The Albatross

The albatross from The Rime of the Ancient Mar...

The albatross from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, depicted by Gustave Doré. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Cheshire Cat’s grin hangs just above the ship and makes the waves glitter as if there were jewels in the water. My little Molly loved the Cheshire Cat. When we had read Alice in wonderland she would talk about cats for days. Now she can only beg Ann for a cat, and Ann hates cats. I should never have married a dog-person.

Except for Molly. My little Molly makes it all worth it, but will I even get to see her? I want to share the ocean at night with her. The splash of the waves and the stars. I want to share all the best books I’ve read on the long trips when everything settled down and there was nothing better to do but read. When will she be old enough for the Ancient Mariner?

The light from the watchman’s lamp disturbs my reverie and I curse him under my breath, but I know he is necessary. There are pirates in these waters. The theme of Pirates of the Caribbean begins to play in my pocket. I fumble with my phone.

‘Hello?’ I say.

‘Dad?’

‘Molly?’

‘Hi dad!’ she almost shouts and I hold the phone a bit further away from my ear.

‘Molly, hello love, what time is it over there?’

‘It’s umm … Eight … And some more.’

‘Shouldn’t you be in school?’

‘No, it’s Saturday, silly.’

‘Of course, love. How are you?’

‘I got a puppy!’

I lick my lips.

‘Puppy?’

‘A really fluffy puppy.’

‘But, what … what about the little kitty you talked about?’

‘Cats are boring compared to dogs.’

There is a slight pain behind my eyes.

‘You can’t keep it, Molly,’ I say.

‘What?’

‘You can’t keep the dog.’

‘Why? Mum said-’

‘It’s evil,’ I say, ‘I’ll bite you and hurt you. You have to get rid of it.’

‘No, it wouldn’t.’ There is a sob from the other end. It tears at my heart.

‘Remember the Cheshire Cat?’ I say, ‘he wasn’t boring, was he?’

‘No, The Cheshire Cat was fun. He had a big, big smile, but mum says cats don’t really smile.’

‘Cheshire Cats smile,’ I say, ‘but dogs eat them.’

‘No.’

‘Yes, they eat them all up, so there is almost none left.’

There are more sobs.

‘And you know what?’ I say, ‘Mum is on their side.’

There is a bump from the other end, she must have dropped the phone, and I hear crying. Crying and wailing. I hang up.

I look at the moon.

I think of the albatross.

And I feel its weight around my neck.

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