Sunday, 23 March 2008

Bound


It was the season of storms, and the sea was relentless. The fishermen found it hard to get a decent day’s catch, and the nets were half empty at the best of times. To make things worse for Edmar, his wife had caught pneumonia. She lay in bed with a fever, leaving their baby in his care, and a big burden on his shoulders.

Before dawn, he walked from their house, along the beach, and past a long line of nets stretched on the sand. Busy fisher folk kneeled behind them, straightening and disentangling and fixing holes.

‘Today we’ll catch some,’ they all told each other in greeting, either with words or with their eyes.

They went out farther and for longer each day. But the storms came at any time, day or night, making it dangerous to be on a boat. The storm season had been longer than any before, and had driven the fish farther and farther from the coast. Every morning the high tide left flotsam in its wake. As if mocking the village, it decorated the shore with broken shells, weeds, star-fish, a thin angel fish here and there.

Edmar was out all day and worked his small boat and threw his lines under the grey overcast sky. When the wind started to pick up he stayed a bit longer still, knowing it was dangerous, looking and waiting for a change. But the sky became dark and brooding, storm winds gathering as usual, and he headed back.

‘Any luck?’ said his wife as he closed the door behind him.

Edmar shook his head in reply and said nothing. He put a couple of fish on the table and turned on yesterday’s soup. He poured himself a glass of rum, sat down next to his wife on the bed, and kissed her on the forehead.

‘I don’t believe it,’ she said, sitting up. ‘It’s as if the sea’s gone mad and is hiding the fish from us.’ She gave his shoulder a gentle pat and sighed. Then she rested back on the bed again and closed her eyes.

‘It will change,’ he mumbled as he got up. The baby was sleeping, which was just as well, since there was so little food. ‘Tomorrow,’ he said, in a voice without despair, without hope. Only a statement. Tomorrow.

But at night his struggle continued. He didn’t sleep well, worried as he was. He would’ve gone out fishing in the night cold if he could, instead of sleeping. He tossed and turned, nightmares plaguing his sleep. He was tied up, tightly bound in rope made of seaweed, and he fought in desperation to free himself, but he couldn’t. All around him he saw the waves grow taller. He wished his arms were stronger so that he could fight it, but the harder he fought, the tighter the ropes around him felt, until he couldn’t even breathe. In half dream, half wakefulness, he could hear the wind blowing and wailing, gales and gusts of wind rattling against the roof. He heard the high-tide waves hissing with an angry sound as they broke on the beach. At some point during the night he woke up to the baby’s cries and gave her soup to warm her belly as he held her in his arms.

The next day started and continued the same as all recent days. When he was at sea and the wind started to picked up, he knew he would turn back empty handed . Edmar stood in the centre of his fishing boat and yelled at the winds, at the ocean.

‘WHAT DO YOU WANT?’ He shouted with all the air in his lungs, and he kept forcing his breath out until there was none left. His voice merged with the other sounds, as if part of the gathering storm.

Once he was back, he managed to beg a fish from a fisherman who had done better than him. His wife thanked him and gave him a kiss. The baby seemed calmer after dinner.

That night his dreams got worse. Once again he was bound tight. He fought it. His arms were strained and breaking with the effort and still he wasn’t strong enough. He shouted at the winds in a voice without words. All around him he saw the ocean, and above, a blazing sky streaked with red and lightning. He saw boats floating at the bay, bobbing up and down and sideways like broken toys. He saw a dog and a goat, and the dog was barking at him. He gathered all the strength he had and this time he broke free. He screamed and heard his voice, powerful and torrential.



He woke up early that morning feeling rested. The sky was still dark. He hummed a melody to himself as he warmed up some soup. He had time to eat it with a piece of bread, and to brew tea before leaving for the day’s work. He felt in his bones that things had finally changed.

There was a knock on the door. He opened it to find old Jamesy outside, leaning forward, panting, mouth gaping like a fish.

‘Morning,’ he said with a loud fisherman’s voice. ‘Don’t think it’s safe to go fishing today. The sea is angry. Last night’s storm was a monster, left boats upturned in the bay, and a big wave took John’s dog with it.’

Edmar finally understood. He left the village that day and never looked back.

3 comments:

Anna said...

Thanks Nittai! What a beautiful site. I have enjoyed & will enjoy reading it. A big hug. Anna

Mr. Posh said...

hey really cool!! And also a really pretty site...did you design it yourself? also when is your first book coming out? :)

Nittai said...

Hey, I'm glad someone read my doodles!

Anna: thanks for the visit! And your compliments mean a lot. I hope you had a nice Easter.

Mr. Posh: Also thanks! I tweaked a design, more than design it myself from scratch. Writing a book is scary... the good thing is that editors will get rid of all the spelling mistakes :). Every time I revise I find new ones. Did you stay in Sgp for Easter? Do you even have cadbury's cream eggs over there?