What is more intimidating than a pure white canvas? Martha pondered in her drawing room as her fingertips tingled in excitement to add color and life to the dead white void in front of her. An entire world lay on the other side.
“Are ye’ lost, young lady?” Seamus asked the woman who for the past hour had been starring with a contented smile over the dock with her back to a crate.
“I…” Martha began, but she trailed off as she realized that she was not where she expected to be. “…am lost. Who are you?”
“Well, I’m Seamus,” he replied after a chuckle. He did not expect Martha’s answer and found her state of mind amusing. “And this, Miss, is Where We Are. I don’t have a better name to give it, but this is the brightest I’ve ever seen it. What did you do?”
“My name is Martha, but I don’t quite follow what you mean. What did I do? I didn’t do anything. I don’t even know how I came here.”
Seamus was not particularly surprised at her answer. Rather, he was filled with joy in seeing the dock, which seemed to have been given new life. Seamus knew the town and everything in it well. Before Martha had shown up that day, however, Seamus’s knowledge of his town was only a vague perception of where the events of his story transpired. That day it had come alive, and Seamus had a sneaking suspicion about why that was.
“What’s the last thing you remember, Martha?”
“Nothing,” she replied, but she had to think hard before continuing. “I was just fooling around with some paints. Now, I’m just…here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this place before.”
“I doubt you have, Miss. My own little journey only recently brought me to this town. I could tell you the tale if you have time to spare for a withered old man.”
Martha glanced around to consider her options. Of course, she had nowhere else to be. She lacked the impression of danger and urgency that usually accompanies being lost in a new world. Content where she was, she was now intrigued at the thought of the stories Seamus had to tell her. “I’d love to hear your story, Seamus.” So Seamus extended a hand to Martha to help her off her feet. Once standing, Martha took the old gentleman’s arm and the two began walking away from the dock.
Without even a moment of hesitation to collect his thoughts, Seamus began rattling off his adventures as though he had told them a million times. Martha was instantly captured by the story. She had a constant string of questions in her mind, but never had to ask a single one. Time after time, as soon as her question burned hot enough to make her interrupt Seamus, he would answer it naturally through the story. In a matter of minutes, Martha felt like she knew everything about Seamus; and yet the man in front of her was a complete mystery. The Seamus in front of her was completely disassociated from the Seamus she was being told about. The man in the story was someone she was close to, someone she cared about, someone she could say she loved. Seamus was just the narrator. In time, she would learn to associate the two. For now, she listened to the old man talk about the villain who had wronged him, the friends who had carried him, and the woman he had loved.
As they went their way through town, she imagined the scenes, the colors and shadows, and the story came alive. Seamus appeared as captured by the scenes around them as Martha was to the story being told. Just as the dock had been wondrously given magnificence, the black and white pictures that Seamus diligently described appeared before them with a flourish of color and character to fill in the lines. They walked for hours this way until they approached a fog where the story was neglected and the lines blurred.
“I haven’t been at home in a long time…” Seamus uttered with reminiscence. His adventures had taken him away from what he used to consider most precious.
He began a new story. This story was not an adventure; it was harder for Martha to follow it, but slowly the fog began to clear. The house itself was an ordinary little house with the usual signs of age and neglect. She could see that there had been regular effort in the past to tend the garden out front, but the same care had not been put into it for quite some time. One thing in particular stood out to Martha: Seamus never described what was in the garden—within the withered picket fence. There was a loss of life within the garden and no attempt to recapture that flower or replenish the fruit. The patches of grass and weeds testified to what once was there. Seamus’s home stood off from the town’s sharp, flourishing color. It was washed in different light—a family, diminished.
“Thank you, Martha, for accompanying me this evenin’. I hope I haven’t kept you too long. You should get home before it gets dark,” Seamus ended, difficulty in his tone.
“It’s my pleasure, Seamus,” Martha replied, but wished to say more.
The time for stories was over. Seamus went through the gate and into his home, leaving Martha to finish her evening by finding her own home in this new world.
Taken from the 2019 edition of Artos, the literary journal of Bethlehem College & Seminary students. Art by I. Indermitte, AA ’20