Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Irritated (11/08/12)
TITLE: The Legacy of the Pearl
By Loren T. Lowery
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Millimeter by millimeter, bits of rock shattered and calved away from mountain. Fragmented stones became pelting showers that descended into streams that grew into liquid sandstorms. Smoothed and refined in the crucible of the swirling waters, the sand was emptied along the shores of the ocean.
Here, lapping waves curried the sand deeper into its bosom where it lay undisturbed but for centuries of lazy ocean currents and trek of meandering sea creatures.
It was here, in this peaceful dunned landscape, that mollusk later arrived and along with it a name for the sea of their ancestry, the Pacific Ocean; and later still, the valley of their home, the Sea of Cortez.
One such mollusk, a Silver-lipped Oyster - away from the cluster of its clinging brothers - found a safe haven beneath the overhang of a rubbled mound. Here, in the green, brine-filtered sunlight, it formed a hinged mantle around itself where bits of food would slip between its two shells to feed its delicate organs. It did not have eyes, but could sense light, as a flower would sense light, and close its maw when danger portended in fleeting shadows.
In its sheltered isolated cove, it felt a kinship with all life sharing its watery world, as well as, an affinity to the unseen sea above itself - flying terns, and crying gulls.
But it did not know of man, the creature who had named it. Nor did it know of man’s unique powers to deceive, corrupt or destroy.
Once, by chance of a Yellowtail flipping its pectoral fins on the sandy floor of the oysters’ home, fate for both a man and mollusk changed. Here on the bottom of Sea of Cortez, a tiny bit of sand, calved a millennium ago from the gray-greened mountains to the east, found its way into the oyster’s maw.
In the delicate tissue of the oyster, the sand became an irritant; and to protect itself, the mollusk quickly began to cover the sand with layers of nacre – a substance of itself. And the oyster grew; and as it grew, the layered nacre inside its muscle grew. For twenty years, layer upon layer of nacre coated the grain of sand until a large, iridescent black pearl was formed.
The oyster did not know of the worth hidden within its cavity, it knew nothing of rarity or of beauty – or of man’s greed for both. It knew only of cowering from shadows, filtering food and creating that which would become corrupted only by man’s lust – a pearl.
Now, above the oyster’s dim, brine-lit world, a loin-clothed man in a boat ties a rock around his ankle and tosses it into the sea. It falls within feet of the oyster’s home and the man - feet kicking, eyes searching - soon appears. Silver bubbles begin to rise and veil the landscape. Shadows dart and dance and the oyster flinches in defense.
In moments, it is grabbed and raised above the ocean into a foreign yellow light. It has no ears and unable to hear the excited claims of the man who holds it; neither the reason it has been ripped from its refuge.
The man pulls himself into his rig and raises his prize triumphantly into the air.
But God is not the author of calamity…
An eastern wind hisses across the blue waters. White-foamed waves peak and break. Terns wing in circled frenzy and gulls gather in flapping hoary clouds of thunder. The man’s boat rocks; he bends his knees to sturdy himself, his catch still raised in his hands. other.
Suddenly, a gull sweeps down and with spread talons steals the prized mollusk from his hand. The man clinches his fist in swearing irritation. But, his epitaphs are swallowed in the wind. Diluted and lost words as the oyster is dropped by the gull back into the safety of the sea.
But if the man were to ponder his loss more fully and consider the true legacy of the pearl, possibly his wound would be less raw. He would have found what the oyster had found in dealing with its own irritation – something that had made it to be so prized by man. Irritants healing balm is but a substance found within himself.
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