The End of the Day
By Lefkothea Beletsi
The old man plodded through the night carrying the dead body of
his dog. He was frail and he staggered under the weight, but kept walking
all the same. There was no moon to guide him down the winding path to the
sea, no flicker of light on a troubled sky that was frowning with impending
storm, but then none was needed. With practised care the man trudged
along, avoiding the prickly bushes that fringed his way, his footsteps
crunching on the soft ground, thick with brittle twigs and dried pine
needles. He found the noise comforting, that sharp repeated crackle of
life holding its own against the stillness.
He felt the throb of the sea before the heavy scent of resin gave
way to the tang of the onshore breeze. He was close now, but had not
realised how close, when a sliver of moon peeked through the foliage
overhead and everything around him trembled in a fitful silver glow. A few
more steps and he would have missed her, he would have failed her. As
always, the sight of her pale face framed with fiercely red hair, smoothed
away his pain. She sat on the swing he had made for her, one hand clasping
the rope, the other resting protectively on the gentle bulge of her
belly. She barely smiled, but he could have sworn there was bright
laughter in the depths of her eyes.
"Sweetheart," he muttered, aching to share his grief, "Wolf is dead."
As if those plain words had the potency of a magic spell, her
image rippled into the amorphous darkness of the woods, but not before he
saw her eyes, drained now of all emotion, assume the expressionless, vacant
resignation that haunts the faces of the long-dead in old photographs. And
then, as suddenly as she had been summoned by his will to relive the past,
she was gone.
He cursed himself. How could he have been so stupid? She had
never known Wolf, the sea had already taken her. It was the element of
time, the temporal perspective of inexorable fact stored away in caskets of
treasured memories, that had so harshly exposed his fantasy for what it
was, condemning him to acknowledge the present as his one and only version
The man laid his lifeless friend down at the roots of the tree,
careful, as he pulled himself up, not to brush against the rope that hung
limply, frayed and discoloured by the breath of the sea. He picked up the
shovel he had left there the day before, when hope had surrendered to the
anticipation of the inevitable. The metal blade struck, bit into the
earth. And the earth opened up, avid to receive the offering.
Thunder boomed in the distance and a gust of wind breathed life
into the night. The man kept digging, aware of the swirl of associations
that approached him, embraced him, possessed him. The soft murmur of the
waves rose to a groan that engulfed his agony as he was stabbed by the
memory of her face, its pallor smudged by the bruises of drowning.
On that same shore, where he had mourned for a newborn love and an
unborn one, just a few feet away from where he stood and toiled, close on
twenty years ago, he had found a new friend, or rather, a friend had found
him. The abandoned puppy, drenched and shivering with cold and fright, had
come up to him and eyed him with lugubrious expectation. A tangle of
seaweed had covered one side of its head, right down to the eye, and for an
instant the man, letting his sense of whimsy slip through a crack of his
apathy, had pictured it as a pirate's eye-patch.
"You are quite a sea-wolf, aren't you?" he had chuckled. And had
welcomed the creature in his life, so that he would not have to be alone again.
He was done now. He placed a pine cone on the inconspicuous mound
of earth to mark closure.
"Fetch," he whispered.
When the first thick drops fell, he was standing there still.
Resolutely, the old man walked down the shore, towards the
Lefkothea Beletsi was born in the shadow of the Acropolis in Athens,
Greece. She holds a BA in Classical Philology & General Linguistics from
the University of Athens. She recently moved to the US. Lefkothea writes
short stories, poetry, and screenplays
Contact Lefkothea Beletsi at: email@example.com
March 28, 2002
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