Hey guys! Thought I’d hit you with a short story (the poem is still in the works) that was inspired by some locations I visited on holiday.
The first location that this story blossomed from is the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax very near the water front. This gallery was composed of two buildings with three floors that were connected by the shared lower floor. I didn’t get to go through this gallery as thoroughly as I would have liked because I got there near closing however I was particularly struck by a small exhibit they had tucked out of the way on war art and propaganda (mostly from World War Two I believe). I have talked previously about my draw towards the military and this exhibit resonated very deeply for me, both as an amateur artist and a hero lover.
The William deGarthe Gallery in Peggy’s Cove was the second place that was in the back of my mind in writing this, as well as his artwork in the Peggy’s Cove church. Two large paintings in the church depict a ship in a storm with sailors looking out, with a second picture of Jesus that they are looking towards. The gallery that exists in deGarthe’s former home displays many oil paintings depicting the life of the local area and the ships that traversed the seas in those days, in both beautiful and terrifying conditions.
Also, if you ever go to Peggy’s Cove, there is an seemingly ancient old man with a little shack of reclaimed fishing supplies, glass objects burnished by the sea, whale jaw bones, and everything else you could possibly imagine to be in the cutest and least touristy shop ever. And the least touristy bit is important because everything else in Peggy’s Cove is designed with tourists in mind, I imagine in the down season almost all of it closes up.
Anyways, if I’ve intrigued you read on for the story of a shy girl struggling with self-consciousness, and her own oddness.
She stared. The waves roared like lions, but towered like mountains. Somehow these solid, immovable beasts tore about the ship, moving too fast for anticipation, rolling it about. The corner of the foremasts middle sheet was torn away and flapping in the wind while a sailor tried desperately to cling to the mizzenmast. Each moment was an eternity as the thunder cannoned on. How it could be so dark in mid-afternoon was mystifying.
“Excuse me, miss?”
Ella-May shook herself from her revere and looked away from the oil painting. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry but you’ve been standing in front of this painting for almost an hour, and my colleagues were wondering if you were all right?” The young african-american man inquired.
Ella glanced over at the others he had shifted his hand towards when he had mentioned colleagues. A white button up shirt barely covered the bust of the red lipsticked whisperer Ella had noticed on her way in, while the raven haired girl beside her sported deep purple lips and a slight smirk.
“I’m fine thank you…” she glanced down at his name tag, “Timothy.”
He glanced back towards the girls and then to Ella. She wondered if it was compassion flickering in his eyes in that moment, maybe he knew she felt judged and a little embarassed. She held his eye a moment before snapping her own eyes back to the five meter by three meter painting. Now Timothy turned to it as well, his back shifted towards his colleagues.
Almost whispering Ella asked, “Do you ever imagine being there?”
“I can’t. What do you imagine it would be like?” Timothy asked, it seemed genuine.
“I can feel the salt blasted wood of the rail under my palms and see the storm coming in the distance even while the sun beats down on me. The wind begins to whip my hair about before the waves even near. There’s no getting around it…” Ella petered off.
You sound silly Ella, her mother Samantha’s voice snipped in her head. Nobody wants to hear your flights of fancy, and your notebooks taking up all this space. Notebooks, sketchbooks, jabbering on, what does all this…
“I think I’m below decks,” Timothy said in a low whisper, stopping the voice in Ella’s head.
“You were talking and I found myself on board.”
Ella’s brow puckered with a frown. “I hope you’re not there for any sinister reasons.”
“No, I’m securing the cargo. We have spices and silks to protect.”
“The storm picked up speed though, the other sailors and I are preparing, battening down as best we can. I’m climbing the rigging. The wind keeps pushing me about!”
“I’ve come on deck now and the storm is on us,” Timothy whispered more emphatically.
Ella’s eyes stayed fixed on the picture. “We’ll try our hardest, but we may go down. The captain has experience though, and we all know our jobs.”
“That’s all the luck anyone can hope for,” Timothy replied.
Ella fell silent and nodded, her breath coming a little bit faster. Timothy turned toward her.
“I’m off work in half an hour,” Timothy began. He stopped though and seemed to be waiting. Ella turned her cool blue eyes back to his hopeful brown eyes. “Are you going to be staring at another painting this afternoon?”
Ella nodded slowly. “I was going to go to the war and propaganda exhibit and remember how dear Jake, the soldier in The Trench Lament, got all that dirt on his face and why he looks so sad.”
“He does seem like a Jake, doesn’t he?”
“I think so.”
“When I get off work, could I join you and Jake?” Timothy asked tentatively.
“I think I would like that,” Ella smiled.
“Maybe we could grab a coffee afterwards,” Timothy continued casually.
Ella’s chin fell slightly and she blushed. She looked off to her other side, away from Timothy. He’s clearly some artsy-fartsy hooligan. Can’t he get a real job? Samantha’s voice echoed in her mind about the eighteen year old boy she’d liked at sixteen. I mean really, selling drawings at the harbour front? What does he make, ten cents. He’s not even planning to go to university…
Samantha was cut off yet again, Ella couldn’t remember a time that happened in real life. She looked through her lashes back at Timothy.
“I don’t know your name, I’m sorry,” Timothy said with a smile.
“Ella, I didn’t mean to get your guard up. I can just come hang out with you in war and propaganda if you don’t want to do coffee.”
“No, I…I…” Ella was at a loss.
“Maybe, today we can look at The Trench Lament and maybe next time you’re in we could look at something else?”
“I’ve worked here awhile. I noticed your in at least twice a week, please don’t think that’s weird! You just have something striking about you, your icy eyes and your confidence… I’m sorry, I’m being super weird,” Timothy stammered. “I’m just going to leave now.”
“No!” Ella exclaimed. For the first time their conversation rose above a friendly murmur.
Timothy stopped and Ella locked eyes with him. “I would really enjoy some company to look at the art with.”
“Okay. I’m here every day except Sunday and Monday, and I always get off at 4:30 if you want to look at art together.”
“Thank you,” Ella whispered.
Timothy reached towards her, briefly, but then his hand fell back as though he had only been about to punctuate a word with it. He opened his mouth and closed it before finally finding a reply.