Hello all. I know it’s been awhile since my last post, but that’s because I have been experimenting with fiction and short story writing rather than just writing about my feelings of economics and politics. Therefore, I am now posting my first short story, titled “The Beacon.” I would greatly appreciate feedback. Since this is my first story, I’m sure some changes must be made. But here it is:
There were five of them: travelers previously unbeknownst to one another, but who were now headed for the same destination, like soldiers quickly falling into their ranks or ants marching to complete the queen’s orders. It was somewhat unclear how the travelers met. How exactly did the adventure bring them together? It is now evident, though, that the travelers are essential in survival of one another and eventually the completion of this long, cold journey. The journey is different for each traveler. Although this is true, each traveler must complete the journey, separately in a way, in order to complete him or herself. The destination is known to all. It is a shining lighthouse, a beacon in the inky black darkness, all the way up the Eastern Seaboard in Maine: Cape Elizabeth, Maine to be precise. Cape Elizabeth Light has forever been surrounded by mystique and mystery. So why are the travelers banded together to visit this desolate lighthouse? Sadly, the cross country trek is not purely a vacation or form of entertainment for the faithful pilgrims. This task must be completed by all. The beacon is not just a beacon of light for lost ships. Instead, it serves as a moral beacon for the lost. No one is sure why, it has always been this way: a mystery in the darkness.
While the destination of Cape Elizabeth Light is concrete, the beginnings and ends of their separate expeditions are ever-changing. The beginnings for some come from boredom, while the beginnings for others come from passion for the natural world. The end is never reached by some travelers. When it is reached, the travelers rejoice together, finally feeling as if their lives have begun. What the lighthouse holds is unknown. It always has been unknown. Although other travelers have completed the journey to Cape Elizabeth, the trip holds different meanings to each traveler. Will they be greeted by others who have made this faithful trip? The beauty of the journey is this: no matter what end is reached, the inevitable end is always reached. Life lessons are both taught and learned along the way, because the travelers are of all ages.
The first two travelers set out from Seattle, Washington. They were a middle-aged couple: Holly and Hampton Cooper. Holly was a successful feminist leader and environmentalist advocate within her community. Her fearless mate was known around Seattle as an investment banker of high caliber. Holly’s free spiritedness was often eclipsed by the rat race Hampton endured daily with his corporate job at Cooper and Sons Capital. In reality, Hampton never wished to pursue his career as a banker; moreover, he only did so to please his father, the founder and CEO of Cooper and Sons. Hampton thought his demanding job put a strain on his relationship with Holly. Her deepest desire had always been a child. The problem was she couldn’t conceive No matter how hard they tried, Holly seemed destined for barrenness. Hampton wished he could fill this void for her. He would give Holly the world if he could, and a child with Holly would complete everything she wanted in the world. She was a near-perfect woman. Hampton knew a child would help her reach true perfection in his eyes.
Although Hampton was mostly satisfied with life, his job left him dissatisfied. He was tired of the stress of banking. His father kept pressuring him to take over the firm. Hampton saw himself as a free spirit like Holly, not a CEO like his father. Holly’s free spiritedness is what attracted him in the first place. She belonged to no one, and almost nothing belonged to her. One night in bed, after finishing her reading of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, Holly suggested to Hampton they should drop everything and life a life in sync with nature.
“Remember that book Walden by Thoreau? He dropped everything and lived by that pond. We should do that.” Holly suggested.
“Where would we go? I know you’ve always wanted to live on the East Coast. And you’re probably bored here without a job now.” Hampton replied. Holly had recently lost her job at the local feminist book store. The manager wasn’t exactly her favorite person ever. Who had heard of a man running a feminist book store anyways, no wonder he hated me, Holly thought to herself.
“What about Maine? Rachel Carson lived there. Let’s go there. You know I’ve always wanted to live in Maine.” Holly suggested.
Holly had always had an affinity for Maine. She was finally getting her chance to fulfill her dream of seeing the Maine lighthouses. Maine was full of lighthouses and beacons for the weary seamen and lost ships. Holly knew Rachel Carson had found peace in Maine. She only hoped she could find peace there, too. So much had happened recently: she lost her job and Hamp was so stressed with his, he seemed to be coming home less. Her biggest shortcoming though, was her inability to conceive a child. She desired more than anything to become a mother although she couldn’t. She needed a way out of Seattle. So the destination was set for the couple who more than anything sought peace, serenity, and happiness through a family that was only imagined. Holly decided they would travel to the Cape Elizabeth Light, all the way across America in Maine. After their triumphant journey from Washington to Maine, nature and love would fill their lives together. They set off in their Prius, searching for happiness and meaning in the beacon that is Cape Elizabeth Light.
Just outside of Spokane at a deserted fill-up station, the Coopers found themselves running on empty, both their gas stations and emotions. Holly was frustrated because she didn’t feel good enough in comparison to her successful husband.
“I just don’t know what to do Hamp,” Holly began, “I really loved that job, except the boss of course. All I want to do is be helpful. Nothing around me makes me feel that way.”
Hampton listened to his wife and reassured her, “Holly, you’re crazy. You know you’ve changed my life. I’m nothing without you now. I love you so much.” Holly knew Hampton was crazy about her. No matter what was going on, she knew she could count on him to make her happy.
“Hamp, I love you too. You know I’d do anything for you.” Holly whispered. She was exhausted from the hours of driving. She soon fell asleep, leaving Hampton to navigate the road singlehandedly. The dark road before them had taken a toll on their strength to endure the trying trip. So they stopped to refuel and rest a bit before resuming their long, seemingly endless cross country trek. At the station, the Coopers found two men: the store’s cashier and a young college-aged male. His car was broken down; the transmission had been obliterated beyond repair.
Holly asked, “Hamp, can’t we help him in some way? He has nothing and I’m sure no one is looking for him all the way out here. It’s dark and freezing, too.” Hampton seemed skittish at first, but then agreed to give the young man a lift since he seemed pretty nonthreatening. Besides, Hampton didn’t mind helping someone in a time of need.
He called the young man over to him. “Hey, do you need a ride? We can help you. Where are you going at this time of night, anyways? It’s pretty late.” Hampton said. It was in fact very late, or early depending on whom you asked.
“I’m headed towards Maine, actually,” replied the boy. He continued on, introducing himself as Owen Fielding. Twenty years old, he was a college student at the University of Oregon. He had earlier embarked upon a trip to discover himself, as well as nature. Owen explained himself further to the Coopers, “Yeah, I’m taking the semester off from Oregon. I’m a deadhead and nature lover, so I’m studying environmental sciences. My grades got low though, so I decided to make my way towards Maine to see the lighthouses.”
Together, Holly, Hampton, and Owen all continued through the long and winding highways towards their solace: the Maine lighthouses, more specifically though, the Cape Elizabeth Light. What was at the end of the journey was still unknown, but the dream of majesty and mystery surrounding the joint endeavors made every tribulation worthwhile. At Cape Elizabeth, people found the meaning of their lives and felt as if they had begun life anew. Passing the time of the ostensibly never-ending drive, Holly and Owen exchanged stories from their differing childhoods. Hampton was focusing tirelessly on the dark road and spoke little while Holly discussed her well-off upbringing in Tennessee and her venture to Seattle in order to feed her budding interests in feminism and the American Northwest.
“In Seattle, I met my two loves: Hamp and nature. They’ve both shown me how truly lucky I am. Hamp teaches me new things daily, and nature lets me appreciate how beautiful things around me are. I can only hope in Maine I can deepen my understanding of the world.” She explained. Owen was surprised at her story, but listened intently. Holly continued, “I’m just so thankful Hampton was willing to leave his job to pursue my happiness.”
Owen’s life story was drastically different than Holly’s. Owen Fielding had grown up in Tempe, Arizona. He shared Holly’s free-spiritedness and love of nature, though. In fact, the desert of Tempe was his personal comfort.
“Much to my mother’s disapproval,” Owen began, “I did some drugs in high school. Nothing too hard, just marijuana and occasionally peyote. I guess that comes from living in the desert though. They helped me really find myself, but after graduation my mom kicked me out. I’ve been on my own ever since, because dad was a deadbeat and walked out when I was two.” Owen sadly stared into the distance, and then continued, “I started school at Oregon in hopes of finding a career suitable for a hippie like me. I read online of the lighthouses in Maine and decided to visit them and see what happened along the way. Now I’m just here with you two, thankful you two were nice enough to pick me up.”
Owen’s story deeply touched Holly. She was unable to conceive a child of her own. In a sense, this journey was allowing her to be bigger than herself: she felt an almost motherly connection to Owen. It was a mystical pull of fate that had helped Owen find the Coopers. However mystical it was though, Holly appreciated it. The journey was allowing Holly to be cognizant of her deeper role in society. She had always desired to be the perfect wife and mother. She wondered if Owen was allowing her to do that; she also wondered if this is what happened to everyone along the sacred journey. She felt she was finally fulfilling her role as wife and mother. However, she still pined for a child of her own, knowing all the while she could never satisfy her one deepest desire.
The interstates converged and the threesome continued on in their excursion. As the highways and byways passed by in the distance, the states kept coming and going. Washington had passed months ago it seemed. However, in reality only three days’ time had passed. Curiously enough, Hampton Cooper had yet to pass the wheel to Holly or Owen, even while driving long hours in the black darkness. He was in a way maintaining his position as the fearless leader of the expedition towards the mysterious coast of Maine. Hampton was ceaselessly driving towards their destination. He refused to stop the car unless fuel was necessary or his passengers needed relief. The others worried the trip was too much for him. Holly knew he did this all for her, but this trip had to have significance for him too, right? Although Owen offered to take the wheel, Hampton failed to relent his seat as chief of the Prius ever-driving towards the Cape Elizabeth Light. He felt his masculinity depended on his captain-seat.
“Please, Hamp it’s for our safety. Let Owen drive. You need rest; you’ve been driving for days, almost nonstop. Please let him drive.” Holly begged. But Hampton refused to take her advice.
Hampton replied, “Holly, I promise I’m being safe. You know I’d never put our safety in jeopardy.”
Around Chicago though, things went awry: Hampton fell asleep while driving. It was a head on collision on the deserted interstate at two in the morning. Holly knew something like this was bound to happen. She just wished she could have prevented the crash. Two of the passengers came through relatively unscathed; however, Owen broke his radius and fractured his fibula. The wreck delayed their trip for three weeks’ time. Although the time was costly, the detour changed the journey for everyone, but mainly Owen. While staying in the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Owen developed somewhat of a liking for his nurse. She was only a bit older than he, and her name was Ann Ellis. Ann was a sweet, caring and dedicated nurse. She was also the most beautiful nurse Owen had ever seen. Owen felt unlike he had before just at the sight of his beautiful nurse. She had completely captivated him. However captivated Owen was though, he was equally as skeptical of her. Somehow he could tell she had a secret, he just was unable to decide what secret she kept deep inside her soul.
One day, he finally mustered the courage to ask her, “Nurse Ann, I’ve yet to find the slightest imperfection in you. What is it?”
Reluctant to respond, Ann still gave her story to Owen who had also captivated her, “Here it goes,” she whispered, “I was here in Chicago studying Economics at UChicago. I met a boy, fell in love and got pregnant by the time I was twenty. It was fine really, until he left for war. I never thought he would be one of those. You know the ones that go overseas and don’t come back. By the time I had little Peyton, I was determined to raise her as Charlie would have wanted.”
Owen sat, wondering if he had asked too much. “You really don’t have to tell me more, if you don’t want. I understand, I promise.”
Although she considered his offer, Ann was fond of Owen. He was her favorite patient, but that was probably because he was young and very handsome. Ann continued on though. It had been five years now. She figured it was time to open up about things. “Well, now I’ve been here in Chicago for six years, but I never could finish school and get my economics degree. I figured nursing suited me better. I love helping people. Now I’m just ready to leave though, nothing good has come from Chicago, except for my little girl. I want to go to Maine. It’s Charlie’s sacred place. He was raised there, and he would have wanted me to raise our girl there.”
Owen was moved by her story. If he thought he loved her before, this only made him more in love with her. He was also curious to meet Peyton. So as his recovery was going well, he knew his stay at Northwestern would soon come to a close. Finally he revealed to his precious nurse Ann his feelings.
“Nurse Ann, I’ve been waiting awhile to tell you, but I love you. Please come to Maine with us. You and Peyton both can come.” He explained the situation of which Ann was already aware. She knew the Coopers quite well, actually. They had been beside Owen’s bed throughout his whole stay in the hospital. They were practically his family now, or at least they acted like Owen’s parents.
“Why not,” Ann replied, “it’s almost summertime and Peyton can start school in Maine in August. She’s only five, so she’s just in daycare anyways.” Owen was ecstatic to know his newfound love would soon join him and his companions for the remainder of the long journey towards Cape Elizabeth Light. He was even more excited, though because he knew Ann reciprocated his feelings. He could just tell by the way she acted towards him. Finally, the day of Owen’s release from Northwestern came. On this very same day, Ann and Peyton Ellis joined the Coopers and Owen on their journey towards Maine.
The road was long and tiring, but the group trucked on through the states towards their personal solace. It was May 9, 2012, meaning it had been about a month since Holly and Hampton set out from Seattle. When the road was extremely desolate, Ann began to tell her stories of Maine, since that was their destination. Maine had been Charlie’s home place. She thought of one story in particular. It was one Charlie’s mother had frequently told. It helped Ann remain faithful and pure towards her brave Charlie following his deployment and her impending pregnancy. Although he never returned from war, Ann held this story very dearly to her heart. So she began to tell it to Owen, Holly and Hampton. Peyton had fallen asleep, but the story was too complex for her understanding anyways.
Ann’s story began in coastal Maine of course. It was then 1935. A ferry regularly ran along the coast, picking up whoever needed ferrying back and forth, to and from. They mostly went to the Cape though. Various fisher and lobstermen rode almost daily. They needed to take their fresh catch to market; it was how they made their livings after all. On this dreary December day, a seemingly mild-mannered woman was operating the ferry. This wasn’t her normal job, she usually found herself taking tickets and watching as the ferry went on its way. She knew how to operate the ferry fairly well; however, she rarely found herself asked to do so.
On this day though, she found herself steering the ferry and its only two passengers on their way towards Kennebunkport. It was curious there were only two passengers. There were typically more than that. As she looked out into the dreary ever-present winter fog though, she surmised why only two passengers rode that day. The two passengers were both substantial men, clearly lobstermen. She made this distinction from their clothing alone. They were both clad with large yellow raincoats, water resistant boots and had their catch and various lobster traps with them through the duration of their rides. One of the men came to the ferrywoman and told her of their destination.
The ride continued and the ferrywoman was quickly steering the men towards Kennebunkport. She was somehow unnerved by her two passengers. They seemed to be staring at her and scrutinizing her every second of their boat ride. Before long, the two men approached the woman and cornered her. She was stuck behind the massive steering wheel of the ferry; terrified because she knew her attempts to escape were futile. There was absolutely nothing she could do to avoid the looming attack. She had always feared this would happen, but she never imagined it to be today. She also never expected this from lobstermen. Although it was stereotypical, she still found herself in shock and paralyzed by the most crippling fear. Why did it have to be lobstermen, she thought? Lobstermen were the lowest of the low of Maine society in 1935. To be raped by two lobstermen, whatever would she do with herself? As soon as her adrenaline overcame her fear, she became determined to stop the men. Unbeknownst to them, she always kept a knife in her boots. Although she seemed mild-mannered, her the women knew how to defend herself. She hated she would have to use her knife, but she knew it was her only hope. Somehow she was able to pull her knife from her boots. When she did, she cut both the inner thighs of the lobstermen because it was the only place she could reach to injure both the men and ward them off her.
This all occurred so suddenly, the ferrywoman had almost no chance to dock the ferry properly. Soon enough though, they reached Kennebunkport. She immediately darted away from the ferry and reported to the townspeople and officials what had just happened. The two men, injured badly and bleeding from the wounds the woman had given them, limped off the boat, looking embarrassed at the town’s knowledge of their actions. The police swiftly chased after the men. As justice would have it, the ferrywoman was fine. If anything, she benefitted from her brave actions to defend herself. The men, however, were arrested. And if the arrests weren’t enough, they were humiliated beyond belief. Being a lobstermen and fisher of the seas was embarrassing enough, but to be a town criminal was magnificently worse. No matter what, their masculinity was forever questioned by the townspeople. It was simply the normal thing, because reputations were highly valued back then.
Ann sighed, finishing her story. Everyone in the Prius remained breathless. Ann was simply tired from telling such a long story. Owen was taken aback. He knew Ann had lessons to teach him. He unconditionally loved her; he was just unsure of how to act with Peyton. She seemed like him enough. They played car games together to keep her entertained on the long trip. Soon, Peyton woke up from her slumber.
“Owie, let’s play a game. I’m bored.” Peyton begged. She loved Owen, and because Owen loved Ann, he loved Peyton.
“Sure, what do you want to play? Decide and we’ll go.” Owen responded. All the while, Owen kept thinking about Ann’s story. It was hard enough for Owen to be in college, did Ann expect him to raise her kid too?
Owen was unsure if he was even courageous enough to raise another man’s kid. Soon, Peyton was again silently snoozing. She couldn’t decide on a game to play with Owen, so she fell asleep instead. Holly’s reaction to the story was somewhat surprising. It made her sad. Soon, she spoke about why.
“It’s just not right the ferrywoman had to be all alone. I wouldn’t be able to make it alone. I need all of you. It’s like you’ve become my family on this trip.” She said, while tears silently rolled down her cheeks. She was so touched to have shared this bond with these people. Holly knew it was fate calling.
They had almost made it to Maine now. Once again, Holly thought of the bond she had made with these such different people. She couldn’t imagine her life without Owen, Ann or Peyton now. They were a part of her just as Hampton was. This is about what the whole trip is, Holly thought to herself. Through the faithful journey, Holly had realized her place in the world. She knew she was finally fulfilling her role as a woman. She was motherly, gentle, loving, and caring. Hampton had been transformed into a powerful man, capable of raising a family. This was his family to raise. Hampton knew he was the father to Owen. Although the relation wasn’t biological, he knew Owen was his son. He said formed such an incredible bond that he shared with no one else. It truly was fate that willed these people together in their journey to Cape Elizabeth Light.
Finally, the trip was complete. Cape Elizabeth Light had been reached by all five travelers: Holly, Hampton, Owen, Ann, and Peyton. The end was magical and mystical. What they found there was a surprise. Upon reaching the lighthouse, the doors were open. They decided to walk inside. The lighthouse was beckoning them, like the beacon for lost ships and souls it is. They climbed and climbed to reach the top of their dear Cape Elizabeth Light. When they reached the top after what seemed like hours of climbing, they saw it. The sky was astounding. The ocean view was unbelievable. Each of them had seen nothing like this ever before. At this exact moment, each person realized all along the trip to Cape Elizabeth was about the journey itself. The journey was needed, to find life, to find purpose. Each traveler, even little Peyton, was captivated and realized this when they saw it. The ocean was alight like a beacon. Together, the five travelers began life as a family in Maine. Fate pulled them, and kept them, together like the family they became along the way. Their ever-present solace in the storm is now the Cape Elizabeth Light.