- Vol. 03
- Chapter 01
Image by Coralie Bickford-Smith
Whale Bone IdolThe farmer had never travelled further than the county line. A life time of working the land, tending the hearth and raising crops and children. A triangle of life between home, field and ale house.
For forty years he’s stopped for one. One leads to two and two to four. He was as much a part of the ale house as it was of him.
It was a spit and sawdust affair, but had been built in better times by a merchant seaman. There were casks of beer and cider and not much else. The bar he leant on as he took his draught was a deep and smooth mahogany brought back from Brazil. Shelves and dusty niches held the contents of that sailor’s life, shells and scrimshaw, corals and cutlasses. He had been the son of the local landowner who rather than following in his fathers footsteps had taken his own path. He had travelled the world for twenty years and returned to an estate in a state of collapse. He had cut his losses, sold everything apart from one plot of land and built this tavern, filling it with his memories and the treasures of his travels.
Across the wall behind the bar he had hung a sea bleached fragment of the skull of a whale. The cavernous eye socket had been stuffed with a wooden sherry cask once filled with a glorious Irish whiskey. And then the sailor had drunk himself into oblivion. His name was lost to memory now. That had all been many years ago and the ale house had passed from hand to hand time after time and barely changed. It remained the tar pit for a continuous stream of unfulfilled dreams.
The farmer had always meant to leave, to travel, to see the whole world beyond that county line. So many fellow drinkers had listened to the wistful tales of what he would do one day, but they had all fallen by the wayside.
Whale Bone IdolHe had saved what little he could for a year now and had taken it to mind that he wanted to taste that whiskey, to take a couple of shots from the eye of the whale. It was money that could be better spent, God knows his children needed it, but this thing he wanted for himself.
The cask was almost empty now and the liquor poured slowly. Pure and golden it glistened in the firelight as the barman filled a tumbler.
As the farmer took the first slow sip he stared into the vacant socket and saw the world through the eye of another. Felt the draw of time and tide across so many sea voyages. Distances were as nothing to this giant of the oceans, and the farmer’s new sense of scale put the span of his life and importance of his dreams beyond imagining.
When he drained the glass his head was full but he was empty inside.