Category Archives: Short Story

McArthur Street: Episode Eight

Continued from:

McArthur Street: Episode Seven

     My father got a job managing a small, man-made lake south of Tucson on the two lane highway to Mexico.  It was in a tiny town called Kinsley.  The name of the lake was Kinsley Lake.  My father took me and my brother, Daniel, to the lake very early one morning.  When we got there, there was still a little chill in the air in the shady places but already the Arizona sunshine was getting hot.  He taught us how to “police the area” which meant picking up trash.  There was a building that had a long hall inside with pinball machines along the walls.  Near the front entrance was a counter with a cash register where tickets were sold for picnicking, swimming, fishing or to rent a rowboat or kayak.  Behind the counter were shelves and racks with fishing rods, fishing tackle and fishing lures for sale.  My father sat on a stool behind the counter, selling tickets and let us explore the lake.  He gave us each fifty cents for helping him to police the area.

     My father kept taking me and either my little brother or older brother with him to police the area in the morning and enjoy exploring the lake and the surrounding area.  We found a concrete irrigation ditch to jump in and play in the water.  We wore blue jean cut offs in those days because that was the cool thing to do and just let the short pants dry on us.  My father brought all three of us to the lake one day with our fishing poles so we could go fishing.  Sometimes my brothers didn’t want to go to the lake because they wanted to play with their friends in the neighborhood so I would go with my father.  My father taught me how to run the cash register and sell tickets.  He showed me how to count back the change to the customers.  He left me to run the cash register while he went out managing the lake.  He had to make sure that people had paid.  My father would give me a five dollar bill for helping him.  Later he would pay me more.

     I became very proficient at operating the cash register.  When people came and asked about the cost I was able to add the totals very quickly and accurately in my head the way my father had taught me.  I became very good at selling rods, reels and tackle.  When the owner of the lake came in he was so impressed that he would order more rods and reels.  He even brought in live earthworms in round, cardboard containers that I started to sell very quickly.  Eventually he even bought more fishing lures to stock the shelves with because I was starting to sell those.  I always seemed a year younger than my actual age so when adults walked into the office and saw me behind the cash register they started looking around to see if there was an adult around.  When they realized I was the only one there they would start asking questions.  Sometimes they seemed really amazed at how competent I was at what I did.

    When my older brother came to the lake he spent his time playing pinball.  He got so good at playing pinball that he became a pinball wizard.  He could knock the machine on the side without tilting it to keep the ball in play.  Once he walked away from a machine that had 150 games on it just because he was bored with playing.  When he wasn’t playing pinball he would go out and explore the little town of Kinsley with its western style buildings.  There was a restaurant and saloon there.  On the winding road that went up a hill behind the buildings there were the homes of people who lived in this desert area with its surrounding farm fields.

     When my little brother came to the lake he wanted to fish all the time.  He was very good at catching blue gill and bass.  He was so good at fishing that if he forgot to bring bait he could catch fish with the cotton from cigarette butts that he found.

     More often my brothers would not come and it would be me and my father.  When he gave me a break and worked the cash register himself I would go out exploring the lake in one of the kayaks.  Sometimes I would walk out on the wooden wharf and untie one of the rowboats.  I would row out on the lake.  I liked to row out to the middle of the lake and look down at the bottom of the lake.  The water was so clear.  Twice I swam to the middle of the lake and looked down.  I felt like I was floating high up in the air and after a little while it became scary so I swam back.  I felt aware that sometimes when I walked out on the wharf to untie a boat or came back and tied up a boat that the cute, young girls who were swimming and sunbathing in the swimming area must have thought I looked pretty cool.  One of the popular shows on television was Flipper which had two boys who were always walking out on a wharf and untying a boat. 

     My parents had become acquainted with Jimmy’s mother.  My father decided that he wanted to invite Jimmy and his brothers to come with me and my brothers to Kinsley Lake on a Saturday to enjoy the lake and camp out overnight.  When we got to the lake we had races where we raced in the kayaks, then grounded them on shore and ran around the hall to come back to the kayaks to race them around the lake once more.  When I took them out on the wharf I felt that Jimmy noticed the cute girls in the swimming area watching us.  When I looked at Jimmy while we were in the middle of all these fun activities it seemed that he noticed I was looking at him.  It seemed he felt proud of being at the lake and enjoying what it had to offer all for free but he never smiled.  I realized that Jimmy was too overly competitive with others. 

     We camped out that night on the narrow strip of land between the two sections of the lake.  The office with the pinball arcade was on that strip of land.  We roasted hot dogs and had them with pork and beans that we heated in a campfire in one of the fire pits in the picnic area.  The boys talked and laughed.  We all slept well and woke up to the sound of the ducks quacking.

     I was in Jimmy’s house with his mother in the living room one day.  Janet Holly was sitting on the couch and Keith’s sister was there.  Keith’s sister said I should sit next to Janet on the couch.  I looked at Janet.  She looked so beautiful.  She didn’t say anything.  I wanted to sit next to her but I felt embarrassed.  Keith’s sister was insistent.  Jimmy’s mother came and grabbed a hold of me.  She led me over to where Janet was and I sat next to her.  I couldn’t believe I was sitting next to Janet on the couch touching her.  I didn’t want to move.  I didn’t say anything.  I looked at her.  She didn’t do anything but just stayed there looking very calm and serene.  Jimmy’s mother from the dining room area watched us with a smile on her face.  Keith’s sister said, “Mark is sitting next to Janet!” just as my little brother with Ronnie and Donnie emerged from the hallway that led to the bedrooms.  “Mark is sitting with Janet!” they all exclaimed with big smiles on their little faces.  I stayed for as long as I could but I had to get up in embarrassment.  I looked back at Janet before going for the front door to escape.  She still sat there motionless, looking serene.

     I was sitting with Mike in front of his house on another day.  He said we had to keep our voices low because his mother worked at night and slept during the day.  He said she was a very light sleeper.  He wanted me to know that the place where his mother worked was a restaurant, not just a bar, and his mother worked as a cook there.  This made me feel better to know that she was a cook and not a topless waitress.  Mike said the reason she worked there is because it paid so well and that most cook’s jobs didn’t pay very well.  Mike told me that his mother said there were Catholic priests who came into the bar to drink.  I found this hard to believe but I had no reason to think Mike or his mother would lie about something like this.  I didn’t think that the priests from my church would ever do such a thing.

     Keith came walking up to us from across the street asking, “What’s happening!” with his usual grin.  The conversation turned to Jimmy.  Mike said that when Jimmy’s father came home from work all he did was have dinner and then go into his bedroom with a six pack of beer and a Playboy magazine.  Keith said this was true.  They told me that Jimmy would go into his father’s bedroom to look at his Playboy magazines.  I said, “Jimmy said that he wants to be a priest”.  They said that he still does but he still looks at his father’s Playboy magazines.  I was having a hard time dealing with the idea of someone who wanted to be a priest but who looked at Playboy magazines.  My feelings were that he would probably never become a priest.

     One day I was in the living room of Jimmy’s house.  I saw one of the album covers of a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass albums resting against a shelf on the floor.  Jimmy’s mother loved to listen to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and they had several albums by this popular instrumental band in the living room.  I noticed that all the album covers had a picture of a beautiful, young woman looking very sexy on them.  My little brother, Ronnie and Donnie wanted me to come into a bedroom to play board games.  They liked to play Sorry and a card game called, Old Maid.  I played games with them for awhile and then left.  As I walked through the hallway I saw Jimmy lying on the end of his father’s bed looking down at a magazine.  Jimmy got up from the bed when he saw me and came over to me with the magazine.  Jimmy tried to get me to look at the Playboy magazine.  I took a glance from where I was standing and said I had to go.  I let myself out of their front door and went home.

     One day I came to McArthur Street and there was an ambulance in the driveway of Keith’s house.  I stood in front of Jimmy’s house in the gravel and dirt next to the street.  McArthur Street did not have sidewalks like our street did.  The neighborhood kids were out including Robert, Richard and Diana, Jimmy and Mike.  Janet was watching from a lawn chair in front of Jimmy’s house.  Keith’s father had a heart attack I was told.

Life went on for Keith and his family.  His father did not die. They acted as if everything was normal.  I never noticed that Keith or his sister seemed upset. 

To be continued.

McArthur Street: Episode Seven

Photograph by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez from The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

Continued from:

McArthur Street: Episode Six

Keith had a birthday party at his house.  My younger brother and Jimmy’s younger brothers were there.  My brother, Daniel, and Jimmy were not there.  They often made the long walk to visit with their friend, the older John.  Mike Holly was not there.  Mike had told me that since it was his last year at Wakefield, when his family moved to McArthur street, he had been allowed to remain at Wakefield instead of being transferred to Utterback.  He often went visiting with his friends from Wakefield.  Keith went to Utterback.  It was amazing the rivalry between these two junior high schools.  Janet Holly and Keith’s sister were there.

     Keith wanted to arm wrestle with me.  He always seemed to want to do this when I was at his house.  He would always beat me but this time I had a strategy.  I acted like he was winning and kept letting my arm lower back.  At the same time I was letting him waste his energy by giving just enough resistance to his pressure.  When my arm got rather low to the tabletop I started slowly pushing back until our arms were in the starting position again.  Keith was getting frustrated and started pushing with all his strength.  I just held the position, not trying to push forward.  When I could see that his arm was getting tired I slowly started pushing his arm back.  I kept doing this slowly while resisting his frantic efforts to push my arm back.  A little at a time I was able to push his arm back until I could see that his arm was getting really tired.  Then I pushed down on his arm as hard as I could, slamming his hand down on the table.  “Damn it!” Keith yelled.  “Mark beat Keith!” I kept hearing the other kids saying.  I felt a little shocked that Keith would cuss in front of the little kids.  Keith was mad.  He wanted a rematch.  I didn’t want to but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I tried to use the same strategy but Keith got frustrated and lifted his elbow high off the table to push my arm back.  I just said that was cheating and he didn’t really win.  He wanted another rematch but he did the same thing again, lifting his elbow off the table. 

     I said I wasn’t going to arm wrestle with him anymore if he was going to cheat.  I was glad that I said this because I was tired of the way he always wanted to arm wrestle.  I remembered when he wanted me to hit him in the shoulder as hard as I could and I didn’t want to. He kept insisting.  He said it didn’t even hurt.  I said I didn’t hit him as hard as I could have.  He said he wanted me to hit him again as hard as I could.  I must not have had the ability to want to hurt someone so I couldn’t hit him with all my strength.  He just told everyone that it didn’t even hurt.

     Keith’s sister brought Janet Holly to me and said she wanted to see which of us was taller.  Keith’s mother wanted to see, also.  They had us stand back to back.  They told me to stand up as tall as I could.  They had a ruler to put on top of our heads for measure.  Janet’s body felt so warm and soft against my back.  Even the back of her head with her soft hair was against mine.  I marveled at her softness.  Keith’s sister said, “She’s taller than you!”  Keith’s mother said, “She’s taller than you!”  The kids chimed in, “Janet is taller than Mark!”  Keith reappeared to keep shouting at me, “She’s taller than you!  She’s taller than you!”  I didn’t see why that should be such a big deal so I just smiled and shrugged. 

Keith’s mother couldn’t understand why I didn’t want more cake and ice cream.  I actually had a low tolerance for too much sugar.  Ice cream made me feel a little queasy in my stomach.  The cakes that Keith’s mother had made seemed to have double the amount of sugar in them.  They had about an inch of frosting on top and a lot of frosting in the middle.  After she asked me if I wanted more cake and ice cream and I said, “No, thank you”, I just ate some potato chips and drank some punch.  She came back and asked me again if I wanted more cake and ice cream.  She seemed frustrated.  She just couldn’t understand why I didn’t want more cake and ice cream.  I walked back home with my little brother from the party to our house on E. Illinois St.  I couldn’t stop thinking about Janet Holly.

     On summer nights I and my two brothers often slept outside in the back yard in sleeping bags under the sky since the summer nights were so warm and beautiful in Tucson.  Countless stars were everywhere in the sky.  Even without a moon there were so many bright stars because of the clear, desert sky that there was light.  My father had built a small fire pit on the ground with red, clay bricks and cement that he called a fireplace.  We would build a fire from scrap wood and sit around the fire on large, smooth stones my father had collected. 

     My mother and father said it would be okay to invite Jimmy, Ronnie and Donnie over to sleep outside in the back yard.  Keith was invited, too.  We roasted hot dogs on long twigs from the weeping willow tree.  Then we had fun roasting marshmallows.  We twirled the red burning embers at the end of the twigs in the air to make circles of red orange light in the darkness.  I even got fancy and tried to write longhand words with the glowing embers in the dark.  The boys loved this.

     I had read a book from the Tucson public library of ghost stories for children that was published by Alfred Hitchcock.  Although it took me awhile to finish the book when I did finish on a Saturday I was so impressed that I read all the stories all over again. 

     I gained a reputation with my brothers for telling ghost stories around the campfire.  They wanted me to tell ghost stories.  I started to tell the same stories again.  I told the story about a man who had bad luck because he had been tricked into walking a widdershin.  A widdershin was a counter clockwise circle and this was considered to be bad luck.  Then my brothers asked me to tell the story of Old McDonald.  It was the story of a farmer named Old McDonald who stayed too late in town and had to walk home in the dark.  Along the way he encountered a ghost.  He had a conversation with the ghost.  As I was telling the story I looked at the faces of the boys in the firelight especially the little ones, my brother, Ronnie and Donnie.  They had smiles on their faces and listened intently.  I told a few more stories and they wanted to hear the story of Old McDonald again.  Even my older brother wanted to hear the story again because he said it was one of his favorites.  Story telling was interesting because I found myself embellishing the stories just because of the reactions and sometimes questions from my audience.  It was as if they wanted me to add to the stories.  I had to admit that the telling of the stories was never the same and they seemed to change over time.

     After the fire had turned to glowing embers I walked to another part of the yard and was talking with Jimmy and my older brother.  Soon there was a hissing sound.  I looked to see that Keith was urinating on the embers.  There was steam from the fireplace and a horrible smell.  “Uuhh!” I exclaimed and moaned a little.  What kind of person would do such a thing?  I was in disbelief.  I walked over to Keith and scolded him.  It didn’t seem to phase him any.

     The little boys were still running around the back yard playing when I retired to my sleeping bag.  I couldn’t sleep.  I was lying on my stomach.  I drew in the dirt with a stick, “Mark + Janet” and started singing quietly to myself with the melody of a pop song, “I love Janet Holly”.  The little boys noticed and started to tease me.  I messed up what I wrote in the dirt and turned on my side to go to sleep covering up my face with the top of the sleeping bag.  I still sung very quietly to myself, “I love Janet Holly” a couple of times before going to sleep.

     It wasn’t long before Keith invited us to sleep in his back yard.  His backyard was entirely under all of these trees so there was only dry grass and some patches of dirt underneath.  My brother, Daniel, and Jimmy weren’t there.  My little brother, Ronnie and Donnie were there.  First I had to deal with Keith’s now overly friendly German shepherd trying to lick my hands and slobber on me.  I was starting to feel dirty and grimy.  Then Keith’s mother gave us packages of hot dogs.  When I went to open the packages I noticed there was a white, milky liquid in with the hot dogs.  I pulled one of the hot dogs out to see that the milky liquid was sticky.  I smelled the hot dogs and they had a sickening, sweet smell.  I realized that it would be dangerous to eat these wieners.  I told Keith and the boys that the hot dogs were spoiled.  I had eaten supper at my own home earlier so I wasn’t too hungry. 

     There was a spotlight in Keith’s backyard.  There was the yellow, incandescent light, shadows and darkness under the trees.  It was perfect for making the little kids want to play tag.  I played tag with them as they ran around.  At a certain point I emerged from under some trees to find myself facing Keith who confronted me.  He grinned and punched me in the stomach.  I doubled over with pain.  My little brother ran up and asked me what was wrong.  I told him, “Keith punched me in the stomach”.  “Keith punched you in the stomach?” he exclaimed.  I starting walking to my sleeping bag with my hands over my stomach still doubled over.  My brother, Ronnie and Donnie ran up.  Ronnie and Donnie asked, “What’s wrong with you?”  I said, “Keith punched me in the stomach”.  “Keith punched you in the stomach?” they said and then they ran off.  I was lying in my sleeping bag on my side.  I had never been punched in the stomach before.  I had no idea how painful it was.  The little boys continued to run around the back yard playing tag.

     The next morning I walked home with my little brother.  I knew that the days of sleeping in back yards with the other boys from McArthur Street were over.  My brothers and I still slept in our own back yard with a fire and ghost stories the way we had always done. 

     Why I continued to remain friends with Keith seems like a mystery.  I actually felt a sense of being understanding towards him. As young as I was I read a lot of articles in magazines about all the social problems in America.  I understood that Keith was the product of his background and that he went to a tough public school with a bad reputation.  I still liked his sense of adventure.  I sometimes would see his father coming home from work.  His father was a tall, chubby, burly man.  He looked like a worker, wearing his blue jeans and white, cotton undershirt.  He often came home with a case of beer.

Continued on:

McArthur Street: Episode Six

Photograph by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez From The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

Continued from:

McArthur Street: Episode Five | Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez

Oddly enough Jimmy, Mike Holly, Mike’s younger sister, Kevin and his younger sister, I and my older brother all became good friends that summer.  Even the bad boys from the corner house on the other side of Jimmy’s house became friends.  These were two young Mexican boys named Robert and Richard who were around my younger brother’s age.  Their older sister, Diana, became an important friend.  She was a teenager in high school.  She was a little pudgy and was always very amiable.  We were all attracted to her, boys and girls.  She seemed to like the attention.  She would talk to us while she was ironing clothes.  We often liked to congregate at their house.

     During the summer we had a couple of parties at Jimmy’s house.  He had one of those houses in the neighborhood that had a long back porch.  It ran along the entire length of the back of the house with screen windows above a low wooden wall.  At one end of the porch was a door that gave entrance to the garage.  In the garage we had the parties.  Jimmy’s mom brought us popcorn and sodas and once she brought cake.  Another time she brought cookies.  We had a little phonograph and played 45 rpm records of hit songs.  We danced to the music in typical sixties style such as doing the twist.  We danced without partners which was just as well since there were only two girls there – Keith’s sister and Mike’s sister who I now knew as Janet Holly.  My brothers were there and Jimmy’s brothers.  These parties were very high spirited.  Dancing to sixties rock and roll was like a spiritual release.  I remember very well dancing to the Zager and Evans’s song, In The Year 2525, with great abandon.

We did the limbo.  I remember Jimmy holding up one end of the limbo bar and my brother, Daniel, the other and gradually they lowered it down for the dancers to try to go under it while dancing without falling.  The Jamaican music song, Sitting Here In Limbo by Jimmy Cliff, would be playing on the phonograph.  Jimmy was the tallest of all of us standing up there with his wavy, blonde hair.  He did remarkably well at limboing even when the bar was low for someone so tall.  I did terrible at limboing.  At the second party I did not even want to try.  Yes, the parties were high spirited and we had more good times.

     One summer evening when it was already quite dark we were all congregated by the street in front of Jimmy’s house.  Jimmy wasn’t there.  Janet Holly, Keith and his sister were there.  All of a sudden we saw a flash of bright, blue light!  We all looked and exclaimed, “What was that?”  Then again there was another flash.  It was a streak of bright, spinning, blue light!  We were all in amazement, murmuring, “What could it be?”  There was another streak of spinning, blue light and another!  Then someone said, “It’s Mike!”

Sure enough from the darkness, in the light of the blue flashes the image of Mike Holly emerged but the streaks of blue light were still a mystery.  Then someone said, “It’s a yo-yo!”  Well of course it was a yo-yo!  But it was a yo-yo as we had never seen before.  One that lit up as it was spinning.  I was so impressed by the excitement of this event that I went out and bought the exact same kind of yo-yo.  It had a small light bulb and a battery in it.  The bulb was lit when the electric circuit was completed by a metal piece that was forced outward by centrifugal force when the yo-yo was spinning.  I tried to impress the kids just when it got dark on McArthur Street the same way that Mike had done but the kids just said, “It’s just Mark”.  They were not impressed.  I was learning about how popularity worked.

     I may not have impressed the kids that night but I knew I was developing a big crush for Janet.  She was so pretty and nice.  I couldn’t stop looking at her.  One day when I was walking on the street Janet and Keith’s sister were sitting on chairs in front of Jimmy’s house.  They asked me to take off my glasses.  I took them off.  Keith’s sister said, “You look cute without your glasses”.  Janet said, “You look cute without your glasses”.  I didn’t know what to say.  I looked at them.  They had big smiles on their faces.  They both repeated the same words over again.  They were still sitting and smiling at me.  They seemed to be enjoying my embarrassment and confusion about what I should do.  I just smiled and started talking about something.  I think Mike came out to see what was going on.  This was the first indication I had that Janet liked me.  It meant a lot to me.

Continued on:

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The Talisman: Part Two by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez

Photograph by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez
From The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

Continued from: https://markalbertoyodernunez.blog/2019/08/14/the-talisman-part-one-by-mark-alberto-yoder-nunez/

Perhaps it was the talisman but I took my savings and signed up to join the merchant marines.  Soon I would be leaving everything that was familiar behind.  People said I was still a young man so it was a good thing to see the world.  I wrote a letter to my mother who was in the land bound town I grew up in, the place I left because I couldn’t stand the thought of always wondering what was over the next hill.  This thought had vanished when I found the open sea stretching out before my eyes.

Before I was to leave I went back to find the curio shop where I had found the talisman.  It wasn’t there.  I traced my exact steps from the pier that day when I had encountered the little shop with the beautiful, oriental lady.  I knew these little lanes along the waterfront by heart.  I tried to find the corner I turned but only found the same familiar lanes and shops.  There was no oriental curio shop.  There was no vacant shop in its place.  It was as if I had imagined it or dreamed it but the talisman was in my possession.  I had it in my inner coat pocket.  I felt delirious.  Had I been lost?  I wandered farther in surrounding areas but these places, also familiar to me, did not make sense with the memory I had of that day when I found the shop, the lady and the talisman.

     With the merchant marines I traveled the world over and over.  I realized the dream of mine to visit the South Seas and the Orient.  This was only after many a cold journey in Northern waters to places like Finland and Sweden.  I enjoyed England, France and the Mediterranean.  My first storm at sea was the most incredible display of the power of Nature, beyond my imagination.

     When I finally was bound to the South Seas of the Pacific and the Orient beyond I was overjoyed at the leaping dolphins in the sparkling blue waters.  I was amazed by the flying fish skimming over the waves amid bright reflections.  There were the hot, summer nights so balmy with the iridescent glowing spots of mysterious night fish.   I felt in a wonderland.

And then there was the Orient.  I found myself wandering down streets and narrow lanes in Hong Kong and Shanghai.  These were places I had heard of and read about and I was there.  It was like hundreds of Oriental curio shops.  I was surrounded by them.  Mysterious Oriental men, mysterious Oriental women and children.  The children looked intently at me as I went walking by with mysterious little smiles on their upturned faces.  When I went to sleep at night I thought of the dream I had when I first acquired the talisman in which I felt I was lost in a foreign land and could not find my way back.  I did not however feel anxious about it as I had when I dreamed it.  I was living my dream and everything was as it should be.  I knew I would be able to find my way home or at least I thought I was sure of that.

     I tried to stay in the Orient for as long as I could but my contract with the shipping company that had brought me there required for me to continue on to India and Africa.  In fact I was to circumvent the globe returning to the cold Atlantic and ending my journey on the east coast of America.

From there I spent time traveling and living in parts of America I had not known before.  I had many adventures and fulfilled a dream of visiting the East coast and learning of it.  However since the only way I could make my living was as a sailor I had to find a ship that needed a hired hand.  Soon I was on my way to parts unknown.  From Norwegian fjords to tropical atolls, from cosmopolitan cities to farming communities I satisfied my curiosities about the world and the people in it.

      Everywhere I traveled I met the most beautiful and interesting women.  Sadness came at last when I thought how none of my love interests stayed in my life.  I wrote many romantic letters.  I gave significant gifts.  I had happy memories but in the end they all turned bittersweet.  The more I loved a woman, the more fleeting she became.  When I thought of all the possessions I had lost along the way in my travels curiously the talisman had always remained.

Continued on: https://markalbertoyodernunez.blog/2020/02/16/the-talisman-part-three-by-mark-alberto-yoder-nunez/

The Ghost Ship: A Scary Story For Halloween: Final Episode

The Ghost Ship
Illustration by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez
From The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry
by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez

Continued from:

https://markalbertoyodernunez.blog/2019/10/02/the-ghost-ship-a-scary-story-for-halloween/

     I swear I could feel my heart in my chest sinking and my mind became heavy as a weight.  “Aye, and we are adrift, matey”, I heard the old sailor say.  I looked to my right where I heard the voice coming from.  The old salt looked at me thoughtfully.  “First we were driven off course.  Now we are drifting off course but perhaps the captain at least knows where we are”, he said.  “Did it matter if we know where we are if we can’t get back on course?” I thought as I turned full circle to look all around me.  The ocean was so still that I felt I could see a hundred miles in every direction but all there was, was open sea. 

Days went by.  We were in tropical waters.  It was hot and humid.  The sailors took off their shirts.  We were on rations of water and food.  When we looked up at the sails there was not even the slightest of breezes to move them.  There were no sea birds, no dolphins or fish leaping out of the water.  Why?

At night when it was not as hot a sailor broke out a concertina and began to play music.  He sang sailor’s songs.  Other sailors sang along.  Some danced.  They told stories and laughed.  The captain had allowed a ration of rum for all.  The sailors made me smile.  They joked about being in the doldrums.  One sailor said, “Aye, and I’ve been in the doldrums before but only because I was on dry land for too long!”  The crew gave a hearty laugh.  I laughed, too.  It sent a feeling of relief through my body.  The rum was a helper.

     I slept well that night but awoke feeling bad.  It was not because of the rum.  My soul was burdened by a weight of darkness in my being.  I went out on the deck in the brightness and heat of the sun.  Where was I?  Our small, fragile vessel was in a nightmare landscape of yellow, brown and green seaweed!  I looked at the sails, no wind, not even a breeze!  The hot sun beat down on my enfeebled mind.  I almost experienced vertigo as if I would lose my balance.  “Aye, and we are in the Sargasso Sea”, said the old sailor.

      All of the old, sea stories I had heard all my life about this accursed place came back to me.  Would we all die of hunger and thirst here?  I looked about at the motley crew.  Their faces were grim.  A burly sailor with a black beard and shaggy, black hair said, “All we can do is pray.”  My mind went into a state that bordered on insanity.  I thought back to the beginning of the voyage.  Could I have made a decision to not get on board this ship?  Such thoughts were futile I knew.

The next few days were a nightmare that never seemed to end.  The sickening, horrible seaweed kept getting thicker as our once proud, ocean vessel drifted with no wind.  There were pieces of old cargo and parts of old ships like small islands of rotting junk covered with seaweed surrounding us.  We were getting deeper into the Sargasso Sea.  Everything I had heard about this cursed place was true.  Mentally I had descended into pure hell.  Would we become just more of the flotsam and jetsam of the sea, rotting under green graves of seaweed?  The sun in the sky was like a cruel, all knowing eye looking down on us.

One dark night we were all on deck.  It was humid and very warm but not sweltering hot as in the daytime.  Then a very young sailor shouted, “There’s a ship!”  Without thinking with words my immediate feeling was that this made no sense.  The sailors started stirring.  Some stood up and walked over to the starboard side of the ship where the young man was looking out to sea.  It seemed that the young sailor was looking intently at something.  My curiosity was aroused.  Another sailor said, “I see it!”  Another said, “Aye, and so do I”.  How was it possible?  Was there another miserable crew of sailors like ourselves adrift in this abysmal place?

       I walked over to the side of the ship and looked in the same direction as the others.  There was something in the distance that shone pale as if in the moonlight but there was no moonlight.  There was no moon.  It started to get bigger on the horizon as if it was moving towards us.  I remembered that there are fish in tropical waters that glow in the dark but the sailors had said that it was a ship.  It was a ship!  We all stood in wonder, frozen on the spot and waiting as the spectral ship in the darkness seemed to keep approaching us.

Then it came closer.  It was in full sail as if a strong wind was driving it but there was no wind!  No one spoke a word.  I looked at the faces of the superstitious sailors around me with their wide open eyes, some with jaws clenched and some with jaws dropped.

The ship came closer.  There was the sound of a howling wind.  We saw that the sails of the ship were in tatters streaming forward with the wind and yet there was no wind.  It was a ghost ship!  My hair stood on end!

The ghastly, black ship with its flags and torn sails driven by a wind we could not feel started to pull alongside our ship.  I looked at the sailors.  Most were frozen with fear and could not move.  Then there was the strange sound of music and sea chanteys.  Then there was the sound of chains and moaning.  There were screams.  The ghost ship came up right along the side of our own vessel.  The sound of chains and moaning grew louder.  No one could be seen on board the ghost ship.  It glowed pale and ghastly as if there was a moon with an eerie light of its own.

The ghost ship was passing slowly alongside of us now and a chill hit me that went straight through to my bones.  I started to shiver.  The burly sailor with the black hair and beard fell to his knees grasping at the beads of his rosary to pray.  He looked up at the sky as if to ask God, “Why?”  The old sailor’s teeth began to chatter uncontrollably making a horrible racket.  Then the young sailor ran to the port side of the ship and jumped.  As the ghost ship slowly passed our own fragile, little vessel and the sounds of chains and moaning gradually subsided none of us could even move.

   The ghost ship had passed.  We started to take deep breaths.  Then we thought of the young sailor who was still just a lad.  We ran over to the side of the ship.  We shone lanterns all around the dark sea below us.  There was seaweed everywhere.  The Sargasso Sea had taken him.

     The next days were misery.  No one really wanted to talk about the ghost ship.  We had all seen it.  The merciless sun beat down upon us in the day.  We were on starvation rations.  The landscape around us was nightmarish.

One day I was lying on my back on the deck in a patch of shade, trying to conserve my energy.  I did not want to die of starvation or dehydration.  I opened my eyes a little and looked straight up.  I thought I saw the flag at the top of the highest mast of our ship move.  Was it my imagination?  I kept looking at the flag.  It moved again.  My eyes were now fully open.  I just kept lying there as if in a dream.  The flag moved again.  It started fluttering a little.  I stood up still looking up at the flag.  The other sailors around me noticed.  They started looking up at the flag with me.  The flag moved again.  All of the sailors now were looking at the flag silently.  The flag started fluttering some more.  Then it fluttered even more.  There was a breeze!  Some of the highest sails appeared to move just a little.  All eyes were above.  The sails started to move some more.  It was as if we were all frozen, afraid if we moved or said anything we would destroy the magic.  The sails started to move more and the flags all started moving.  The topmost flag started fluttering in the breeze and didn’t stop.  All the sails were moving.  The sails were starting to fill up with wind!  We looked up at the helm of the ship.  The captain was there at the wheel.  He had a confidence and pride that we had never seen before.  The ship was moving!  It creaked and it moaned but it was not like the creaking and moaning of the ghost ship!

The first mate came on deck to assure us that the captain and the navigator had been keeping track of exactly where we were and would steer us on the right course.  Some expressed concern about the obstacles of flotsam, jetsam and seaweed that surrounded us.  The first mate said that those obstacles were taken into consideration.  We were truly glad that we even had a chance since sailing at sea always involves risk.  Only the use of skill keeps a man alive in the vastness of the awesome power of nature.

Much to our amazement, after negotiating some tricky turns to avoid being stuck in the seaweed of the Sargasso Sea, there appeared more open spaces in the water.  It wasn’t long before we saw the open sea ahead of us and a clear path to reach it.  We must have drifted through the hell of the Sargasso Sea and reached the other side.

    We reached the open sea!  The wind was with us and apparently the gods were now on our side!  The sails were full as we were swept out to sea!  The captain at the helm with the first and second mates and navigator around him looked proud but at the same time they looked like men who had been humbled.  The sailors cheered!

    It wasn’t long before the ship was sailing along at a good speed over bright, ocean swells with dolphins leaping about.  A sign of good luck!  Spirits were bright.  That night the sailors celebrated with extra rations and a good ration of rum.  There was music and singing of sea chanteys.  The crew danced with men locking arms and dancing around in circles until they grew dizzy.  This made everyone laugh!

And so the days continued at sea.  It was a paradise.  The sailors caught the best fish at sea.  They cooked the fish on deck.  It was a feast and a celebration of life.

Then the captain made an announcement.  We were on course and soon would be reaching the Orient.  Never before had the man in the crow’s nest with his telescope seemed so important.  When he yelled, “Land, Ho!” the cheers of the grateful sailors went up to the heavens.  Soon all of us saw land.  We sailed into the harbor.  It was a successful voyage.  We delivered the goods and brought home valuable trading commodities from the Orient to Europe.

Those of us who were on this voyage continued our careers as merchant marines.  We went our separate ways.  We traveled all over the world.  We had many adventures.  I was fortunate to travel to the Orient many times.  I was able to travel to the New World of the Americas.

Sometimes when I came into a seaport whether it was in my own home country or in a foreign place I would be in a restaurant or tavern that sailors haunt.  I would sometimes be sitting by myself overhearing other sailors’ conversations.  I overheard some sailors talking about the story of the ghost ship.  Apparently some of the sailors who were on the same trip with me had told the story and it had gotten around.  The sailors in the restaurants and taverns would discuss about whether they thought the story was true or not.  The consensus was that it was just another sailor’s story.

I never told anyone this story because I knew that no one would believe me.  As I make the rounds, traveling all over the world and meet one of the crew members who was on that fateful trip we look into each other’s eyes.  We know we share a secret of something that happened that no one would believe.  How do we explain about the young sailor who jumped overboard if anyone should ever ask us?   In the end I guess it is just another sailor’s story.  Wherever I go in all the travels of my life I am restless and can’t seem to settle down but the memory of the ghost ship rests firmly in my mind and cannot be taken away.

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-Truly, freeing oneself in one’s own mind is only the first step on a path of freedom.-

“All evil seems to arise from the desire to dominate others. Most men in our society are taught from a very early age to try to dominate. It isn’t something that they think about consciously. It operates at a subconscious level. They are taught by the adults around them and their peers. Someone dominates them and they in turn try to dominate others. They do it without even realizing it and they do it without even thinking about why. It is without question. In their conscious awareness they may aspire to grandiose ideals but their actions speak for what really motivates them from a subconscious level.”
― Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez, The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

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The Ghost Ship: A Scary Story For Halloween

From The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

by Mark Alberto Yoder Nuñez

Illustration by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez
From The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

There were omens, I suppose, that superstitious sailors should have been attentive to when preparing for a voyage.  The feeling was so good at the time that all of us, ebullient at the prospect of the venture, just ignored the usual attention to superstition.

And so we set sail, fully confident that the captain and navigator knew their business.  Instead of seagulls there were crows, cawing incessantly.  A thought crossed my mind that I would see an albatross.  I put the silly thought out of my mind.

We were confident and we had a great sailing ship.  We set sail in northern waters but it was the beginning of summer.  We were bound with manufactured goods to trade for exotic items in the Orient.  The huge and awesome Ocean engulfed and surrounded us as usual.  However the chill, ocean air soon let go after only a week at sea and it became warmer.

One night with the light of a full moon illuminating the deck I saw the albatross circling and even hovering in the sky.  I knew I would keep this to myself but upon turning to my right I saw an aging sailor.  As my eyes fell upon his grizzled face in the semi-darkness he said, “Aye! And it is an omen!”

Since we were out at sea there was nothing I could do.  In fact as we got more into tropical waters the happiness of the crew grew by measures but there were no dolphins leaping from the water.  I felt a sense of foreboding.

As one of the days at sea started to approach twilight after a fiery red sunset great, storm clouds grew in the sky.  Their grey, blue colors and increasing darkness seemed unusually powerful.  The sailors prepared for the storm.  Soon the falling of the storm and onset of night completely surrounded us with darkness.  The captain, first mate and second mate took turns at the helm.  They turned the wheel of the vessel to keep the ship aimed directly into the huge, ocean waves so the ship would stay afloat.  The huge, ocean swells crashed against the bow with white water spraying but the skill of keeping the vessel turned toward the oncoming swells kept the ship from being pushed over from the side and capsizing.  The storm was more fierce than any veteran sailor among us could remember.  And so we were to weather the darkest of nights.  Yet there was confidence among this experienced crew.

As desperate as the night was the early grey of morning created hope.  There was still a storm but it had eased and it was not nearly so violent.  The officers of the ship and even a senior crew member manned the helm with confidence although their alertness could still not waiver.  Our survival depended upon it.  The crew members looked to the man at the wheel with trust.

In the late afternoon the darkness descended upon us again.  The masts bare against the ominous sky with sails furled.  The wind howled.  The vessel with the tiny lives of men on it creaked, cracked and moaned.  It was a voice that spoke to the innermost feelings of my heart.  My conscious mind reeled.  The night descended into a darkness as I had never known.  It was the ultimate humility to fall to sleep in a state of exhaustion not knowing who would live or die or if any of us would survive at all.

I awoke knowing that the water was still rough but the worst danger was over, at least if we were not hit with another such atrocious storm.  My logical mind thought that the time of year was wrong for such incredible storms and we had set sail at the correct time of year.  The other side of my mind acknowledged that every sailor knows the unpredictability of the sea.

I instinctively went out on deck to see what the true story was.  It was a miserable day of wet spray, rain, wind and grey clouds but the only danger was that a careless sailor might be washed overboard.  There was none that was careless among us so this was not a concern.  The night was similar with officers and sailors on alert.

Finally a dawn broke when it felt that the danger was over.  The sea was more as what we had expected it to be and periodic rays of sunshine broke through.  The next day pale blue sky was contrasted by shreds of dark clouds fleeing like phantoms in the speeding winds of the upper sky.  The white caps abated but the rumor was that our tiny, fragile, ocean vessel had been pushed far off course by forces much greater than ourselves.

At last we were able to hoist a few main sails.  In spite of the still lurking clouds, large swells and drizzles of rain it was time to get back on course.  It would still be hard to find our position on the globe until we could see the stars at night.  I went to sleep that night feeling confident that the navigator and captain would find our location and we would be able to be on course again.  The ship made a loud, creaking sound.  “Curious”, I thought.  The wind seemed to let out a moan.

When I awoke I saw bright sunlight through the portholes.  I went out on deck to see blue skies and feel warmth from the sun.  I took a deep breath of fresh, sea air.  I looked about.  “Something is wrong”, I thought.  I looked up at the helm.  The captain and navigator were talking.  Their faces were grim.  “What could be the problem?”

I looked about.  The ocean was as still as I had ever seen it in my entire life.  I looked up at the sails.  There was no wind.  We were adrift.

Continued on:

https://markalbertoyodernunez.blog/2019/10/26/the-ghost-ship-a-scary-story-for-halloween-final-episode/