Friday Writing

I got completely distracted with being a musician this week, and didn’t get any writing done aside from a few lines of song here and then. In honor of the fact that music is what sidetracked me, I’ve been sifting through old writings inspired by specific songs and came up with one that’s passable enough to throw up here. If you want to click through to the entire writing, you can so here:

Sarah Burke

If you’d like to just read the one scene involving music, the scene I chose this piece for, check it out right below this, although I’d like to make a side note that I wasn’t able to format the song lyrics the way I liked. WordPress keeps left-justifying everything; anyone know how to fix that?

Anyhow, read on:

Robert turned again, trying to find a more comfortable position in his hammock – a task of questionable do-ability. “Robert, stop squirming,” Cynthia’s voice lazed across the darkness, making the captain wish even more fervently that he could sleep.

“I can’t sleep,” he finally admitted.

“Then go on deck.”

A sensible solution.  The pirate rolled out of his hammock and grabbed his boots, treading softly across the plank floors and out into the night.  He paused a moment to put the boots on, then started to casually pace the deck, passing a genial nod with the night watchmen.

He reached the helm in short order. “Anything to report, sailor?”

“No, sir.  Nothin’ out o’ the ordinary,” replied the grubby second mate.

“Good.”  Robert turned to face the back of the ship, watching where they had been.  Nothing but ocean for miles.  Very uneventful. But not dull enough to lull him to sleep.

A sound rose, pure and clear through the night, shimmering and ephemeral.  A human voice, full of pathos, but unintelligible.  Robert turned back to his second mate. “It’s to be hoped we’re not passing the sirens, Hogan,” he commented.

“I should ‘ope not, sir.”

The man grinned, making Robert sure that he knew what it was.  Pirates were superstitious by nature; the whole night crew should have been up in arms against whatever was making that sound. “What is it?”

“It be Miss Smith, as you calls her, sir.  She come out many a night, after Master Eric’s asleep, she do, and stand in the prow so as to watch where’s we’re goin’.”  Hogan nodded in a satisfied way. “She don’t always sing, sir, but we don’ mind it when she do.”  He shrugged hairy shoulders. “We like t’ consider it a priv’lige of bein’ out at night, sir.”

“She remains unmolested?” Robert’s voice was sharp.

“Well, sir…” The sailor hemmed and hawed, but at the Captain’s increasingly displeased look he blurted, “After the rumors heard tell about how she treated you, Captain, none o’ us wanted a go at it.”

Robert stifled a groan and a laugh at the same time, instead saying dryly, “I daresay it was an excellent decision.”  He nodded. “Carry on.”  Then he walked away, taking the most roundabout route he could find, but obviously headed toward the prow.

Miss Smith – Sarah – she still hadn’t admitted what her name was to him – had become a staple to the ship since her brother’s rescue had brought her down off her high horse.  Not to say that she didn’t still make sparks fly; they just seemed like sparks to light fireworks rather than sparks to blow up a ship.

Now that they weren’t constantly crossing swords to kill, Robert found her to be witty, charming, biting, humorous, and deeply intelligent by turns.  He even caught himself wishing for her conversation occasionally, to relieve his mind or to help him work through a particularly knotty problem.  The odd thing was that whenever he did, she seemed to appear.  She drew him out by baiting and coaxing him by turns, acting disinterested then hanging on every word, always with that slightly mocking smile, until he had told her everything he had never realized he wished.

Sarah opened to him a little, but still he knew there were some things about her that he didn’t even come close to understanding.  Why the mocking smile so often became hard, almost disillusioned, or why she flared or completely locked herself up over certain things, particularly her brother and her fiancé.

Robert grimaced at the thought of Bryant Manning and almost turned back to Cynthia’s cabin, to find sleep whether sleep would or no.  It was dangerous to be toting around a pirate hunter’s fiancée but what could he do, short of put Sarah and Eric into a long boat and wishing them luck?

As he hesitated, he realized that the words Sarah was singing had become clear.  He moved closer, listening, wondering at the deep despair and sorrow he heard in every note of the unfamiliar song.

Dreams rise and dreams fall
Caressing my heart.
Sailing an ocean
I’ve left – cold, dark.

Intangible dreams –
Wisps on the air.
Nothing, and nothing,
Grown in despair

Promises come to,
Then turn; from me flee.
Life takes its treasures
And leaves me the lees.
The harder and closer I push to the shore,
Then harder and dearer I feel need to moor…

Robert was standing at her shoulder and she hadn’t even looked up, transfixed by the stars melting into the vast, empty ocean. But he couldn’t listen any longer, for fear his very heart would break.  “What are the lees?”

Sarah jumped and turned, jerking her arm around in a backhanded slap that sent Robert reeling as her other fist came around for an uppercut.  Thankfully, she stopped before said fist connected with Robert’s jaw, her mouth hanging open in mortification.  “Oh, Robert.  I’m so sorry!” She hurried over to him as he caressed his jaw.  “Let me see it.”  She pulled his protective hand away and turned his face to the light of the moon. She sighed, letting her hand drop uselessly to her side. “You’ll have a beautiful bruise from that one.”  The harsh smile curled her lip.  “At least I didn’t get you with the other.”

“Do you realize you only call me Robert if you’re frightened or contrite? And you have to be very upset, even then.”  Sarah shrugged, unimpressed.  Robert tried again. “Where did you learn to hit like that?”

Sarah turned back to the front of the ship.  “I really am sorry, Captain Bobby,” she emphasized the nickname subtly.  “You oughtn’t to sneak up on a lady.”

Robert, feeling unreasonably bold, leaned on the rail next to her. “You also realize that you never answer questions when I ask them of you?  Not even if it’s a harmless inquiry after your breakfast.”

“Does that bother you, Captain?”

“It does.”

This appeared to startled Sarah even more than his sudden, silent appearance had.  Discomposed, she let her hands wander up and down the rail, rubbing away morsels of salt. “I wasn’t aware that you cared,” she commented after a moment.

“I didn’t say that,” replied Robert immediately, sounding nonchalant. “I only said it bothered me.”

Sarah looked at him squarely. “Now my good man, don’t be ridiculous.  If you didn’t care, it wouldn’t bother you.”

Robert looked down at her, studying her face. “I suppose you’re right,” he said quietly.

Sarah turned back to the rail, bracing herself against it.  “I’m sorry I offend in not answering you directly.  It’s an old habit, and not one I practice with forethought much of the time.”

“What are the lees?”

Sarah almost brushed him off again, but he lifted a finger to warn her. She laughed, rubbing her forehead.  “It is a bad habit,” she admitted before explaining, “The lees are the dregs – the bottom of the barrel, if you will.”

Robert considered that for a moment. “You have a beautiful voice.”

“Thank you.”

“I think it almost a sin that someone as young and promising as yourself should be able to sing that piece with such intimate understanding.”

“You didn’t like it?”

“It was exquisite.  Your understanding added layers to the otherwise obvious charms of the piece.  That is what I did not care for.”

“You don’t like understanding?”

“I don’t like to think of that kind of understanding being in you.”

Sarah became suddenly spirited, titling her chin defiantly. “Who says I understand, Captain Bobby?  Perhaps I am simply a marvelous actress.”

“Don’t be vulgar,” reprimanded Robert, trying not to be amused.

“I am never vulgar.  Often blunt to the point of embarrassment, but never vulgar.”

Robert nodded his concession, then pursued his original vein. “You do understand.  I could hear it.”  Sarah only gave him that mocking smile.  Robert’s dark good looks set themselves, as they did when he was determined to see the course to the end. “Do not mock yourself in this fashion, my dear Miss Smith.”


“Yes, indeed.  Nor should you be so boastful.”

“Again, sir.  I?”

“And again, yes.  You must be very proud, indeed, to believe that you could break the heart of a hardened pirate without the aid of real understanding.”

Sarah’s face suddenly melted into confusion, quickly superseded by compassion.  “You are not a hardened pirate, Robert,” she told him earnestly, then laughed a little, meeting his eyes. “You see, I can call you by name without being frightened or contrite.”  Robert gave her a searching glance from beneath his set brows, and her looks changed again, back to confusion. “How could I touch –  how did I…” she trailed off and leaned on the rail again, staring down at the waves breaking on the prow of the ship.

Robert reached forward, hesitated, then wrapped a lock of her hair around his finger and tugged at it gently.  “Why do you understand, Miss Smith?  And why won’t you let anyone else understand with you?  Even Cynthia and Eric tell me they know nothing more of you than I, and yet you know more of us than we do. Is that fair?”

Sarah glanced at him, that smile curling the corners of her mouth.  “Am I so much an object of interest to all of you?” Before Robert could answer, she reached up and took his hand in both of hers, bringing it down between them.  The smile changed happily. “My name, Captain, is Sarah. Miss Sarah Burke.”

The Captain bowed. “A pleasure, Miss Burke.  Truly a pleasure,” he assured her gravely.  He hesitated as a sudden thought struck him. “Miss Burke – Sarah…” he stopped, flushing at his own boldness.

Sarah didn’t seem surprised, simply clasped her hands behind her back and inquired innocently, “Yes?”

“Might I share with you a thought I have just had?”

“A thousand, Captain, if they are worth my time.”

“That I cannot promise; only that I think it is.”

“Then I shall listen, and judge for myself.”

Having come this far, Robert hesitated again, unsure.  Then, looking out at the sea, he spoke, his voice falling into a smooth, rich cadence as he quoted the psalmist: “ My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved.”  He paused, ready for Sarah to let fly a biting retort, but she didn’t speak.  So he finished. “In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.

“Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.”

There was silence between them, and the captain feared he had gone too far.  Sarah had never spoken of God with him, and he had never attempted it.  Except for the once she had thanked God for Eric’s being saved, she had never mentioned Him. It hadn’t occurred to Robert until now that she might be mad at Him, for whatever reasons haunted the dark parts of her soul.

Finally, he pushed back from the rail, thinking to walk away, but Sarah’s voice, soft and low, stopped him.  She had begun to sing:

Let not sorrow overwhelm me,
Though I toil through all my days.
May Thy Spirit find me willing
To walk in better ways!
And when through Thee, Christ, my Savior,
I am brought into Thy peace,
May I, grateful, fall before Thee,
And sing praise of Thy love!
Take my heart and bind it to Thee,
Till I reach my home above.

There were a few warm tears on Robert’s cheeks now, and Sarah reached up and brushed them away with the back of her hand.  “You brought to mind the words of my mother,” she told him gently.  “I could not help but sing them.”

She pulled her hand away, examining it critically as she added, “I have a confession to make, Reverend Robert.” Robert shook his head with a smile. “God and I haven’t always been on the best of terms.”  She looked up and fearlessly met his eyes. “We’ve had a rough road of it.  But you, Robert – still to trust in God, after all that has happened?”

It was a plea for understanding, so Robert answered, “I would not be here, after all that has happened, if it weren’t for trust in God.”  He chuckled. “I’d be a drunken ruffian on an island overflowing with rum and loose women.”

“And you said the Holy Book was a blotting pad,” Sarah laughed, then studied the deck for a minute before looking up again. “I miss Him, I think.  Do you suppose you could teach me?” She offered him the sardonic smile.  “Perhaps your years in preacher school will be of some help.”

Surprised, the pirate captain answered, “I would be honored, Sarah.” Robert couldn’t help the gruffness in his voice, and Sarah couldn’t help but tease him for it, he could tell by the look on her face.

So he changed the subject.  “Sing for me,” he demanded, cutting her off. Sarah arched an eyebrow, managing to look down at him over her slightly large nose.  “In exchange,” he amended.

“Not a good enough reason, my dear sir.”

“Why not?”

“I know you’ll teach me, even if I don’t sing.”

She had him there. “Please sing – something without pathos.” He paused. “Oh, I suppose you don’t know anything like that.”  He sighed. “Well, goodnight, Miss Smith…”

He started to walk away, but she stopped him with a hand on his sleeve. She was grinning at him. “You are good.”


Sarah turned back to the rail. “Fine, trot off to bed.”

Robert returned to stand next to her. “I can’t sleep.”  Silence. “Perhaps something to soothe me, since you seem to have such excessive power over my senses?”

Sarah tilted her head to the side, considered the railing.  “Sound reasoning,” she pronounced finally, then took a deep breath and began to sing:

Life-light is
Burning bright
Deep in the starlit
Breathtaking beauty
Of earth,
and the heavens,
And all of the beauty


About Carolynn the Dyer

If I've learned one thing by having three children in four years, it's that babies are not, in fact, the best birth control. ... Okay, just kidding. I've really learned that laughter is the only way to survive the wilds of parenthood, and life in general. Also, that it is indeed possible to do dishes, parent, and carry on a conversation at the same time. If that sounds like fun, or just impossible, then come join me on my blog--and join me in the jungle.
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