Tag Archives: love

Unsinkable – Visual Fiction

Taken in Namhae, Korea

Taken in Namhae, Korea

 

Robert Brouard rowed the old green boat, nicknamed the Love Boat, into the middle of the silent reservoir. The surrounding hills  seemed to smoke with ragged cloud vapor and unwillingly, he thought of the crematory giving off smoke as it transformed his beloved Sandra’s body into nothingness. All he had left of her was an urn of ashes and the boat she had built long ago.

He reached the middle of the reservoir and picking up the urn, he started dumping the ashes out into the water. He didn’t feel sad—at least no sadder than he had for the last week. It was hard to think that the grey dust had ever been a part of her. He accepted it objectively, but he felt no need to say good-bye to it. The boat had more of her spirit left in it than that grey, dusty ash.

The boat…

Sandra would always sit in the back when they went rowing together. She would smile lovingly at him and that would keep him going as he sweated and worked to row them out into the middle of the reservoir for a picnic, or to look at the stars, or just to be alone together. He thought of that first night in it, after she had finally finished and launched the thing that had taken up her spare moments for two years.

He had been so proud of her—I’ll bet I’m the only man in the world whose wife can build a boat, he’d said. It probably wasn’t true, but it made her glow with pleasure and when she was happy, he was happy. They had drunk the champagne instead of smashing it on the prow and then made love in the tippy little craft under the stars. It had been awkward and precarious but passionate, and forty years later, the memory was still electrifying.

But now…

Robert put down the urn and picked up the hatchet, prepared to chop through the bottom. “I’m going to come join you now, if that’s okay, dear,” he said. “Just you, me, and the boat.”

It wasn’t that he felt depressed. He felt none of that black cloud of despair that had sometimes afflicted him as a teenager. It just seemed natural, logical even, to go this way. He had no purpose without her; he was just a lonely old man waiting to die in order to be with his beloved again, so why wait? And he could not leave the boat to be sold off and used by others who did not know its significance and history. Memories were not for sale.

He closed his eyes and with a swift movement, struck the bottom of the boat. He chopped again and again, making a fist-sized hole while water flooded in.

It had covered his calves when the water stopped flowing in. He sat there for some time with wet shoes and socks, wondering why the boat wasn’t sinking. Wood floated, of course, but he had filled the boat with weights to make sure it sank. Still, it refused to sink, as if some of Sandra’s obstinacy had imbued the very timbers. Finally, feeling foolish and confused, he rowed slowly back to shore.

Later that evening, he used the truck winch to pull the boat onto shore and examined it to find what had caused the miracle. He pried off one of the sidewalls and found that it was filled with foam. He checked the others and every space was filled with foam: enough to keep the boat above water, even if it got a hole in it.

And he had never known. Back then, she had been a star swimmer, while he could barely do a lap. Just in case, he could imagine her saying. Just in case we spring a leak. Just in case we’re stranded.

Just in case I die first and you take the boat out alone.

“I’m going to have to fix that hole as soon as possible,” he said. And then, for the first time in that horrible, tragic, soul-crushing week, he began to cry.

 

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The Great South Gate of Jeonju: Pungnammun Remembers

The Prosperous South Gate they named me, and I have borne that name with pride for centuries. I have been a rampart against attackers and a conduit of prosperity to my people within; the First Fortress of the Honam region, I was the first, the greatest, and now I am the last. I am Pungnammun.

Pungnammun sign

I do not track the passage of time itself beyond remarking the change from the bitter cold that grips at my mortar to the sweltering heat that bakes my stones and slate roof. Still, I remember. I remember the people, the little ones that have walked over and through me and I feel for them in their brief little lives, so full of tragedy and desire.

I remember the day when they passed judgment on three of their kind for worshipping a deity from a faraway land. They beheaded them and hung the heads from my walls. That night the skies poured down rain and soaked my stones with tears that I was unable to cry, washing the martyrs’ blood from my walls and into the eternal soil for burial. I remember an endless stream of peasants and goods entering in to sell at my markets; I remember the bodies being carried out for interment on the mountain slopes. I remember each and every one of them.

Pungnammun in the 19th century. Source.

Pungnammun in the 19th century. Source.

What I remember most happened long ago, back when my walls were intact and people and animals passed through me every day. Invaders were attacking the country from the east and a young lieutenant of the city guard left to aid in the defense. The night before he left, he met his beloved in my gatehouse and pledged to return to her, if he could. Her name was Seon-Mi; I know because he said it over and over as they held each other. I did not know his name, for she called him only “my lord”.

I never saw him again, or felt his feet on my stones and planks. Seon-Mi came every day to sit in my gatehouse and watch for his return. The tears that she shed soaked into my planks and I kept them for her, pledging silently to hold and guard her until her lord could return. I kept the rain and snow off her as she sat and waited through the years and then, one windy night, I held her body as her soul flew at last beyond the reach of my protection and help.

I am alone now. The wall has been demolished and my sisters and brothers, the North, East, and West Gates of the city, have been torn down to make way for the insatiable step of progress. Their places are forgotten, but I remain. And I remember.

Pungnammun at night

The above account is a mixture of fact and fiction concerning the iconic south gate of the city of Jeonju, South Korea, written in part for the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge, whose theme this week is “Iconic”.


Motivational Drill Sergeant Meets His Wife

My dad, the Motivational Drill Sergeant, is hard to get to know. Still, we have our moments, when we bond. Sometimes he’s not even shouting at me.

drill_sergeant

We were out in the backyard, building ferret traps. We don’t have ferrets in our area, but my dad likes to be prepared. I was feeling bored, so I asked, “Hey, Motivational Drill Sergeant, how did you meet Mom?” I asked this because my dad hates personal questions and I figured it would get a rise out of him. You get him on a good enough rise and he’ll start ranting, which is wicked fun to watch. He once ranted about taxes, automatic transmission, Assyrians, the undead, and Hannah Montana, all in the space of ten minutes.

“Are you saying, Boy, that I have never told you the account of how I met your mother?” He always phrased things in a shouty sort of way, but his tone was casual. He had just finished yelling at a senator for an hour and that always put him in a good mood.

“No, sir,” I said.

“It was before you were born,” he said, and paused. I considered this rather obvious information and waited for him to continue.

“Your mother was a political activist. She was into politics like a badger is into a termite mound: is wasn’t really her thing, but since she was there, she thought she might as well try to take down the whole thing.

“She would call up members of congress in the middle of the night and say, ‘It’s 2am, do you know where your constituents are?’ She wouldn’t hang up until they told her the location of all of them. Then she’d call up the constituents and tell them their members of congress were spying on them and that they’d better elect another one. She still does that sometimes, if she’s bored.”

“Were you a political activist too?” I asked him.

“Are you crazy, Boy?” he shouted. “I hate politics. No, I’d go to rallies and shout at the protesters: tell them to wake up and don’t be so angry all the time. Better ways to change things than walking around, waving a bunch of fruity signs. Then I’d shout at the police and tell them to stop oppressing citizens and standing in the way of progress.”

“So, you yelled at everyone?”

“They all needed a good dose of the Truth,” he said, with a small nod. He stapled the last piece of barbed wire to the ferret cage he was working on, hooked up the battery, and picked up another one.

So many people to yell at.

So many people to yell at.

“Anyway, I was at a rally in Washington D.C when I saw her. She was pretty. I noticed that about her. So I went up to her and said, ‘You call that a sign? I’ve made better signs while I was passed out drunk on the side of the road. If you allow me, Ma’am, I will take you out to dinner and instruct you on how to make a proper sign.’

“She said, ‘You call that a pick-up line? I’ve worked in sewers that didn’t stink half as bad.’

“‘That’s disgraceful!’ I replied. ‘A pretty girl like you shouldn’t be working in a filthy sewer.’

“‘So now you’re telling me where I should work?’ she asked. ‘Just because you think I’m pretty?’

“‘I tell it how I see it, Ma’am,’ I said. ‘And you being pretty is all I know about you so far. I cannot ascertain more without further reconnaissance.’

“At that point, she hit me with her sign. ‘Listen up, you chauvinistic pig of a stuffed shirt,’ she yelled. ‘I will rip your crew cut from your head and use it to scrub my toilet if you don’t back off right now! If a miserable worm like yourself has the gall to insult a woman like me, I will feed you to the sharks!’

“‘Will you marry me?’ I asked her. She hit me with her sign again.

“‘We’ll see,’ she said. We were married six months later.”

“Is that true?” I asked him.

“Are you calling me a liar, Boy?” he shouted. Then his tone softened. “Go ask your mother.”

(Read more Motivational Drill Sergeant stories here)


First Sight

Walter was sitting in the dining hall of the Azure Woods retirement home when he saw her. Her hair—strawberry blond mixed with silver—was thick and hung loose around her shoulders. Walter felt something stir in his mind, like the awakening of something that been long sleeping.

Love at first sight, he thought, scoffing mentally. He was too old for such nonsense. Still, he could not stop looking at her, admiring her kind eyes and the hint of a smile at the edges of her mouth. After all, if not now, then when? He wasn’t getting any younger.

She walked his way and her smile when she caught his eye made his heart beat faster. “Good morning,” she said, sitting down at his table.

“Good morning, ma’am,” Walter said, trying to stand up, but then falling back into his seat. “I’m afraid we haven’t met before. My name is Walter.”

“Margaret,” she said with a small smile and shook his hand.

They talked while they ate and Walter found himself captivated by her. The retirement home was a lonely place sometimes and it was nice to have someone charming to talk to. They went to the rec room after breakfast and sat looking out the window and talking.

By lunchtime, there was a question that was burning on Walter’s mind. He could feel that old familiar nervousness building inside him—something he had not felt since his youth. He reached out recklessly and took her hand.

“Margaret, I know we’ve just met and you don’t know me very well, but I like you. I like you a lot, and time is short. Call me an old fool, if you wish, but I’d like to marry you.”

He saw a tear in her eye and suddenly he knew he had said the wrong thing. He was about to apologize, to take it all back when she leaned over and kissed him.

“I love you, Walter,” she said. “I said yes to you sixty-two years ago and I’ll say yes to you every time you ask me.”

elderly couple


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