This is kind of a blast from the past… I couldn’t decide what to blog about today so I thought I would post this story I wrote one night in 2007 in Dublin, Ireland. I’m usually more comfortable writing novels, the longer the better, but I think this is one of my few good short stories. Have you ever been fascinated by the ocean? What’s your favorite ocean story?
Oceans: A Geographic Fable
“Woo-hee!” it cried, rejoicing in its air-headed way, “Canoe racing galore! Don’t forget to slap on that sunscreen!”
You wouldn’t think that oceans accepted the names humans had given them. After all, since their beginning they were all one mass of water, one entity. Even now, there is no clear boundary between, say, the Atlantic and the Arctic Oceans. And yet, if you are called something for a long enough period of time, you begin to identify yourself with the name and the personality that goes with it.
In the 21st century, it was especially easy to hear human voices. Radio waves snaked their way between continents, cell phone conversations rebounded off the stratosphere, and satellite signals beamed down like so many heavenly decrees. Even now, the Indian Ocean was discussing an episode from a television show.
“I just don’t like the way Seinfeld treated that Pakistani,” it complained.
“Dude, he was only trying to help,” the Pacific soothed.
“Yes, but look how it turned out. That whole episode – no, that whole show just gives me a sinking feeling. It’s like he can never do anything right.”
“That’s because it’s a comedy,” the Mediterranean put in its two cents’ worth, “an ancient form defined by Aristotle. In a comedy, the main character must be morally and intellectually at a lower level than the audience.”
“Seinfeld has no morals at all!” intoned the Atlantic. “I’ve seen that show. It is like a swamp, a fetid sludge filled with iniquities.”
“There is too much demoralising sexual content in today’s television,” boomed Arctic, “It is polluting our culture.”
“No, dude,” the Pacific chimed in, “you’re talking about, like, oil spills and stuff like that. You’ve got too many oil refineries off your shores.”
“I have to agree with the Arctic,” the Atlantic said, “Thirty years ago, they wouldn’t have allowed shows like this on the air.”
The Atlantic always claimed political neutrality but was secretly a Republican and, like the Arctic, a bit of a Bible-thumper. It couldn’t help it: after all, so many people had prayed on its crossing.
“Characters in today’s television shows have no honour!” the Sea of Japan exclaimed.
“You’ve got to chill out,” drawled the Tasmanian Sea.
“Don’t tell me to chill out, you,” the Atlantic roared back, “Don’t even talk to me. You keep sending shitloads of this cheap beer that tastes like piss onto my waterways. It’s embarrassing to me, and it’s unfair to the Europeans.”
“Right, because you are so refined and European,” the Tasmanian mocked. “Tell me, how many Europeans are shitting on you right now? You’re full of shit!”
“We are all full of shit,” the Pacific announced in its sing-song voice, “People piss and shit on us all the time. But who can complain about that when they also surf?” Suddenly, it broke into song, “If everybody had an ocean across the USA, then everybody by surfin’ like Californi-a!”
The Arctic was still ruminating on the subject of failing moral standards. Oceans are often reluctant to let go of a subject. They like to conserve things. That’s easily seen in the way they conserve the warmth of the sun’s rays for much longer than the land does. “Thirty years ago a show like Will and Grace wouldn’t have—”
“According to Aristotelian logic, that’s not a valid argument,” the Mediterranean lectured, “If you say something was not permitted thirty years ago, it does not immediately follow that this same thing should not be permitted in the present.”
“Yeah, well, we’re independent now,” ” the Tasmanian exclaimed, “We don’t need none of that British logic. Britannia don’t rule the waves anymore.”
“Nobody rules the waves,” the Adriatic tossed out happily.
“The moon does have a certain attraction, I’ll admit,” said the Mediterranean. “But does she rule?”
“With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb’st the sky,” the English Channel began.
“If you think about it, it’s actually not the Moon herself but the force of gravity that pulls the tides towards it,” said the Arctic.
“That’s deep,” the Pacific commented.
The Atlantic had a good view of the full moon at this moment. There she floated, silent, seemingly out of touch with the world around her. She didn’t claim to rule anything.
Drenched in moonlight, the Atlantic decided to have a few hours’ nap before daylight arrived. It zoned out the buzz of human voices and music, and only the distant song of the Pacific lingered in its consciousness.
“Everybody’s gone surfin’, surfin’ USA… ”