Monday, January 22, 2007
"crystalwizard" draws a mean picture. There's one at http://artwanted.com/imageview.cfm?id=448998. A number of us oohed and ahhed over it. "Your assignment", said crystalwizard, "Write a story in 1000 words or less about it." Have a look at the picture before you read Rainbow's End:
"Plop?" I asked, looking at the old man.
He brought his eyes up from his lap where they had been vacantly watching his boney fingers twist and writhe. Now, his eyes, piercing in their intensity, locked onto my own.
"Plop," he repeated. "The water was so still, when I dropped the lead in it went, plop."
I smiled in acknowledgement and his eyes returned to the activity in his lap.
"Shouldn't have." He said. I remained silent.
"Shouldn't have been still," he went on. "The sails were full, wind blowing, water shouldn't have been still, shouldn't have heard the lead plop. Too still."
His silver head bobbed slightly but his gaze remained in his lap.
"The line ran through me fingers. Reached the end at twenty fathoms. Still hadn't hit the bottom."
Unprompted, his eyes came up again and fixed me with that same stare; "We was only twenty-five yards from shore. Them icy cliffs must 'ave run all the way down to old Davey's locker." There was a defiance in his voice and his teeth flashed momentarily from behind the full silver beard. "Never did find the bottom." He looked down again and was silent for a few moments.
"All day we crept slowly through those icy cliffs, looking far a way out. The First Mate kept telling me, 'Take a sounding lad'. Always the same; twenty fathoms, no bottom. He'd just look up at the Cap'in and shake his head."
"Navigator was no bleedin' good either. Kept tellin' the Cap'in he didn't know where we were. Said his reading put us in the middle of Greenland. Blamed his instruments. Bleedin' wanker if you ask me." Again, the eyes came up, searching; looking for the slightest hint of disbelief. I nodded.
"'bout six o'clock we saw a way through the cliffs into more open sea and the First Mate said I could stand down. So I sat on the deck and laid back against a pile of rope. " He went silent again and I pictured him sitting there in the prow of the old galleon, dozing on a pile of rope.
"You ever seen two rainbows at the same time?" He asked me, breaking the silence.
"Can't say I have."
"Well there were two rainbows hanging there in the sky, one beyond the other, right where we was headed. Big, rich colours, brightest things I ever saw - like two great flames leaping out of the sea and streaking across the sky." He paused again. "Ever been to the end of a rainbow?"
"I didn't think rainbows had an end." It was a mistake. The eyes came up again, bright, flashing, animated; totally at odds with the tired, weather-worn, face that surrounded them.
"No one thinks rainbows have ends. I know they have ends. I know 'cause we sailed that ship right through the end of a bleedin' rainbow. And there ain't no pot of gold there either." The hands had stopped writhing in his lap and now gripped the arms of the chair, as though he were going to pull himself up and attack me with his cane. But, whatever he had in his mind, it didn't extend to his uncooperative, impotent, legs.
"So, you sailed through a rainbow," I said trying to get him back on track. "Tell me, what was that like."
His hands relaxed their grip on the chair and, with eyes that still regarded me with suspicion, he continued.
"Beyond words," he said, and stopped, eyelids closing over those frightening eyes. After a minute he spoke again; "The colours. Everything was colour ... you could hear the colours, taste them ... Yellow; yellow tastes like cider ... Violet; smells like to sweetest wench I ever knew." A tear trickled down his cheek, but he didn't seem to notice.
I sat watching him, waiting for him to speak again. But he never did. Not that first day.
Eventually, I got up and went to the desk.
"Interesting character," I said to the nurse. "Has he told you much about himself?"
"Just that one story; the one about the galleon and sailing through a rainbow. Poor old chap; completely out of his mind."
"What about his family?"
"No family as far as we can tell. Just keeps saying his name is 'Jake'. They found him floating in the Manukau Harbour, dressed like a pirate, breeches, big knife in his belt and everything."
I had the beginning of an idea, but it was time for some research.
The Southern motorway to Manukau City was its usual busy self but I used the time to ponder what Jake had told me and didn't notice the passing time. Manukau has a great theme park and I was sure that there was a replica galleon there. Indeed there was; a huge swinging galleon, billed as the 'Pirate Ship'. A few conversations later and I was leaving with a satisfied grin on my face.
Driving out of the park I glanced back at the painted rainbow spanning the entry gate, and the huge sign that proudly announced, 'Rainbow's End'. I would be paying Jake another visit.