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slice of life

A sailing story from one of my heroes, Webb Chiles
Once not so long ago there was a sailor who crossed oceans alone in small boats. He did this for many, many years and became a legend. He found purity and joy in what he called the monastery of the sea and loved sailing toward the setting sun or toward the dawn.
When as a young man he departed on his first voyage, three tantalizing sirens kissed him good-bye and waved until he disappeared over the horizon and then, as sirens often do, forgot him.
He suffered hardships, not eagerly but inevitably. Sometimes he starved. Twice he almost died of thirst. He learned that thirst is much worse than hunger. Eight times he survived the great storms that are called hurricanes and cyclones.
People often told him he was brave because he made voyages that not only had no one else ever made, but that no one else had even thought of.
He did not consider himself brave. He did not fear the sea and he knew that men do not conquer the sea or mountains, they only transit them. Still he was at home at sea as few others have ever been. He did fear thirst.
After every voyage the sailor made a pilgrimage to a beautiful sorceress. Wise men told him he must do this and so he did. The sorceress dwelt in a high tower beside a lake so vast some thought it an inland sea. That lake was deceptive, sometimes as turquoise as the Caribbean, sometimes as black as the North Sea in a gale.
The sorceress had coal black hair, a friendly smile, and a gay laugh.
Each time the sailor visited her she sliced small pieces of flesh from him. Though the pieces were small, they did not grow back and over the decades they added up. Each time the sailor returned to the sea he was smaller.
The sailor lived far longer than anyone expected, including himself, and though he grew old he kept crossing oceans. Sometimes he wondered at this. He did not believe in the gods and never asked them to protect him.
Finally when he was very, very old, he sailed his small boat into harbor and made his customary way to the sorceress’s lair.
The sorceress did not age. She was still beautiful. Her hair still jet black. Her smile still friendly. Her laughter still gay. She welcomed him and cut the tiny remnant he had become into three pieces and he vanished.
(I made my biannual visit to my skin cancer specialist today and amused myself on the train ride in by writing this in my mind. I typed it out when I returned home.
Originally the title of this was a dull ‘Modern Myth’. Steve Early in an email called it a slice of life. I wish I had thought of that, but I didn’t. He did, and, knowing a good thing when I read it, I stole it. Thanks, Steve.)