Friday, September 14, 2012

Tired of swimming

At the time I owned a kite shop in a small seaside town. One morning a burly man called in. Clinging to his arm was a woman with a stream of golden hair. She wore a black mackintosh  the hem of which touched the ground. She seemed to float across the floor impelled by the man's strength and energy. Her coat trailed about her with a whispering sound as the couple advanced toward me. "I want you to make me a kite with a harness that will support a person," he said, turning to his companion who looked up at him and nodded with approval. And I need it before the end of today. Tomorrow the wind will blow off shore and it is that wind  which I need to catch." He produced a wad of notes the size of which persuaded me to drop everything else in order to make the kite to his specifications and meet his deadline.

 He came back late that evening and after I had explained how the  harness worked, he carried off the kite. My curiosity roused I could not  refrain  next morning from getting up early myself and taking the cliff walk to see if he was there. Sure enough in the half light I saw him hoisting the kite into the wind. Strapped beneath it was his companion of the previous day, whom I identified  chiefly by her hair. She had discarded the mackingtosh and as far as I could tell now seemed to be wearing little else. As the sun rose I saw the kite and its passenger soar over the sea. Beneath  it the rising sun caught a wave of gold in the air. And could that be a sheath of silver trailing behind? As the sun rose I witnessed without warning the occupant cut loose from the kite and harness, and drop into  the sea and vanish beneath the surface.  I looked back to the cliff  edge where I saw my customer staring at the spot where she had disappeared. There was something in his hand other than the reel for the kite string. A knife I thought. And so it was. With a quick movement he severed the string.

As I stood and watched in continued amazement, I saw my handiwork, free of its payload, leap up toward the sun now well risen over the horizon. A minute or two later the man walked past me. "She wanted to fly," he said. "She was tired of swimming." That was all. I watched him as he took the path back to the town.  I never saw him again.

A few says later I read in the paper that  the body of a man of his description had been washed up on a beach a few miles down the coast.


  1. A magical yet disturbing and stunning story of two suicides!

  2. Funny...I thought it was a love story, of a man and a mermaid. She longed to fly and he yearned to swim with her forever. Each received their heart's desires.

    I hadn't consider they might have committed suicide.

  3. I suspect that the mermaid went back to the sea where she belonged. While he couldn't live with out her.

  4. Another interesting interpretation. Do you suppose he tried to live with her in her world, but died in the attempt? Was her siren call too strong to resist? Surely, she must have told him of the futility of their relationship, their inability to sustain it for any satisfying length of time? Or, was she using him, in order to fly? Maybe she was unaware, naive perhaps?

    Much to consider, for such a short story. Well done, Joe. You've stirred my imagination and curiosity, which a good story should do, I think. I liked this, very much. Not only because it was good, but because it reveals more about you, the person, than I've found at Now's the Time.

    I look forward to the next one.

  5. This sent me back to my so-called short story about the woman working in the garden centre where I recognised a dozen faults in the first three paras. Notably, the difference between passages which need to be there (in that they describe a sequence of small contiguous events - often humdrum in themselves - necessary to understand what's going on) and those that give flavour. Made me realise that there should never be that distinction. Also the placing of significant items (dialogue, brief description, etc) which might be said to contain a "conclusion" - should one go for a dramatic or an everyday setting? The answer is this question should never arise; the story itself should be its own conclusion. And finally, the tone. Here you have the detached observer (as regularly practised in your blog) whereas I let my fascination with my subject become evident.

    So this story has had a salutary and eventually beneficial effect on me. If I have time I'd like to try another story in your mode (I have an idea: dialogue end to end) but are there any rules? Length, for instance.

  6. This tale is full of light and dark, and leaves a lasting impression of a whole story behind the story, which we sense yet, perhaps rightly, is beyond our reach. Yes!

    1. RR and all. It occurs to me that there should be no rules. Short short like short should be relative. Let discretion be the law-maker.