Due East

by Peter Hejny

The moon is full tonight, here on the open sea.  I am alone, of course, on my great ship, her mast 50 feet tall.  She’s clipping along at a steady 17 knots and by the stars I know I am headed north.  When I realize where I am bound tonight, I vomit on the deck.

“Danny, come back,” Dr. Shew says, his voice echoing soft and bright like the stars here. I know it is Dr. Shew because his is the voice that always calls me back. He taught me that method. It was daytime then, of course, and we were sitting in his mahogany office and  he taught me, “You need to choose a peaceful center to find your way back, Danny.” And I chose him.

“Come on now, Danny.  Find your way home.” I turn the ship’s great wooden wheel and I hear the rudder groan under the hull. For a minute I am a fish, a marlin—maybe a whole school of marlins—swimming alongside the ship.  Suddenly the ship jerks right, and we jet out of the way of the swirling current. Our sleek, silver bodies drink in the moonlight and carry it, echoing like sonar down to the depths of the sea. 

“Find your center, Danny.” I straighten the rudder and I am on course now, due east to sunrise. I know east by the stars, of course. If you were here you would see it clearly too: the woman who lays naked across the sky. The stars form the contours of her body—specks of light, burning infernos of deadly gases billions of nautical miles away. Her hair falls down to the horizon, a never-ending meteor shower. The tip of her nose is due north, her left heel due south. The third star from her vagina is west and I am, of course, running straight away from there.

I ride this ship almost every night and when I wake sometimes I taste the sea salt on my fingers. I keep them in my mouth all day to remind me that, come nightfall, I can have my whiskey, and my stockings and the stars will come out behind my eyelids.  My ship will be there.  This time, of course, I  promise to follow Dr. Shew’s voice back to my peaceful center. I will run due east and not turn the rudder.  And I will not find the musket on board, or the saber, or the rope, or the cyanide.   I promise I will not find Dr. Shew naked and tied to his mahogany chair in the captain’s cabin. I will not shove anything down his throat, or inject anything into his veins, or remove any of his limbs. 

I will simply learn the stars and float on to sunrise and breathe the sea air.

Peter Hejny prefers sitting to standing, and cheap beer to expensive coffee. He lives in San Francisco and never thought he would make it past age twenty-two.

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