October 5, 2014

Creative Writing - Part 1

This week,  I got into the mood of storytelling... so I wrote this piece...

Brenda Lynn 1973
Jennifer sat on the bowsprit, her long bare legs dangling over the water, while they motored slowly up the green smooth waters of the Suez Canal.

“Jenny, Jenny” her mother called, “Come help me get lunch ready.” Jenny lazily got up and with one hand loosely holding onto the wire railing, out of habit now, more than from necessity, made her way back, towards the cockpit and then, passing her father and the Egyptian captain, scooted down the few steps into the galley down below.

“What do you think he will eat?” asked her mother, in a low whisper. “Do you think tuna is ok?” Two weeks earlier, they had been in Sudan and opened a can of Spam and offered it, on crackers, to their Sudanese visitor, Mohammed, and his family. They had accepted the proffered food, but afterwards, at their home, when Mohammed had explained the rules of Islam, surprisingly like those of Jewish Kashrut, her mom had felt remorse at having fed them ‘traif’ against their knowledge. 
This time, she thought she’d try to get it right, especially since the Egyptian captain would have to lead them safely through the Suez Canal, a trip that would take them two days, since they could only trail slowly behind all the freighters at the end of the line.

“Sure, mom, I think tuna is fine. It’s fish, right? Mohammed ate fish all the time." 

Jenny took over the making of the tuna salad while her mom asked Becky, Jenny’s sister, to please stop playing with Barbies and to come help out with setting the table. 
Jennifer chopped up some onions, mashed up the boiled eggs and added mayonnaise to the tuna mixture. Celery salt was running low. It was still one of the bottles they had from back home, from four years ago. It stuck together, from the humidity. She opened up the top and scraped out a bit on the edge of a knife. She sniffed it – man, that stuff was powerful! Real celery would be better, but they hadn’t seen that vegetable in years. Apparently, it wasn’t so popular in most of the southern hemisphere. At least not where they had been.

His lips were what she remembered most, and how they felt on her cheeks and lips, his honey colored full lips, curved into a smile across the bay, as he drew close to their boat on his outrigger canoe…

“Jenny! Jenny!” her mother interrupted her reverie. If it wasn’t her mother, it was her father, but for now, he was involved in a long explanation to Samir, who behind his sunglasses was steering us calmly through the Canal, nodding occasionally at my dad’s stream of words.

Suddenly there was a lot of noise coming from on deck. My dad’s voice was animated, “Samir, no, Samir! That barge will damage the hull, Samir!” I jumped out of the galley and up the stairs to see what was going on. There were 3 men on the enormous steel barge, which was about 3 feet from us, on our port side. It seemed to be getting closer and had no fenders nor rubber railing. My automatic response was to quickly run to the railing and threw our fenders over the side. “Jennifer!” my dad hissed at me – “No! That’s going to encourage them! And I absolutely do not want them tying up to us! Think of the rats and that barge will wreck the paint!” Confused, I stood there, unsure whether to haul in the fenders or leave them.
“Go back,” my dad gestured and to Samir, “They cannot tie up to us!”

“Yes, yes, Mr. Frank, they can, they give me cigarette and also with their engine, can pull us together.” Samir calmly shifted into neutral, while my father’s face was turning a bright shade of red.
“Samir, this is not good. I paid you to captain our boat and not them. You are responsible but it’s my boat and I am responsible for my family. Do you understand?” His voice was low, and controlled and Samir, behind his sunglasses, may or may not have been listening. I stood there, beside the lowered fenders and gazed at the low flat barge. The men were smoking cigarettes and squatting on the low cabin, in long dark gallabiyahs and white head turbans. They smiled at me, in a friendly way, and waved. I gestured at our pristine white paint job, that I had helped dad redo, only a few weeks ago, while we waited in Djabouti. I shook my head slightly and suggested they go ahead, and pass us,  with a small smile.

At this, Samir was not so happy. He suddenly jumped up from the helm and came over next to me, shouting in Arabic at the men on the barge. They laughed and shouted back, while my dad shouted at my mom, “Get up here, Joyce! Look what the fuck is going on.”

That word, and my father’s apparent agitation, seemed to do the trick. The guys on the barge threw Samir a pack of cigarettes and they waved at him shouting “Masalam, Ya’achi”! Then they revved up their engine, and with a burst of black sooty smoke pulled in front of us and chugged off into the passage ahead, which I hadn’t even noticed had become rather narrow.

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