The spray of the sea makes me anxious; salt clings to the air and tightens my throat. Father says the beach isn’t good for me. He claims I need a more masculine environment. He doesn’t like the ocean because of the music it makes. I can hear it, and he knows that I can; it’s what makes him angry. I can hear it; almost see it dancing and twirling in the air. It tickles Gabrielle’s ears, my sister’s ears, and makes her laugh. Though it makes Father angry.
So while at the coast, I am anxious. Worried that Father will turn his head toward the little window in the kitchen and see my shadow stretching across the sand.
His temper was running high already. A large group of Red Coats had stopped at our Inn for food and sleep.
“Bloody soldiers working for the devil,” Father says.
The door burst open and the salty breeze carried their soft laughter and angry mutterings. I looked up from repairing the tables and chairs; one of my required tasks, still the easier part of my masculine work.
It was not a carving day; those were difficult, but bearable. There is music in the scrape of the plane. I can hear it; see it. Secretly, I write the notes, at night when Father thinks I am sleeping; the music in the ocean, the sea sprays which make me anxious.
In my bed I lay, recklessly burning a flickering wick so I might see my creations. Sometimes Gabrielle watches, her ocean colored eyes glittering with amusement. Slumber envelops her sooner than me and she rests her fair head on my shoulder. I live the day, impatiently waiting for the night, a time when I no longer feign deafness, when I can write my music. The music Father cannot hear.
I won’t let him hear. If he will not appreciate beauty, he does not deserve it. Let him remain deaf.
Before a carving day, it is a chopping day, which is the worst of my chores. In the early morning Father wakes me, and we depart into the woods. He gives me an axe and tells me to chop. Tells me to be a man. Tells me to be deaf. He leaves then, to tend the Inn and watch Gabrielle. I must chop. The trees whisper songs in the hazy twilight. Why must I break the notes? The instruments? Why must Father silence all the world?
I bring back large chunks of wood, some for the fire, some to construct more chairs and tables. If enough has been gathered, I sleep inside. If not, Father orders me to "rough it;" camp in the wilderness and chop more wood in the morning. I am handed a pamphlet to reflect upon during the night.
“Thomas Paine…” Father says. “He writes a man’s words.”
Chopping day…Perhaps he thinks it a punishment, but I hear music in the wilderness as well, Father.
Yet, it is still nothing like the sea. The sea is a symphony.
Although that day, when the Red Coats demanded a room at our Inn, it was not a chopping day, it was not a carving day; it was a day for repairing.
“Do you hear the music, Erik?” Gabrielle whispered excitedly, just moments before the soldiers’ visit. She turned her head to confirm Father’s brief absence.
“Do you hear the music, Erik?” She asked again. “With the hammer and nail…do you think you will have more to write tonight?” I smiled but Father returned before I could reply, and Gabrielle quickly bent over the wash bin, rubbing the laundry clean.
“Hang that in the pantry,” Father said softly, pointing to the wet clothes. “It is raining outside.”
“Yes, Father,” Gabrielle replied obediently, her gaze focused on the faded fabric and slopping water.
Father busied himself wiping the counter, limp dark hair falling over his sole-colored eyes. Eyes like mine, shade of hair like mine, though my hair was longer and livelier than his; not wilted and tired.
Gabrielle had Father’s hair color as well, but Mother’s curls. Bouncing out of its bindings when she runs up to embrace me after a long chopping day. It makes her laugh when I lift her in to the air and twirl her around, at those times, it is hard to believe she is nearing fifteen.
“Erik,” Gabrielle whispered since Father had disappeared again. “The music?”
It was much too difficult to contain myself. I did not see the hammer in my hand. I saw an instrument. Gently, I tapped the simple beat of a nursery song on the table. The wood was hard in some places, softer in others, thick and thin. These varied the sounds, producing the note needed. Gabrielle laughed and clapped her hands,
“Only with a hammer you can play so!”
A pause struck at this sudden call. Father’s shuffling footsteps came nearer, and he entered the room again. Through the window we could see a small gathering of Red Coats proceeding to our front door. I heard Father take in a steady, raspy breath.
They entered swiftly, not bothering to knock. Quickly I turned one of the tables I had been repairing back onto its legs. Before I could right the chairs, I was carelessly, roughly shoved aside. I stumbled backward. Father caught me by the arm and steadied me.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” He greeted them rather gruffly, up righting another table. The men had already seated themselves. At their feet, Gabrielle fumbled as she hurried to gather the laundry.
“…Hello, there,” said one of the soldiers, swiping red hair off his forehead so he could see Gabrielle more clearly. “What’s your name, love?” Gabrielle kept her head bowed, her eyes shifting anxiously as she turned to leave. The man rose and took her arm.
“Don’t leave so soon, dear,” He smiled. “Come talk with us.”
It was as if the cold ocean sprays had clasped my heart. I was slightly surprised by my swift and sudden defense; it seemed to give me great power and speed, so that I acted before Father. Almost immediately, I found myself in between Gabrielle and the redheaded soldier, shielding her.
“Keep your distance, sir,” I insisted, taking his arm away from my sister’s. Gabrielle rushed away and clung tightly to Father, shrinking against him.
Father put an arm about her, his face a fury set in stone.
“Well then, have a look at this,” scoffed the redheaded soldier. “Just like you Americans; as soon as a real Englishman comes and tries to be friendly, you spit all over him.”
“We are Englishmen,” Father declared. “And it would assure you several more years if you left my daughter out of your ‘friendliness.’”
“Sir, that could be perceived as a threat towards the King’s Royal Army,” claimed another man, jumping to his feet menacingly. “Hold your tongue, Colonist, or you will be charged with treason.”
“-And this is evidence of treason!” cried the redheaded soldier, grabbing at my pocket and retrieving the edge of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet. “Common Sense,” he read sarcastically.
The entire group was now standing, surrounding me, their breaths, hot and reeking of ale, flooding my face.
“What’s your name boy?” demanded one of the soldiers. “By the name of King George III, we place you under-.”
“Here, now! Stop this!” As if from far away, I heard Father’s shouts, his heavy footfalls. I straightened my posture but could not hide my fear. I was still a boy. I wasn’t a man. A Red Coat grabbed my arms and pulled them behind my back.
“He’s a boy-barely of sixteen-,” Father’s face came into view amongst the mass of uniforms and guns.
“He seems man enough to be arrested!”
There was the blur of a fist, a cracking sound; a bloody-nosed soldier fell heavily to the floor. A louder noise followed, the timber of a note I had never heard before, seeming to shatter the atmosphere. Light smoke slithered from the mouth of the redheaded soldier’s gun. My arms were released.
Father staggered backward, falling against a table which was turned on its side. He leaned his head against the smooth wood, the wood on which I had just pattered out the rhythm to a simple nursery song.
Moments before, Gabrielle had been laughing.
Now Father lay bleeding, dying upon what had been an instrument.
“Mr. Langdon, I tell you again, I am forbidden to treat your father.”
“Sir, I plead—I beg of you,” I stuttered, hands shaking. “…Just see him, he is dying-he-.”
“Sydney Langdon has committed treason and assault on the King’s Royal Army,” came a new voice from behind. “A crime that shall be punished by death. The doctor is strictly assigned to treat the military and their families.” A man with white hair had entered. A General.
Almost in a daze I had stumbled to the Red Coat’s doctor as the moon lazily rose on an early night. The man stayed in the army’s camp at the coast, where the walls of flimsy tents were shaken and torn by the storm of rain and ocean sprays.
The doctor refused my father life, as did the General.
“Your father confessed to being the owner of the pamphlet found in your pocket, Mr. Langdon,” the General explained, hands clasped behind his back. “More treasonous documents were found about the household.” The ocean’s music roared in my ears.
“When a sin is committed, someone must pay the due price,” He said dully. I felt his eyes upon me, watching my soul fall in two.
“…The due price,” I muttered to myself. The doctor bowed his head and turned away, face shadowed. The General kept his eyes upon me.
“The due price,” I repeated, louder. “Sir, I offer my life to England and His Royal Highness, King George III.” The General turned his attention toward me. The doctor raised his head.
“I give-I dedicate my life to the protection of Great Britain and her colonies,” I said, desperate, kneeling in the sand. “…To the King’s Royal Army.”
“…For what reason do you give this to the Empire?” asked the General, his voice slightly wavering.
“To pay for my father’s crime,” I breathed. “…That he might keep his life.”
That he might keep his life; and wake the next morning, breathe the salty sprays of the sea, mingled with the drizzling rain of the previous night’s storm.
Mingled with Gabrielle’s tears. All as if a passing dream.
And they tell me he did wake to breathe the salty sprays. At last he heard the sea notes, the music in all the world. They tell me he limped down the stairs so that he might look out the little kitchen window at the hazy coast.
But he was to find no shadow stretching across the sand.
Author's Note: I wrote this back in ninth grade, and I am still really happy with it. I don't know why but it just seems exactly what I wanted it to be! It all came out so vividly xD
Anyway, thanks for reading, hope you liked it! Please vote or drop me a little note, I love advice and comments! ^^
- Title: Sea Notes
- Artist: Belle_Reve
The Revolutionary War is just below the surface of colonial America. Erik is a young man with a strange gift, an artistic touch which is unappreciated by his cold and gruff father. But when a pack of Red Coats come by their family inn, Erik turns against his father's rebellion for freedom--to buy freedom itself.
- Date: 07/16/2008
- Tags: period revolution america fiction music