08.08.17 – Steamed
We let the captain run his lectures at a staggered pace. He tossed the ship’s wheel back and forth between plies at his mustache like he was teasing out the next phrase. You could see him hunting down words and working the revisions with the little jitters in his soft eyes and the slow chewing of his wrinkled chin. He drew the rudder with the apathy of a man who could sail this route blinded and tied to a mast; all the effort on his face was left for a lesson. He’d start again with a long draw of air like he had real far to go before he might get the chance to breathe once more, and yet when he spoke it was never more than ten words without a pause.
He bore us down the mud river, slogging through a thick, brown tar with the paddles of our ship plopping loudly as it plunged through the turbid goo. Looking upon its surface gave the impression that you might be able to just stride blithely across. The current ran slightly under the top layer of silt and stew and one touch would prove how little held it together. You could watch the birds dive deep through and come gasping out like they’d had to dig up to find air again. They always emerged dirty, confused, and with a confidence that there wouldn’t be a second attempt to feed beneath the surface.
We jogged downstream, clops and pops marking our rhythmic process to a cleaner stream. Stories were still coming to us at gasped intervals. The cities by the shores would roll up every now and again; electric lights twinkling like fire to let us know the doors were open, the food was warm, and the beds were soft. All harbors seemed safe and cozy and yet we kept right on swimming, powering through the softest channel that lay right in the middle of the river. Our captain hinted at the hardship of running upon the banks, his speeches turning deftly to match our interested gaze. He stayed steady between two hearths knowing comfort was close but that there was more road to go before we pulled up oar and elbow.