“I knew you was a pussy, Ian. Come on, I done it – right, boys?”
Sonny turned to the young tribe leaning on surfboards. They clapped his back and nodded, testified to the bravery of their chief. Riptide waves were swirling below, heaving the fragrance of salt over the coast. This scent of renewal blanketed the boys, but it could not preserve them.
Far away in Spain, centuries ago, this tale began. A mariner there took something priceless. Yet, that moment was not truly the beginning, but rather an upwelling and continuation of the gale. The winds are still blowing.
“Shut these assholes down, Ian! I’ll go out there with you right now!”
Only one lad backed Ian, but the devotion of his brother was complete. Roddy stood at his side, fists clenched.
Sonny snickered, turned to his crew and rolled his eyes.
“Punk ass little bro got bigger balls than he do. Why don’t you boys run on back to your Momma. Oh, wait, never mind.”
The tribe snickered, merciless.
Ian hung his head, mumbled, “Come on, Roddy, let’s get on home to Papa.”
He turned and shuffled away, but Roddy faced the savages a long moment, torn. He was looking past them, out towards the dare – the fabled wreckage. He wanted to stand his ground; maybe he could prove his worth. But when he turned and saw Ian’s sad eyes, he jogged along and placed a slight hand over his crumpled shoulders.
In November of 1727 Don Cidro, the captain of La Paloma Poderosa, was surrounded by the flickering radiance of three dozen candles. He sat before Santa Maria, and begged for the strength to forgive two thieves. One stole for greed and lust, the other for adventure – rumors were the lovers had gone to Mexico. She’d always dreamed of climbing native pyramids and swimming streams of gold.
The captain’s son, however, glowered in the shadows, shook his head, and departed. He would steal too, both from and for his father. Don Cidro was a stoic, a martyr. But his son could not endure the pain, so he walked upon the water, placed his hands upon the wheel. His father’s seamen were principled. They would obey, would help him avenge the humiliation; help him drag his mother back to Spain.
He would not think how much he loved her, and so he called his boldness honor.
News traveled slowly in the 18th century. Nevertheless, after waiting at the harbor for over two years, the ship-less Don Cidro returned and offered a new supplication before the Mother of God.
Today La Paloma Poderosa belongs to the great State of Texas.
A hundred yards out and another two hundred down. She sits there quiet, ruined, moaning occasionally. Visitors come often, covered in wet suits and breathing apparatus, searching for her secrets. But the bones of sailors drowned in olden time have all been dragged away. Indeed, most of what was good is gone, leaving only rust and rotting timber. There is no ancient treasure, only something new: blue-faced and disfigured, another castaway son.
La Paloma Poderosa collapsed, after running, wounded, for three weeks.
She tried hard in the contest, but the pressure is too much when you’re alone and overmatched, full of holes and splintering, collapsing from the inside. When you’ve drifted into peril, searching for a ghost. And when your heart is strong but your lungs are too young to swim the deep waters of sadness.
Blake Kilgore grew up in Tornado Alley, spending most of his first three decades in Texas and Oklahoma. Now, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and four sons, where he’s just commenced his twentieth year teaching history to junior high students. That’s how his love for story began – recounting the (mostly) true stories from olden times. Eventually, he wanted to tell stories of his own, and you can find some of these in Blue Fifth Review, Rathalla Review, Midway Journal, Forge, The Windhover, and other journals. To learn more, go to blakekilgore.com.