A recent NYC Midnight competition required a ‘rhyming story’ of 600 words. The organisation stressed that whilst entries could come in the form of a ‘poem’ the emphasis should be on ‘story’. I’m really not sure how one would write a ‘rhyming story’ that didn’t satisfy a reasonably popular idea of what a poem was … but anyway ….
I’m having trouble remembering what the specifics of my assignment was. It had to have something revolving around reputation and also joy. But there was something else in there that I can’t recall. Never mind.
I thought, initially, that I might be well suited to the task and, indeed, my first draft showed all the promise of a Coleridge epic. But it was about 700 words too long, and by the time I’d cut it down to size it had lost most of its meaning (the ‘story’ in other words) and all my favourite bits about rape and pillage on the high seas. What I had planned to rival ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ turned out to be a boring story about an old loser (it’s partly autobiographical) going boating with a mangy dog.
Oh, well. I place it hear on public record as a matter of tradition.
This tale is of adventure. One of sorrow and of glee.
A descent into a maelstrom upon the madness of the sea.
This tale is of a sailing ship that would never run aground
and two souls who sailed aboard her – the Captain and the Hound.
The Captain was a foolish man, a man of fragile will,
a man of lightweight confidence that far outweighed his skill.
Engendering derision with all who sailed with him,
he knew nought of navigation and had never learned to swim.
And yet he had ambition of expedition to new lands,
explorations of new nations, of setting foot on foreign sands,
of seeing sights unseen, of hearing words in foreign tongue,
and then returning home again to hear his praises sung.
So he called for volunteers “Allay your fears! I need a crew!
All are free to sail with me …. and nearly anyone will do…”
When just a dog walked up the gang plank, cocked it’s leg beside the mast,
the Captain thought to stop it, but then he let the mongrel past.
They headed East, both man and beast, the choice of heading was inspired
by an intuition guided mission where no compass was required.
They sailed without a map, knowing not where they were bound,
charting course direct to nowhere, and it was nowhere that they found.
The weather started worsening, and from then it never stopped.
The ship was but a thimble, upon an angry ocean dropped.
The waves rose up to twenty feet, the rain began to pour.
Great shards of hail ripped through the sail as the winds began to roar.
The Captain, he was terrified, as God released his ire.
Again, again, came sheets of rain and lightning bolts of fire.
The Hound remained, though, unperturbed, and lay sleeping on the deck,
Scratching now and then a flea, beneath the collar round it’s neck.
With no-one there to speak to, with none to lend an ear,
no lieutenant to support him, no loyal friend to quell his fear,
no solace in his Bible, no meaning to be found,
as last resort the Captain sought a counsel with the Hound.
“You dirty dog, you mangy mutt, have you anything to say?
Of how we came to be here? Of how we got this way?
Why is my heart now breakin’? Why has God forsaken me?
How, with faith so shaken, might I fulfill my destiny?”
The Hound looked at him thoughtfully, and gave a knowing bark,
then it offered words of wisdom and of comfort in the dark,
“You have fulfilled your destiny and arrived here, come what may.
Safe harbour still awaits you….. and that’s all I’ve got to say.”
The Hound returned to silence, and then the wind fell silent too,
the sun shone down upon them and thus the world began anew.
The seas were calm and welcoming, for the storm had truly passed.
Then the Captain caught a vision as he leant against the mast.
“Look, my boy! There’s land ahoy, and I can see it through the fog!
The sails deploy! Let’s jump for joy! Rejoice with me my faithful dog!”
The Hound, though, offered no response, and simply settled back to sleep,
drifting into nothingness where canine secrets it could keep.
Twas no harbour in the distance, least not one that you could see,
yet there the Captain found a refuge, where his spirit still roams free.
No animal can speak to men, and let’s not otherwise pretend,
but through heaven, hell and madness, the Hound was with him to the end.