The Bench – (a short fiction story)
Every year they rented the tiny rose cottage by the sea for summer vacations. The rent had gone sky high but as they were old timers in a binding contract, they got away with paying a fraction of the current prices.
In front of the old rose cottage across from the street, next to the sandy beach and sea there was a wrought iron bench. Lila, who was about nine years old, had a proprietary interest in this bench.
She had been playing on it right from the time she took her first steps and so was greatly
attached to it. Now, that she was older, mom would allow her to cross the street with the crossing guard hired for the summer by the local folks and she would sit on this bench and enjoy the sea view for hours on end. At times, she was joined by an engaging old mariner, wearing an old navy captain’s jacket that was faded and patched neatly in a couple of places. She called him Grandpa Joe and would chat with him for hours on end. She would plead for yet another enchanting seafaring tale dug out from his deep memory treasure chest of marine folktales- some real, some fictional. He had a nice gravelly voice and he rolled r r r r s as he spoke and his expressive eyes danced and his nice long well manicured hands would also come into play to add further liveliness to the tale being
told. He told her that oceans cover more than two-thirds of the world’s surface.
He spoke of an incident where a young sailor was washed overboard in a storm, then washed back into the ship’s rigging!! He narrated fascinating stories of buried treasure, legends of ghost ships, and tales of storms which have become part of history and folklore -stories of seal hunts, waterspouts, U-boats, airmen rescued from an ice floe, storms, ice traps, sharks, and the rescue of sperm whales – and what the unforgiving sea can yield. Lila’s knowledge of the sea creatures consequently increased a great deal as now she was able to differentiate between a shark, a dolphin, a whale, sea walrus, sea lion and all other blue blooded creatures of the sea. Various fish, crustaceans, mollusks, sea horses, jelly fish, eel, clam, octopus, sea turtle etc.
Grandpa Joe told about the time when he was navigating his ship near the Bermuda
shores, when suddenly it started rocking a lot. He had to apply his full strength to hang on to the steering wheel, trying to stabilize. Everything seems to have gone haywire. All the readings on the dials of the ship had gone wild due to violent and unexpected storm and weather changes. A tornado had pulled water from the ocean surface thousands of feet into the sky. They even felt an underwater earthquake. Grandpa Joe said they had also spotted freak waves up to 100 feet high. The ship was out of control and everyone was petrified and running scared and the then unexpected happened and the whole ship sank
into a deep trench. There were no survivors.
Lila’s mouth fell open in stupefaction and horror… In the meantime, Lila’s mother was calling
out to her to come home for supper. Her mom noticed that Lila was busy talking nineteen to the dozen with all kind of hand gestures and clapping etc. but she could not see anyone else sitting on the bench. She wondered what the child was up to. Lila came home and regaled her mom with the stories that Grandpa Joe had just shared and of the tale of the sinking of his
Ship. Mom did not believe her and felt it was all her active imagination and Lila was a very bright child and an avid reader who always had her nose stuck in books except when they visited this cottage every summer. Lila said mom if you do not believe then come I’ll introduce
you to my friend. Mother and daughter walked towards the bench but there was no one there. Lying on the bench was an old mariner hat worn by old seafaring captains. Lila
picked it up and knew this was the very hat that grandpa was wearing. Her mom continued showing disbelief and felt that the hat had been left by a passerby. Grandpa Joe never appeared to Lila again but in her summer homework- she wrote a great composition on sea life with minute details that only a knowledgeable old sea captain would know. She got first prize.
“Science is merely the refinement of everyday thinking.” Albert Einstein
“Academic and Intelligent are very far from matching compliments.” Frank McLynn
To reason, one must wonder.
Skepticism is perhaps one of the best and most rudimentary spirits in mankind. Without it we cannot search; without it we cannot reason; without it we cannot wonder; we cannot inquire; we cannot contemplate. Without it we are not intelligent. We are a stray and hungry dog, and we will eat anything fed us.
Skepticism is a two edged sword, both sides sharp, as pure as blue steel and just as clean. One side does not allow us to believe everything off hand; the other does not let us necessarily dismiss anything off hand.
Skepticism is, in a way, the mediating influence upon curiosity which guides it toward wisdom.
Curiosity has made us to inquire; and inquiring we have amassed an enormous catalogue of causes and effects; of species of plants and life. This is knowledge.
This is the bedrock of scientific reference. In Latin Scientia merely means To Know. Ideally, before a scientist can contribute to the world of knowledge, he must first learn all that has been compiled before him; what others have observed and cross referenced, many times back thousands of years. “I stand on the shoulder of giants,” said Newton.
One must approach the Bermuda Triangle and these possibilities with the curiosity of skepticism. This is not an oxymoron. Skepticism set in motion is an integral part of curiosity!
But I’m afraid the world and the world wide web are not always like this. There are those whose minds are so open their brains have fallen out; then there are those whose minds are so closed, their brains have suffocated. They are no better than a bowling ball in mud.
As a true skeptic, I have taken criticism from both sides: those who want me to believe and endorse the most fantastic claims at face value and those gentlemen of the-bowling-ball-in-mud-club who go no where and think all has been discovered.