“Ready about. We’ll have to tack again to make our offing.”
McWhirr grasps a weather shroud, his gaunt profile etched against the red sky. Indeed, the wind backing to northward threatens to set us on Skiff Point.
In a garage sale, in a dream, I found my old copy of the Aeneid among carved wooden heads that droned prophesies from a laurel shaded altar. On the cover was Baskin’s drawing of Anchises, hoisted on the shoulders of his fated son, fleeing the streets of burning Troy.
In his wheelchair, dad held vigil from South Laguna’s hills, searching the horizon for whales. His heart now lies stashed with clan relics amid skeletons and old hats, where shelves of brown lore lay darkening in the suburbs, dusted off for our perusal, only in dreams.
“We are becalmed, mate.” McWhirr’s voice seems far away.
The boom swings and the mainsail flogs to the sound of pans clattering below. To the North, an abomination of a container ship rounds Jefferson Head, pushing a bow wave as it rounds the Sierra Foxtrot buoy.
“How about we crank up old Phyllis, motor over to Indianola Marsh and drop the hook?”
I duck below to start the motor. Old Hand passes sodden fishermen bent over gunwales, bereft of hope for even an anemic cod.
“ Let go here mate!”
“ Aye Captain!” I drop anchor and pay out twelve fathoms of chain.
Old Hand slowly turns to face northeast.
“The flood has set in already.” observes McWhirr while he takes bearings off Point Monroe.
The clouds have lifted to the East where the sky turns violet before falling off to slate gray above the snow covered Cascade Range.
“ Have I ever told you about the wave I caught in Laguna?”
“I seem to recall the one you didn’t”
Let it go then. That was another lifetime. Another has signed on as swab this voyage. I was but a nipper who beheld the hollow countenance of Saturn in the form of a towering breaker long spent on a Southern California shore. Just as now, he faces down from the Northern black clouds; a stern, inverted profile mirrored on the sea. He’s rough-hewn on the rocky peak yonder, stumping his sluggish round. He circumscribes this adventure like the laurel tree’s shadow circling the household gods, ever counter to the golden sun.
“Guess I’ll turn in. Goodnight.”
“And pleasant dreams to you Captain.”
McWhirr goes below. The stillness is broken only by his regular snore.
A rush of air startles me. A fine mist shoots up and slowly falls over a whales back as it sounds off the starboard bow.
It’s a spirit spout beckoning our ship toward far shores where a dark isle enfolds my father’s wrack. The whale left a memento this gentle night, calling us to the eminence beyond the Eastern shore. What salvation can we hope for from that quarter? What windy advent heralds horizons reborn? I see the Seraphim’s mansions, an Orient that looms all the more lucid for its absolute inscrutability.
I drift off with Old Hand rocking on waves abeam.
The night is a vast inter-tidal zone, where I lie afloat in dreams until a remembrance intoned-as if from a wooden head inside my own sings: Wake from the dream of life and see.