News From The Coast by Joshua Rothes

There was a lamp post outside of a prosperous house where sat a bench where sat a drunken boatman far from the shore on which he landed, tossed there over the course of some days by this wind and that, demurred by humbling experiences, bridled by wisdom, kept warm by the spirits imbibed out of a leaky pouch which never grew entirely empty, and even seemed, from time to time, to refill itself about a quarter of the way or a fifth. There was an enormous tree not far from the bench (you didn’t really believe because of the lamp post that it was dark? there are more than necessities to speak of, rather, anything else) that cast partial shade, and while he enjoyed it, the drunken boatman, a captain of one time, stretched his feet into the sun, long cold since he threw his shoes overboard toward land and missed badly. Everything that met his eye held great excitement, particularly after the whirlwind that brought him there, how badly it blurred everything to the point of nonsense, letting through only once, briefly, the sound of children laughing, as if they were his tormentors. A young man who had been watching from a window of the prosperous house until now (watching what? There has been no action, you say, but that is because you are dull of perception, and anyhow, do not have the eyes of the drunken boatman, who make any sight a welcome and most interesting sight) walked down the path from the house to the road to bring the boatman a cup of coffee, and asked him, after the first sip proved satisfactory, what news the boatman brought from the coast, which through a decades’ old interest, held some sway over the goings on of the family, who were, as one might expect, as prosperous as their home would indicate. The boatman first remarked how the moss that made up the bulk of their yard was as soft as the finest carpet, relative to his station, that he had ever felt, and he would certainly like to sleep on it, but he thought the lamp post might be a nuisance, the rhythms of the body and all, and he would seek arrangements shortly. As for the coast, he continued after a pause for clarity, the moon caught his eye like always in glistening fragments, immune to the grid which had been lain (sic) on top of the water, scaring off the sharks that could not afford to be seen, if for a moment, and the business, as it was, carried on, as fast as ever, or maybe faster, and they all stayed drunk, cashed checks, took leave, and the equipment bade them stay below deck for its own good, like a teenager casting off a chaperone, promising the crows would nip out their eyes if they fell asleep drunk in the sun so near the shore, because it was a myth that the salt air deterred the hungry crows, who could be no less bothered by it or the loudly rolling. (A particular image escapes me.) The young man, the son of the family, slapped the boatman on the back, spilling his coffee. This was good to hear, and the lamp post could be dimmed or silenced as he wished, owing to a switch inside of the home, which owned the land to the road and therefore the bench and the post, if the boatman wished to stay on the premises for the evening, though there were prettier gardens and darker woods just down the road.

Joshua Rothes is the author of An Unspecific Dog, a collection of short texts out on Punctum Books. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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