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“We sail tonight for Singapore; don’t fall asleep while you’re ashore! Cross your heart and hope to die, when you hear the children cry. Let marrow, bone, and clever choose, while making feet for children shoes. Through the alley, back from hell. When you hear that steeple bell, you must say good bye to me! We sail tonight for Singapore —“
“Will you stop singing that song?!!” Big Man said. “You sound mad!”
“Ho! Hark! You’ve caught on quick, you have!” said Little Man, with a thick cockney accent. “Ya’ see, we’re all as mad as hatters here!!” Little man was violently shaking his fist in the air like he was punching someone in the belly, causing the row boat they were in to rock back and forth. The boat was afloat in water that was black and oily as if it were trying to hide something. It did not seem to have any shores, as far as they could see. There was a fog lying on the water, as if to cover up what the water could not. Even though there were no oars, or other methods of transportation, the boat seemed to be moving. Big man had no recollection of how he got in this miserable predicament. He just remembered closing his eyes to go to sleep in his lovely house in London, and then waking up here.
Little man jumped up on the bench and started dancing. He was wearing a brown tweed waistcoat with a dirty white shirt under it, with black trousers that were too short for him and a pair of beat up black shoes. Over it all was a heavily patched pea coat. Unlike the rest of his attire, which was dilapidated, decrepit, and dirty, atop his head sat an immaculate bowler hat.

“How did you get here?” said Big Man in his pristine posh voice, with an edge of nervousness. In sharp contrast to Little Man, Big Man was dressed in a fancy 3-piece pin-striped suit, with a gray waist coat, top hat, and navy blue overcoat.
“How did you get here sir, huh? What? What?” said Little Man.
“I already told you!! I fell asleep and woke up here!”
“AH ya’ still think ya’ fell asleep, do ya’?”
“I did fall asleep!” said Big Man.
“Oh and I fell asleep also, sir. Fell asleep to the wicked lullaby of alley cat hisses and cold layer of bricks for a bed. Yes sir, if I could use my hunger for a blanket I would be as warm as a bakin’ biscuit! ah ha!”Little Man laughed madly. “Fell asleep? No sir, no sir, ha ha! Fell asleep, seems like we will sleep through a couple tea times won’t it? HA HA AH!!!” It seemed to Big Man that Little Man wasn’t worried about their quite unfortunate situation, but it did not surprise Big Man, as Little Man seemed to be rather unstable. “No sir, I’m dead, sir, starved to death in an ally way!!” he said, “You just died in your sleep!!”
“Quiet, please!” said Big Man with panic creeping in to his voice. “That’s not true. Please just be a little more quiet; I need you to be quiet!!”
“Ha HA!! Well his face was simple with the dimples—“Little man continued growing more and more lively with every word
“STOP STOP STOP!!!”

“Ho, take your blankets from the door!” Little Man started jumping up and down “the whole town—“
“IN GOD’S NAME, STOP!!!!!!” said Big Man, now trembling with panic.
The little man sat down abruptly, as if he were a marionette that got his strings cut.

“Oh… now ya’ doin stuff in god’s name?” Little Man stood up on the bench “WELL WHY DON’T YOU JUST ASK GOD!” Little Man was now yelling, “CAUS THAT’S JUST WHAT YA DO WHEN SOMETHING GOSE WRONG! JUST ASK GOD!!!! NOT HIS FAULT YA KNOW!!!”

Big Man shrank away in terror. The panic that he carefully tried to hide, now burst forth through his fancy façade and played across his face openly. “I’m sorry I’m sorry please don’t hurt me! Please!”

Little Man looked at big man, and sat down. “Just don’t say that, I…. I think God has enough people do things in his name.” Little Man hung his head.
“I’s just trying to make things seem……better.” Little Man was now very calm, but Big Man could see that his madness was just below the surface of his calm exterior, and just a little push could bring it back out.
“No, no don’t cry,” Big Man said, still panicky. “I didn’t mean your singing...er…it is…uh… just the dancing might make the boat tip over.”
Little Man looked up at Big Man, shaking in ether rage or sorrow. “So-so-so we don’t fall in the water?”
“Yes,” said Big Man, trying to appease him. “Because we don’t want to go in to the water, do we?”
Little Man leaned over the edge of the boat and peered into the water, as if trying to discover its secrets. “No, No we don’t,” he said, suddenly placid. “Who knows what is down there. Considering where we are, you see.” Little Man sat back down and looked at Big Man as one would scrutinize a sculpture.
“What do you mean?” Big Man said. “Where are we?”
Little Man looked at Big Man disbelievingly, a smile creeping onto his face. “You mean, y’don’t know?” The smile got bigger on his face. “Don’t know! Don’t know! Blissfully ignorant!” The smile that was on Little Man’s face grew too big for it and moved to reside on his whole body. He started to do this strange jig while staying seated. “Yewwwwwhoooo!! HA HA!! Oh, we are two mariners! HA HA!!” Laughing manically, Little Man leaped up from his seat as if it were on fire. “Well, I’m a rambler, I’m a gambler, I’m a long way from home, but if you don’t like me, well ho—“ Little man stopped suddenly and looked at Big Man, “Do you want to know?” he asked with a smile playing on his face. “Do ya’?”
Big Man looked at little Man nervously. “I….I think so,” he said with trepidation “Um, yes, yes I do actually. Tell me.”
Little Man leaned in close and arched an eye brow. “y’dead, sir. ya sailin’ on the river of death.”
“NO,” said Big Man.
“Oh yes sir! Ya’ on the river Styx”





The boat had been going in a straight line for a while, could have been days could have been hours, hard to judge in this place. There had been no change until Little Man had looked up from his scratching on the boat floor (he was apparently writing a novel on it) and pronounced “land ho!!” There was a slight glimmer that suggested a lamp in the gloomy fog and protruding out from under it was a dock. It had been getting closer for the past ten minutes, and it was now evident that there was a barren, grey shore, attached to the dock. With a bump and a halting lurch forward the boat came to a rest against the dock. Little Man got up and stepped on to the dock. He started rummaging around in his pockets, looking for something, unsuccessful, he looked at Big Man, who was still in the boat, and said, “Hey, mate, can I borrow a quid?”
Big Man looked up uncertainly and took out his bill fold. He was too confused to speak or question so without words he handed Little Man about three pounds.
“Thanks, mate, th’ old boat man will appreciate that,” he said. “What ya’ waiten’ for? Get out we here!” With that Little man ran down the dock but before he disappeared in to the gloom he said, “Good bye, mate, it’s been good traveling with ya’. Ta.” Big Man was about to follow him when he looked down at what Little Man had written. It seemed to be a poem of sorts written in fancy copper plait hand it said:

The time has come for me to go
Im takin off
If you try to find me
You will be unsuccessful
See
I have become a transparent eye ball
I am nothing
I see all
Im free from the shackles of language and measurable time
Ive taken wings of morning and disappeared in to the grate Wilderness
I will lose myself in the continuous woods
And in the warm comfortable hug of nature
The oak shall send its roots abroad and pierce my mold
Light of foot and heart I take to the open road
I will find myself again
Free to walk amongst the living without them knowing
Free to seek that unknown truth
That unknown constant I was so close to knowing in life
That choice is yours
I give it to you
God speed
Reading the poem, Big Man found out that for the first time he was thinking about Little Mans life. About how he came to be in that ally way and the people he changed along the way. Big Man realized that with just this poem he left to him, Little Man changed him for the best. It no longer mattered to Big Man that Little Man was homeless and dirty. Little Man understood something about life, and Big Man wanted to understand that thing as well.
Big Man was surprised to find that there were tears flowing from his eyes. Ashamed and embarrassed, he tried to hide them.
“No need to hide them tears,” A voce said, Big Man looked up and saw that it was a man who spoke. He was wearing a long, brown, cloak that covered his entire body. “It is a great poem.” He said in is raspy voice “Kids quite a word smith; well how bout it?” he said holding out his hand. Big Man looked up questioning, unsure about what to do.
“Um, sorry?” he said.
“Right, right, I forgot you are of the type that don’t know,” he said. “You got to pay me.”
“Oh.. Right…sorry” Big Man got out his billfold and handed him his remaining money. “Here you go…um, mister… ah… what shall I call you?”

“Well in the legends people call me buy my job title, but ya see it’s not just me. A bunch of us living folk come down here and help out with this Burden. My name is Tom. Tom Waits, and you, Big Man, you have a chose to make.”

“What choice sir?”

“Look, it’s simple, you go left, and you get ta do it all over again, you know reincarnation all that bunch, but the thing is you go back as the opposite of what you are now so… that’s about it. You go right and you become a spirit of sorts. As your friend there put it, you get to ‘walk among the living without then knowing’. It’s mostly for people who are satisfied with their last go in life and want to maybe help other people or look for something. So what you have to ask your self is this: were you satisfied with your life?”

Big man went left.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

ivefoundaway This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm
I love the dialogue and the characters. This is great!
 
Macx14 said...
Nov. 26, 2010 at 11:42 am
This is very interesting, I love the ending. Very mysterious, but still a great character sketch. Good job!!
 
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