Cope, Oppose, Manage

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

An ocean of booze is not enough to forget. It’ll still spit you up on shore and you’ll squint at the sun wondering how you got there. But you don’t forget. You never forget. So you jump back in, swim as far as your arms and legs will let you and stop, maybe thinking of something else, but you’ll eventually crawl back up the sand and feel the hot sun.

You wade back into the water, jumping the small waves, diving under the big ones until again, you’ve reached the chop of the ocean. Then you find yourself spitting out sand and protecting your eyes from the sun. You take a skiff out until the engine runs out of gas. You can’t see the shore and so you think this enough. So with no life preserver you jump into the water, moving your arms and legs just enough to keep your mouth free for air. You don’t want to die, just forget. Yet you find yourself stuck in the rocky crags at the mouth of the bay. Hands, feet, sides and head bleeding from the beating your body took to get back to shore.

After climbing back to the sand, you lay down, exhausted. The tide begins lapping at your feet, your legs, your thighs, your hands and you remember. You jump in a plane and fly for hours until the view below is all blue with ocean. You jump and think you’ll never remember again. Your body slaps the water, bruising all over. Later you wake up with coast guard above you and family members crying. And still the waves lap at your feet, you can’t forget. You never forget.

Now you hobble back down to the waters edge, your legs are wobbly, arms feel like lead and that little ball of light inside you is dimming. You fall into the water pushing yourself crawling into the deep of the ocean. Why not just turn around and forget the water completely? Why keep trying to find the deep?

How do you cope with what you can’t forget? How do you manage what you remember? How do you prevent the memories from drowning you if you never stop jumping into the ocean?

Tower, Light, Cup

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I caught a glimpse of a tower made of white brick. The squares were stacked in such a way that they spiraled all the way to the top of the spire. The tower seemed to glow, by the light of the moon or the beams of the sun. Something about the structure compelled me to see it up close, to feel the texture of the brick and get to know the inside of the building. That day, however, I was stuck on a boat. It was stormy and there were no ports on this side of the peninsula.

Through the angry clouds and assault of spray from the waves battering the boat, I stared. My eyes stung from salt. My body ached from gripping tightly to ropes and climbing rigging, all to pull us out of the deep ocean and closer to land.

Sun peaked through the clouds and shone on that white tower. I dropped my ropes and grabbed the railing. I needed to go there, it represented hope, safety, security, reassurance and warmth. It took all my instincts of self-preservation to stop me from hopping over the rail and swimming the impossible length to shore. So I stared.

Seagulls orbited the tower like nymphs dancing around a fire. Green grass and brown clumps of hairy shrubs bowed toward the tower. The storm seemed to calm but I knew that really, my focus was not on the tumult happening all around me, I was only fixated on something that I could not reach.

It wasn’t the right time so I made my way all around the boat, following the white column as we moved around the sound. I stared at the spot where I knew the tower stood long after it had disappeared over the horizon. One day I would see it again and with any luck, the conditions would allow me to explore that magnificent structure.

For now I would have to be satisfied with my cup of whiskey and the memory of having seen it. I know that a tower such as that will always be there, even if not for me, but it will be there, strong and beautiful.

Cake, Rooster, Ocean

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Rooster’s don’t have teeth. At least that’s what he was told. He was also told to go to college, get married and buy a house. That shit didn’t work out. So did rooster’s really not have teeth?

His fingers curled over a smooth rock and he felt it in his hand. The smoothness reminded him of the doorknobs he would swipe his hands over in the eleven room mansion in which he was raised. He gripped the rock, knuckles white, and whipped it into the surf, thinking it would skip. The hungry waves bit down on the rock almost instantly.

He thought about those rooms. All those rooms filled with strange paintings and things. Things was the best word he could think to describe the objects he saw. Things hanging from the ceilings by chains. Things penetrating from the floor into the ceiling. Things that were flesh colored. Those things were scary but intriguing.

He remembered once a table as long as a football field, or at least that’s what his 7-year-old brain told him it was. A table filled with cooked birds, platters spilling over with vegetables, meats, cheeses, fruits and bread. Dishes with green garnish, plates with sandwiches, and giant decanters in shapes that suggested the things he noticed in all those rooms. Then there were the cakes, spheres as tall and sturdy as elephant legs towering over the table.

The memories were coming back to him. The rhythmic sound of the waves chomping down into the sand seemed to hypnotize him.

He remembered pushing open the kitchen door and seeing pigs sprawled out on the counters. Fat butchers with equally fat cleavers slamming down into the flesh and making the pig smaller. Hooves fell on the floor, a rump, then a head.

He watched giant pots of soup, steaming into the chefs spectacles, forcing the chef to clear his vision every few seconds. Then he heard the chickens clucking.

They bobbed their heads around in the coup just outside the kitchen. A chef would grab one by it’s neck, twist it around like a towel being rung to dry and then slam a knife into a wooden block, separating the chickens body from its head.

One time, he noticed a rooster with the chickens. Not a common sight. An absent minded chef grabbed the rooster twisted its neck around and decapitated it. The chef tossed the head carelessly into the doorway of the kitchen. He remembered looking down and seeing the grin of a beak full of teeth. He remembered it as clearly as the first time he broke an arm, the first time he kissed a girl and the first time he had sex. That rooster had teeth.

But they don’t. So what else was he not remembering correctly?