“Again And Again” #1minfiction #fiction
I failed to find creative inspiration within this week’s #1minfiction prompt from Lovely Curses but it dragged up an old memory instead ….
As a child I spent holidays with my family on the south coast of NSW, Australia in the paradise that is now Murramarang National Park. My father and his two younger brothers purchased a house constructed mainly of driftwood and there they miraculously found space within which three expanding families might commune and gain some insight into a collective consciousness of which only a clan (we have Scottish origins) can properly comprehend. We lay on the back lawn together at night and observed the universe.
The stars and planets, you should know, assume a different clarity and significance when one escapes the bright lights and the gravity of the city.
Such was the the remoteness of the location and such were the symptoms of the times that prosperity relied, to a large extent, on daily fishing voyages aboard two dubiously seaworthy rowboats to a position about three miles off the coast where sand gave way to gravel and the bounty of the sea could be cheerfully, and remorselessly, harvested. For a twelve year-old shivering with equal parts fear, excitement and cold the time spent with uncles who told outrageous stories and swore out loud aboard these lurching vessels remains unforgettable.
The downside of it all were the bouts of sea-sickness. The boats were tiny and the seas could be monstrous and as the land disappeared every thirty seconds or so behind the rolling blue swells one found this curse rising from within. It was not practical to return a sea-sick crew member to shore and one had little choice but to await the inevitable, all the while resisting the temptation to leap overboard.
What happens next should be obvious to anyone who has experienced this truly awful condition. When the moment comes one reaches over the side of the boat and, via a loud and strangely satisfying eruption, empties one’s stomach into the ocean. I don’t know whether or not the term is a family invention (many such terms, along with myths and fairy tales, were, in my youth, just that) but this act of regurgitation was known to us all as ‘calling for Bill’.
The term derives from the guttural sound effects one creates whilst relieving one’s self of breakfast. It is akin to a long and mournful pleading over miles of rolling ocean and begging for mercy from some distant entity named Bill. Perhaps it must be heard or personally experienced to be understood. Such was the nature of the call that it would frequently set up an epidemic-like chain reaction among those others of the crew who had been courageously holding back, unwilling to be the first to weaken, and so aboard any other boats within hearing distance (sound travels well over water) could be heard a horrible chorus of several of us simultaneously ‘calling for Bill’.
Which brings me, at last, to this week’s one minute challenge.
It just so happens that I had a cousin named Bill, who was no stranger to the condition I describe and who was a regular crew member aboard morning voyages. Inspired by the name and by the legendary nature of these things (my father and uncles had also been ‘brought up the hard way’ decades before) I once (was I fifteen or sixteen at he time?) wrote an epic poem dedicated to it and featuring my cousin as the hero entitled “Bill, the Young Man of the Sea”.
The poem was perhaps ten stanzas long and describes a brave fisherman who sets out upon a heaving sea on a quest to feed the starving villiage from which he comes. Despite his admirable courage, leadership and determination he eventually falls victim to the atrocious conditions and his remonstrations with the Gods can be heard from over the horizon.
Sadly all that survives of the original text within my memory are the final few lines –
‘Again and again, he called his own name,
Called for Bill, the young man of the sea.’