Friday, December 6, 2013

"The Drowned Submariner" from "The Ward Street Chronicles"

   During all these early years the world was an accumulation of impressions, constituted of passing scenes unburdened by any systematic thought or encumbering opinions. Things were, more or less, what they seemed to be and one had only to let them pass and to feel them with emotion, more or less strong. There were no overarching grand principles against which to measure and judge one's percepts, no attempt to comprehend, sum up, understand, just the scene, the scene suffused with feeling. Even as the moment arose, it dissolved, seemingly never having been. The world had been constituted of a series of disappearing moments, not ever having, perhaps, appeared at all. And had they appeared, what was it that they had been, had they been at all? These were questions that haunted his mind, and there had been none to whom he might speak of these matters or no matters. It was, he had often thought, his dilemma, no one else's dilemma. And yet the past continued to increase, he would note, even as the future decreased, so there must be something to it, he reasoned, something more than a figment in the mind of God. ...
   ...and as we speak of figments in the mind of God there arises in my mind the figure of Forest Simoneau, although I never once so much as glimpsed him. His photograph occupied a prominent place perched on a shelf high in a parlor of which I possess only dim, veiled memories, as of a place that I know must have been, yet a place which had, even then, a distinct air of utter non-existence.
   He was clad in a white sailor suit, of a vintage of the First World War, that war which was to have been the war to end all wars. Ah! How many times had I heard his story, shrouded in a mystery, recounted by voices tremulous with the emotion of grief, a grief unassuaged even after years upon years upon years. He had been a submariner whose submarine had descended into the depths, never to ascend again. His final moments of fully realizing his plight as, at his very end, he perished forever, and his submarine had not surfaced, nor had all the navy's resources proved sufficient to raise it up from the floor of the sea ever shifting, ever dark, every cold. It was the women who spoke of him, who mourned the loss of such a handsome son, cousin, nephew, while the men retired into their forgetful pastimes, advanced beyond my years. I was left alone, to listen. And so it was on the long drive home, the drive back to the familiar and the warm I curled up in the back seat of the Studebaker Starlight Coupe enwrapped in a blanket of horror, terror, and grief. His loss was felt by no one more keenly than I had felt it then. Even now, I feel it still, with its poetry and romance. 

to be continued...

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