When they approached the cliff there was no turning back. It’s then they carved a ship from the hollow bone of a great sea serpent’s skull, fashioned sails from its skin before the creature rotted, bleached by sun and water by the sea. With each passing day, with tools once forged in zero gravity, they worked, etching runes and circuitry, the rotting smell enough to make the starving hurl their stomachs on the rocks. At night in a cave, on an oak table they unfolded all the stars in the milky way and spread them like a map lit by harnessed sun and candle light.
In them was a spirit not destroyed and they would gather by the hot tide pools tempered by the sea, and search late summer skies for answers, make up stories for the questions that still remained. Their solar barque was fitted with the tiny bones of all the animals they loved, fingers from children who’d died too young, and the long thin shanks of the wasted ones who once had brought them home in woven baskets and swaddling clothes. They drew messages on the polished surface of the hull-- arc of the moon, a rising sun, studded holes punched into a black night sky. They knew of ghost ships that could appear out of a foggy night, or from around a cluster of debris afloat and held in space. They knew the danger waiting there. They knew not to listen to the Sirens call that came from deep in time.
There were some who stayed, grounded, and wrote of ancient floods and arks preserved on mountain tops, but the carvers knew from beyond those histories, that those stories were caught up too much with words. And when they left—a great rising up of oars and sail to catch the solar winds—with regret they watched those who could not escape, watched them fashion stone shapes of great ship hulls in meadows as a message to draw them back, watched them paint on rock walls with fingers dipped in blood and berry juice in flame and shadows, and watched them with mathematics lay out huge stones as signs on the desert sand. Regret they knew for their great bone ship was destined only for the stars.
David Fraser Previously published in Tesseracts 18, 2015
Margaret, December 1971
On the snow I hold my arms out wide like the angel above my brother’s crib. Mr. Harris will be mad at me when he knows I’m missing from his class. He’ll call my mom and she’ll be mad at me, and we’re moving on the weekend; Uncle Bobby’s helping us. When Mr. Harris finds me in the snow, I’ll tell him how last night I held my baby brother, how blue he was, how quiet, like my doll with her missing arm, how I didn’t tell my mom ‘cause she was busy with Uncle Bobby, banging the bed against the wall. I won’t tell him how I carried my baby brother with me to the school, how I made angels for him in the snow, how I made a crib and tucked him in behind the bushes by the steps and made more angels to keep him safe. They thought he was a doll. I won’t tell Mr. Harris how each night I want, not to cry, just stay warm, like my baby brother now, wrapped up in his bed beneath the snow.
David Fraser Previously published in After All the Scissor Work Is Done, A collection published by Leaf Press Spring 2016
The Bogeyman an We Never Knew
When they found him, he’d been dead for many weeks, feet propped up in a La-Z-Boy,™ head back, mouth a grin, bare-chested with curled grey hair on pale white flesh, just in his underwear, yellowed jockeys, elastic graphed into his skin, scattered centre-folds of porn, upon his lap, crusted, dried ejaculate caught in the creases where the naked breasts of strange women came to visit him.
We always wondered what he did inside that house. In the early morning he would sit on his veranda steps, or late at night, there in the shadows watching everyone pass by.
He slept on a walnut dining table with a pillow and a sheet, heat lamp suspended from the ceiling where a chandelier had hung. We often wondered how old he was behind that beard, those squinting eyes, that silent mouth that coughed up phlegm and horked it into the Spiraea on each side of his veranda steps.
We often wondered about his loneliness and never once imagined how, in the creases of his mind he’d preyed on some with backpacks, books and skipping ropes, short summer dresses in May and June, and even on the rainy days of fall, and the bundled-up late afternoons when winter stalked the streets.
We just never knew, and that’s what, when we found him, scared us most.