500 Word flash-nonfiction: A tribute to my father, the salty old dog.
You’d stand at the prow, letting the wind blow right in your face because you love it. I’d stand just behind your shoulder and shield myself, because I hate it. But I’d watch the opposite horizon for any signs of danger and opportunity.
Your blue eyes would look as sharp as chips of the sky against your leather-brown face, seamed by the sun. You’d wear your hair in a long tail, gold and silver curls that you’d be a little bit vain about, even as they tangled in the salt spray.
The more I think about it, the more I see…
I cut my hair short and climb the rigging barefoot, wearing less than I should and not caring about the lustful stares. I can be a tomboy at heart no matter how full-breasted and round-hipped I become. Because I can furl a sale and haul a line with the best of them. My hands are rough, my shoulders strong, and I’m the fastest hand on the ship with a sharp knife.
No one can stand against us, and no one will try. Because we’re as fair as we are tough. We know the greedy merchants from the hard-luck explorers. If we judge a target wrong, we’re off without harm. If we judge them ripe for the picking, we take, and if we need to, we kill. We can be vicious. We can be cold. We have regrets, and we live with them. Because life isn’t fair, even when we try to be.
I don’t know where my mother is. I just remember she was a woman of steel. My brother went his own way, because he was a scholar and a landlubber. We might see him again, or maybe not. But that’s as it must be. This voyage is for us.
This is the dream we had when we toured the HMS Bounty replica where she docked in Massachusetts. We dropped down the hatches, sat at the wooden benches off the galley, closed one eye against the sun as we popped back to the open air. Do you remember how our eyes flashed when we looked at each other, and our fingers twitched to grasp the rigging?
You’ve gone on ahead now. And that’s as it must be too. I felt that moment when your spirit set sail for distant shores instead of hovering nearby to watch us live. To see your grandson born. To watch the family business grow and fail and resurrect. You just watched from the aether, sometimes laughed and cursed, but never judged. Because that’s you.
I told you when I felt you go that I’d join you when the time is right. And you know I will. Because kindred spirits always find each other. Because this is our dream, and I will follow you to the horizon and beyond.