Ms. Sadie and the Whale

She decided she’d row all damn day if she had to.

The first harpoon had pulled her bathtub dangerously close to the water line rising inexorably in her bathroom. The line, taut and dripping from the force pulling it as far out to sea as the tiled floor would allow, vibrated with the beast’s strength.

She had taken on some water. “No good,” she thought. She bailed as much as she could and went back to scanning the odd undulations and swells of the water rising steadily from every pore of the tile floor in her bathroom. Luckily, though, the tub wasn’t sinking. It wasn’t quite rising either.

“Another time, Sadie,” she reminded herself. The whale would return. It always did. “Another time, Aye.”

Earlier, when Robert had turned off her light as he left her for the night, Sadie lay still in her room. Time passed. How long went by, Sadie didn’t know. But it had started quietly at first, enough to make her tilt her head toward the faint sounds as they bumped or knocked and then disappeared. With each successive bump, or knock, or caw, Sadie’s attention focused and she felt her mind hold tight to the clarity she felt.

When she finally heard the blast of that damn whale, Sadie knew it was time.

“Floor’s cold,” she thought as she slid out of bed. Sadie’s feet shrank at first from the cold tile. Her shades were drawn and the light was off over her bed. Achingly, Sadie placed both feet on the floor. The cold helped, woke her up.

After pulling herself up from the bed with some effort, Sadie stood still for a moment to let her body catch up. Once the bits and pieces that had failed her before were in line, Sadie moved slowly to her closet. There she brushed past her overcoats and pantsuits, good to have but unnecessary where she was and where she was heading. She reached behind them and felt the plaster of the wall.

Moving her hand towards the corner, Sadie felt the smooth drywall, painted a pleasing eggshell to match the rest of the room, become split and ragged. A jab of pain lit up her mind as she caught a splinter in the tip of her middle finger. “Letti’ go, and getcher gear,” she heard her father say. The gear, short and clipped in her father’s Newfoundland way, came out as “gee-ah.” Sadie’s instinct to draw her hand out and get the splinter faded and she set back to her task, for there was whalin’ to be done.

Sliding her hand on, Sadie smiled. This was the inside of her locker at the docks. The drywall was now planks of wood blasted by the sand and the ocean. Her hands searched in the dark for the tools, the tools of her father, her husband, her brothers, and of the daughter who whaled alongside them.

Her tools.

A moments joy escaped her lips as her hands found them after passing over two umbrellas, a blown halogen lamp, and her broken shower rod. Holding them firmly but gently, Sadie nimbly pulled them from the recess. She set them beside the door, and reached in the bottom, there she found her boots, and as if she had missed it earlier, Sadie pulled her slicker from the rack.

Sadie was aware that her mouth had become dry. When she licked her lips there was a hint of salt. The wind was blowing gently and she lifted her attention from the closet. Her eyes closed, Sadie inhaled as deeply as she could as if she was a hound searching the wind for the trail. “Esterly,” she muttered, damning it slightly.

Shaking the sand that hadn’t been there before, but was there now, from her feet, Sadie slipped on the boots. Her bare feet squeaked as they caught on the rubber. She threw her slicker on quickly over the slip she wore. Ready now, she gathered her tools and moved for the sea.

When Sadie opened the door to her bathroom the water was already rising. The call button glared at her from beside the commode. The lights burned and Sadie squinted a moment before striding as best she could to her boat.

The oars were there, thank God.

Stepping in, Sadie cast a look back to the door where she came in. It was dark and exactly how she left it. The water was rising, though, even in her room.

A blast, over her shoulder, snapped her back to attention. “Bastard,” she thought.

Sadie began to row. Again the time passed. It had been too long since she had rowed this much. Plus, worry began to creep in that she might not be able to do this alone. Nagging questions of whether the boat was big enough, or if she needed a crew ate at her composure. Whenever her doubts began to rise though, that damn whale would always do something to bring her back on track. There would be a bump on the hull, a spray behind her, or a sighting just far enough away to avoid a harpoon.

Beyond the damned beast, though, a different sort kept her to work. Her father’s voice again cut through the haze of indecision and fear clouding her mind. “Ye’ do th’ job Sadie, ye’ row the but and ye’ pull hard, fir the life of ye’. Damn the rest and do the job.” Achingly she tightened her grip on the oars. There would be time enough later for the pain.

She got the first harpoon in after two hours. The second one was easier fifteen minutes later. By the time she hit the beast with the third, Sadie knew she had it. The whale wasn’t pulling as much now. It’s thumps and shakes were growing steadily weaker. Sadie knew now that all she had to do was hold on.

When it finally died, Sadie scanned the horizon of her bathroom for the door. There was a storm blowing in from behind the vanity. She had to get back soon. The squall could bluster all it wanted to she figured, it was the sharks and the scavengers she was looking to avoid.

So she rowed, steady and hard. Sadie kept the prow pointed at the speck of a door as she constantly checked over her shoulder. The gentle rocking of the tub grew as the storm spread over the wall towards the small towel closet she had between the vanity and the tub.

“A good day,” she thought. She began to sing. The door was closer, but still a ways away.

“No matter,” she thought. “There’s alwa-

The morning shift found Ms. Sadie in her tub. She was smiling and her head lay on the lip of the tub as if she had been relaxing.

The morning nurse who found her never told anyone else of the ropes tied to the tub that led into the floor or of the blisters on her hands from the oars that lay beside her. Plus, Martha the nurse would have sworn, it smelled like the ocean.

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