Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Old Lady of the Sea

The waves broke and clawed at the rocks but were gentle on the sands. The sands felt the love of the waves as they ebbed and caressed the sands. The rocks on the other hand were feeling the ire of the sea while wave after wave charged like angry bulls at the rocks. The sun was barely visible in the horizon. Twilight was spreading with the clouds creating hues of red in the sky. The flaming clouds stood in awe of the sun and they seemed to give him an ovation, a grand farewell before he made way for the night and shivering stars.

She stood and watched the sea. The end of the shawl, tightly wrapped around her neck, billowed about her. She dug her frail old feet into the sand and felt the same warmth that she felt over the past seventy two years. The waves encircled her feet with familiarity. The Sea had been her friend ever since she could remember. Her father was a man of the sea as well. She used to play writing her name on the sand and then the sea would erase her calligraphy. When she was young, Sea was her playmate, her bridesmaid when she got married, and her bosom friend in whom she confided everything. The Sea was of her age and a perfect friend. Undemanding and always willing to listen, the waves had always been there for her when she wanted.

She strained her eyes and searched the horizon for her son’s boat. Her eyes did not serve her well but the waves always seemed to tell her when her son was approaching. He was late and she was growing impatient.

Her son, Abel was a true son of the sea, she thought. He started to accompany his father in his fishing boat at the age of ten. His father taught him everything about the sea; the places to look for the largest school of fish, how to cast the net for hauling in the shrimps, how to use a rod and bait for the sardines and herrings, and most importantly how to feel at home at sea. She remembered how he brought home his first catch. He was beaming with pride and did not leave her side while she cut, cleaned and cooked it. Over dinner table that day he was as proud and solemn as the man who put food on the table. She smiled when she remembered his attempt to sound very mature with his squeaky young voice that night.

She had to admit that he grew up to be a great fisherman like his father. She always tried to ignore that he was fast growing and wanted him to remain as her little boy forever. But he grew up and began to take care of her rather than the other way around. When his father passed away, he took care of the entire funeral and stood strong. He was twenty two then but was far mature for his age. She still remembered how he stood in front of his father’s grave, shed a single drop of tear and wiped it away as though annoyed by it, and finally walked away. She had realized back then that he had grown up and she had to come to terms with it.

Since then she had resigned herself to the fact that she had to let her son take care of her. He used to get up by five in the morning, cook food for both of them, boil water for her wash and then head out to the sea with a packet of food clutched in his hands. He had continued to use his father’s boat and had refused all offers from other bigger boats to join them. He said he was happy with what he had and happy at being his own captain and crew. He was an independent soul, a hardened sailor who loved the sea. Every evening he would return before nightfall with the day’s catch and sell it to old man John, his dealer. She always waited for him by the shore. It had been her practice when her father and later on her husband used to go to the sea. She continued to do that for her son too.

Then one day, four months ago, he had gone fishing. The radio had crackled about bad weather at sea by mid noon. She had rushed to the shore to find several boats returning heeding the warning. She knew her stubborn son. She feared that he loved the sea more than anything else and would stay longer and be with the sea, his foster mother. He did not return that day or the next day or the day after that. The police had come and taken her statements. They said they were sorry for her loss. “What loss?” she had asked them.

She knew in her heart that he would return. He was just running a little late. She refused to believe that the Sea would separate Abel from her. The Sea was part of her. She told the sea how annoyed she was with her for keeping Abel away for so long. She knew that the old lady, the Sea would return her son to her. So every day in the evening she walked from her lonely house to the shore to wait. People said she was crazy. When she stood there watching the horizon for the silhouette of her son’s boat, she knew that she did not care for what others had to say. She merely wanted to be there when her son returned.

1 comment:

  1. My vote for the best short story of the year!!

    Wish you would tone down the sorrow a bit and makes the masses happy with an 'and all ends well' once in a while