ANTELOPE AND BOAT
A SHORT STORY
“Would you care to clamber on my boat?”
“A boat.” said Antelope.
“An antelope upon a boat! Is this a joke?”
Antelope said “nope.”
“It's not a joke. You horrid man.
I’ll thwack you with my porridge pan.”
The horrid man was taken back
He did not want a nasty thwack.
And so he smiled, took hoof in hand.
Then stepped on board and off dry land.
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Steven had been working the docks since he was 13. He’d started as a deck hand, helping out after school to clean the lobster pots, cut the knots and retie the threads on the mackerel nets, returning home happy stinking of seaweed and sulphur.
He had attended the local Catholic school, and from an early age had been a firm believer in an omnipresent, all-powerful, ever watchful, eternally living super amazing being. He’d find himself praying in the back of the car, apologising for drawing a picture of his teachers breasts or pouring a kettle of hot water into an ant’s nest. He loved the smell of incense at morning assembly. And at 15 he took GCSE theology and was allowed to ride with the fishermen on trips around the cove when the weather was nice.
As with many a child’s transition into adolescence, it slowly dawned on him that all the things he’d believed in as a boy always seemed to be happening somewhere else, to somebody else. He had never seen a ghost. He had never heard the fluttering wings of a cherub or felt the breath of a monstrous beast learning over him in the night. All the fantastic things he had believed to be just around the corner or under the next stone had simply never materialised. And he realised with begrudging certainty that it was not because these things just hadn’t happened to him, but because they never really happened at all. Angels, dragons, ghosts, fairies, gnomes and goblins.
He had long ago stopped waiting for that one thing to happen, that one thing to prove himself wrong. A voice at the window. A floating twig. For a time he would have been content just to roll three sixes in a row. But as with many a worry in an adolescent’s transition into adulthood, it had simply ceased to bother him.
And yet here he was, standing at the side of the dock, just out of view behind empty fish barrels watching an Antelope perched on its hind legs, brandishing a frying pan between its two front hooves, seemingly talking in rhyming couplets to another fully grown man. Steven felt his stomach rise up inside him and for a moment thought he might be sick. If this, this extraordinary, unbelievable event can happen can actually happen… This one brief moment, in real life that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense, that briefly breaks the rules... If an animal can rear up and converse in poem with a human being on a small dock in the early hours of a Wednesday morning in March… then maybe anything... He gulped as images of Father Christmas and fairies danced in his periphery vision. Maybe anything can happen.
Steven stumbled forwards, tumbling the empty barrels, and with tears streaming into his beard he began to run towards the unlikely pair on the piers edge.
Without turning around, the man on the boat pushed off with the back of his boot, and neither he nor the Antelope seemed to notice Steven, as the boat slipped away, into the mist and out to sea.