A Story by Beau Maysey

Another craft assignment, this one an experiment in unreliable narration and weaving in literary references.


I was educating the crowd ‘bout those old sailing days way back when the day the men came to take me away, and oh you had to see it, I was getting into that storytelling mood. "Aye, the crew turned to me right then, a few days into the wind halting, with murderous looks in their hungry glares, and I thought myself a goner if they keyhauled me in order to return ‘prosperity’' to the ship or got desperate enough to try the flesh of a human"

Oh, it weren’t just the words by themselves, you had to see it all; these precise, subtle hand gestures, the gleam in the eye when I was mentioning the crash of waves. Even there, in that mental ward, all the other members spread across the aluminum folding chairs transfixed their eyes upon the flow of memories coming out of me. I knew how to turn Bedlam into a sea of quiet listeners. It weren't easy; the tale had become somewhat of a hassle, needing to be explained all the time to make sure neither I nor others forgot, but everytime I narrated I worked at giving the same passion and vigor to the story as the last time.

One point into the tale, I edged my hand up to dry a few beads of sweat at the forehead when I realized, with a start, that I was physically unable to do so. A quick one-over at my wrist left me astounded at how wrinkled and splotched my skin had become, and I tried to remember how many years it had been since my last voyage.

I was just getting to the point when I was saved from the clutches of death by a miracle when two doctors slid into the room. I eyed them warily but continued; at some point, I had been admitted into this place for PTSD, maybe hallucinations… that’s all that I seem to recall. Something about my kids dumping me off in this exact room, shaking their heads gravely, and walking off- Right in the middle of one of my stories, too; the nerve…

I kept my gaze focused on those two men as they slowly, steadily approached, ready to rally the other elders around my cause if I needed. After all, I had been doing better (right?). I’d taken the pills that they gave me (I found some in obvious places in the room, they must’ve been for me), I’d been reading most of the time instead of violently lashing out, and as a burden untangled in my chest, the frequency of my storytelling had decreased dramatically. So when they finally made a grab for me, in the process nearly catapulting themselves over a few sitting or sleeping seniors, I was too shocked to react, except for my words, my last weapon. “Hold off, now! Unhand me!” They lifted me with the gentleness of grasping a baby puppy, but with turned-away expressions, as if they were holding up something of little worth and much revulsion, a stained blanket for instance. “No, please, no!” Where would they take me now? Where was left to go? I supposed, in a panic, to the isolation room, or maybe down the same vortex that had claimed my ship in the end. “I have to finish my story”. They made to take me away, and despite all the screaming, cursing, and yelling, they turned their eyes away, those cold men of doctoral function, and kept dragging me. Through the anger, a phrase that had been submerged returned to the top, and I uttered it softly as I sagged past the double doors- “Alone, alone, all, all alone, alone on a wide, wide, sea”.

It was December when the coppers gave in to local protests and decided to take in the "rambling, ambling man". They strolled through streets icy cold, deserted, trees lined with rime, wind leering. "What bollocks, sending us out here for this." The second officer winced at the breeze, and nodded weakly. 

They found him half-naked at his favorite spot: The corner of Hackney Road laying in ragged clothes amongst a shelter of cardboard lean-to's and leaky garbage bags, which he seemed to be addressing in a dramatic speech. Of what, they had no idea, for the wizened figure was spilling out endlessly a stream of empty gibberish. His eyes, sparkling some ancient blue from halcyon days, and beard-infected jaw, spewing noises, seemed the only parts still alive in the husk of a man. "How sad", one whispered to the other- "Ol' Devil still knows how to row".

The strange old man looked over suddenly, right into them, as if setting gaze upon humans for the first time; the policemen, already a little on edge at this pathetic display and the police report of a "violent, stumbling ol' drunk stumbling up to me and spouting nonsense", were severely disturbed at the daze that this tired elder seemed locked in, like he had been dumped unceremoniously into the London streets from a different era.

A current of fluent English cut through his guttural rambling, hoarse but rapid- "Wha-what are you people doing here? Who are you are?" One officer made a motion to the other, and they reached down to gain ahold of the elder's arm. The other spoke down to him in slow, syllabic speech- "We've- come- to take- you- home-, sir-". The words made their rounds about the sitting elder’s mind until finally he seemed to grasp what was being done. "No," he gritted, his oceanic eyes training themselves on the advancing officer in futile. "I'm taking my meds, I'm telling stories, I'm doing better; what else do you want?" The younger policeman stopped, turned his head slightly, wondering if he could ever bash out the memory of this scent of garbage and decay that assaulted him. He then kneeled slowly, steadily towards the old man, head still slightly off, avoiding the furious gaze, and tucked his arms under the limp arms that rested upon an upside-down, discarded Ikea box. The already crazed man snarled, and the older policeman set a hand upon his trousers, unsure if the relic still had any bite left in him.

In the end, he went along without a struggle besides a fit of shouting and those dark coals of eyes; his body had atrophied beneath the impedus of age, so that it was simply impossible for him to struggle. He kept on mouthing though, as they took his delicate hands onto their shoulders- "No, no, please, no", and "I-I at least need to complete my story, please", and finally, a string of gibberish running against his English. The policemen just sadly stared forward and avoided eye contact with anything other than a distant spot that seemed to be where their duty lay. This was why, when they lifted the old man out of that mess of a corner, they failed to notice the closed book lying amongst the dirty newspapers, pages brittle and yellowed. On the cover was a large illustration of a man locked into the bow of an old ornate ship, bracing against a rising wave; the text beneath read- "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

© 2015 Beau Maysey

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Splendidly done and expertly told. I was entertained throughout the story wondering where you were going with it. I especially like the ending. One pointer: Since you have two distinct scenes, even from different POVs, it might be good to do something to separate them physically with some extra space or the like.

A couple of notes:
Keyhaul s/b keelhaul
in futile --> futilely
impedus --> impetus

Posted 9 Years Ago

The voice came through well in this story, an interesting take on the poem, and also a comment on the condition of the homeless. Well done.

Posted 9 Years Ago

Congratulations on winning 3rd place in the January Short Story contest! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to formally announce the winners, but it has been announced via message. "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is my favorite poem of all time, and I am glad to see it honored in such a wonderful way!


Posted 9 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on December 18, 2014
Last Updated on January 20, 2015


Beau Maysey
Beau Maysey

St. Pete, FL

Hey, I'm Beau, and these little autobiography section always irked me yet I understand their function and significance. I live in St. Pete, go to college at Eckerd College, study creative writing as a.. more..


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