Tuesday, October 28, 2008

That Salty Air

The ocean will at once seem familiar and easy to know, with waves rolling along in regular time, and seem wholly mysterious, with dark waters just a few feet below the surface and storms hiding over the horizon. It is usually slow and sometimes gentle, but it is persistent. Within it there are always currents flowing. They gently carry a child playing far down the beach and the waves push him in to a slightly unfamiliar shore when he's finished playing. But sometimes he plays too far out and those waves pull him further instead. Sometimes the currents pull the swimmer under and far down into those deep, dark waters.

The ocean takes the foolish and the unlucky in equal measure. The ones left may raise a fist and a voice at it, but they know it will do no good. The ocean cannot listen and understand. They can affect it no more than the sand and seashells. They may want some sort of revenge upon it but it has the ultimate defense: it moves like water.

Which is why it does not seem surprising to me that the author of That Salty Air does not come from an ocean town. This is a tale of revenge upon the ocean, or rather upon creatures of the ocean in proxy for trying to hurt that which cannot be hurt. Hugh, the main character, is shown as one who reveres the ocean until he receives a letter informing him his mother has drowned in it. Maddened with grief he forgets the responsibilities of his life and wife. She finally brings him back to his senses, but when the sea shows itself to be a fickle and unpredictable thing, he manages one more bought of crazy anger.

This was a tale more of a man who showed himself quite foolish and ultimately got off quite lightly. Sometimes you do. The sea is fickle.

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