A little story inspired by a summer night in a house by the sea
The ocean wind came rushing into the house through the open windows as night fell. It set the doors rattling in their frames, and the blinds tapping like guy ropes against a mast, till it felt like the whole building was a ship at sea, rising and falling with the waves.
I was falling through the surface shoals of sleep at the same time. The wind brought the smell of salt water and beaches to my nose; the sound of crashing waves and restless surf to my ears — till I dreamt that I was at sea.
Somewhere in the depths of the house the wind rang a bell and we were off. Curtain sails unfurled from the windows; anchors reeled themselves into the airing cupboards; salt spray spattered on the stained glass panes over the front door. I felt the plunge and surge of the ocean under my mattress and shouted orders to my unseen crew.
Set sail, set sail!
But where are we bound Captain? — why, wherever the sea wind had been.
I imagined that the wind blew over beaches where children played, running shrieking from the incoming surf. I imagined that it howled past the sea stacks and the white rocks where the gannets and the puffins make their nests. I imagined that it thrummed the rigging of deep sea trawlers, blew salt against the girders of oil rigs, whipped snow across the backs of breaching whales. Every place that my mind touched, the ship sailed.
At the shore, the house ran through breakers thick with swimmers, sweeping aside colourful floats and inflatable animals. Bobbing athletes, their hair crammed into bathing caps and their bodies into blue striped suits, dove past our hull like penguins.
At the seagull rocks, the house sped hissing through spray showers and white water, while raucous flocks of guillemots and common gulls wheeled above the mast tops. In twos and threes, then all at once together, they plunged like daggers into our foamy wake, only to emerge moments later with beaks full of fish.
In the open ocean, the house surged with the great waves, riding up hill and down again under racing skies. Storms grabbed it, drove it faster and higher, threw it through curtains of cold water, cast it into the troughs of big waves, sent it scudding through the sky with moonlight under its keel. Faster! Higher! Till I thought the whole thing would come apart and leave roaring through the night with only scraps of quilt and comforters to shield me from the wind.
But then, all at once, the wind receded. The ocean blast passed on, and the house fell silent. The bell ceased to ring, the curtains stopped their flapping, and the old timbers came back to rest in their accustomed positions. Even the crew retreated back into their shelves and paperbacks.
The house ceased to be a ship; but I went on, sailing into deeper realms of sleep with the sea wind at my back.
This little story was written last summer, in a wind-blown cottage overlooking the Atlantic coast of Jersey (the island, not the state). I considered it for inclusion in the short story collection I was writing at the time, but in the end I decided not to include it, so here it is.
Where’s the shameless self-promotion for the book? I’m glad you asked. It’s here.