It was a dark and stormy night. The dull beam emanating from the hilltop lighthouse shivered, blinked, and finally sputtered all the way off. The crew of the small craft now had no light to guide them through the treacherous Canadian Maritime shoals. That they might hit the rocks and capsize or be torn asunder was unthinkable. Not only did they fear for their own lives but also for the safety of the special cargo entrusted to them as they had set off on this lengthy voyage. Cargo that was so precious that when the uniformed strangers placed it in the cargo hold, they swore the crew to utmost secrecy. “Aye, aye,” had claimed the captain, “What cargo, eh?” with a conspiratorial wink which the serious strangers did not reciprocate. In truth the captain had no idea who the strangers were nor what lay secret in the ship’s hold. All he knew was that this voyage would result in the crew filling their pockets with decent silver.
A fresh gale, ferocious in its intensity and seemingly intent on overturning the boat, grew ever more threatening. The sailors aboard, weather-seasoned and skilled, managed to keep the craft upright upon the heaving seas. Yet with no stars and no lighthouse, they could no more relax their guard for even a moment than dance a merry jig.
The crew passed a night wavering between frissons of terror and unexpected powerful bursts of hope, and finally the storm abated. The weak sun fought its way through the remaining clouds, and they sailed ahead on calmer seas. They could now see how close they had come to dangerous rocky promontories. It was almost as if by magic that they had felt hope in their hearts and passed through the night in safety. Soon they reached their designated landing spot, whereupon they were met by more uniformed strangers, who showed the requisite identification, unloaded the cargo, and paid the crew.
It was a dark and stormy night. A night in which even fearless prowling tomcats stayed close to home; banshees shrieked, and ghosts and goblins roamed the countryside. A night in which all good children were snug in their beds. All good children, that is, except Maddie O’Herlihy.
Maddie was aware of an oddity in the night, an oddity beyond the raging storm. She put on her mackintosh and her galoshes, and tiptoed silently out the front door. The wind lashed at her, but she paid it no heed. “What was so odd?” she wondered, and then it hit her with full force – the lighthouse at the headland was off! “Oh no”, shivered Maddie, “What if there are boats out there, now blinded in the storm?”
She conjured up powerful thoughts of safety and hope and sent these out as far as she could, over the buckling seas. Maddie’s gran Moira was known to possess “the sight” and thought that Maddie had it too. This night would prove that so.
It was only years later that the crew of the small boat found out that they had been part of Operation Fish, wherein British wealth was stealthily transported to Canada for safekeeping, at the start of World War Two. After they were awarded their medals, they could now talk freely of their experience.
“Ah, as we were close to landing, it was a dark and stormy night: no lighthouse, no stars. We feared for our lives. But then we could feel powerful rays of hope like they were coming from the rocky shore, and we knew we would make it through. It was like magic.”
Listening to this radio broadcast in the hilltop house an ocean away, Maddie and her gran smiled at each other “Magic indeed, if ye choose to call it that.”
Marilyn Myerson, PhD Philosophy, has learned to take nothing for granted and to have fun. She retired from USF after 38 years of teaching, learning and kicking up her heels in Women’s and Gender Studies. Marilyn was the first outside hire in W(G)S, starting in 1973, when the department was just one year old. She was an administrator at various departmental and dean’s levels, including a stint as W(G)S Chair before her retirement as Emeritus faculty in 2010. She shepherded the Human Sexual Behavior class through its many incarnations, developed the original women’s health classes, and taught feminist research methodology. She is currently in three writing groups, and happily involved with OLLI-USF, taking art and writing classes. She created and teaches OLLI Imaginative Writing classes and facilitates writing groups.