Lisa Lipkind Leibow and Amy Fullman

Aimee Fullman

Inspiration Piece


How Barnaby Becomes a Bond Slave

Lisa Lipkind Leibow


That night, after sharing a pint with a few blokes at the public house on the corner of Goswell Street and Swan Alley, Barnaby dreams he is a rat on the sidewalk. An enormous condor snatches him up, skyward, and gone. The dream so vivid, he can feel sharp talons tight around his flanks, digging into his gut. The creature soars into a storm cloud and releases its grip, sending Barnaby plummeting toward the earth. The condor flaps its great wings and flies out of sight, leaving Barnaby alone in the sky. In his dream, Barnaby doesn’t realize he can’t fly. He flails his arms and legs, expecting to glide. Instead, he finds himself tumbling through the clouds like a ship tossed by a white-capped sea.

“Give the lad another drink!” one of the blokes at the pub insisted, emptying a small flask into the pint of ale before handing it to Barnaby. “Let’s drink! To new mates.” The bloke tapped Barnaby’s tankard with his own pint of dark brew. “Swig it down in one gulp. That’s the way we do it here in Swan Alley.” The bloke raised the pint to his lips and locked eyes on Barnaby.

Barnaby, so caught up in the intensity of the bloke’s instructions, and by the sureness in his eye contact, did what he was told and downed the pint in one continuous guzzle. The tankard handle was icy in his grip. His nose pierced the foamy head on the ale. A sickly-sweet almond odor contradicted the bitter tang. The flavor transformed as it hit his lips, washed over his tongue, and slid down his gullet. First syrup followed by fermented wheat, next, briny low tide seawater and finally, pungent, warm, horse piss.

The public house is suddenly a soaring condor and Barnaby is locked in its talons like a rat. Sharp gusts, littered with hail and rain, sting his eyes and nose and mouth. The sky is black nothingness. In the darkness, he hangs limp in the condor’s clutches and all he can smell is rotten fish. He is surprised that the smell of death can become so concentrated in the vast sky.

“Let’s move him over here,” maybe it was the bloke from the pub, maybe some other chap who said this. Two burly men hoisted Barnaby by the armpits and dragged him up the gangway. Barnaby’s uncle always said the difference between Barnaby and his brother was that his brother didn’t trust anyone. Barnaby saw the good in all folks so would easily make friends and feel welcomed wherever he roamed. But it wasn’t a matter of trust. It was a matter of judgment. Iciness fills Barnaby’s lungs and spreads to his arms and his legs, to his hands and his feet, to his fingers and his toes. The chill makes his teeth chatter.

Barnaby squints in the darkness but all he can really make out are clustered pinpoints of light, which appear to be constellations. He mumbles, “North Star,” with swollen tongue, cracked lips.

He hears squawking, or is it talking? The noise is muffled and nudging at his ears from above. Rising bile begins to exert pressure against Barnaby’s stomach, rising up into his throat. A gurgling noise comes from his gut at a decibel that overwhelms both the moaning from his lips and the creaking of the floorboards as the ground beneath sways. A polluted mess erupts from his throat. There is no stopping this from happening. This is it, he thinks. This is how it ends. Barnaby’s head lolls on his neck, woozy. He struggles to open his eyes. His lids too heavy and his head too achy like his brain is too big for his skull. Where is he? He forces against the weight of his eyelids. Each time they rise and fall, he makes out translucent haze, slivers of gray soot in a muted world. Flashes of blue sky shine through triangular, mud-covered windows. In one of his last thoughts, Barnaby wonders how much had he had to drink at Swan Alley? Was the bloke from the pub sick too?

Up above the hollow darkness and the filthy windows, colors wave in the wind, sails billow from the mast of a tall ship, and their freedom taunts Barnaby.

Barnaby comes to on the wooden planks that make the lower deck floor, his head next to a puddle of his own vomit. He opens his eyes and watches a crab scuttle behind a wooden chest clad in iron. The details of his whereabouts and how long he’s been unconscious are unclear. He inhales and exhales, wiggles his toes, arches his back, and blinks his eyes a few times. He is alive, but where? He gets on all fours and then cautiously, deliberately maneuvers himself to standing position.

He looks up through the glass panes in the ceiling. Who would imagine such a barrier? He once dreamed of sailing away. He imagined the salty air nourishing his lips, making his skin feel as if the promise of morning dew – as if anything – were possible. But here he finds himself, inexplicably free of the land. Yet, he feels suffocated and feeble, the whole world beyond his grasp.

Above him on the upper deck, the sail stretches taught with the force of the wind. The masts of the tall ship tower above, piercing a lone fluffy white cloud in the clear blue sky. The colors wave above – flags of red, yellow, black, and blue.

The upper deck of the London Tall Ship is wrapped in golden rope and filigree. The bow of the ship is adorned with a five-pointed star set in a wreath. The sun obstructs the lettering of the company name so that only “CUT,” “K,” and “LON” are visible. He lets his mind churn on these symbols. Searching for meaning in a meaningless vision is a waste of time. He knows it.