Saturday 18 June 2022

'Perilous Rocks and Shallows' by Georgiana Nelsen

The lighthouse keeper measures his days by tides. His days and nights are reversed—sleeping when the sun rises, waking when it disappears. He thinks the ocean is God’s living room, and his light a lamp, illuminating one dark corner.

The lighthouse keeper sleeps downstairs with his old dog, Stoney, whose knees no longer let him climb to the top with his master. The lighthouse keeper takes breaks, going down and up the stairs to pet the dog, to feed the dog, to let the dog out, or in. The lighthouse keeper hasn’t seen another human since September. It’s nearly May.

 The lighthouse keeper named the light Tiffany, because her elegant shape reminds him of those jewel-toned lamps. Her stone walls are braced with bronze, etched with waving lines that could be silk, or more probably, the sea. The glass frame around the light boasts panes stained with grapes, pears, and flowers, yet opens clear and bright for the blazing signal, too important to those otherwise lost at sea. Tiffany creates a warm circle out over God’s living room, and the lighthouse keeper can see that she is a goddess to the sailors, and to him. She lures him to the midnight beach whenever the sea is calm and vacant. He never resists the temptation.

When they are on the beach, the lighthouse keeper throws sticks for Stoney—it’s good for both their knees to run on the soft surface of the sand. The lighthouse keeper wonders what will happen when Stoney dies, and the lighthouse made redundant. Or if he goes first, what happens to Stoney? When the time comes, they might sky dive together—a flying leap from Tiffany’s bronze braces. Would they crash on the rocks, like an errant ship, drown, or simply swim away?

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