The Soul of the Sea


It was half past noon, on the 21st of September, when Daniel Adams looked out the window and saw her.

At first he wasn’t sure what he was seeing. He rubbed his eyes. Blinked a few times. Cursed quietly because his eyeglasses were in the car and he hadn’t brought them inside.

He looked, squinting, willing his eyes to be better at seeing. Then, he was sure.

It was a woman. A beautiful woman. But there was one problem.

He could see through her.

It was just that plain. She was obviously, a ghost.

The winds were high at his rented vacation home. He had come there for two weeks for rest and recreation from his busy job as a contractor. It had been great. No loud or needy neighbors. No calls from work. Just silence, and peace and quiet. He felt more relaxed than he had in a long time.

Till now.

He looked at the figure of the woman, until he was sure that he wasn’t hallucinating, and then stepped out on the porch. She was still there. And now, she was looking at him.

What was she saying? Her beautifully formed, rosebud mouth was making a pleading type of motion. Her eyes, which he imagined must be of the deepest blue, appeared filled with tears.

He walked down the porch steps, and with his eyes set on her, stepped onto the beach.

Two hands grabbed him from behind, threw  him on the ground, knocking the air out of him. “Stop!!”

Daniel was a former boxing champion in the Marines, and had lost none of his ability to defend himself, even when taken by surprise. He was up in a minute, ready to swing.

But there was nothing to swing at. Well, sort of nothing. The figure before him was just as see-through as the irresistible woman still some distance away. Still beckoning him to come to her, assist her.

“You can’t help her.” The words didn’t seem to come from his mouth. They were everywhere, maybe not spoken, though he could clearly hear them. “Help yourself. This is a cursed place. Get in your car and get out of here!” The man before him became many men and women, looking as if they came from different times, all sure of one thing–Daniel was in danger.

Just then, a ravenous sound, chilling in its fury came from the direction of the lady. Daniel turned and froze. There was no beauty left. Only the craven ugliness of the tomb, a skeletal mass of decay, of evil and of desire to destroy. He took several steps back, lost his balance, fell. When he opened his eyes, he was alone.

Daniel got into his blue MG, and headed into town. He stopped at the first older-looking, somewhat seedy bar he could find. For an experience like he’d just had, a massive drunk was needed, sooner rather than later.

He was well towards accomplishing his goal when the bartender, who was old, weathered and the visual stereotype of the wise and cynical bar-keep shut him down. “You’re drinking those like you have a grudge against beer.” The older man said. His voice was accented with a Boston brogue, old school Irish, and something else. Raspy, but somehow–kind?

Daniel didn’t argue being cut off from the brews. He paid his tab, and started to go, thinking there were plenty of bay-side bars where he could complete the task he set before himself.

“You saw her, didn’t you?” The voice behind him, much like the view of the spectral woman, summoned him. And so, Daniel turned and went back to the bar-keep.

“Why don’t you people advertise this in your chamber of commerce site? You could make a heap of cash. Or is it better to let people find out on their own, and hope they don’t have a heart attack?.”

The bar-keep stepped out from behind the counter. He wiped his hands on a spotless white apron and pointed to a booth where he could still see the comings and goings of the customers. He scratched his two or three day growth of white-gray beard, and smiled a yellow-toothed smile. “I’ll tell you now.” He said, very casually, as if he planned to advise Daniel of the best places for fly fishing.

Daniel, unsteady on his feet and starting to feel a little nauseated, took a seat opposite the bar-keep. “There you go, O’ Boy.” The bartender said, grunting comfortably as the plush, but well used cushion met his backside. “Not much time to rest on this job.”

“Who are you?” Daniel asked.

“I’m Ray. You saw the sign. Ray’s Diner and Spirits. Not so great on the diner part, but pretty great on the spirits. Been here for a while.” He nodded at the bar. “We get folks like you all the time, and I try to lend a hand.”

“Well, Ray, I don’t believe in ghosts. So, either I’m hallucinating, or nuts, or maybe both.”

“Neither, O’ Boy. I’ve been here forever, it seems, and I am still not used to her. I don’t think anyone is.”

“Who…what is she?”

Ray stuck out his long legs, stretched them. Pushed ample straight locks of white hair out of his grey, ancient eyes. He seemed to consider the question.

“She is a sea spirit, but not a very nice one.”

“Comon.”

“Okay, that’s one of her names. Just remember, you’re the one who asked me.” Ray got up, and brought back two ice cold beers. “I know I cut you off, but you might need a little more brew to believe me.”

They drank in silence for a few moments, and then Ray begun his tale.

“Her name was Penelope Stuart.  The Stuarts were the foremost family here in the 1930s. Her Daddy, Paul Stuart had mob connections, and was nasty piece of work. He was the mayor, and he ran everything. Or so he thought. He didn’t run Penelope. She was just as strong willed as her father. She usually had him in the palm of her hand, able to get him to say yes to anything. But then Bryan O’Malley came along.”

Daniel, who loved a good story, almost as much as a good fight or a good drunk, knew he was hearing the beginning of one. He listened attentively.

“O’Malley was trash. Just plain trash. There wasn’t any other name for him. He was a poor kid, and a short, skinny one. He felt like he had to overcompensate for everything. He saw Penelope, rich daughter of a very rich and powerful man.”

“I don’t think he ever loved her. He just saw the money and the power. He wanted that, and didn’t figure, I guess, that having a beautiful wife would hurt that much. And, Penelope was beautiful–except, maybe in her heart, where all women need to be beautiful. Her only flaw outwardly was a crescent shaped scar in the middle of her forehead.”

Ray sipped deep on his beer, and then continued. “I was a kid when all this went down. Just about 9 years old. Too young to really understand all of it, but old enough to get the basic facts. The town was full of gossip. Especially when Penelope turned up pregnant and in need of a quick wedding. Old man Stuart was livid. He couldn’t see the sense in  making O’Malley his son-in-law. He was too angry. He watched them make their plans, plans that they thought were secret, to run away. Penelope went to the beach, where at the time, a small wharf was. She waited. O’Malley never showed up.”

“Did her father kill him, or have him killed?” Daniel asked.

Ray raised his eyebrows in consideration. “No one knows, O’Boy. My thought, as was my Daddies’ was that Stuart had him made into fishbait. No one ever saw Bryan O’Malley again. Alive, that is.”

“Somehow, Penelope knew. She went to her father, they had a showdown. She cursed him, he cursed her. She left his house and went to the wharf where she and O’Malley planned to meet.”

Daniel had to say the words. “What happened next?”

“It was September 21, 1938. That date ring a bell to you?”

Daniel shook his head, then slowly nodded. “The Long Island Express came on shore that day.”

Ray grinned widely. “Good for you, O’Boy. I knew you wouldn’t let me down. Penelope and everyone else got no warning to leave the town. We were all just sitting ducks. When the hurricane got finished, there wasn’t nothing left in our area, not one living soul.”

“But you said you were 9 years old, and you lived there back then.”

Ray smiled, and Daniel wasn’t surprised to see straight through him. “I did say that, O’Boy.”

Outside, Daniel heard the wind pick up. He was a faithful Weather Channel watcher, but had heard nothing of a tropical storm headed up the Atlantic coast.

“She’s vicious, that girl.” Ray said. “And you are one lucky man.”

“I….don’t understand.”

“Since that hurricane, every time she appears to someone, we either get a bad, deadly storm….or someone goes missing. We started calling her the ‘soul of the sea’ as a bad joke. The missing folks, usually men, who are bewitched by her beauty– every dad-burned one of them drown. We try to stop it,  warn people. Even O’Malley tries.”

“Sometimes we manage to save a few.  But she is hungry. For revenge, to bring others down. You’re safe, but we may be too late for someone else. If she doesn’t get her first prey, Penelope goes hunting for someone else.”

Just as quickly as the words were said, the whole place around him, including Ray was no more. Daniel saw bare beach. He saw boards, bodies, old style automobiles up-ended, in ruin. The surroundings changed again. He was near the place he thought he had rented. He saw his MG. But there was no house, no nothing. Except her.

Penelope, in front of him, face full of ravening hunger, reaching out to him.

“No!” The voice came from behind him.

Daniel turned, and saw a large group of people. Saw through them. One of them, tall, strongly built, determined, walked towards the sea spirit. “This must stop. No more, Penny, no  more.”

“This man did nothing to you.” A woman, with a kind, plump face said, strongly.

“Daddy, Mama….I” The words were the first Penelope, the sea spirit, had uttered. For a moment, the ugliness on her spectral face seemed to lesson, but she looked over at Bryan O’Malley standing near them, and she appeared determined. “We didn’t get our chance, our life. If we can’t, no one can.”

Daniel, afraid, unsure of who he could trust, stared at Penelope, then at the townspeople.

Thunder flashed through the sky. All but Daniel vanished.

When Daniel woke the next day, he woke in a hospital. He had taken a bad fall, the nurse said. He had a concussion. Did he have anyone he wanted contacted? Daniel gave the name of his brother, Jordan and contact information.

Jordan was at his bedside by noon. But Daniel was not glad to see him.

Daniel was Jordan’s younger brother by two years, Daniel thought he knew him from head to foot. Yet, on Jordan’s forehead was a old scar, crescent shaped. He reached for his brother, and Daniel pulled away, head hurting, wanting to scream, but unable to.

The last thing Daniel saw was  his brother’s features melt into those of Penelope as her skeletal arms latched onto him.

The soul of the sea, Penelope, was, for the time, now satisfied.

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Why are YOU are still single?


“In this dirty minded world, you are either someone’s wife or someone’s whore, or fast on your way to becoming one or the other–and if you’re not, there’s something wrong with you… but there is nothing wrong with me.” John Irving, The World According to Garp.

 

Just recently, a man I know assumed, on my face book page that I was a lesbian.

I support the side of fairness in the current gay marriage conflict. For supporting that belief, a man hurled the ‘L’ word, or at least the insinuation at me.

Not the healthy understanding of a woman who is, from birth, attracted to other women, and wants to spend her life loving one.

No, the ugly, racist version of the word, with all the nastiness that comes from the mind of someone full of hate. He also threw that version of it at me, because he made it clear he was attracted to me, but had done no more than hint about what he wanted. He lacked the manhood to properly ask, even if it meant he might be rejected. And since I don’t respond to hints, often not understanding them, I didn’t respond at all. So, I caught his childish wrath, and was labeled.

It’s happened before, with other men, in 50 years of being single. It’s confusing to me at times, maddening at others.

My late, beloved Grandfather said “I’m really disappointed in these generations of men that came after me. I don’t understand them.”

My grandfather’s comments were about those men who have bought into the ideas of the so-called sexual revolution, which is heavy on no-strings empty sex and low on love or commitment.  Sort of a surreal version of a male Alice in a sexual wonderland.

My grandfather met a beautiful brunette with big brown eyes while he was in training in Texas during the Second World War. He had no problem figuring out his next step. He proposed, she accepted. 57 years later, they were still married.

Now, I’m not saying I want my grandparents ten day courtship/proposal for my story. In this day and time, that might actually be dangerous. Anyone can hide major character flaws that long.

But, I do like that my Grandfather knew his own mind, and his own heart. Not everyone agreed with Grandpa, some even despised him for being so forthright. But foot-dragging was not something he did.

I’ve been engaged twice, but I never really wanted to get married. I saw no happy marriages around me. I saw my parents violence-filled marriage. Early on, my father’s conflicts with police officers instilled in me a fear of law enforcement that sometimes still surfaces at unexpected times.

Then, my parents learned to cover up. So well that my mother was approved to be a daycare provider in the mid-seventies. I remember looking at the social worker who passed us with disbelief. How could she not see?

I was warned repeatedly by my social-climbing mother that no one would believe me. That she could do anything she liked to me, ‘because people think I’m nice.’

I saw similar stories in other family relationships. Domestic violence and child abuse were rampant, with everyone trying to hide it. Where was the ‘happily ever after?’ Indeed, where was the ‘happy’ at all?

I loved children, and at the time, wanted children, but didn’t want to pass along the family disease of abuse. Worse still, it seemed to be a challenge for some of my family to infect the next generation. I could not take that chance. Despite having offers to become sexually active, I resisted until my early 20’s.

My ultimate decision to be sexually active resulted in an unwanted pregnancy and a miscarriage. The months that followed those events filled me with guilt and shame. For years, I chose to be celibate. This was very frustrating to my fiances, but I just didn’t trust them enough to cross that line. And ultimately, those relationships ended badly.

I had normal sexual desires, and really struggled at times with how to deal with that. Without planning it, years went by.

I got all sorts of pressure. Passes from both women and men. Those who saw me rarely in relationships, and when I was, of brief duration. In those days, unhealthy men were like catnip for me. I didn’t see at the time, that I was trying to reach back into my past and was trying to fix what had been broken then. It would take years to see that.

When I was about 6 years into celibacy, a man who had voiced the desire for sex with me (and the expectation that I provide it) said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. It’s not like you’re ugly or anything.”

It never occurred to him, that then, even at my masochistic worst, I might want to be pursued, dated first. That it might be his behavior that was leaving him without a sex partner.

Since then, I’ve seen many men with that attitude, even if they were more subtle about it. I had one guy (who I met in church, introduced by his mother) suggest that we have sex via the computer, or be something I’d never heard of before, ‘#%$@ buddies.’ My naivety ultimately turned him off, and he went in search of more successful targets.

In Florida, I had a man introduce himself by way of telling me where he worked, his yearly income, and why he would be a really good catch.  When I told him what I did, that I had a weekly column in the newspaper and was doing quite well on my own, I became known, in that small town, as a ‘man-hating bitch.’

In Kentucky, I’ve had a man pull out a large roll of cash and suggest that we start a relationship. This was with  me knowing that his physical abuse had put his current wife into the hospital.

I even had a man call me and ask me on a date one day after his wife died. Another guy wanted to be ‘friends’ but with the expectation of phone sex, because that was the only thing that excited him.

One fellow compared me, in front of his friends to buying a horse, saying that a good ‘horse’ (meaning woman) had a ‘beautiful face and a big ass.’ Okay, he seemed harmless. But other than other fumbling, goofy comments, he never asked me out. I sometimes wonder what happened to him, and if his ‘horse-buying’ skills ever got better.

Other men have presumed to invite themselves to my home, and got mad when I suggested a public place instead. Still others would flirt openly in front of spouses, girlfriends, etc, and treat me better than those individuals. Allow me to be treated badly by those women, acting as if they did nothing wrong, and that I, by my very availability, was some temptress that they could not resist.

One night, when I was arguing about politics, a minister sitting next to me, laughed, then leered, and said, “I knowwwww what YOU need.” The sad thing was I was the only female in the room who dared to argue with the assembled men. It seemed, I guess, the best way to shut me up. And, sad to say, that evening, it worked.

Let’s be honest. I like men. Have loved some of them. I love the company of men. Love to joke, and yes, I love to (gasp) flirt. Let’s just say, I love being a heterosexual woman. Yet, I am consistently misunderstood.

I am single because of lazy men who expect me to do the work and yet, be treated like a king. Because of men who want something secret on the side, and don’t understand why I think that is wrong. Because of men who hint and hint but never have the guts to just straight out, risking rejection, say what they want.

From time to time, there are those who I might say yes to. But I have to be asked.

I am single because I am afraid of making a mistake. Of re-creating my parent’s marriage. Of being trapped and not being able to get out. Of smiling in public, while hiding my bruises, both physical and emotional. I’ve worked hard on my life and enjoy the peace that I have now. That peace, sad to say, comes from being single.

Even in so-called happy marriages, I see the casual disrespect of males to their spouses, the need for attention from other females over-riding the desire to cherish and respect those wives.

At this point in my life, it seems that I would be throwing away a lot to get very, very little.

THAT, my friends, is why I am still single.

 

Why Kim won’t QUIT


kimdavis

Something profoundly sad happened in the Commonwealth of Kentucky today. Actually two things.

First–a woman, who from all accounts, is a pretty nice lady (even when people are screaming at her across a clerk’s counter) went to jail for supporting what she believes in.

Second–that it had to happen at all.

No matter what camp you are in (I support love and fairness for all) this is a mess. A big one, with no chance of it getting resolved any time soon.

Yes, the couples desiring marriage licenses in this face-off are definitely victims. But, so is Kim Davis.

Because, as of today, there is no way she can quit. No way to back down. If she does, she lets her fans down, and makes her faith seem somewhat less than legitimate. And, she would seem to allow the ‘other side’ to ‘win.’

On the way home tonight, I heard BBC news reporting the case. When I get on Facebook, I see things about the case. If I threw a rock, I bet I’d likely hit someone with an opinion about this case. It is everywhere.

I want to say one thing about her apparent hypocrisy after having been married four times, twice to the same man. She bypasses that by saying all this happened before she became a Christian.

Okay. I believe in grace. I have needed and been shown a lot of it in my life. My question here–why can’t she show the grace that she has been given to others?

It puts me in mind of the New Testament man who had been forgiven much by a rich ruler. The minute he is forgiven–what does he do? He goes after the guy who owes him a tiny debt, and goes after him hard. The rich ruler finds out and takes back the forgiveness and grace offered.

Story moral–none of us have the right to withhold grace.

The man owing the smaller debt was still in debt, still ‘in sin’ if you will. Yet his creditor, the man forgiven much, totally in the clear, demanded, without mercy that the little guy repay every penny.

Let’s just say that same sex marriage is wrong. Who is Kim Davis, having been forgiven three divorces, multiple adulteries, and having children out of wedlock to withhold grace from a gay couple due to her new Christian status?

Maybe her four years in the family of God has not shown her this truth. Or, maybe, there is something deeper at work, a sin so deep that God had the Old Testament list it a deadly sin–PRIDE.

Pride is the thing that felled Lucifer and his angels, and put them into the pit of hell. Pride is what causes all of us to fall time and time again. And I believe spiritual pride is part of what is keeping Kim Davis’s fight going–much more than, I believe, any love of God.

Kim Davis has lived in Rowan County her whole life. Had this controversy never come up, no one outside of this rural, mostly white community would have ever heard her name.

Now people are hearing her name all over the world. Her picture is everywhere. Famous people are praising her (or not.) She has been made the lone fighter in a cause that has very little to do with religion and everything to do with politics.

It must feel great to suddenly be famous after years of being just one more anonymous  human being going through life in a rural county. It must feel amazing to hear people that likely would have never given her the time of day (before) telling her that she is a hero, a martyr.

It must be GREAT to pick up a paper and see her face on the front page. So great–so much attention, that it might just be addictive. Who would want to give THAT up?

Beyond pride and getting attention (more than she will likely ever get again) there is one very sad truth. Kim Davis is being used.

She may not see it that way. But she is a pawn in a very vicious political game. There are folks out there that would throw their mother under a bus for a vote. These are the folks on both sides of the struggle who are seeking politican gain by getting in the spotlight airing their support or lack thereof.

And Kim, not understanding (I hope) the base side of human nature, is letting herself be used.

I don’t see any of her supporters sitting in jail with her, after all. Tonight they are in their own snug homes, having a meal of their choice. She is sitting in jail issued clothing, eating whatever the detention center dished up, and might be in danger from other inmates.

Where is her support? Are they willing to join her in jail?

Let’s go back to the beliefs that she is so stringently supporting. As a fellow Christian (since I was 13) I’ve had a lot of time to think about the big ‘no-no’s’ that more conservative Christians find repulsive. Homosexuality is definitely on that list. And they have a right to feel that way.

However, such types forget that faith is about what the individual does. Faith is between the individual and God. What we do individually will be what God judges us for, not what we try to keep OTHERS from doing.

America is a nation of laws that apply to ALL people–Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Jewish, Eastern faiths, people with no faith at all.

Law, and the protection and privileges provided by it, are not just for Christians. No government employee has the right to legislate their views of morality. The law must be for all, or for no one.

I’m thrilled that Kim Davis found Jesus four years ago. I love him too. I too have made a stand (more than once) based on those beliefs.

I nearly got kicked out of my social work program for standing up to a non-believing professor (who happened to be gay) for being discriminatory towards a black student in my class.

I don’t remember if I framed my defense of the student in Christian terms, but I did frame it with the need for justice.

I reminded my professor, someone I considered a peer and friend, how badly the gay population was treated. Knowing that, how could he discriminate?

I reminded him that fairness was the most important thing. I stood alone after my classmates, who loudly supported me at first, backed off in fear of our professor and his threats.

My maligned classmate (and I guess you could say I) won our battle. The Dean of the college of social work addressed it in our favor. But Jesus won that day, overwhelmingly–because a stand was made for love and truth.

I doubt allowing a same-sex couple the right to the same legal protection and benefits that straight couples enjoy will send Davis to hell. But I’m reasonably sure that being unloving and judgmental just might.

Davis was never asked to marry the couples–a judge does that. She was not working in a Christian agency. She was working in a secular one, bound by secular law–which is by the people, of the people, for the people–not just a select few.

I won’t give Davis the courtesy of thinking her a martyr, no matter how long she sits in jail. Martyrs are people like Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and the lesser known Jim Elliott. All of these men died while reaching out in love, not in the interest of pushing their faith or viewpoints on someone who has yet to believe.

I do hope that Kim Davis will learn (as she will have some time to think) the difference between being a pawn for power hungry politicans and standing up for love and grace–the very things shown to her when had the greatest need of them.

I hope she will learn what American really stands for– not just exercising her rights, but defending the rights of all.

The way our state government  can show grace to both Davis and the couples who wish to be married in their home county is by impeaching this defiant clerk.

She won’t quit on her own–pride, attention seeking, and flattering folk who don’t really care about her will prevent that.

Because Kim won’t quit, the state government needs to impeach her. Put someone in her place that understands the law is for everyone.

Let Kim go home to practice whatever she believes in peace, and let everyone around her go home and do the same.