Your cart is empty. Go to Shop

Current Issue

Find Your Genre

Portrait of My Wife as a Boat

By Dario Bijelac
By Dario Bijelac

She comes home later and later even though the nights are starting earlier than they were.

I feel cross and wronged, and pretend not to see her as she hesitates briefly on the doorstep. I bow my head to my stitching. A new quilt this one–with gold, russet, and red, colors for the Fall that is coming.

I do not look at her directly, but I notice that her hair is stiff with salt and spray. She is barefoot and leaves little curved dark marks on the floorboards as she crosses. I cave and tell her, “There is rice on the stove.”

“I am not hungry,” she says, and her voice creaks like old old wood, “I am tired, I’m going to bed.” She rests her hand for a moment on my shoulder, but lightly, so lightly.
That night she tosses and writhes like she is caught on the tides. The bed-sheets are twisted asunder, and I wake and sit up in bed. I touch her arm and whisper soothingly, but she will not be soothed.

* * *

She smells of linseed, of citrus, the oil that she rubs into all of the tiny little cracks in her face. When she leaves, she kisses me, and I taste the sea.

* * *

Then comes two days and two wild gusty nights she is gone. Most of my stitching I have to unpick again and again. When she comes in, I swell up to her. “Where have you been?” I cry, and my voice rises high and wails at her like a spiteful wind, “Where have you been?”

She opens her mouth, but she does not seem to have any words left. She holds her palms out towards me, and stands there squelching.

She looks both harder and smoother, and deeper brown. I can see that she has come back just for me. I can see too that four walls are four too many, and that the hooked rug and the narrow bed heaped with pillows just make her obscurely miserable. She has come back for me, and I am not the sea.

* * *

The next time she leaves I sit with my stitching and stare at it. Then I put it down. I follow her across the old reserve where you can smell the big, old peppermint trees, down over the dune and across the sand. The sun has baked the sand hot, and I feel the heat under my feet, but I do not hasten my steps. Some things are meant to hurt.

She stands at the shoreline, and I see she is already curving, curving, stretching, turning, curving. Till she lies, half in the water, rocking.

She is the shape of two open cupped hands pressed together. The shape of a coracle, in welsh cwrwgl, the light little boats from the place I was born. She has a mast though, as they did not, standing proud against the sky. Her hull is heartwood with swirling shades of gray, like ilmenite in wet sand. She is a thing of beauty, but that doesn’t surprise me at all because I knew that already, I knew that always.

I lift my leg over the side of her. There is room, just for one. She rocks back and forth, and her sail unfurls and billows out. I think she is pleased.

Her rocking motion edges us forward off the sand-bank and into the deeper water. Light and delicate she whips along towards the white-tipped waves. I do not speak to her again, but I run my fingers over the sun-warmed wood of her gunwale. What are words but an anchor that drags behind her, slowing her down, making her stop, binding her to the land. You don’t say I love you to a boat, you don’t, you don’t.

* * *

The wind has picked up and is blowing my hair back from my face. She will take me to shore now I know. I will stand on the sand and watch her as she heads out towards the sun that is drowning itself at the horizon. I will go back to my hearth and sit and wait although I know she will not come. I will start a new quilt, one for winter this time. One with pelagic hues–cerulean and cyan, with flecks at the edges white as the tips of the waves.

© 2021

Meet the Author

3 Comments

  1. Lee BD
    July 22, 2015 @ 8:25 pm

    Lovely. Although you absolutely can say I Love You to a boat (says a life-long sailor). The sensory details were spot-on, and the stitching fit well in this tale.

    Reply

  2. APhillips76
    July 17, 2015 @ 7:09 am

    Amazing. The descriptions of her as the boat, turning into the boat are effective and dramatic. I felt as if I had been transported into the scene and watching as it unfolds before my eyes! Magical!

    Reply

  3. Anne Scott Ross
    July 7, 2015 @ 9:31 pm

    Tonight is the first time I’ve met the term #’flash fiction.’ A whole new world has opened. 
    Thank you.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Support Flash Fiction Online

Flash Fiction Online is a free online magazine that pays professional rates. So how do we make that happen? It’s due to the generosity of readers like you.

Here are some ways you can help:

Become a Patron.

Sign up to become a monthly donor. Read more…

Subscribe to FFO.

Never miss an issue! E-reader formats delivered to your inbox. Available from WeightlessBooks.com

Buy our issues & anthologies.

Each of our issues and anthologies are available in convenient e-reader formats (epub/mobi/pdf). Available from the Flash Fiction Online Store, WeightlessBooks, and Amazon

Donate.

Consider a one-time gift that fits your budget.


Advertise with us.

Have a product, service, or website our readers might enjoy? Ad space available on the website and in our e-reader issues. Sponsored posts opportunities are also available. Learn more…

Spread the word. 

Love one of our stories or articles? Share it with a friend! 

%d bloggers like this: