The porch is enchanted, but it’s the only way into the house. As far back as I can remember, there has been a secret surrounding my grandfather’s fishing house.
My favorite place to daydream is on the rickety back porch with piles of lobster traps. It’s hidden behind several tall pines, a lilac bush, and my grandfather’s wall of sea roses. The house sits on the shore of Rockland Harbor, not too far from the famous breakwater.
Grandfather warned me many times to stay off the porch at high tide. Whenever I asked why “high tide,” he simply snapped, “It’s too dangerous—stay off the porch!”
I didn’t dare question him about the stories I’d heard in the village. Some say a siren was trapped under the porch and died there during a storm. Others say my grandfather had trapped a sea witch under the porch, and she had him under her spell. Either way, people say the house is haunted, and for decades town folk have avoided the place all together.
Except for me, on days like today, when the tide would come right up to the house, and grandfather was out fishing. The sun favors the porch, bathing it with warm summer light, making it the perfect spot for sunning, daydreaming. I like to sit with my feet dangled off into the foamy sea water. Listening for the sound of the siren, scanning the water; the pungency of sulfur and seaweed tickle my nose, mixing with the familiar perfume of Maine sea roses in bloom. I dipped my toes down deeper into the water.
Maybe her voice is like a seagull, or maybe it’s more like a mother’s lullaby. I strained my ears to hear anything alluring from the sea, as it lapped against the porch. A piece of seaweed wrapped around one toe, and my heart raced. Bending forward, my curiosity pulled me towards the edge to peek under the porch and into the circles of foamy water. I tried not to imagine what might be waiting for me there. Maybe I’ll find her staring back at me with eyes as black as tar, razor-sharp nails full of slugs that would tighten around my ankle, pulling me from the porch, my head bouncing off the wood into her slimy, green world of enchantment. The sea-witch would suck on my wounds for dessert, with her single rotten tooth. A tail fin shimmering with slithery scales wrapping around my torso. Once caught by the siren, not even my grandfather could pull me loose from the spell of their secret. I’m sure this was why he warned me to stay off of the porch.
The sound of a boat’s motor snapped me out of the daydream. Shaking free of the seaweed, I pulled myself up and darted into the house. Closing the windows’ white, linen curtain, I peeked out at the waves crashing against the porch. Grandfather was arriving home with a load of treasures. My heart continued to race. Had he seen me out there? There would be sharp words if he had seen me on the porch at high tide.
Yet, no matter how many times I find my way to the porch or how often I imagine her, the siren keeps my secret, remaining silent, and so had I.
An overwhelming 88 stories were submitted for the contest. In the end seventeen writers were chosen. Their stories are told with depth, insight, candor, irony, wit and humor. Anyone who has every visited Maine’s coast will be able to relate to them. They’ve put humankind’s instinctive emotional connection with the sea into words.
The Maine Humanities Council provided a grant for our project that enabled the Solon Center to donate books to libraries across Maine. MHC is a statewide non-profit organization that uses the humanities, “as a tool for positive change in Maine communities.”
Please ask your local bookstore to order it in for you or, if need be, purchase itHERE. All photographic art is available through Gallery Fukurouat info(at)soloncenter.org.
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Visit PEN for in-depth coverage of how America is addressing the climate crises. Systemic racism has held back progress, along with the deep pockets of industry that don’t want to change the status quo.
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