Episode 11 - "Pictures and Doggerel"
by Camille LaGuire
But she really longed for a large canvas at the moment. Mary stood gripping the railing, with her hair, shawl and skirts blowing in the high wind. Her bonnet too. Mary seemed to never wear it on her head, but always dangling from her neck by a ribbon. Might as well call it a necklace.
Behind her was the rigging of the ship, and the wind-pressured sails. It would have been an amazing image, but for the fact that there was no natural point of view from which you could see both the sails and the water. Although when the waves got big enough, and the ship pitched downward, there was a moment when the whole world seemed to be made of water.
She braced herself and sketched tiny bits of the water, the pose, the rigging, Mary's eyes, and wished Mary's hair was still as long as it had been.
"I don't have a picture of him," said Mary. "Will you draw one when we find him?"
"Of course." Penelope put away her pad, and came close. "Of course I will."
"He doesn't like the sea much," she said. "It think it's too empty for him. He has to be surrounded by people."
"I believe they crowd those boats quite full of people."
"Yes, but if he gets sick and dies on board, they'll toss him out there, won't they?"
"Morbid thoughts won't help anyone."
"They help me prepare myself."
Mary sank down to sit on the deck and lean against the hull. Penelope bent down, quickly offering a handkerchief, as Mary began to cry.
"Has she fainted?" asked a nearby sailor in concern.
"No, I haven't fainted, I'm just crying. Go away," said Mary sharply, wiping her eyes and nose.
"Thank you," said Penelope to the sailor, who backed away quickly from Mary's mood. She settled herself to sit next to Mary, who wiped her face again.
"He's very good at taking abuse," said Mary. "He's very hardy. He isn't likely to take sick. But I'm a bit concerned about the hopelessness. I don't know if he can take that."
"Hope is a very persistent thing, Mary." Penelope reached out and squeezed Mary's hand. Mary half smiled.
"He is an optimist," she admitted. "And he's very persistent, once he sees what he needs to do. I happened to mention to him, considering all the writing he does, that I'd like to see a love letter once in a while. So he's written me poems every day since."
"Really? Will he publish them in a collection?"
"Oh, God, I hope not! They're awful."
Mary began to giggle, and Penelope joined her. Then Mary looked distressed.
"I haven't brought any of them with me," she said, sitting up and touching the pockets of her coat. "I didn't bring any of the ribbons he gave me or anything."
"Mary, those are all waiting at home for you, perfectly safe."
"No, I do have one!" said Mary in relief. "Just one. The last one."
She pulled a folded bit of paper from her pocket, and held it close to herself as she looked up at Penelope.
"I found this on the table beside my bed after he left. I'd been sick from eating a bad pie."
Penelope took the paper and unfolded it. It looked like the flyleaf torn out of a book, and had ink blotches on it. She squinted to read the four scrawling lines.
Her face is pale, her lips are green.
She's the sorriest sight I've ever seen.
Still I love her just the same.
I'm sorry I gave her that terrible name.
Penelope laughed, and Mary took back the paper.
"That one's actually clever," said Mary. "But you should see some of the others.... Or perhaps you shouldn't."
"We have to find him, Mary."
"We will. I'll kill anyone who gets in our way."
Stay Tuned For Episode 12 - "A Poetic Ox"
Available after 8am EST, on Mon/Thur
The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.
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