A cruise is like a novel I don’t want to read.

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THE HOLLAND AMERICA CRUISE up the St. Lawrence River – through, past, and around Nova Scotia – and into Quebec City should have had more twists and turns than a novel I had never read.

Unfortunately, it was like too many novels I have read.

Nothing happened.

There were new locations, good and bad.

There was a steady parade of new characters, bad and worse.

Some talked too much.

Some didn’t talk at all.

Some kept talking after I left, and I left early.

Nothing happened.

We searched the deep water off Maine for whales.

We saw one.

He was a long way off.

He stayed deep.

We stayed as long as we could.

It wasn’t long enough.

We saw a lot of seals.

We saw a lot of dolphins.

I checked the brochure.

We hadn’t paid for a seal watching tour.

No mention was made of the dolphins.

We had sailed the deep waters into cold winds.

Nothing happened.

Halifax had a nice waterfront.

Charlottetown was as picturesque as its name.

It had a host of great old historic houses.

I’m sure their walls could tell a lot of stories.

Those walls witnessed the coming and going of life, love, and death.

I talk to houses.

We weren’t in town long enough to hear the stories.

We walked the streets.

We drank the wine.

I wanted the stories.

Maybe next time, the houses said.

There won’t be a next time.

That’s what my wife said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I don’t do repeats,” she said.

“I think Charlottetown has a lot of great stories,” I said.

“You don’t need them,” she said.

“Why not?”

“You write fiction.”

“So?”

“You’ll lay there tonight and won’t sleep,” she said.

“Maybe.”

“The houses will talk to you then.”

She was right.

There are two problems with cruises.

And water.

Nothing happens.

You walk around the boat once or twice, and you’ve seen the boat.

You hear the guitar picker once, you’ve heard the songs.

You listen to the jazz.

It’s good.

It’s not New Orleans.

It’s clean.

And beautiful, glistening with steel and glass.

Jazz isn’t plush. It’s never plush.

Jazz is down and dirty.

It’s a broken heart.

It’s played in a dump.

It’s a woman crying at midnight.

It’s a soul lost and gone forever.

There were no lost souls on the boat.

Just booze.

I could buy a brewery in New Orleans for what I paid for beer on the boat.

It’s a good place to stay sober.

I couldn’t afford to get drunk.

I wandered from bar to bar.

Nothing happened.

The piano man was good.

He could jump in the middle of a piano and run hard from one end of the scales to the other.

I thought he knew a million songs.

I was impressed.

Then I changed seats and saw he had a computer lying on the piano. It must have listed the words to a million songs, and he was reading every one.

I stopped being impressed.

Nothing else happened.

The cruise director was always smiling.

Eyes wide.

Mouth wide.

Always smiling.

Always chipper.

She could have been a Stepford Wife.

Maybe she was.

She said everything was wonderful, and I believed her.

I waited for something to happen.

It didn’t.

We reached Quebec City, docked, and walked on shore.

I glanced back at the boat.

I looked at my wife.

“Did anything happen?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

She smiled.

“It’s just the way I like it,” she said.

She likes those kinds of novels, too.

Please click the book cover image to read more about Caleb Pirtle III and his books.

Deadline Cover Jul 31

 

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