Jason Webley


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The Story of Boat

Isn’t it interesting how differently people move through the world? One person walks down the street and everyone he passes immediately likes him and thinks to themselves, ‘what a nice pleasant fellow! I should invite him over for dinner!’ But when another person walks down the same street in much the same way, people lock their doors and grumble to themselves, dogs bark, he is met with suspicious glances until eventually someone throws a shoe at him.

But I digress. I wanted to tell you about a lady named Boat. Boat collected dead people. I’m not sure why she did that, I don’t think even she knew. That’s just what she did. Just like some people are waitresses or plumbers or university professors, boat collected dead people.

She didn’t have stacks of bodies in her basement or anything like that. It was actually pretty innocent really. You see whenever anybody met Boat, for some reason they felt compelled to tell her about someone they knew and loved who had died. And they always wanted to give her something - a photo of the dead person or some clothes they had worn or a book they had been writing or their favorite blanket.

A mother would see Boat and she would give her a broken guitar that had belonged to her dead son. A husband would give her a picture book of a vacation that he and his dead wife had taken when they were young. A sister would give her a photograph of her dead brother. And all of them gave her stories. Stories about the first time they met, about the last time they had seen or about the peculiar magic they shared with their dead person.

In a way, Boat liked receiving these strange gifts. It made her feel special, important and helpful. Besides, she was basically a lonely woman and these dead people kind of kept her company. Sometimes she would have long conversations with them.

But as the old clothes, photographs and love letters piled up in her house and the stories piled up in her heart, Boat began to feel haunted. All of these dead people had moved in so quickly. They quarreled and left messes everywhere. They stayed up late and made so much noise it was almost impossible to sleep.

Finally the voices of the ghosts got so loud that she couldn’t hear her own thoughts anymore. She began to feel angry. She began to want her life back. And so one day she raised her voice and screamed at the dead people: “I don’t want to do this anymore!”

Can a person change the way they move through the world? Can the man at whom the shoe is thrown become the man who everyone invites to dinner? Or vice versa? Do we choose these things somehow, or are we just simply dealt a hand in this life that we must learn to make the best of?

That night Boat walked through the garden, all the way down to the water. She piled up all of the ghosts on a raft. All of the pictures, old shoes, broken guitars and stories that had been given to her by all the mothers, husbands, sisters and girlfriends of the people who had died – all of these things went onto the raft.

Then she stood by the water for a long time - her eyes far away, like someone who is making a very important wish.

Then she took a match and lit the raft on fire.