This story is by William Caufield and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I’ve decided to take the plunge. I’ve given what I could for this life. I have 3 grown up kids. All doing well. All moved away to distant parts, Hawaii, San Diego and Salt Lake City. My wife is Native American. She’s beautiful and loving and caring.
But, I’ve been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer, and the doc says I’ve got 3 months to live. I’ve got a couple of friends who’ve been diagnosed with cancer. My cowboy buddy Troy. A big husky, brawlin’ dude. He was always ready for a fight. Well, he finally met his match. He went through all the treatment, his body was reduced to skin and bones. They said he beat it. They were wrong. It came back. I hated watching him die. Jimmy got it too. Good timin’ Jimmy. They cut out his prostate, and cut out his spirit. He survived, but was never the same.
I’m pushing 60 years old, and news like this just ain’t going to settle. I’ve tried to reconcile the news. I’ve read a 1,000 life inspiring quotes and a 1,000 motivational phrases that worked for so long, but over time, like bubble gum, lost their flavor. I have a life insurance policy which will pay off my debt, and my wife can live the remainder of hers in peace. I’m going to some far off place and die.
I bought a one way ticket to Dublin, Ireland. I googled the Donegal Coast and that’s where I want to experience the Big Chill.
I land in Dublin and rent a car for the 4 hour sojourn to the Donegal Coast. I’ve got my sleeping pills in my overnight bag. The drive is remarkably scenic. The green hills and farms. So opposite to the barren, bland desert of Arizona.
It’s getting late and I arrive in a small town called Donegal. I found a pub there called the Forge. The old pub sits on an incline, probably so that it looks level when you’re shit faced. A lot of chiseled rock on the face of the two story building. They say the pub is over 150 years old.
Inside it’s very cozy and dark. It has that skunky old bar smell. The patrons all acknowledge me. I sit at the bar and order a pint of Guinness. The guy next to me is pretty drunk. He’s old with a pin cushion nose and some warts and a ridiculous hat. Some teeth have survived his life. He starts talking about the “fucking Brits.” I nod in agreement with his tirade, and order another pint of guinness.
They’re going down smooth and the old fart isn’t so annoying any more. He’s babbling about the economy, his irish accent is thick and slurred.
“Eeet hasn’t been dees bad since dirty tree.”
I laugh inside at how the Irish pronounce “thirty three,” it sounds like “dirty tree.” As he’s rambling, I think about my wife and kids. My heart grows heavy, and I find myself longing for them. Some tears well up in the corners of my eyes. I do a quick wipe with my shirt sleeve and nod at the old drunk.
No turning back now. I’ve made up my mind. I’m not going to be a burden to my kids and a miserable husband to my wife. Before I know it, the Forge is shutting down. I’m pretty drunk and stumble out of the place and make my way to the rental car. I start the car and it’s brisk outside, see your breath kind of brisk. There’s an eery full moon. I drunkenly head for the coast.
I find a parking spot in a coastal viewing lot. I shove the pills into my jacket pocket. There’s a trail head down to the beach. I walk over to the trail head and find that I’m on top of a fucking cliff. I’m not jumping. I’ll hike down to the beach if it takes me all night. The trail is steep, but manageable.
I take my time and some frequent breaks. The view of the reflected moon on the ocean is spectacular and the feeling is lonesome. I can hear the waves breaking in the distance. I finally make it down to the beach. It’s rocky near the cliffs, but near the water it’s not too bad. So, this is it. This will be my final resting place. It’s not bad I have to admit. I reach into my jacket pocket and grab the pills. I tilt the bottle up and out of nowhere I hear a scream.
I look around and in the distance I see a figure of a man. He’s yelling something at me. I walk towards him and I can see he’s waving at me. He’s waving for me to come to him. I start to trot towards him and as I get closer I can recognize that he’s very old and he’s wearing a long white lab jacket. He’s speaking with a heavy German accent, but I can’t understand him over the noise of the breaking waves. He’s wearing glasses and his hair is white and wiry. As I arrive, he says,
“hurry, we must hurry!”
“Where we going?”
He starts running up the beach and I’m following. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m interested, so I follow.
“Faster!” he yells as he’s running.
I’m doing my best to keep up with the old fart. Suddenly, the ocean swells at the shore line. It appears to be a submarine surfacing. I’m stunned. Sliding into the surf is a giant sea serpent. I should be dead, but I’ve never felt more alive, my hearts pounding out of my chest. The serpent beaches itself and opens its mouth wide.
The old man is screaming at me to hurry and follow him. I’m following in total disbelief. He runs into the sea serpents mouth, turns to me and waves me in. I, I step into the serpents mouth and follow the old man. He tells me to run, we must hurry. He has one of those head lamps on like miners use. So we can see inside the cavernous throat of the serpent.
We’re running down the throat of the serpent. The old man is prodding me to keep going. We enter a room that appears to be a control center. A first class, luxury leather, control center. He tells me to take a seat, and buckle myself in, it will be a rocky ride.
I do as I’m told, and look at the old man. I’m confused, bewildered and in shock.
He says, “Please don’t be scared, I’ll explain shortly. Now, here we go.”
I could feel the floor rock and move like a disney ride.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“I’m sorry sir, but this is all very confusing. What the heck is going on?”
“Ahh, I’m sorry, my name is Al. You haven’t been formally introduced, but you climbed down the throat of my very good friend, Sulley, the sea serpent.”
I’m still a little drunk, but not that drunk. I look at the old man, Al, and ask, “What the heck is this all about?”
“Young man, I’ll explain. Meanwhile, sit back and relax. Sulley and I needed a hand and Sulley chose you.”
“Why me?” I ask.
“You have nothing to lose. You see, Sulley has special powers. He can sense your hopelessness from miles away. When he sensed you were in Ireland, we travelled here. He knew you would come here.”
I heard, or maybe I felt a moan, a sympathetic moan, like your mother would make when she’s trying to comfort you after you’ve skinned your knee. It came from Sulley.
“So, is Sulley an animal or a machine?” I ask.
“Ahhh, good question. He’s a bit of both. A hybrid, you might say. I raised him, and built him. It’s all very complicated. You might say I’m a healer. I can do things with living things that are not thought of. But, I thought of them. I can extend life. How old do you think I am?”
I ponder his question, he’s older than I am,
“I’d guess you’re 70 years old.”
“Young man, I’m 139.”
I laugh inside and say,
“Get out of town old man. I wasn’t born yesterday and you weren’t born 139 years ago!”
He says “hymph, think what you’d like, you’ll see. Any ways, there’s an old woman whom I am deeply in love with. She’s given so much of herself to me. She’s dying. She has a parasitic disease, and I need to help her.”
I contemplate what he’s saying and I respond, “If it’s an old woman, what do you need Sulley ‘N Me for?”
He looks quizzically at me and says, “Our mission, young man, is to extend the life of this dear old woman. This old woman is Mother Earth.”