by David Hartley Mark
A CAUTIONARY TALE
Since retiring from my job teaching Home Economics for Small-minded Bachelors at Deweydonthe University, I have taken my small pension, added the trifling inheritance which my Uncle Porson left me from his glue factory, and purchased a small bothy by the seaside of Blackpool. Deweydonthe was located on the Moors of Skiffleton, North Barts., and I have always enjoyed the Sea.
I betake myself to a short stroll amid the sands of Dee (the Beach is named Dee) of an evening, and never fail to find solace in the cooling breezes. An arrant gull may deposit some guano on the shoulder of my seersucker blazer, or perhaps on the brim of my jaunty straw skimmer-- I am partial to fin de siecle attire-- but never mind. I take the bitter with the sweet. Indeed, prior to my evening's walk, I always take my stout blackthorn stick with me to fend off any goblins or ghoulies which may abound on the foggy sands, as well as stuff wolf's-bane in my trouser pockets.
"One canna be tae careful, Laddie," as my Uncle Jock MacTavisher used to say. Poor Uncle Jock was later ravished too death by an Embarrassment of Dugongs (You may know them as Manatees) in heat. We found him only by his tam o'shanter, which the beasts left behind, since his head was inordinately small.
On this particular evening, I betook myself up a short hillock of sand, thinking I would, perhaps, go clamming in the shallows, prior to the return of the tide, which I knew would fall precisely at 9:06pm, give or take a few seconds. I had my "Farmer's Almanac & Tide Tables for the Seasonal Year" to guide me.
I must avow that I had never been in that quarter of the beach before, and my heart beat a bit faster to think of an incipient Adventure.
As I clomb the slope of the sandspit, I heard a catch of music-
My curiousity fully aroused, I quickened my steps, fanning myself with my skimmer, and clutching both my plastic bucket and my clamming rake, along with my faithful flask of Hare & Hounds Energy Drink, laced with just the slightest touch of Kenilworth Twelve-Year-Old Scotch Whiskey. I walked faster; almost into a run.
From afar, I saw a young woman, her hips gyrating, her bosoms heaving-- though a lifelong bachelor, save for one brief liason with an Italian chanteuse in Milan in '04 during Intersession from University, I must confess that she warmed me in a way I had never felt before-- nor was it the strange touch of both Energy and Scotch that caused it-- no, not them alone; it was Old Dan Cupid, tickling my-- but, never mind.
The Danse Macabre was sounding louder; the Maiden was dancing, with mad abandon-- Ah! Ah! How she tript so daintily amid the waves; she wore a broad-brimmed hat, so fiine and fair-- reflecting the moonlight, glimmering off the waves, and catching the every spark and spangle of the wavelets--
I was almost upon her--
"Fair Maiden," I called out, astonished at my own audacity, "Would it please you to dance a bit, with an Old Bachelor, on this fairest of spring nights? I mean you no harm."
She turned to me-- the fairest of faces, with dark, dark hair flowing around a sweet, pink face, with sea-green eyes that sparkled in the moonlight, and spoke to me in the mildest of accents--
"I will do more than dance," she said, beckoning to me, "for I am Neptune's daughter, and mean to cultivate my children-- but I am swift to appear, and faster to vanish-- come! Our time is nearly done!"
She cast herself upon me-- and the heliotropen smell caught me in its snare-- I confess, I grew dizzy from its effects--
We spun, we danced; the Danse Macabre boomed in my ears, with the Ocean itself keeping time--
BOOM BOOM BOOM
"Fairest of Women," I gasped into her pink seashell of an ear, "If we are to spend the night together, may I ask your name, O' Daughter of Neptune, soon to be my Lover?"
"Let no one ask my Name," said my Consort, and I was caught unawares to note that her mild voice had grown ragged and worn, like the beach-glass, like the driftwood, like the scraps of metal that drift up on the beach, no one to claim them--
"No one may ask; no one will know-- no one will learn, save You, O' Professor!"
I tried to push her away, feeling an iron grip of bone in place of soft flesh; a grip of steel in places where her softest bosoms had lain against my chest not-two-minutes before--
And that is why a Dead Man speaks to you here;
That is why a Dead Man writes these words;
That is the Meaning
Of words a Dead Man has placed in this Bottle,
Written, Rolled Up, and Inserted into
A Lonely Bottle
Sent to Drift Upon the Tide....
For I danced with the Daughter of Death,
And I lie, Drowned, at the
Bottom of the Sea.