The lighthouse and the candle

It was a quiet evening. Christmas eve.
The “Pythia” was sailing under a full moon. On board, captain Hessel Westra did his shift and drinking his coffee that the cook had brought to him in the stirring cabin.
“Another Christmas at sea,” the cook sighted. He gleamed outside.
Hessel didn’t speak. He shivered. Every now and then a beam of light flashed over the water from the coast. The island became visible. The lighthouse Brandaris. Terschelling.

The old farmer put his book down and his glasses away. He looked at his wife, who was sleeping in her chair near the window. On the windowpane was a candle next to a picture of a young man. The candle was flikkering. Christmas eve and a silent night. Maybe it was a pity there was no snow this year.
He rose from his chair, got his jacket and wellies and went outdoors.

It was so quiet outside. Just the sea behind the dunes. The moon was shining from a clear dark sky.
A cow in the barn mewed, then it was quiet again.
The old farmer started to climb the dune and he thought of years ago. So maybe he was wrong that time. He shouldn’t have tried to force the lad to do what he didn’t want. But that was how it was in those days. Children listened to their parents, was he wrong to think his son would listen too?

But the boy wanted to go to sea. Not become a farmer. And now, years later, he knew the son had a point. But then… Had he himself not just lost his brother who was drowned? He was still wearing the black armband then!
Around the arm that hit his son that Christmas eve.

From the top of the dune he looked over the peaceful island, the dunes and the sea.
Where would his boy be now? Well, boy, he would have been forty now. Would he still be alive today?
He left that Christmas eve and he had never returned. Never they had heard from him.

On the bridge of the “Pythia” Hessel still shivered. The coffee couldn’t keep him warm. Was it really cold? He remembered that he had this strange sensation when he was young. A shiver. A feeling of bad things to happen. And then he would just know a cow would die, or lightning would strike , things like that. Odd, he had forgotten all about that shiver.
Maybe it had to do with the fact they were sailing here, so close to Terschelling, where he had lived on his parents farm until that Christmas eve such a long time ago.
There was the lighthouse. There were the dunes. And somewhere behind those dunes was the old farm, the horse and his parents. If still alive.

The old man was staring towards the sea, were he could see the light of a vessel far away. Why didn’t he just go home, inside, where it was warm.
Didn’t he hear the old horse now? What was wrong with that animal?
He turned round and entered the barn. The horse was restless, scraping his foot over the floor.
“What is the matter old boy? Huh?”

On board of the “Pythia” Hessel took over the stirring wheel from a mate and gave him his coffee.
It was strange, in the last years he must have sailed here several times, so close to the shore of his island, and he never thought about home till now. It had been a horrible fight, between him and his father. Over twenty years ago it had been and he had left and never returned to the island.
Maybe he was right then. He thought so, then. But now, he could see his fathers point of view too. So soon after the death of his father’s brother, he should have waited a bit with revealing his future plans.
And now he once again sailed by the island he used to live on.

He shivered.
All of the sudden he saw his mother, she was sleeping in her chair near the window. The candle on the windowpane flickering. The candle…
He uttered a cry.

The horse had calmed down a bit, the old eyes looked sadly at the farmer.
“So you are fine now, aren’t you old boy,” the farmer said. Just when he decided to take a look in the stable to see if the cows were okay, he could hear the telephone ring in the living room.
“Now why doesn’t she take that call?” he wondered. He forgot about the cows and hurried inside, into the living. There his wife stood in the room, a burning curtain was lying on the floor. She tried to kick out the flames. He helped her and they succeeded to put out the fire.
Still shaken she said: “I was asleep, you know, and then the phone rang. I woke up and I saw that the curtain was burning. I just tore  it down to the floor. Just in time. If that phone hadn’t rang…”
“Maybe whomever it is, will call again,” her husband said.
“Whomever it was, he or she may have saved my life,” the old woman said. She put the fallen picture of her son Hessel back in its place and they both had a glass of wine to celebrate the good ending.

Hessel was still near the radio and waited. There was the voice of the operator.
“This is Scheveningen Radio again sir, I am sorry, they won’t answer the phone.”
He thanked her and stared out of the window again, over the sea. There was the lighthouse of Ameland, the next island. The shiver had gone.

Slowly the ship continued the voyage.

translated by me, from orig. Dutch, written by me in 1986

Advertisements

Comments on: "The lighthouse and the candle" (9)

  1. Excellent read, Ina! Thanks for sharing.

    It reminded me of a man that owned a service station in the town when I was a teen. He had a green Corvette that always set out front. It was his son’s car. He kept it there, pristine, awaiting the day he would come back from Vietnam. He once said he never wanted to miss a phone call because he thought it could be him. The war had been over for years.

    There was a song along those lines, and I think of that old man whenever I hear it, which is rarely.

  2. Horrible and sad. One can only imagine. The car rusting and him still hoping for his son to come home.

    I translated this story this afternoon, it is an oldy. Thanks to this story that I send to the local newspaper, they asked me to be editor. It is part of http://open.salon.com/blog/hannah_jolie/2010/12/07/first_edition_the_fictional_mind_collective next Saturday 🙂

  3. That’s great, Ina! You are making so many new online friends due to your writing abilities in English. I thought that story about dropping flour or something to the Dutch was a great story, too.

    I still like ‘the smell of ink’ with a little more elaboration or something. I like that as if it were the title.

  4. belfastdavid said:

    You are a very talented lady.

    I find short stories difficult so am a great admirer of those who can do them well – this one kept me engrossed from start to finish and I loved the ending
    David

  5. Thank you very much 🙂
    Well sometimes a poem is a short story in a glimpse, a novel even.

  6. Very enjoyable read! I wish more people would blog stories, so many opt for poems…

  7. a beautiful story 🙂

    but OMG!!! so close to home yet so far..

    if they had just made another call
    the pain would be afar

  8. Beautiful but haunting as well.

  9. Thank you Wordywoman, Jessica and Dancing Freak!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: