keep him going. One day, he thinks, he might have his own story to tell, but for now, his life seems composed of long, backbreaking hours of monotony.

To shorten the monotony of the ocean, he thinks up stories to tell in the café. While so many of the other fishermen look up to him because he has fished for so long and caught more fish than anyone else, nothing comes to him, nothing interesting or out of the ordinary. A story needs to have something special to make it stand out from all the other stories. A man’s life isn’t enough, and if a man’s life consists of long hours of backbreaking work, what story is to be found here?

He never takes unnecessary chances. If the weather looks ominous, he heads to shore. His small boat isn’t anything to brag about, but it gets him out to sea and back. The small motor needs rebuilt, but he keeps it going.

The other fishermen tell stories of close calls with squalls, or fish so big they can’t get them in their boats. He wonders about these stories, with nothing to back them up. But a good story, even a far-fetched one, brings pleasure to the fishermen. What in his life would bring pleasure to anyone else?

Looking out on the vast ocean, he thinks about his wife. She waits for him and always expresses delight when he comes home at the end of the day. She never chastises him for sitting in the café and drinking his beer.

When they met, he was the youngest fisherman in the village, barely eighteen years old. He went to school until the age of nine, when he began fishing with his father. He stayed in his father’s boat until he was able to buy his own panga boat at seventeen. He remembers as if it were yesterday the day he first saw Lihasa standing on the sand, peering out at the ocean. She was waiting for someone. It crossed his mind that she might be waiting for her husband, although she appeared too young to be married. Many of the young women in the village were married. He would soon discover she was waiting for her father.

He remembers that day, tied to the dock, glancing furtively in her direction, leaning into his gaff, swinging each fish from the bilge of his boat onto the dock. During one glance, she was staring back at him. He turned his attention back to his boat, fumbling for the small hand pump, frantically pumping out the bilge.

Since he was a young fisherman, he wasn’t allowed to tie up to the docks overnight, so once the bilge was pumped and his gear secured, he pushed off and backed away from the docks, glancing back over his shoulder. When he was a safe distance from the docks, he brought his boat hard onto the sand and stepped out. He lifted the prop out of the water and drug the pango boat as far as he could onto the sand, where he fastened it to the two stakes he’d taken from the hull of his boat and driven into the sand. It would be safe here, as long as a typhoon didn’t hit the coast, in which case none of the boats would survive.

After unloading his gear, he looked around hoping to locate the buyer from the fish market. There was no sign of him. Santiago looked up into the bright sunlight and then back at her, standing on the beach close to the docks. A rush of excitement ran through him, realizing he would have to walk close to her to get to the docks to retrieve his fish.

Would he find the courage to talk to her? Every day he risked his life out on his small boat on the boundless ocean, yet the thought of talking to her paralyzed him with fear. Now, so many years later, he smiles at his story. Maybe this would be a good story to tell the other fishermen at the café? He shakes his head, no, they would have no interest in such a display of cowardice.

If she hadn’t stepped forward to block his path, he would have kept walking and never met his lovely bride. She had the courage. Even today she shows more courage in everything she does than he will ever know.

When neighbors brought the news to them that their son’s boat was missing, Santiago crumpled to the floor of their casita. Lihasa bent down to soothe his uncontrollable sobs. Javier was only nineteen, close to the same age Santiago was when he began fishing alone. Santiago recalls the days of worry. Being a father is hard. But a mother? Mothers hold great courage.

This is a story of great tragedy and despair, not one to share with other fishermen. No, he should tell the tale of love, the love of a father for his son, the love of a wife for her husband. But he doesn’t trust himself to be able to tell it in the way it needs to be told.

The memory of that day on the beach so long ago gives him the courage to go out to sea every day. When Lihasa stepped to block his path, he was dumbfounded, his mind blank. Seeing his confusion, she said, “I often notice you while I wait for my father’s boat to come in.”

Since he’d never noticed her before, he was caught off guard. How could he have missed her? But he didn’t admit this. Instead, he said, “I too have noticed you and am glad you spoke today because, if not, I was determined to say something to you.”

“And what do you have to say?” she asked.

“Uh…much, I have much to say,” he said.

She hesitated, waiting for him to go on. She smiled inwardly at his frustration.

“Well, for instance, I would ask if you wanted to have a beer with me?”

“And…”

“That’s a start, I think.”

“A start? To what?”

He thought about this. What did he hope to start? He couldn’t say. It is true he found her beautiful. But she is so young and he is a fisherman just starting out. No time to think about anything else. Yet he would enjoy having a beer with her.

“So…what do you say?” he asked.

“Say to what?”

“A beer? Do you want to have a beer with me?”

She smiled and touched his shoulder. “This is a kind offer, and I would very much like to go with you, but I am waiting for my father.”

“Maybe I know him.”

“Maybe you do. You are a fisherman, and fishermen know each other. It isn’t such a large clan, not here, not in this small place.”

“No, we are a small clan, in a small village. What’s his name?”

“Eduardo. Eduardo Sanchez.”

“He is a friend of my father’s. A good fisherman, an honorable man. I would be honored to buy him a beer. If my fish bring enough.” He pointed toward the dock. She knew he was anxious about his fish and finding the buyer.

“Pascal was here earlier,” she said. “He hasn’t gone far.” Lihasa grabbed Santiago’s hand and started walking toward the dock. She kept her head up hoping to spot Pascal, the fish buyer.

When they were close to the dock, Pascal drove up in his old pickup truck. Since many of the fishermen had come in earlier, he’d already made a trip to the market to unload his purchase and was back now to buy what was left. He was fair, the fishermen thought. They trusted him, even though Pascal bought for the only fish market in the village. Some of the fishermen chose to sell directly to villagers, but most of them trusted Pascal.

Lihasa helped Santiago gather his fish and gear and walk toward Pascal’s pickup truck. Santiago knew the two Skipjack wouldn’t bring much, but he also had two Yellowfin Tuna which should bring him enough to buy six beers at the café with enough leftover to buy beans. He had tortillas at home. He lived a simple life which required little nourishment.

After Pascal paid Santiago, he turned to Lihasa. “I will wait for you in the café.”

Lihasa squinted up at Santiago and nodded. “I’ll be there after my father comes.”

Santiago gathered his net and gaff and walked toward the small café in the village, looking over his shoulder. Santiago remembers this day as if it were yesterday. And maybe it was? Time is the great deceiver. It can’t be trusted. But he has grown older, Lihasa has grown older, and their son, Javier, drowned at sea. This is a story that tears at his heart, not one he can tell to the other fishermen. Besides, they know the story. Each of them.

What if Lihasa hadn’t blocked his path? Then Javier would never have been born and Santiago’s heart wouldn’t hold this heaviness. But something else might have caused a different pain in his heart. But nothing would tear at his heart with the intensity of losing his son. And watching his wife slowly lose her balance. After Javier didn’t come home, after they knew he would never come home, Lihasa, though she worked hard to maintain her balance, began to wobble, slowly at first, but as she lost momentum, she wobbled more and more, like a top that has spun itself out.

How do you tell the story of a top that loses its desire to spin? It has one purpose in life, and that is to spin. When it spins, it is happy. But once the momentum is gone, the top no longer has a purpose. It dies a slow death. Each rotation less emphatic than the one before until it collapses. A top lying on its side.

This too is a story, one he doesn’t know how to tell. He loves Lihasa, and as much as she has any capacity to love at all, she loves him. A tragic love story because loving one’s spouse isn’t as easy as loving one’s child. This is the most natural, easiest love there is, the love of a parent for his child. Nothing surpasses this love. Nothing. And when it’s disrupted, love becomes difficult to hold on to. Lihasa tries, but too much of her heart was wrapped around Javier, and she can’t find her balance.

The other fishermen want high adventure and drama, not brokenhearted stories. Each day he goes out in his small boat, a simple life, and at the end of the day, he waits for Pascal, the fish buyer. His life revolves around the fish buyer and, afterward, sitting in the café in the breeze off the ocean with his cold beer. His life used to revolve around his love for his son and wife. His love is still strong, but his son is gone and his wife curls up inside her misery.

Pedro, a young fisherman, tells the story of el gran tiburon blanco, the great white shark. He spreads his arms out as wide as they will go, the great shark’s mouth wider than the width of his boat. “I had to act fast, falling back for my machete to cut the snood before he took the boat. He slid back into the angry sea, but stayed close to the boat, seeking revenge. Malo, muy malo.”

Santiago watches the other fishermen hang on Pedro’s every word. “And then what, Pedro? What did you do?”

“I prayed to the Virgin Mary, asking her to show mercy on a poor fisherman who did not invite such trouble to visit his boat. I am a simple man, who every night says his prayers to ask God for His forgiveness. But still, the evil stayed close. I didn’t want to cut the longline, which would cost me my livelihood. How would I replace it?”

“I had this happen to me once,” an old fisherman says. The other fishermen turn to Andre, even though Pedro’s story is unfinished. This is the way of stories, they are told in layers. Pedro’s story will become a page in the book of stories.

“The great shark hit my bait with such ferocity that it rocked my boat,” Andre says. “It is one of the hazards of fishing alone so far out where the sea has no bottom. We stir up the devil, who lives at forty fathoms, where the black water seeps from the depths of hell.”

“Do you believe this, Andre?” someone asks.

“I have seen the devil’s eyes,” Andre says.

“Such things shouldn’t be talked about,” Pedro says.

“Why not?”

“Father Sorento says to speak of the devil is to beg him to enter your life,” Pedro says.

“What does he know? Is Father Sorento a fisherman who sets his line in the devil’s water?”

Santiago, who had finished his beer, stands up quietly, hoping not to call attention to himself. It is time to walk home where Lihasa waits for him. This talk of the devil only brings on misery.

Lihasa greets him at the open door of the casita. “How was your day?”

“The same as yesterday. And the day before. The sea changes little. And on shore, does it change at a different pace? I think not.”

“You seem tired, Santiago.”

“As do you,” Santiago says. “Life stretches out as far as the endless sea and sky. When I am dead, I will rest and the pain will stop.”

Lihasa’s eyes are tired with tears. “There is much to live for, Santiago.”

He could think of nothing to say. Setting the gaff and net next to the door, he walks inside and sits down at the table. He looks wearily around the small room. “Pedro had a close call with a great white today. He is lucky he is still here to tell his story. Andre, with the story of his encounter with a great white years ago, wrested the story away from Pedro. Andre can be tiresome at times. How many times have I heard the story of his encounter with the great white and the devil? More than I care to recall.”

Lihasa listens to Santiago as she puts his dinner of fish and beans on a plate and sets them in front of him. He looks up at her, but she turns away to pour his coffee. “Sit down, Lihasa,” he says. “Eat with me.”

Lihasa sits down without filling a plate for herself. “You need to eat,” Santiago tells her. “You have grown thin.”

“Is this why you don’t touch me in bed?”

He spoons beans into his mouth and picks up his cup. He considers this, sipping his coffee. When he sets the cup down, he looks out the door of the casita. “Lihasa, pleasure has slipped from our lives. Would this bring you pleasure?”

“Yes.”

“Then I will touch you again. Do you remember when we were first married?” He straightens in his chair and reaches for Lihasa’s hand. She squeezes his hard, calloused hand. She thinks of how he must suffer every day, fishing long hours in the harsh sunlight.

He looks down at their intertwined hands. “My hands weren’t so rough then. I was going to be the greatest fisherman who ever put a boat out to sea. We would be rich from the fish I would catch. And in the gentle ocean breeze, we made love for hours every night. Until Javier was born. We were more gentle with each other after that. But we made love as before. We would never grow old. Life was good, even though we were never rich. We had everything we needed.”

“Life is still good, and we have everything we need,” Lihasa says. She turns away to hide her tears, but Santiago sees the sadness in the shudder of her shoulders. She is far away now. This too is a story, but how does one tell the story of a lifetime? Who wants to hear someone else’s story?

Santiago wants to hold her, wants to comfort her, but when he reaches for her shoulders she shies away. His hunger gone, he stands up, bends down, and kisses the back of her neck. “I will be back, Lihasa.” She nods, but doesn’t turn around, and waits to glance over her shoulder when he walks out into the dark night.

Santiago walks down to the beach to check on his boat. It is unnecessary, but he needs to get outside. The night is cool and he looks up into the endless night of stars. He’s heard that closer to the city the stars disappear. Where do they go? The ocean’s mournful rhythm calms his restless spirit. Without the spirit of the ocean, he would be lost.

The sea tells its own story, one he listens to but doesn’t understand. He wishes he could know its meaning, a meaning as old as the sum of life. If its meaning came to him, he could share it with the other fishermen. All of them have heard the story, but none of them understand it, a story of eternal sadness, but also a story of hope. The sea doesn’t care, it moves with its own rhythm, the same rhythm he found in Lihasa. The rhythm of their lovemaking, the rhythm of the ocean.

Lihasa worries about Santiago, sees the grief that has bent his back and furrowed his brow. He walks more slowly now. When she first knew him, he walked with such confidence and style. He was a man possessed with eternal sunshine. But the sun is setting on his life. She can’t be sure if this shift in him is the result of his getting older or Javier’s death. Santiago had taught Javier to fish, taught him the rhythm of the ocean, how to talk to the fish, how to ask their forgiveness and give thanks to their sacrifices. But the joy has gone out of the ocean.

She wonders if she can bring him joy through their lovemaking. Her heart isn’t in it, and this saddens her, but she will try because she has loved him for so long. She must try.

Santiago wants to bring happiness back into Lihasa’s life, but when he touches her, she moves away as if his touch shocks her. He knows she doesn’t mean to turn away, she is struggling with her sadness. She believes it is like the flu and worries he will become infected. He tries to explain to her that he has already been infected, and his sadness runs as deep as hers. Won’t she allow him to take some of her sadness? He is strong and can handle more. She can’t. She is filled to the brink with sadness, any more and she will rupture.

His grief is a story, but where does he begin? Stories begin and end, but his life has no beginning and no end. His life is without definition. He is disoriented. Only at sea is he able to find his bearings, out of sight of land, with no direction but up toward the endless sky, down into the bottomless depths of the ocean. How in such vastness is he able to find his way, where here, in the company of the woman with whom he has spent most of his life, he is without direction, utterly lost?

Santiago turns to the sea, breathes in its smells of death and decay, listens to its cadence, the rhythm of its heart.

He turns toward home, this is where he must return. Javier is somewhere out there, beyond anything Santiago has the capacity to understand. His heart touches Javier’s heart, but he longs to hold his son once again, if only for a minute, in order to feel the cadence of his son’s heart against the constant pounding of his own heart. The synchronous beating of two hearts tells its own story, a story without an end.

 

Hours before sunup, Santiago gathers his gear and bait and walks to his boat tied to the dock. He walks with a fast cadence, having made love to his wife the night before. It has been a long time, longer than he cares to remember. Lovemaking is a spontaneous gift, he thinks, and sexual pleasure requires no thought. His heart is light as he loads into the boat his gaff, net, and the mackerel that he will cut into strips as bait, unties the landline and pushes away from the dock. He pulls on the starter rope until the engine fires. After allowing the engine to pop and snort, he throttles up and moves easily away from the dock. Only the slightest cast of light guides him out to sea, but he knows before he sets his longline for the first time today, the sun will warm his back.

The sea is calm early in the morning, not yet awakened from its deep meditation. The echo from the outboard motor calms him as he makes his way out to sea. This morning he is without care. Lovemaking reinforces the energy in his heart and he feels the electricity coursing through his veins. Today nothing can contain him.

Lihasa gave herself fully to him last night, and he hopes they will be in each other’s arms again tonight. If every night he could make love to Lihasa, every day would be like a dream. Her smooth, firm body arouses him now as it did when they were first married, only now he finds their lovemaking more precious than ever.

He thinks suddenly of Javier. “Javi, we had some time last night, your mother and me. She still surges with electricity, just as she did on our wedding night. This is a rare power. It is going to be a good day. Are you here with me? I feel your presence. With my thoughts of your mother and your guiding hand, I am invincible.”

So early in the morning and already I am talking to myself, he thinks. Do I talk to myself all day, unaware that I am doing it? Santiago laughs. Alone in his boat, his constant patter keeps him company. Today his patter is filled with lightness. To make love is good for the soul, he thinks. And the heart. And the groin. A man must be a man, it is natural. To act otherwise is to go against nature, a battle no man can win.

The sun is breaking the eastern horizon, beginning to warm Santiago’s back. He has never minded the harsh, cruel heat of the open sea. The alternative is dangerous. Sudden squalls and violent storms. On the expanse of sea, there is no place to take cover. The sunrise is a fiery orange streaked with purple, an ominous sign of bad weather to come. But Santiago takes no stock in this. The day will unfold as God wills. Santiago is a fisherman and will set his longline in order to catch fish. If a storm comes, he will deal with it then. Not before.

As far as he can see along the line of the horizon, and behind him toward shore, growing dimmer, Santiago sees no other boats. He is often the first boat out, but he is unsettled by the fact that none of the other boats have left the docks.

Undeterred, he pushes on. His plan is to set his longline far out today to try to catch the elusive Yellowfin tuna, which brings the highest prices from Pascal, the fish buyer. Going so far out has risks, but today he feels strong and enthusiastic. He is up to the challenge. Fishing to Santiago is life itself. If one isn’t challenged in life, then one lives in disappointment. This is the saddest story of all, and he hears it time and time again while drinking his beer in the small café. It won’t be his story.

“Javi, where is everybody?” Santiago asks, looking over his shoulder, his small boat far from shore. The sun is more intense now, but the clouds are darker to the east. He has a decision. But his muscles feel strong and young, his heart light from making love to Lihasa last night. He is determined to catch Yellowfin today to make her proud of him. She will feel honored to sleep with such a strong, virile man, the best fisherman in the village. She will walk proudly among the other fishermen’s wives, a broad smile across her face.

Once he is out of sight of the shoreline, he uncoils the longline, baiting the first hook, dropping it into the depths of the green ocean. He baits the next hook, uncoiling more of the longline, reaching over with his foot to steady the rudder, looking back over his shoulder at the black clouds moving toward him. This isn’t good, he thinks, continuing to uncoil more of the longline, baiting the hooks and dropping them overboard.

“What do you think, Javi?” Santiago works faster now, determined to set the longline before the storm arrives. If he works fast enough, he should be able to winch in the longline in a couple of hours, and if luck is with him, have something to show for his time. There is no question of turning around since winching in the longline now would mean losing his bait. Instead of worrying about the storm, he turns his attention to Lihasa, to the smell of her womanness, to the strength of his love for her.

As the wind hits the boat, he quickly throttles up, making a wide arc to avoid cutting across his longline, moving into the wind. It is too early to take in the longline. The Yellowfin will take their time to hit the bait. Even in the face of the storm, he must show patience. Patience is what has always served him as a fisherman, and he must rely on it now.

When the first heavy drops of rain splat against the bow of the boat, Santiago slips into his slicker. He bows his head against the wind and rain. “Javi, what have I done?” Though he is determined to wait for fish, he knows the danger in this decision. Even thoughts of Lihasa won’t relieve his concern.

The sea has become violent and the rain lashes at his face and hands. Dark clouds descend. He takes the compass from his ship’s box. Sighting land has become impossible. He will make love to Lihasa tonight, he will, he feels this in his bones. He thinks of her now, pacing along the shore in constant worry. The storm hit the village before it moved out to sea. This is a land storm that has grown angry and violent in the toss of the ocean.

As the wind increases in intensity and the rain pounds the small boat relentlessly, Santiago begins hauling in the longline, struggling against the tormented sea, the small boat tossed by the violent sea. He strains against the tug of the ocean.

Lihasa, lashed by the rain, paces uneasily along the shore. None of the other boats went out. Why did he? Damn fool. She shouldn’t have given in to his ravenous appetite last night, knowing how this gives him the illusion of invincibility. When he comes home, she will smother him with sex so that he’ll never want to leave their bed. In their bed, he is safe. Out there, God knows how he is suffering.

Putting the fish out of his mind, Santiago senses the urgency in hauling in the longline and heading toward shore. Every fish he must stop to remove slows him down. He debates whether to cut the longline, but the cost to replace it is insurmountable. Keep pulling, your life depends on it. The small outboard motor strains against the turbulent sea. The rain has increased in intensity and dread overpowers Santiago’s thoughts, thoughts he must put out of his head. Yes, he was stupid for going out, yes, he was stupid for ignoring the signs of an impending storm. Lihasa would have warned him if she had been up when he left. He stood above the bed, watching her blissful sleep, her dreams charged with energy from the night before. Is this the price he must pay? So be it. Lovemaking charges the air with energy and life.

A sudden surge rocks the boat violently and Santiago stumbles, hitting his head on the gunwale. The small boat moves in a wide arc, cutting back across the longline. Santigo is aroused by the grinding noise of the longline being cut by the propeller blades. He jumps up, but it is too late. The longline, entangled in the propeller, has seized the motor. He moves to the stern but is unable to see below the surface of the turbulent sea. Lying flat in the hull, reaching as far as he can, he’s unable to reach the propeller. He has no desire to slip into the angry sea. No, he must focus on getting to shore, now without the use of the motor.

Santiago begins bailing water before he secures the oars to the oarlocks. Once he is underway again, he looks around for his compass. It must have gone overboard when he fell. Through the thick, menacing clouds, how will he find shore?

He thinks of Lihasa, filled with worry. He wants to tell her that he is all right, they will make love tonight.

With no other choice, and to relieve his dread, he begins to row, straining with all his might. If he is rowing in a circle, so be it, what choice does he have? He tries to pray, but he knows no prayers. He thinks of Pedro and how when el gran tiburon blanco tried to swamp his boat, he prayed to Mary. How does it go? Santa Maria, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotrus pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerta.

Prayer isn’t enough. He knows. And rowing in a circle is a fantasy, it won’t get him home. “Lihasa, I am sorry, I shouldn’t have left our bed this morning, but I am a man, a fisherman, and other than you, the ocean is all I know. It is wrong. This damn ocean has taken our son, and now it will take me. I have left you broken and alone.”

Tears stream down his face as he rows harder, not knowing where his efforts are taking him. But he won’t stop. He won’t give up.

Something touches him on the shoulder, but when he turns around, nothing is there. His imagination is playing tricks on him. When all else fails, when you show you are ignorant beyond forgiveness, your imagination has no choice but to play tricks on you. It is the last humiliation. And then he feels it again. This time he ignores the touch. “No, I know I am a fool, but I won’t play your silly games.”

He hears the voice but ignores it.

“Who are you to serve as my guide? Am I to trust my imagination?”

He hears the voice again and feels the tap on his shoulder. Something is urging him to row to starboard.

Santiago turns around. There is nothing behind him, but now he recognizes Javier’s voice.

“Are you there?”

The storm has increased in intensity to the point Santiago can barely see beyond the bow of the boat. He won’t stop though, determined to find his way.

Again he feels the strong nudge on his left shoulder, pushing him to starboard.

Santiago hesitates but guides the boat to starboard. He waits for further directions.

“Javi, is it really you?” And then Santiago is reassured by the pressure of two hands on his shoulders.

“Yes, Papa, I am here. I promised Mama I would bring you home?”

“But how?”

“No time to worry about that. The storm is growing stronger, and you can’t hold out much longer. You need to follow my directions.”

“I will.”

“You are doing fine, stay on course, Papa. I am right here.”

“Why can’t I see you? I want to see you.”

“I know, Papa. Don’t worry, I am here.”

Santiago rows with greater urgency. He is confident now that he is moving in the right direction. And if he isn’t, this too is all right. He knows Javier is with him. And this brings him joy. If he doesn’t make it home, he will find a way to let Lihasa know how much she means to him and let her know he is with Javier.

As the storm rages around him, he rows with renewed energy, confident in Javier’s presence. After hours of backbreaking rowing, his arms and hands weary, he finally spots the shoreline, at once relieved and saddened. Is Javier still with him?

The small boat plunges into the soft sand of the beach and Santiago falls out, struggling to drag the boat onshore, collapsing onto the sand once the boat is secure. The dark clouds and rain swirl around him, but he is too exhausted to seek cover. “Javie,” he whispers. “Thank you, my son.”

He feels the hands on his cheeks and blinking into the heavy rainfall, he looks up into Lihasa’s tear-stained eyes. She bends down to kiss him, her lips filled with love. He manages to wrap a weary arm around her waist and pull her to him. She is shivering from the cold and wet and he wants to give her every last ounce of his heat.

“Santiago, you are home,” she says. He nods and holds her tighter. “Can you get up?”

“Yes.”

She helps him to his feet. Holding onto each other, they stagger toward the casita and their dry bed where they fall into a deep sleep, dreaming of sunshine and the gentle breeze that strokes the palm trees. After twelve hours of sleep, the storm is gone, and sitting up in the small bed, they wonder if the storm was real or just a dream?

Santiago tells Lihasa how he talked to Javier, and she tells him she did too. “Javier told me that you were coming home.”

“So, this wasn’t a dream?”

“No, Santiago, it wasn’t a dream.”

Santiago stretches and slips out of bed, stepping out into the sunshine. What a story, he thinks. Yes, a story that is sure to capture the attention of the other fishermen in the café. Smiling to himself, he knows he will never tell the story. It is quite a story and would hold them in awe, but it is just a story, after all, maybe a story better suited to hold in his heart and share only with Lihasa. This is the best kind of story.

 

4 Comments
  1. I love short stories. This story captures the dreams disappointments, losses and Hopes experienced in even the simplest of lives. Love is the driving force behind every raging storm of life that threatens. Love is the only thing that makes life worth living. A beautiful story.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Rita. I truly appreciate them. And I agree, “love is the driving force behind every raging storm.”

  2. David, your story had me reeling in love and heartbreak and not seeing hope where you did but as I read it grew within me. I felt your loss in this writing and a great pain as you must have. You are very strong and love does not forsake you. How perfect, the emotions, in the uncomeliness of a loss at sea… the dream then not the dream. It begins so simply then rages with loss then comes back again… like the full circle of life. WOW. I’m impressed.

    • Thank you, Yvonne, for these kind and heartfelt words. You can’t begin to imagine how much they mean to me. As you know, an artist’s life can be lonely and solitary, so words of encouragement, especially words spoken from the heart, are uplifting. Whenever I feel like giving up, an angel speaks to me. Thank you again, Yvonne, for your kind, beautiful words.

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