The Sundial

Tristan wiped his face clean from whatever it was that the sea beneath him repeatedly spat in his face. It tasted salt and wet, but he knew better; every seemingly innocent waterdrop that slipped past his lips had a longer backstory than them old Talltops back home. Every wet inch they passed over had had a love affair with every single hideous creature in the dark depths below - just last week, an eyeball the size of a barn surfaced and winked at the ship passengers. He bit his lip and felt the salt on his tongue - regular salt water, or Tears of the Eye, who knew. Yuck.

He turned around and gazed down on the deck, where a large sundial took up most of the central space. It looked ordinary in every single way.

"I think it's broken," Tristan said to a mate passing by. "It's been pointing at three o'clock since this morning."

The mate, dressed in nothing more than underwear and a vest, shook his head and answered in a tongue that sounded like someone banging a wet fish against a brick wall before continuing past Tristan.

"I loathe wet-speak," a smooth voice behind him spoke. "LOA-THE! It's like the ocean decided to die in their mouths, ga-gruugh! And that's no sundial, dear."

"I've seen plenty of sundials," Tristan said and faced the smooth voice.

"Oh, a compe-tition, is it? I'VE SEEN ALL THE SUNDIALS IN THE WOOOORLD! I STUDIED SUNDIALING AT THE UNI-VER-SI-TY! I OWN A SUNDIAL! MY MOTHER IS A SUNDIAL! SUN-DIAAAAAL!"

The smooth - and annoying - voice belonged to a thin, tall man dressed in a long cape. It had a large, square hole in it, but it didn't look like it was part of the design. He wore gloves decorated with badly drawn stars, currently only a few inches from Tristan's face, in a overly dramatic pose.

"Just kidding," the thin man said and lowered his arms, "my mother - just like that thing on deck - isn't a sundial. Come to think of it, she probably wasn't my mother either...just like that thing on deck..." He leaned slightly passed Tristan, toward the deck, and with one hand walled around his mouth, he shouted: "MOTHER?"

As he leaned forward, a stout, bearded man looking more like heavy furniture than human appeared. He nodded at Tristan, pulled up his trouser's right leg, and said: "My name is Putty. I have a cast iron foot."

"Oh... Hello... there," Tristan said with a nod, "didn't notice you back there. I'm Tristan."

"Step on his toes, Putty," the thin man said, eyes still fixated on the not-sundial. "That'll make him notice you. MO-THER? YOOHOO?"

"His mother isn't a sundial," Putty said seriously, correcting his clothing. "I've met her."

"No, you haven't!"

"Yes I have. In Porta Cincillia Cantegia."

"Stop making up words!"

"I didn't make up those words, Arnald, it's the name of the -"

"Oh, shut up Putty. Couldn't the witch had cursed your tongue instead of your foot!"

There was a long pause. Some sort of seagull dove into the glittering water; it never surfaced again.

Tristan pulled up a piece of weathered paper from his pocket, along with a thin, sharp piece of charcoal. He did a quick sketch of the sundial on the small paper, eyeing it once or twice.

As the last black line left the charcoal, he said: "It still looks an awful lot like a sundial, I have to say."

"Maybe you've painted it wrong," Arnald said sullenly, leaning over the rail. "Because it isn't."

"Then what is it?"

"What do you care, Mr Carry Stupid Things In My Pocket? Are you a reporter? Ah, nevermind I'll tell you, alright: it's a reversed sundial."

"A what?"

"Re-ver-sed? You know," - Arnald spun his finger in the thin air - "the other way a-round? When the sun is in the position you want, you fill in its shadow on the sundial with paint or chocolate or what-ever, and then the sun stays put at that location. Ta-daa. Reversed sundial. Very illegal, so unethical."

Tristan wrote something below his sketch, then asked: "What's the point of that?"

"To make a per-fect night last forever, perhaps? Two lovers sharing a bottle of Pimbleman's, some cheese, the sun's setting...only it ISN'T! HA-HAA! STAY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE, MR YELLOW GLOWBALL! The night's JUST getting started!"

The overly dramatic pose was back. Tristan had a finger pointing at him.

"That's what I did, anyway," Arnald said and went back to leaning over the rail.

Another seabird dove into the glittering water; it too never surface again.

2 comments:

  1. Great to see Putty and Arnald again. Great story too.

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    Replies
    1. Well I like them. They write themselves almost.

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