Cosmic Charlie
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson

The Charlie Effect
by Keith Campbell

Cosmic Charlie
by Island Girl

Cosmic Charlie
by Misha

KamiCosmic Charlie
by Colin Campbell

Sea Foam
by Swagman

Cosmic Charlie
by Jeffrey P. McManus

Holy Lunch
by Aidan Butler


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by Swagman

The wind is from the northwest. It has been so for three days. The sea has built into large steady white walls of undulating froth. The sky is clear, the air crisp and clean. The salt spray would imbue even the most unconscious landlubber with an unknown love of the sea. The boat rolls and thrashes about on her port tack beam reach towards the harbor. Five miles out the land specific details begin to appear like cleverly revealed puzzle pieces placed in the bowl of the world right before her eyes. As the far mountain ranges recede gradually behind the front range, the skyline becomes recognizably familiar to those who's home waters are here. The eastern edge of the darkening world is shrouded in sea mist haze that drops into the optical oblivion of an uncertain horizon while the western edge blazes in the red crystal fire of sunset. The bow of the boat rises and plunges while the sails hold her rock steady in the comforting power of the wind. In her companionway, nursing a mug of hot coffee, stands the lone mariner watching the sun's last rays sinking below the watery walls of the western gate. Once more night reigns supreme as the fading twilight highlight on the wavetops gives way to phosphorescent tendrils left by breaking waves. Each movement of water and boat creates oceanic light that echoes of stellar beginnings and rhymes in unbreaking continuance between sea and sky. Stars overhead, dead still, and silent, mock the motion of boat and crew by their effortless glide across the evening sky.

Picking up the lee of the land, the wind slackens, and the mariner rises to the deck to shake the one tuck reef out of the mainsail and to take the obligatory lap around deck. For such a pointless maneuver, the once around goes a long way to enhance the mariner's joy in knowing that all is well in his world which, for this moment, is his tiny boat and the whole universe.

Pressing forward at hullspeed, the boat charges endlessly down the glowing faces of the quartering seas, sending her headlong for home.

The mariner's thoughts drifted about himself. He remembered his honorific nickname, Cosmic Charlie, that his friend Zepp pasted on him back in the hippie boatyard by the railroad tracks where the boat was so lovingly created. There they were, Charlie and Zepp sitting on the tailgate of an old pick up truck at the boatyard, checking out the progress of the boat, pondering the future of boat life, and Zepp suddenly said, "Charlie, you're not crazy, you're cosmic." 

Crafted from scavenged materials and salvaged hardware from other people's broken dreams, it was the purest manifestation of the seafaring urge one man could summon alone. Boatbrain was a deadly escapist disease for romantic fools. It was inhuman the amount of energy it took Charlie to pull the boat together, the fractured friendships, the failed marriage, and the loneliness. In the end, he was alone. But wasn't everybody he thought in hollow consolation. 

Night after night spent in solitary communion with the low soft hum of all things considered, he didn't have it bad. That is until the launching day.

Something funny happens when you chart a course leading outside your ordinary life. It's like other people have inertial resistance to your activities of change, and only if you persevere do they begin even to seemingly support you. But lookout when you're on the eve of your accomplishment. They seem to flock in droves around you as if to feed on your psychic energy rush. It was no different for Charlie when he started his boat. In appearance just an other hippie boatbuilder in pursuit of main-stream burn out retreatist dreams, another manifestation of the turn on, tune in, and drop out--America, love it, or leave it--generation. With no support from outside his own mind, Charlie started all alone in the boatyard with his tools, salvaged materials, and his dream. First when the keel was laid, people asked what it was. Then when it went into frame, people remarked that it sure looked skeletally funny. When it was fully planked, people asked if it really was a boat. Launching day somehow ended up as a giant party created by the sheer spectacle of the huge behemoth sailing cutter rolling through the streets on her virginous way to the sea as if she were on her way to a placid new moon, low tide wedding. Now, at high tide, the boat was in the water, a steady stream of visitors visited Charlie, making ignorant observations betrayed by impertinent comments. The attention was gratifying if only for the illusions of support and camaraderie.

The best thing was the girls; they came out of the woodwork. The cosmic faucet of virility was pouring testosterone pheromones all over Charlie's aura. He was getting lucky at a prodigious rate, nice girls too. Not one wanted to go sailing though, they just wanted to have fun in the sun in the harbor where it was warm and maybe a little boom-boom around sunset, that was all. 

Bring up the idea of going out on the ocean and their blood would freeze. The ones that didn't panic or balk at the idea of sailing would get virulently seasick once the boat got free of the land.

There seems no way to win sometimes thought Charlie. At the drop of a hat, Charlie would stop what he was doing and untie the boat and slip out to sea for a moments recharge. It was such a simple procedure to untie the docklines and it was amazing how much psychological baggage stayed with them on the dock. The creature in the man was made new with every return to sea, however brief. But there was an increasing gnawing at Charlie's sense of equilibrium; a secret sailor's voice whispering in the watery part of his brain.

The voice asked many questions of Charlie. It asked Charlie what he would think of a long time at sea, of falling asleep in rocking, landless, undulation. The voice, if it was even a voice, always spoke in soft tones, and at odd times. The lure of the sea that seeped through the questions provoked Charlie's adventure lust to painful proportions.

I know what I want but I just don't know how to go about getting it, Charlie would say, lying to himself; Is this oceanic love or is this just confusion?

Charlie had loved a girl in his youth. She seemed fair and pure. She was soft to the touch and she invaded his heart in ways beyond what he allowed. She took him, occupied him and married him. 

Charlie found out it was a mistake the moment he brought her home when the zipper on her wedding dress stuck so firmly closed that she had to be cut out with her own sewing scissors. It was a bad omen. Doomed from the start, the marriage ever so slowly dissolved into non- communicant co-habitation. It was late February when Charlie moved into his truck at the boatyard; it was cold. Sleeping was no problem because Charlie had the peace which comes with freedom. In the fusion of dreamlife and objective reality who really cares what happens anyway thought Charlie as he fell into the dead sleep of no-name vagabonds in timeless flight.

Sitting on the tailgate of his truck, drinking coffee, watching the sun rise, while enjoying the fresh clarity of the savagely potent thoughts made morning Charlie's best time. This was when Charlie would plan out in his mind the details of the boat's design that were left off his formal design drawings. The details were good. They softened the harshness of an unfeeling and hostile world for him. 

Boatbuilding was a labor of love for Charlie. He was content to sit in the morning sun and sharpen the blades of his chisels, knives, and planes in preparation of the day's shipwright wood butchery. Charlie would build on his boat until the sun reached its zenith and the heat of the day grew too intense to work in. After working he liked to walk down to the harbor to sit in the shade and dream of faraway places.

The smell of salt air in the presence of all those boats would put Charlie's boatbrain into turbo boost. Ideas would click and whirl around in his subconscious mind destined to be given freedom when they surfaced in the morning light of Charlie's one man tailgate parties in the boatyard.

Charlie loved the sea since boyhood. He used to hitchhike through miles of city streets to get to the beach in order to go body surfing. He always wanted to board surf but was unable to because his eyes were so bad that he couldn't see the waves for takeoff while sitting up on the board. But in bodysurfing your eyes are at the water level making it easier to judge the wave for a steeper face from a lower angle in the water. Charlie was able to become an expert body surfer. When he was in high school he spent every summer day at the beach waiting for the big south swells that would roll in from antarctica or from Mexican Chubascos.

The timing and power of the waves were true mystery to Charlie. Why, for example, would they sometimes crumble gently from the top as they broke and later would spit roaring curls. Charlie was thirty years old before he made the connection between the sun, moon, tides, and wave shape.

Charlie's first boat existed only in his mind, having been put there by a children's story about sailing away to the land of Winken Blinken and Nod. The idea of sailing out into the night afloat on a sea of stars created something in his eight year old mind that aged him forever but kept him immutably young. This something was dark, undulating, and wavelike in form; like the interface between the two fluids of air and water at the surface of the ocean. This boundary layer was just the wall between then and now; between past, present and future--all in all you're just an other brick in the wall.

Bedtime grew evermore incredible as he entered into his teenage years. This wall between sleep and awake became a stomping ground for the young explorer reaching into the rooms of his mind that had never been opened until some unseen hand ran through them all pressing the doorbell of each room suddenly making the path to their existence known.

When Charlie tried to talk of these places he was quickly shut up by the instant askance looks from his juvenile earthbound cohorts.

Every now and then someone would come along and let drop some clue that they too knew of such places. But like the dreams from which you cannot wake from, the effort to speak was nullified by the inability of the mind to formulate the patterns of speech which could make sense of the subject and the opportunity to discuss the surreal would vanish in a Cheshire smile. The reality of these kinds of places appeared so easy to see but so confusing to talk about.

But ain't that life, thought Charlie, and wasn't it funny how all things that seemed worth while also seemed destined to be shrouded in mystery.

In his twenty-fourth year, boats came to Charlie and infested his mind with boatbrain. It started innocently enough with a noon sail for an hour or so with a friend who knew just enough about sailing to be dangerous. But it was enough introduction for Charlie and soon he started taking out rental boats during his lunch hour for a quick sail, but he soon learned that there was no such thing a predictably quick sail by arriving late for work on several occasions after being becalmed in the shift between morning and afternoon winds.

Still, these rental boats had no bite to them, they were like faceless hookers dispensing a quickie then vanishing leaving no memory other than a vague feeling of the event itself. These rental boats were gross representations of boats, with their faded, crazed gel coats in gawdy colors, with a steel pipe for a tiller and blown out, shapeless sails.

Charlie, in his blind enthusiasm, did not know enough to find fault with these boats. It was a beginning boatbrain infestation but Charlie didn't discover it for sure until he woke up at his first boatyard tailgate party, alone.

A real boat is alive. A real boat will take care of you long after you cannot take care of yourself. When the wind blows a gale and the seas build real big and it gets, for a moment, much too intense to face, in a real boat you can lash every thing, set the self steering windvane and go below and cower, meditate, eat a good meal, and by any means possible get your head straightened out to meet the challenge of the elements. A real boat will thread her way through the seas, or ride like a cork a few points off the wind with the bow rising to meet the oncoming press of the ocean waves. In this time you can sit below and wonder how you could have ever made such a foolhardy decision to come out to sea. At times you can even make deals with god that if he gets you out of this, that you'll spend the rest of your days in his service landbound, if only he will get you back to the beach again.

But when the clearing blows through and the weather turns nice all fear and miscomfort is forgotten along with any promises made. The immense beauty replaces the hardness of bad weather with such vengeance that it is not possible to remember the hardships or even that they ever existed. The sea is a seduction and the boat is a temptress coyly taking you ever deeper into its mystery.

The boat is alive with curves in every structure of form. There are sheer curves, deck beam cambers, cabin house roof crown, anchor chain catenary, but most lovely of all is the lofty blossom of the sail foil shapes piercing the sky. Everything in a boat has a balance to it, a relation to an other part of the vessel. The weight and shape of the keel to the placement and area of the sails, for example. If the designer knew his craft then the boat steers with the tiller held lightly with your fingertips. If the design is poor or has been violated by the compromise of subsequent modification, it might take all your strength and an elbow lock to hold the wayward bitch on course. Real boats steer with your finger tips, or even can steer themselves. A real boat will take care of you long after you cannot take care of yourself.

Charlie's mind draws back to the present as he looks toward the shore of the fast approaching land and the end of his voyage. For the first time in the trip he is afraid. There is no uncertainty to life at sea. Life makes sense, there is a real reason for every occurrence at sea. If the wind is hard, that is ok because that is what is. If it happens it happens. Sure, you are prudent. You do what is necessary at the time it is necessary, not before not later, just at precisely the right time. There is the occasional preemptory move in anticipation of a squall perhaps, but for the most part every thing is done in natural flow to the need of necessity and not for any form or protocol. That is reserved for time in port.

Port. Home port. Home was approaching at what seemed to be lightspeed. Too damn spooky. The dream of a voyage has turned real, leaving the lone mariner no refuge from the trial ahead. He searched his being for the answers that just didn't exist. It seemed as if he had forgotten how to live on the land and he was afraid, so afraid, what would he do, what would he say, what would he wear, where would he work, who was there to care for him? He didn't need anybody, so he could not understand how he could so desperately want that special somebody, particularly when he knew she was dead, trapped inside a rotting wedding dress out in the labyrinth recesses of his blue fog memory. How unexpected it was for her to follow him so incessantly, even in death she continued to haunt him. As far as he tried to run, she was always there waiting for him before he arrived.

Even as he is returning from so long a voyage of escape, he has yet to see that escape was never possible. Out in the world of things, home becomes the place to escape to, but not so if you're running away from home like this lonesome mariner. He was really afraid to face the inevitable crash landing from the heights of glory, of being at sea. All the petty little failures of life seem erased at sea only to be remembered in flood of reentry pain upon reaching port. Under different times it might have been different. But for now Charlie had to face facts. This voyage was just about over.

Scanning the horizon to the left then shifting slightly right to continue the full circular pass, Charlie breathes in the deep, musky solace of nostalgia. Back in home waters, funny how you know you're in them even with your eyes closed. Granted, the night air brings with it pieces of the land in scents wafting invisible even before the sounds of a familiar city in slowly rising crescendo brings full quietus to a voyage well done.


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