Bio Note: After teaching literature and creative writing for thirty years at a South Florida University, I retired just before the pandemic hit. The quarantine found me pursuing the three Ps: poetry, piano playing, and pickleball. My most recent published book is literary criticism, The Tell-Tale Art: Edgar Allan Poe in Modern Popular Culture (McFarland, 2012).
After a frantic afternoon in room 18 at the Dockside Inn, we emerge under ragged clouds and stroll the island’s main street. Picket fences are gray in off-season. Time drags across the autumn sky and snags on the lighthouse guarding one end of Old Harbor. We pass boarded-up stores and restaurants but discover one lit souvenir shop and step inside. I marvel over a Lucite treasure counter tucked in a hidden corner. Earrings and lockets gleam as dreams of pirate’s gold and polished silver doubloons. He buys me a scrimshaw pendant, an oval slice of tea-stained bone, pretense of ivory. Its tiny ocean churns. A gaunt harpooneer stands tall in the longboat bow, arm forward. A tether rope snakes behind the deadly harpoon in mid-flight, soaring over a fluke on its way to the exposed rubbery side of a breaching sperm whale. The creature has no hint of pain to come, a simple drama drawn with finely etched lines. Sea mist shrouds the sun, and agitated gulls screech overhead. The air smells of rain and seaweed oozing salt at low tide. He refuses my hand. When this day ends, so will we. The ferry horn blasts like a fiery bull elephant, searing the scrimshaw of us into my marrow.
The shadow on my brain scan speaks in tongues to the oncologist. Racing home, eyes brimming, I swing into the driveway to see a man’s arm in an unfamiliar shirt sleeve pulling my front door shut.
©2021 Christine Jackson
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