Tag Archives: wife

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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A Night of Loss and Grief – Fantastic Travelogue #14

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They separated us, but Sing-ga and I got out and rescued Ain-Mai, although I got quite injured in the process. We took shelter in the air vents. Sing-ga went to find water, while Ain-Mai bandaged me and took care of me. Sing-ga finally came back, bleeding badly and very injured.

Night of Great Loss

I had never seen anyone die before, but I was there, kneeling next to Sing-ga when he died. I heard his breath catch, as if he were choking on something and then it just stopped. I kept waiting for him to breath again, but he didn’t. Ain-Mai, on his other side, was starting to become frantic. She was hyperventilating and shaking him, calling his name. Finally, I reached out and touched her arm and she wilted, her arms falling down to her sides.

In the faint light of the moon and stars that was coming in through the opening, I could see that Sing-ga’s arms and face were covered with circular bites. If he had been attacked, how had he gotten away? And could there be things that were still looking for him? I wanted to get away, but I wasn’t sure where to go and I was in no shape to travel.

A light, skittering sound came from up the tunnel. Ain-Mai didn’t seem to notice. She was smoothing back her brother’s hair and crying softly.

“We should go,” I said. She paid no attention.

Something the size of a dinner plate flew out of the darkness at me. All I saw were thin, clawed legs outstretched towards me before the thing wrapped itself around my arm and I felt the sharp pain of it biting into my flesh. I shouted in terror and ripped it off, hurling it savagely out through the grating and into open space. More came leaping at me and I fought them off desperately, pure adrenaline overcoming the pain of my injuries. From what I could tell, they were like huge spiders, with clawed legs and a sharp-toothed mouth in the middle of their body. Even now, I sometimes have nightmares about those horrors jumping out of the darkness at me.

Mouth spider

One got caught in Ain-Mai’s hair. She screamed, but it roused her to action and she fought back, lashing out at the monsters when they jumped at her.

“We have to go!” I shouted, not caring that she couldn’t understand me. I started to move in the only direction that was open to us, out the opening and onto the sheer outer side of the tower. I hesitated when it came to actually stepping out of the opening and onto the rough plates of the outer wall, and it was Ain-Mai who took the lead and held out her hand for me to come out.

I had just taken her hand when one of leaping spider-mouths latched onto my shoulder and bit in deeply. I writhed to get it off and felt myself slipping. Ain-Mai pulled me back to the wall and reached down to rip the vile creature off my shoulder. It gave a thin cry as it disappeared into the darkness far below us.

I did not wait to see if more were following us but gripped Ain-Mai’s hand and followed her along the ridges of the wall. They stuck out at an angle from the wall and were easy to hold onto, but they were also irregularly shaped. My right foot was bandaged and extremely sore, so I hopped along on my left.

The spider-mouths didn’t follow us out. I thought this was strange until I remembered poor Sing-ga’s body lying just inside the tunnel. I was sick with horror, but it came out as anger. I shuffled along, swearing under my breath, spitting out profanities with every hop. I’m not even sure who I was angry at: at the spider-mouths; at Hengfel for bringing us to that terrible place; at myself for getting Sing-ga and Ain-Mai caught with me and in doing so, causing his death. I was thankful for the calming effect of Ain-Mai’s hand in mine, which kept me from doing anything stupid.

We came to a hollow in the outer wall a minute later, which was fortunate because I could not have gone on much longer in my condition. It was probably a dragon nest at one point, but it was deserted and we collapsed into it. I put my back against the stone wall and tried to regain my strength and calm my mind. Ain-Mai slumped down by my side, sobbing. I put my arm around her and she drew closer.

Night of Great Loss

Ten minutes later, she had quieted and lay still against me. I had my eyes closed when I felt her stir. The next thing I felt were her lips on mine. She was kissing me in a quick, breathless way, not romantically, but as someone desperately needing comfort in the midst of despair.

For a moment, it was as if time stopped and the Choice stood in front of me. We were alone together in an alien world. Ain-Mai had just lost her brother and was overwhelmed with grief. She needed me. As for myself, I was lonely and tired and she felt so good next to me that in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to abandon myself to her kisses and caresses.

But then I thought of my wife–by herself and worlds away from me. I imagined her going about her daily life, wondering where I was, hoping I was safe, and I realized that she was the only one I really wanted. Still, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done to pull away from Ain-Mai’s embrace. “I,” I said, and then took her hand and drew out the character for “married” on her palm. I guess she understood my meaning one way or another; she nodded and then put her head back down on my shoulder. She started crying again, very softly, and I put my arm around her again. I didn’t know what else to do.

The next thing I remember was opening my eyes to see the sun breaking over the far horizon. Ain-Mai was sleeping with her head still on my shoulder. Then I noticed with a start that a large bird-like creature was perched on a wall plate next to the hollow. It had wings folded behind it and small arms in front, each with a large golden bracelet on it. We looked at each other for a moment until it put its hands over its eyes and bowed deeply to me.

(to be continued…)


Ain-Mai – Fantastic Travelogue #13

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They separated us, and gave Sing-ga and I a drink to subdue it, but it had the opposite effect on me. We got out and I rescued Ain-Mai by fighting off dragons by punching and kicking them. We escaped into the air vents where the potion wore off, leaving me in terrible pain. Eventually we collapsed and slept.

13 Ain-Mai

I woke up, thinking that my wife was calling me, but instead I saw Ain-Mai bending over me, her long hair forming a curtain around my head. I tried to struggle up and almost screamed at the blinding pain that erupted from all over my body. I had never been in such total pain in all my life. I fell back, gasping and trying not to cry.

Ain-Mai took my hand and caressed it, murmuring soothing words like a mother over a child. It worked, at least enough to calm my mind. It was frustrating to have to lie there, when only hours before, I had been doing feats of superhuman strength and endurance. There is a price to pay for everything, it seems.

The light was greater than before and the tunnel was brightly lit. I noticed Sing-ga wasn’t there.

“Sing-ga?” I asked.

She pointed back down the tunnel and said slowly, “Govre hilisru swai Sing-ga.” I recognized the word swai as “water” from hearing them talk before and I nodded. He had gone to get water, I assumed.

We sat there in silence for a while. The floor near the open end of the tunnel was covered with a dusting of fine, brown powder and I pulled myself onto my side enough to write in it with my finger. “Do you have a mother?”

“I have a mother and father,” she wrote in Chinese characters. “I have two siblings, Hi-Run and Sing-ga.” She read each character as she wrote it so I knew the pronunciation of the names.

“Are you married?” I wrote after a moment. She shook her head and gave me a radiant smile that made my chest hurt a little, it was so beautiful.

“Do you have a mother and father?” she wrote after a moment. I told her about my mother and father and my sisters and as much about my life as I could back in Korea and when I was young. But I did not tell her I was married. It’s not that I was planning on cheating on my wife; the thought had not even entered my mind, but I remembered the smile she had given me and perhaps I thought she would act differently towards me if she knew I was married. I’m ashamed to say it now, but that’s what happened.

My throat was dry and screaming in pain for even the least amount of moisture. I had been holding out, hoping Sing-ga would be back at some point soon, but finally I mentioned it to Ain-Mai. She nodded and put a hand on my forehead for a moment, then stood up and said something. Then she was gone, down the tunnel, leaving me alone, in pain and dire thirst.

I must have dozed because the next thing I remember was warm, but blessedly refreshing water trickling into my mouth. I opened my eyes and saw Ain-Mai leaning over me. She had removed her outer shirt and had soaked it full of water. She squeezed it slowly into my mouth. Normally this idea would have seemed rather disgusting, but I gloried in the water and thanked her over and over again.

Next, she took off my boots and washed my right foot that had been scraped and torn by the dragon’s teeth. The right boot was barely there at all; pretty much all that was left was the upper part, still laced together, and a few scraps of leather. Ain-Mai torn thin strips from the bottom of her long skirt and wrapped them around my wounds. She had the gentle touch of a born nurse and I reveled in the comfort that her ministrations brought. She moved next to my hands, which were a brutal mess of dried blood and bruises. I couldn’t have made a fist with either hand if my life had depended on it. She washed them gently and wrapped them with more strips of cloth from her skirt. I stopped murmuring thank you and just closed my eyes and let her work. Later, I felt her washing my face, her delicate hands running gently over my skin. I remained still, hoping she didn’t notice my heart beating faster.

I woke up suddenly. The light outside was fading into black night and through the steel crossbars, I could see bright, blood-red stars hanging in the evening sky. I moved my hands and found them totally bandaged with strips of cloth. A deep scratch on my arm that I don’t even remember getting was also bandaged.

night window

There was movement beside me in the dark and I realized that Ain-Mai was lying curled up next to me, her back against my side. I looked around for Sing-ga but there was no sign of him. I forced myself into a sitting position, ignoring the protests of pain from my body. I heard Ain-Mai wake up suddenly as well.

“Sing-ga?” I asked her. “Sing-ga? Where?”

Ain-Mai jumped up with a start. “Sing-ga,” she said—the worry evident in her voice—and started down the tunnel. I sat up, trying not to groan, and listened. The world had gone quiet; even the wind seemed to be holding its breath.

The next sound I heard was a distant scream that stabbed at my heart like a needle. I tried to stand, but fell down with a fresh burst of agony. Still, I struggled down the tunnel until I reached the intersection. In the cold light that filtered down into the tunnel system from behind me, I saw Ain-Mai appear, trying to support Sing-ga, who staggered and fell with almost every step. He was covered in blood and my heart seemed to freeze when I saw how much blood he was leaving behind on the stone floor of the tunnel. I took his other side and the three of us struggled back up to the opening.

(to be continued…)


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)


Like Rats in the Air Vents – Fantastic Travelogue #12

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They took Ain-Mai away and put Sing-ga and I in a room with a bunch of other men who all looked drugged. It looked a bit like a harem. They gave us something to drink, which made Sing-ga very sleepy but had the opposite effect on me. We got out and found Ain-Mai in a cage, hundreds of feet above the floor, in a room with thousands of cages. I rescued her, fighting off dragons as I did. We got away, but they tore my right foot up a bit.

Rats in Air Vent

I have never been on drugs, so I don’t know what it’s like to come down from a high, but after my experience in that cavernous, dragon-infested fortress, I think I have some idea.

Ain-Mai, Sing-ga and I were moving as fast as we could down the corridor we had come from, away from the room with the cages. I was in the lead and was at first thinking of going straight back to the round transporter room—just powering through everything and risking everything to get back right away. Then the pain started. This was troubling, since I hadn’t felt any pain since they had forced that potion down my throat, even when I was punching dragons in the face.

It started as a dull ache in my foot and hands and just kept growing. I looked back and realized I was leaving bloody footprints from my right foot where the dragon had ripped off my boot. After that, it only took a few minutes for the pain to grow to the point where I could barely walk. Sing-ga was still lethargic from the potion they had given him, and Ain-Mai was shaken up from being in the cage and being attacked by dragons, so none of us were in great shape.

The pain was starting to overwhelm my senses. I felt Ain-Mai take me by the arm and lead me to the side, into darkness. We were walking through a small, fetid passage, barely big enough to stand up in. The floor was rough and bolts of pain shot up through my injured foot with every step. After a while, we were in total darkness and felt our way forward with our hands outstretched. The air was moist and warm and smelled like mold.

I don’t how long we went like that, but it was probably about an hour. Before long, I was crawling on hands and knees. We passed shafts cut in the walls with water pouring down through them and even drank a little. The water was hot and tasted metallic, but it quenched our thirst. Ain-Mai was leading us now. I don’t know where she thought she was going, but we followed her instinctively, going further and further into the dark labyrinth.

We seemed to be in a system of air vents. They criss-crossed at intervals and strong, warm wind blew in from some. We heard snatches of sound from cross-tunnels: rumbles and roars as of huge machinery, and screams and yells of monstrous beasts, or something worse. The sounds rose and then faded and died away, like the turning of a radio dial.

At last, when I thought I could go no further, we saw light ahead: warm, tan daylight. It was coming from a cross-tunnel and a strong, dry wind blew out of it. We pushed against the wind until we came to the end of the tunnel and looked outside.

Rats in Air Vent

The opening was barred with a cross of metal, but we still could have squeezed outside if we had wanted to. We were very high up—at least 5000 feet, I would guess, and I looked out over a wide, desolate landscape. Far below were the remains of towns and cities, dry riverbeds still crossed by bridges, and roads bordering dead fields. Everything I saw was brown and withered.

As I watched, a dragon floated into view far beneath me. I craned my neck to see where it was going and saw that we were in some sort of monstrous tower, with walls that fell away almost straight down. The outside surface was covered with plates that stuck up, just like the cage room. Here I could see dragons hanging off them and I realized that was what they were for. The dragons used them to hang on and rest, like birds perching on a branch.

Sing-ga was already lying down on the passage floor. I mimed sleep to Ain-Mai and she nodded. She lay down in front of Sing-ga and motioned for me to lie down in front of her. I lay down on the hard floor and felt her warmth behind me. Just before I drifted off to sleep, I felt her hand on my shoulder. With that simple act of human contact, I realized how much I had missed it. Ain-Mai’s hand on my shoulder filled my mind with peace and helped to soothe some of the throbbing pain that wracked my body. Still, when I finally fell asleep, I dreamed of my wife standing far away, across an abyss that I could not hope to cross.

(to be continued…)


Ichiban the Great – Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for another Friday Fictioneers. I asked my wife what genre to write and she said, “romance”. So this is about as close as I get to romance. This story is dedicated to her.

copyright Beth Carter

copyright Beth Carter

Ichiban The Great

I told my wife I married her for her car. She laughed and called me an idiot.

Ichiban, as we called it, was dirty-diaper brown and shivered like a Floridian doing the Iditarod if you got it over 70 MPH. We lost the front bumper to a deer; the back one to a malicious fire hydrant. The hubcaps all took their leave at high speeds on various country highways.

Finally, we lost the roof to a firefighter trainee who Jaws-Of-Lifed it off, mistaking ours for the practice car. We just laughed and kissed. We had our convertible, top permanently down.

 


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