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THE DOLDRUMS
Written by Paul Landis Delaune

     The creaking deck gently sways beneath my feet as I look across theflat ocean towards
the distant horizon, my weary eyes straining to see what lies upon yon unseen shore. The
wind has lost itís breath and our vessel, aye, the very sea, have no life. Canvas skin hangs
limp from the broad shoulders of towering trees that be masts, thick needles of wood
pointing towards the bright, cloudless sky. The sun seems to stand still, yet ever moves on
its endless trek across the sparkling blue heavens.

     A casual yawn escapes my lips as I lean back, stretching my arms and looking about
the quiet ship. Bored seamen loiter about, tying ropes, mending worn sails, mindless
ants filling the monotony with their tasks repeated yet another time this lazy day. I
miss their coarse laughter, vulgar oaths, ribald songs of treasure, wenching and rum. The
doldrums they call it - no wind, calm seas, birdless skies. The passing of the hours ceases
to stir any interest, as time, a fickle mistress at best, mocks the dulled spirits languishing
in her selfish embrace.


 

     As far as one can see in any direction is only empty, blue sea -empty and quiet. Not a single
wave beckons the eager eye. No landmark, wayfaring bird, or foraging denizen of the deep
disturbs the glassy surface. Even the sight of another vessel lost in the quiet, watery void
would encourage our low spirits and relieve the shroud of dejection hanging over the
ship. I have experienced this natural phenomenon before, yet it befuddles my mind still. I
am eager to put into port and feel solid ground beneath my feet once more.

     Though not a sailor, I have often wandered the oceans in quest of securing my fortune
in some new and faraway land. But success often eludes my grasp and I must search for
more fertile opportunities.  However, with each new harvest consumed by drought I am
forced to move on once again. My feet tire of seeking new roads and my heart yearns for
a home to call my own, land on which to raise my sons. Home for me has been an
everchanging condition and I know not where I may lay my head on the morrow.

     Again I turn to face the sea, rubbing my rough, unshaven face, my thick forearms resting
upon the smooth hewn wooden railing. Always it is the same, the water, and yet often
changing. Such is a manís life, never seeming to waver, but different than the years
trailing behind him. We hunger to resist change, yet it is part of our nature. Growth demands
it. Without it we would die. One cannot always be a towering oak flaunting strength and
prosperity. Still we must bow our spirits to the breath of Fate.

     Though my sour fortune can be a painful burden upon my shoulders, in my soul a bright
flame of hope ever flickers, urging me onward, driving me to anxiously greet each new dayís
sunrise with expectation and awe. With every dawn my strength is renewed, my spirit reborn
in the glorious majesty of heavenís holy light. I be a dreamer, a wonderer, a questing vagabond.
I be not a religious man, yet to experience the wonder of creation is to drink deeply from
natureís holy grail of divine splendor.

     In times like these I remember the past and in its memory contemplate what is yet to come.
I be the stray wolf, the whelp that suckled longest at its motherís breast. I be the one last to
be weaned, the one to linger, the one, the last to find his path. I be fortuneís bastard
child, the forgotten brother of the twins, Romulus and Remus. In their shadow I stand, unseen, unnoticed beside the chronicles of their accomplishments. Fathers of kings they be, founders of empires. And I be a blind beggar wandering aimlessly through the back alleys of their worlds.

     I remember our sire. He was a man of strength, of solid character, not a rich man but an able
one, a man who provided for his own. He sacrificed himself in defense of his family, weapon in
hand, honor in the deed of his life. To me, his firstborn, he bequest his name, yet my siblings
more than I be born of his mold. They walk in his footsteps while I be an autumn leaf tossed
about by the wind. Upon the foundation of his life the hands of my brethren erect pillars of
strength, while my wandering feet leave behind rocky trails of forsaken dreams. If his eyes
could gaze upon me now, what words would he have for my foolish life?

     My melancholy is stirred by a heavy sigh and my mind turns to consider my presence upon
this vessel. In my tiny cabin lay my blade, my instrument for giving me life, this razor-sharp messenger of death.  Daily do I spend time fingering its long, keen blade, caressing its
thick, heavy handle. Most prefer a grip light and balanced but such is not for me. Nay, give
my hand a crushing wand that may bludgeon a manís head as well as possessing teeth to
savagely slash a bodyís mortal flesh. Often has it been the means of delivering many a soul
onto the last voyage across the cold, dark face of bloody Styx.

     Though rough and hard, my sensitive fingers daily apply a thin layer of clear, yellowish oil
to my deadly sword with the tenderness of a mother caring for the waif of her lost belovedís
loins. Gladly does its smooth skin drink the bitter nectar that cleanses it from lifeís cruel
ravages. Upon the conclusion of this devoted service I take a light cloth in hand and gently
wipe the remnants of the excess potion from the glistening metal. From thence, on the empty afterdeck, my skilled arm ever practices its warrior art, relishing some activity to calm the fires
of discontent that boil in my soulís passionate cauldron.

     Shaking my head, I clear my mind, turning my sight outward from the turmoil residing
within me to the lonely blue lying before my eyes, seeing once again the never ending
waters stretching beyond the distant horizon. I look down into the smooth surface below
me and wonder what others have wandered upon this unmarked trail to distant, exotic
ports and beckoning homes. And how many souls have left their cold, white flesh lying in
the murky depths? In silent reverence my spirit salutes those who may lie below, bidding
them an unspoken prayer for good fortune in the arms of eternity. Death humbles even
the greatest of men.