Where he was by Bernard Heise

He knew exactly where he was and saw that as a failure. For the real trick was knowing where you weren’t. On good days he’d take bearings off islands, marks, headlands — anything he recognized — and plot his approximate position on the chart, mindful that heaving decks and magnetic variations made bearings imprecise, and that his vessel was always moving, rendering one bearing obsolete even before he could bend his eye to the compass for the next. He liked knowing that triangulation created not truth but extremely useful fictions. Thus he never put his finger on the chart and said: “Here I am.” No, he would point to symbols of submerged rocks, nasty shoals, lurking reefs and say: “Here I am not.” But today was a bad day, and the epiphany announced itself with a prolonged crash that shattered his complacency and tore the rudder from the boat. Grinding its keel, the vessel spun into the wind, sails flogging like tortured and vengeful spirits, already settling in the stern. The lurch made him spill his coffee as he steadied himself. And it also told him instantly — for he knew the chart by heart — that he was on Blighter’s Rock, a volcanic pinnacle that he’d often pointed to, always avoided, and never seen. It flashed through his sharpening mind that he quite enjoyed the uncertainties of life. And that his current awareness of his precise location might be one of the last things he’d know for sure, which wasn’t comforting at all.


Filed under Bernard Heise

5 responses to “Where he was by Bernard Heise

  1. R.G. MacLeod

    I’m sure the tide of inspiration will once again rise and float you free of Blighter’s Rock.

    • Funny, R.G. I don’t quite know what to make of your comment — perhaps that this story wasn’t particularly inspired, but I might be luckier in the future. Kinda like when at our wedding someone wished us “all the happiness that we deserve.”

  2. >He liked knowing that triangulation created not truth but extremely useful fictions.<

    What a great line, but truly this tale was wonderfully told. Loved it.

  3. guy

    Funny on one level, profound on another — and great ending.

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