Whiskey, sun, whale, and cracked bones.


The boat was rocking so bad you could run up and down the door frames.  People like to imagine the ocean as being blue and beautiful.  I used to imagine it that way.  When you’re that far out at sea the water is black.  Day or night it is black and deadly looking, like obsidian in slow motion.  Black as far as you could see.  The boat was small, anyway.  We were going side to side like the boat was plastic.  Everyone was grabbing their survival suits.  Some were crying and some were scribbling down their wills.  I laid in my rack and drank from the flask.  Let them fire my corpse.  I sat back and thought how it figured that I would end out there.  I masturbated one last time, emptied the flask and closed my eyes.  If the boat capsized then their survival suits were useless.  The boat crashed through the swells and you could hear the waves roaring into the sides.  My last thought before I made myself sleep was her.

It was calm and dark.  I didn’t know what to expect.  There was no light or movement.  I heard nothing.  I reached out and pulled the curtain back and stood in the dark.  Then I felt it, a gentle rocking beneath my feet.  I walked to the door and went outside.

It was warm out there.  I was shirtless.  The Sun sat dark red on the horizon and it was huge.  You could look right at it.  The black water stretched out far to reach it.  I breathed in and held the handrail, watched the horizon melt around the Sun.  How small we were against the grace of the heavens.  Our petty dreams, our need for self.  Our weak assurances.

I was the only one out there.  I saw a whale emerge from the water and twist out there in front of the red.  It hung there upside down in front of the Sun, it hung there careless and lazy, totally oblivious to us, to the human refuse of the boat, sacrificing our luck and lives for a goddamned dollar.  It went back through and my heart swelled in my chest so fast that it cracked my bones.  Something happened to me which I could not understand.  I wept.  I stood there and wept at the beauty of what I saw.  I wept when I thought that the moment was meant for me and me alone, as I so badly wanted it to be that way.  I so badly wanted to be chosen by God there, to be pulled out amongst the clean cold blackness of the water, to stand naked on the back of a whale before the harmlessness of a sun which was now trained for damage.  I wanted that scene, I wanted to be transcended into that scene forever.  I wanted everything to be beautiful again.  I wanted to be beautiful again.


Excerpt from Hit Break Bleed, in paperback or on Kindle and Nook.

About Jeff Stewart

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