The sound of waves whooshed over the sandlot playground where, high overhead on the screen, elongated tars sang from the Pequod’s rigging. Dad had piled the crew into the wagon to see the awesome spectacle of Moby Dick unfold on a 50’s drive-in movie screen. Gaunt against the dusky tropical light, Ahab glowered over the taffrail, the very image of the leaden god that circumscribes our meager efforts on earth. Is that when I first heard the lydian call of the Siren’s sea?
“Ready about! We’ll never make our offing if you don’t wake up!”
McWhirr stands on the foredeck, grasping a weather shroud against the roll.
“ Ready about!”
The wind freshens, and Old Hand pounds into seas steepened by the brute contention of wind and tide, hell-bent on clearing the boulders awash off Skiff Point.
Why must we hurl headlong into the tide-race at Neptune’s mercy, when we might be lounging, beer poised, before the latest remake of the same old sea story, remote from the possability of drowning? At the question, the mind can only wander, and flow with the kelp’s sinuous curves into deeper soundings past the headland to the west…
Dad, from his wheelchair on the Laguna Beach hills, held lookout for whale-spouts on the gold-burnished horizon. A watch he may yet hold, in his heart. His stout heart, relic of the an ancient clan, has either been occulted into the rarefied vaults of the holy ones or lost in a cluttered closet on Dawson Street.
Then, in a dream, I found a a copy of the Aeneid among carved wooden heads on a laural-shaded altar. A sign? A waypoint that marks the passage of another life?
McWhirr’s foghorn bass, seems far away.
The boom swings overhead. A clatter of gear from below rouses me in time to see an abomination of a container ship off Jefferson Head turn southeast around the Sierra Foxtrot buoy. I turn the helm alee, past sodden fishermen bent over gunwales, looking bereft of hope for even an enemic cod.
“3 fathoms. Let go here, mister Spencer!”
I drop anchor and Old Hand slowly turns toward the flood. The east turns blue/violet, then slate-gray above the Cascade range.
“Have I ever told you that dream about Aeneas?”
“Who’s he when he’s at home?”
Let it go. That was another life. Another has signed on as swab this voyage. I was but a nipper who saw the hollow face of Saturn in the light projected on an L.A. drive-in movie screen. Just as now, he’s rough-hewn on the rocky peak yonder. He limps his sluggish round while the laurel tree’s shadow circles over the household gods, ever counter to the golden sun.