Old Boat

The ocean is outside. The whispered roar of the waves crashing against the side of the boat can be heard in every room. It lulls you to sleep at night. That’s why you leave the porthole open, even in the winter. The ocean’s lullaby, combined with the rocking of the boat, lets you sleep the deepest sleep you’ve had in years. And that lullaby is everywhere. From your bedroom hung with Christmas lights and your weird paintings all the way to the dining room with the eight foot statue of the Buddha tucked into the corner. It’s soothing, and ever since you quit being a financier, you need soothing. It can be stressful work operating a pirate radio station. F.U.Z.Z. That’s you.

That’s the only place the sound of the waves is not. Your booth. Windowless, filled with at least three different kinds of smoke at all hours of the day. Every broadcast day starts and ends with a chant of some sort, distorted until it’s nothing more than white noise. It’s kind of a way to welcome the day, although you’re not that religious. Yesterday you did a Sufi chant. The day before it was a Buddhist poem played over and over for an hour. Tomorrow you plan to read something from Call of C’thulhu. You’ll record it tonight, light the incense tomorrow, play it for a couple hours, just to mess with people.

Then comes the first hour of music. Sometimes Dave runs the morning show, sometimes morning is more like afternoon. He plays folk music of a weird variety. Broken, poorly tuned instruments, and lyrics that make no sense, regardless of the language. While he’s doing his thing you light up the first joint of the day. It’s cool cause you grow it yourself. No pesticides or crazy chemicals. Dave plays music for a couple of hours a day before taking off.

Usually Alice starts up next. She sings for at least twenty minutes depending on how lost in the spirit she gets. Her voice is ghostly, barely there and yet everywhere. The words she sings are nonsense at the best of times. But there’s meaning there for those worthy enough to find it. The other day she was singing Disney songs backwards, in rounds, and she changed the language every third round. This went on for the better part of the afternoon.

She wants to sing the sound of the ocean today. You’re still trying to figure out what that means when she starts breathing heavily into the mike. She’s recording her breath and playing it back, until the white noise mixes with the waves she recorded yesterday and the two become indistinguishable. Then she starts in with the throat singing. Mermaids in the Deep is what she calls it in the end.

Bethany comes on for the first evening shift. Noise rock all the way with her. Last week she stole all the pots and pans and tuned them. She pounded on them for fifteen minutes of musical cacophony. Then she left. She said that the stars made her do it. Claimed that the song she played was based on the new constellations that the stars showed her now that the original zodiac doesn’t exist anymore.

She played a weird show today. You’ve never heard anyone play the spoons like she did today. Big spoons, little spoons, tea spoons and the soup ladle. She said that it came to her in a dream. She recites the dream for anyone who might be listening while she coerced notes out of the hundreds of spoons that seem to have materialized on the boat. There’s only five of you living here after all. When she finishes she declares herself an enlightened being and proclaims that Astro the Space Dog is king. Something to do with the dream she had, or maybe it’s the wine.

All that’s left is the Reverend Bill Pete and the Devil made flesh. the Reverend Bill Pete goes on for the evening’s theological rant. Never rants about God though. Only ever talks about the stone cathedral he built for the ancient gods. The Reverend starts out quiet. Says a prayer in a forgotten language while he lights some incense. His incense stinks like swamp water and gasoline. The Reverend doesn’t play music. But he does speak in tongues. He speaks in three voices at once. He claims to have three personalities. The Sane, the Real, and the Insane. They get into arguments sometimes, the Sane, the Real, and the Insane.

His rant is nonsense to be honest. Or maybe it’s that you can’t understand the metaphors. Maybe it’s the language. He raves for an hour. When there’s a full moon out he prays to the goddesses of old. When he speaks in tongues, his voice is beautiful, lilting, quivering, and mad. He ends his talk with another prayer and lights the candles for the Devil made flesh.

The air smells of sulfur. The candles flicker and a haze of ash fills the room. The Devil is on the air. You and everyone else hide away, smoking cigarettes on the deck. But the Devil’s voice is everywhere. It suffuses the night air, fills your ears. The Devil bids your listeners a fond good evening and then strums a lute sometimes. Other times it’s just words. Stories of forgotten eras, eras that only the Devil would remember. The words frighten you in some ways, but are weirdly comforting. The Devil isn’t here to tempt, only here to sing you to sleep. That’s why this show is last. The Devil sings as the candles get blown out. Then they whisper good night. And with that our day is done.

Everyone retreats back to our cabin. The stars this far out still twinkle and we can see the Milky Way. Our bed is small, but we fit just fine. The boat rocks with the movement of the ocean. Rocking you and Dave and Alice and Bethany and the Reverend Bill Pete. The Devil comes and goes. Everyone in bed, listening to the waves, lulling you to sleep. The ocean is outside.



Photograph by Beverley Goodwin

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