Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—-


“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”
“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.
“I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, nodding determinedly. “She’ll see.”
From where she sat she could see the river and many boats on it. At first she used to think that so many different kinds of boats on one river in one place was just a dream. All of them beautiful, all of them pretty against the sparkling blue water. White sailboats against the summer sky in the horizon, huge cruise ships returning at dusk, even flat barges carrying garbage that glinted in the sun.

The squalor and the morbidity of the rest of the city, nay the rest of the world seemed far away, hidden behind razor sharp shiny buildings as though the dust and the shabbiness was sifted away by some invisible hand towards the periphery of this glorious center of the world. She knew those other places could be reached via long train rides through dark tunnels and when the subway emerged out of the ground, it was another world.

Mostly, she didn’t know where the boats came from or where they might be going. But most were ferries or tourist boats or private vessels for recreation purposes so the pursuit of beauty would keep them trapped in this part of the river bordering the nice parts of the city.

At first all those boats had seemed whole from a distance against the gorgeous skyline. All those tourists in their perfect boats cruising through a perfect life on a perfect river.

It was a lot like a still photograph—a snapshot of the beautiful life. Where was the wrong course, the wasted trip, the mistaken turn? The torn sail, the thinning hull, the failing part, the broken mast? Where were all the retired vessels? What about those travelers who, saturated with beauty, wanted to turn back and start over in a changeable and less perfect snapshot of the world?

As clear as day the weaknesses of many boats stand out at mid-day. They probably know they won’t fit the snapshot for much longer. Yet they row on their broken boats catching the wind on their broken sails keeping afloat as long as they can moving towards the conclusion of their journeys as though it were the beginning.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

12 thoughts on “Boats”

  1. I’m curious… is this flash fiction inspired by Gatsby? Or part of a larger work? A snapshot of looking out at the Hudson River? You write with a bit of distance, but it is beautiful and intriguing…


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