The International Writers Magazine
:Dreamscapes Fiction

Raymond K. Clement

he Maine Coast is dotted with hundreds of islands. One such island is Monhegan, also known as the Artist’s Island. It has acquired this sobriquet because in residence are several writers, painters, and sculptors who have achieved some modicum of notice, along with others who are seeking it.

It is an immense slab of monolithic granite rising three hundred feet above the cold, grey-black waters of the North Atlantic.  It is always foggy. Most times thick, heavy, and laden with the smell of the sea. It drifts in and out. One minute you are in the sun under a bright blue April sky. The next you are enveloped by the fog.
That was the way it was when we arrived from the mainland. The boat we were on brings supplies, and the tourists, which are the island’s life-blood. Early spring is a good time to come, before the crush.
My companion, as we walked along the grass-carpeted path to the Bed and Breakfast, was Karen. Besides being an accomplished organist she is one of the computer industry’s leading experts on software applications. She specializes in helping ‘start-ups’. But even more so was her uncanny ability to assess the weaknesses and strengths of people and then, rather ruthlessly, exploit them to achieve her goals both in business and in her personal life. Karen is also an outstanding photographer, and  Monhegan is one vast “photo opportunity”.
We met a year ago,  through one of those phone-date services you see in metropolitan newspapers. 
“I’m glad you didn’t pay for a view”, I said looking out the windows at grass covered banks. I could have reached out and touched them. I could see a small patch of blue sky. The fog was lifting. Karen put her arms around my waist as she stood behind me. We looked out the window at the clearing sky. I thought of what I had to tell her. If I tell her now it will ruin the entire weekend, I’ll wait, doing what I do best – procrastinating.

“This is my special place,” she whispered.
 “This is perfect, thank you,” I said as I turned to kiss her.
 “You are to do some editing,” she said freeing herself from my embrace.
We had both gone through troublesome divorces.  We were  wary-determined not to get hurt.  The knowledge that we were beholden to no one was liberating.
 We went for a walk.  Reaching the edge of the cliffs we heard the crashing of the surf spending itself against the rocks below. Karen wanted  some close-ups  of that surf. The rocks were still slippery from the rain and fog. They looked treacherous.
 “Why don’t you use your telephoto lens?” I said.
“To narrow a field, I want wide aperture shots,” she replied.
 “It’s too slippery Karen.” Her face became set. The lines around her eyes hardened as she flintily looked up at me.
 “You can stay here if you want, I’m going.”
 “You don’t have to prove anything,” I said.
I knew she wanted to say that everyday she had to prove herself, but she held her tongue, instead sternly asking  “Are you coming with me?”
 “No.” She started down the face of the cliff.
 “Damned fool,” I whispered.  I should have told her then, I thought. I’ll tell her when she comes back up. Might as well get it over with.
 She slipped halfway down,  righted herself and continued.  When she came back up, I offered my hand, in conciliation, she took it. Argument over. Also my resolve to break the news, then and there.  “Let’s go over to the windward side for lunch. It should be warmer and drier.'
 “Yes, I think your right.” The frost was also melting.
We had done it up right I thought as we spread out our feast on the warm rocks. We had an expensive, pink salmon patè, a crusty French baguette, and a chilled bottle of Veuve Cliquot. We had brought along the crystal, short stemmed champagne glasses we had bought in Boston at Shreve’s. All was set out on a green tartan plaid wool blanket. A hundred feet below gulls were darting back and forth between the water and their rookeries in the face of the cliff.  It was idyllic.
It was then we encountered Sarah. That is what we named the seagull that became our constant companion for the next couple of hours. We had tried Susan, no go. Samantha came close, but Sarah fit the bird’s demeanor perfectly.
As I downed a half glass of champagne, I asked Karen with as serious a mien as I could muster, “Are we sure that it is a girl? We could be making a serious error here.”
  “Jeff,” she said shaking her head, “I’m surprised. Take a good look. See how she sashays her rump around our blanket. She’s a girl through and through, no doubt about it.”
 We both looked hard at Sarah’s tail feathers. She in turned cocked her head  looking at us, probably sure we were a couple of Gooney Birds.
 “I still like yours better,” I whispered in her wind blown hair.
Sarah sat on a rock, a respectful distance away, unperturbed by the activity on the blanket . . . until we opened the patè. It proved irresistible. We put some on a piece of bread, and she gobbled it down. We soon dispensed with the bread; she took it right off our fingers. Karen set up her camera and took some portraits of the paté-loving bird. There was no way I could tell her now. I’d wait for the right time.
Her fingers were on my lips as she nudged me from sleep. I raised my head, in the early morning light; I was able to make out some moving forms. My vision cleared, small island deer were grazing on the steep bank. The were like apparitions as they  searched for young green shoots. One raised its head and stared directly at us. There was no fear in the eyes... It was rather a softness; a warmth of kinship. We lay there, transfixed, hardly breathing. Then they were gone. 
But in those few seconds we experienced what true peace and contentment were. Never before, or since, have I known such a moment. I am sure the same is true for her.
 “I could write for one hundred years and not capture that moment.”
 “A photograph might come close,” she mused.
Later we awoke to rain pelting the windowpane. We lay there in each other’s arms but each wrapped in our own private thoughts. Later as Karen prepared breakfast I got out my MS.  Despite all the ways I had imagined telling her I just blurted out, “I’m going to the West Coast. I’ll probably be gone a few months.”
She turned from the stove; she seemed to catch her breath and with just a hint of hardness in her voice said, “Rather sudden, isn’t it?
 “Maybe, but a good chunk of money I’ve invested is in danger of going down the tubes. I want to save it if I can.” I paused, “I was hoping maybe you might come with me?”
 There was no delay in her reply. “No, you know I can’t do that, I’ve just started.”
 “But you said they will probably go belly-up. Why not get out?”
Those lines around her eyes tightened again.  “Just maybe I can prevent that from happening.” 
Karen had waged a fierce battle to achieve her independence. The price had been frightfully high; including an estrangement from her only son that appeared beyond repair. My experience was somewhat similar. She was not going to surrender any part of her dearly paid for freedom - nor was I. We were at an impasse.

A few weeks ago, I arrived in Italy. Part vacation, and partly to do some writing I had already collected a lot of material that had been put on Karen’s computer. She had transferred it to a disk, and mailed it to me. No note, just the disk.
I  had leased a computer and a clerk was doing some set-up for me. I gave him the disk. When he opened the first file, he chuckled. I looked up and there was a photo of Sarah from Monhegan with a daub of salmon patè on her beak. I smiled.
Karen had remembered!  That weekend had meant more to her than I had realized.  Then I had gone and spoiled it all. In fact, our relationship had been irreparably damaged. A sharp pang of regret shot through me. But I also knew what we had had could never be recaptured. It hurt to be reminded of that. Playing ‘What might have been’ would be to no avail.
 “Do you want to save this photo?” the clerk asked.
 I thought for a long moment then reached across the keyboard and hit “DELETE”.

© Raymond Clement Jan 2006

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