Chapter 4 – The Waterfall

Beginnings Project

Wow. It’s been almost a week since I wrote any fiction. Everyone is throwing down word counts for this whole Nano thing, and I’m barely doing anything at all. Well, not nothing, I’ve gotta finish a paper for class, and my wife’s sister is visiting from Tennessee. I decided to catch up on a week of flash fiction prompts:

Inspiration Monday
Sunday Photo Fiction
Three Word Wednesday
Sunday Scribblings 2
Friday Flash

I’m continuing Miss Alister’s Transference, click through and keep clicking through to get all the way back to here with part one. I also typed the whole thing up on my Smith-Corona Coronet Super 12, circa 1971, all stream-of-conciousness like. Here’s the 1042 word continuation:

**EDIT** I just realized, I wrote this in the wrong perspective. I’ll need to rewrite in the first person…

* * *

“There’s a storm brewing.”

I glanced toward wind chimes mounted over the cabin door and surveyed the horizon. “Not one that I can see,” I replied.

James stood just behind me, I was performing his sentry duties. “Not that kind of storm,” he chuckled.

I lowered the looking glass focused on an island – the object of my intense scrutiny. It wasn’t James’ style to lurk, shirking his duties. “Pray tell, Skipper.”

I could feel the glare from my captain, blood rushing to change the color of his face. If the man could shoot lasers from his eyes, I expected this would be an excuse to cripple me over my attempted fun. I sheathed my looking glass and took a step towards the capstan, paying heed to the anchor chain as I walked. Each step away from the captain, I felt the heat from the coin compound in my pocket.

Perched atop of the capstan, I grinned at my fuming captain. “Come on, Cap’n. Speak to me,” I hoped my smile would defuse his anger.

The captain of the Zebedee chewed on his cigar for a moment. “How ’bout before I tell you, you enlighten this salty old dog on what you saw with that spyglass of yours.”

I shrugged, leapt down from the capstan and picked up a piece of the netting that was a constant companion aboard ship. I passed the netting between my fingers, drawn to each imperfection, removing debris every few knots. I continued doing this, now second nature, as I complied with my captain.

“There’s a stream on that island there.” I tossed my head in the direction of the greenish-purple island on the horizon. “That stream has a little waterfall. Each time we port near by, I look for it.”

James cocked his head to one side. “Why do you look for it?”

I stopped servicing the net and looked to the older man. “We live in an ever-changing world.”

James nodded.

“It’s a world that doesn’t want to change.”

Another nod from James.

“I feel it, ya’know, it’s like…” I dropped the net, withdrew my looking glass and surveyed the island again. “It’s like we’re moving towards something.” I twisted the lens to bring the waterfall into sharper focus. “I wonder if this ‘something’ is what we want at all.”

“Or deserve…” The quiet, almost sad words from James interrupted my reverie.


“Sorry, my’boy, I was recalling a conversation I had recently.” He gestured with his leathery hand, cigar pinched between fingers. “But, why the waterfall?”

“Don’t you see? The rocks that form the lip, they get eroded by the passage of water. Every minute of every day, a piece of that rock is gone forever.”

James nodded. It appeared this was his default reaction.

“It’s one of life’s constants,” I continued.

James knelt to work the other end of the net. “The water?”

I smiled. “No, Sir, the erosion.”

James froze; hand half way to his mouth with the cigar. He regarded the lump in his hand with sudden disdain. “Boy, what the hell’re you talking about?”

“We can stop the water with a dam or divert the flow.”

“There ya go, erosion averted.” James pinched the cigar between his lips.

“No, Sir, the wind.”

“The wind?”

“Yes, sir, the wind will continue to erode the rock. Not as fast as the water, but it will erode it.”

James leaned back on his haunches and crossed his arms. He furrowed his brow and looked at me. And to think I almost walked past him on that dock so many years ago.

“The problem is time.” I looked intently at the old man, searching for comprehension in the wrinkled, weathered face. “None can escape the passage of time. No rock, no man and certainly no nation. It marches forward; any who dare defy it succumb to it in the end. Its icy fingers claw your back, compelling us to act before it runs out.”

James flicked his sodden cigar over the side. “Icy fingers, huh?” He shook his head. “I don’t think so, Steve. I prefer to think of time as the tender caress of a lover. A kiss here,” he pointed to his graying hair. “A touch there,” he formed a fist and brandished his leathery sun-damaged forearm. “A lover walking with us through life, reminding us what events are important.” He looked towards the island. “Reminding us what we must do.”

“Before the end?”

“’The end?’” James roared with laughter. The Zebedee seemed to shudder in response. “’The end!’” James wiped away tears from his eyes with the back of his sleeve. “By his hand, ‘the end.’” James shook his head and I couldn’t be sure, but the rapidly growing overcast seemed to darken with the outburst. “The stories I could tell you, boy.”

I stared at the old man, mouth agape, speechless. I reached into my pocket for the gold coin that started this adventure. The warmth it gave off filled me with a vigor I hadn’t known I possessed. I felt the bile rising in the back of my throat. “Tell me then, old man,” I sputtered indignantly, “what stories could you tell?”

The skies seemed to lighten. “Fair enough, lad.” James recovered his composure and returned to the curmudgeonly facade I had known for so long, and when no one was listening, I admitted to I had grown fond of.

James’ eyes brightened. “I suppose it’s time.” He waved his hand, beckoning me to come closer. “Let me tell you a story about my oldest and dearest friend, Josiah.” I leaned in to hear what the old man who’s likeness adorned the gold coin I carried like a talisman had to say.

“Josiah has played and continues to play a role in the coming storm.” He looked over his shoulder at the island. I figured he was imagining he could see the waterfall, the rocks and the agents of erosion. “A role that perhaps escapes time, weather it be the warm caress I’ve come to know, or the icy fingers you’ve come to fear.”

James took me by the shoulder and led me towards the cabin. “My story begins when I was a young lad, years before you were born…”

Chapter five – The Gate of Gods, by Jules Smith


About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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