Imagine if you will that you are a boatman; take a moment to meditate on that thought. This might be difficult for some- for those who have never been able to feel their own insignificance, bobbing half immersed in a mighty force. For most, however, it is easy to envision. Shortly after life sucks you in, you begin to go with the flow from one station to another, you quarrel with strangers and you feel at ease when a companion or regular climbs onboard. There are moments when you feel unappreciated and other times over-praised and all of this occurs as you cut through familiar and unrecognizable courses. Alone on the dock, you spot a spiderlike man in ragged playing clothes. They are unlike the colorful garb that most street performers sport to grab hold of a wandering eye. Still, their craftsmanship is a wonder to behold, for they seem as if they were sewn special to accompany his languishing quality.
At his feet there sits an equally ragged, lumpy travel bag, a long rope is rolled around his right shoulder. The wind rattles the stiff feather in his oversized hat, but above all you see that he dons a fashionable melancholy. In the past you have overlooked such a man, poor performers never paid handsomely or at times, never paid at all. You have grown weary of your run but the light of day has yet to leave behind the summer sky and so, you pull over to welcome the peculiar company seeing that curiosity has taken the best of you.
"Where to, my friend?" You ask, lining the boat up quickly with his feet.
The man keeps his eyes narrowed at the horizon for a moment and then drops them to look you in the face. He keeps a steady gaze, half threatening and half beautiful as he kneels to retrieve a piece of crumpled paper in the bag. His eyes are dark and wide, more comical than any others even in his worn state. He appears to be at eldest, in his mid fifties with silver peppered noiselessly in his obsidian hair. He is a miraculous creature, strong and proud as an iron stallion. You know now by his gaze that you've seen him before. The same intensity was sported on his face when performing only the most complicated acrobatics, a captivating flaw for a next-to-never frowning entertainer. You reach out and retrieve the paper and it becomes unraveled in your hand almost instantly, as if by magic (or your refusal to maintain a steady grip.) Upon it is a lazy charcoal drawing of a bridge that you have crossed under on occasion, typically on longer trips beyond the city limits. Five pillars support its weight and the one in the center has been marked up with a newly dry, red arrow that must have been painted on the picture earlier that afternoon. You wager this by the way that the rest of the paper folds around it and the potent smell of a homemade berry paint.
"You know that bridge, I assume?" He waits for your nod and slides into the boat, reaching for a bag which hits the floor with a heavy 'plop'.
"You're paying rather generously for this trip." You joke, gesturing to the bag with the rolled up paper.
He throws his head back, letting out a loud laugh drenched in mockery and slight... insanity, before sliding the bag under his feet, a mock-protective grin spread from ear to ear.
"They're needed where I'm going. I'll mail you the remnants should they exceed my expectations."
He flings an ancient looking bronze coin at you. You draw it near for further examination.
"This is from London, it's of no use in Paris."
"Well, it seems to me that you're going to have to make a trip to London."
"Tell you what," you fling the coin back at him "for every second of interesting conversation, I'll row a foot."
"Your boat, you do the calculations." He winks and reclines. "What kind of interesting conversation are you after? Or shall I just tell you of my London loot?" He smoothes his fingers over the coin, his smile sinking into the same melancholy contemplation that you first found him in.
"Never in my life have I seen a soul look so dejected while talking about their stolen money."
He lowered his eyes in a contained chuckle. "It's a weighted burden."
"So you're traveling in the late evening to a remote bridge with stolen money that is of no local value and a rope." You say, trying with all your might to make sense of things.
"To be fair you should row backwards three feet; unless the rhetorical qualifies as interesting."
"I've seen you about town and have cut through some of your shows. You seem well liked by the townsfolk."
"You seem far too generous of a boatman." His long fingers fiddle with the loose threads of the rope.
"I don't like staying put in one place."
"I can tell, this is bordering on the mundane and you're still moving the boat!"
"What is your name?" You ask, steadying your rowing to nearly half the speed.
"Wouldn't it be more interesting to know why you're taking me where you are? "
There is a beat. You look up and grin slightly. "You're actually going to tell me?"
"At this rate, I don't think I'll have the time." You steady your pace even more. "Tell me your name, boatman. I'd like to know the name of the soul I am entrusting."
You state your name and ask for his and he begins...