Wednesday, February 12

The Ice Cream & the Grapes

THE CAPTAIN STOOD at the bow and there was wind coming at him, as well as the sloshing blue white sea below, though not quite blue but the colour of blue as a feeling. He had his arms crossed over his chest. It was a fine chest that no lady had ever fully wrapped her arms around. Presently, he was waiting. His eyes were fixed on the horizon, but he was waiting. Two minutes ago he had ordered ice cream.
More than the sea, he loved ice cream.
He could never decide which flavour he enjoyed the most.
His second-in-command was fetching the ice cream and it would surely be there soon. In the middle of the plate of sea, to look out was to behold nothing, because nothing has a face and there is nothing at sea; for all that is something is kept below the water or pushed into the sky. There was sadness, yes, and misery and the blues, but he was waiting for ice cream. He needed ice cream to think, and certainly he needed ice cream to maintain his gaze that, to the onlooker, might appear directionless, but was focused somewhat keenly on a blur in the distance he believed to be a storm. Two hours ago he had told the ship to head in that direction (recalling this story now, I cannot remember the exact direction) so head the ship did, like a child moving to pull something out of a kitchen cupboard.
It was no use.
The darkness and the overbearing dark sky.
Where was the ice cream? Hopefully—hmm, he felt—strawberry, mainly, with perhaps just one scoop of mint chocolate chip.
His brow was down. A fine spray lacquered his face. His jaw was set. The ship—his ship—moved onwards. At once the ice cream appeared at his side—‘Thank you, Peterson.’ ‘No worries, cap’n … what you lookin at?’ ‘That. Over there.’ There was not much for Peterson to see, but he had only been at sea for seventeen years. ‘That’s a storm if ever I saw one and I’m heading us straight for it.’ ‘But the port?’ ‘They can wait!’ The captain disliked to be questioned. He also disliked showers that turned his feet red.
Peterson did not want to go toward the storm. He wanted an easy ride.
The captain stood there, looking out, holding his bowl with one hand and spooning the ice cream—without rest—into his mouth; all the while, little whispers of splash crept upon his face.
He finished with the ice cream and handed the bowl back to Peterson, his second-in-command. ‘We got any grapes?’ ‘I think so. Galloway picked some up in Puerto Rico.’ ‘Get me some, will you, please, Peterson? Never before in my life have I wanted grapes more.’
Peterson did not leave immediately but stared the same place as his captain and saw that the storm was enormous and would swallow the ship whole.
‘You don’t mind green grapes?’
‘Not at all.’
Sometimes the misery dove down from the captain, but it always came back up. He always felt so sadly alone. Where were the grapes? Peterson had been gone ten minutes. Mind you, Galloway wouldn’t give them up without a fight.
He wished to leap overboard.
But the storm was coming closer. He thought of all the oceans he had sailed and how, in the end, they had meant nothing. He had thrown rose petals over them all and what had they given him? This was good-bye. He could feel the wind tipping against him with a stronger hand. It would not be much longer.
Peterson returned with the grapes.
The captain ate them. The stalks were twisted and tormented. All of his memories were there but all in his head and he felt sick when he thought of all that had faded. The ship must hurry toward the storm.
The end.
Toward the end.
Without slowing and with full purpose, toward the end.
He tossed the stalks into the sea where they were swallowed up as dust. He started to sob, so overwhelmed was he. He would have liked it another way, but some things cannot be helped. He remembered the ice cream and grapes, but now they, too, were in the past.

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