The Sailor, the Three Sisters, and Hope

A “reprint.”

ONCE upon a time, there was a shipwrecked sailor. He had been knocked out in the storm that sank his ship. He was lucky to wake up on the beach. But he had nothing. Not even his memories. He didn’t even know his name. His only possession aside from the clothes on his back, was a pet pelican. The pelican’s name was Hope.

The man subsisted on coconuts for a time, and then he decided he needed to explore the island that was his new home. After walking for a day and a night, he saw a modest little house next to a small wharf. In the house he found a friendly old man who liked to fish. The old man was kind enough to lend the sailor some of his gear, and his bait. The sailor loved fish after living on coconuts, and he and the old man became fast friends. Every day they’d go down to the end of the wharf, the old man, the sailor, and Hope the pelican.

The old man had three daughters. Their names were History, Logic and Rhetoric. One day, the old man announced he would like the sailor to be his son-in-law. Nobody knew too much about the old man’s finances, but he had put away a tidy sum, and thought it would be just enough to buy a new house. He would be pleased to offer it to the sailor as a dowry.

But one problem remained. Which daughter would the sailor marry? And so it was agreed he would date each one of the daughters, starting with the oldest, and working his way down to the youngest. That night, he spruced himself up just as well as he possibly could, and he, his pet pelican Hope, and the oldest daughter History went walking down the beach in the moonlight.

The sailor found History to be a very sensible lady. She had a decent, working memory and used it to great aplomb. However, the sailor noticed History had a strange relationship with his pet pelican Hope. Sometimes History was very kind to Hope. Othertimes…not so much. He wasn’t always sure if History had a problem with Hope, or whether Hope had a problem with History.

And so it came as a surprise to the sailor when History started to talk seriously about the future. She sensed his concern and asked him to excuse her…she got that way a lot of the time. It was a habit she formed after many long years of noticing most people didn’t think about the future very much.

History continued: “Have you heard of that new housing community on the far side of the island?” No, the sailor had never heard of it. “Taxcutland,” said History. “It’s a wonderful place to live. I know of many people who have bought their houses in Taxcutland, and it has always worked out well for them.” “Is that so?” said the sailor. “Absolutely,” she replied. “In all the time I’ve been around, I’ve never known it to work out poorly for anybody.”

The sailor tossed and turned that night, thinking about his date with History. She did seem to be a very sensible lady, and he got the impression he should pay more attention to her than he did. But her looks bothered him. Sometimes she looked pretty, othertimes rather homely. Occasionally, when the light hit her really wrong, she could be downright ugly. And then there was that thing with Hope the pelican.

The sailor decided he would start dating the middle sister, Logic.

Logic was even more sensible than her older sister, History. Like most middle-children, she had often been neglected in her childhood. In large crowds, when she was ignored completely, she tended to stay by herself and find ways to stay entertained, alone. Logic was most capable; she was able to do amazing things, whereas History had a tendency to leave things more or less exactly the way she found them.

In spite of her personal tendency to stay away from people, Logic seemed to be somewhat more experienced in dating than History. The only problem was, for some reason, men tired of her quickly. She was accustomed to rejection.

The sailor, being the practical type, was favorably impressed with all the things Logic could build. But again, one thing put him off: Logic had a sweet-and-sour relationship with his pet pelican Hope. It wasn’t bad all the time; sometimes Logic and Hope got along great. But when they didn’t, the tension ran high.

The sailor thought he’d try and talk about the future, with Logic, just to see what would happen.

“Your sister was telling me about a new housing community called Taxcutland.” “Oh, yes!” said Logic. “I know all about it! It only makes sense that the community is doing so well, you know; the people who live there are free to do as they like.”

Again, that night, the sailor tossed and turned, wondering what to do. He was intrigued by the possibilities involved in a future spent with logic. And she was beautiful in her own way. But there were many fun things he thought he might not be able to do with her. He got the impression she was a bit of a killjoy…and, again, there was that matter with his pet pelican Hope.

The sailor decided he would date the youngest sister, Rhetoric.

Rhetoric was different from her sisters — passionate, carefree, spirited, bubbly, vivacious. The girl never stopped talking! She raised the sailor’s spirits in a way no one had before. But best of all, the pet pelican Hope just loved Rhetoric. They got along wonderfully, ALL the time. He was especially pleased to see how often Rhetoric talked about the pelican. Sometimes it seemed she had nothing else on her mind…just Hope, Hope, Hope.

The sailor had one question on his mind: What would a future be like, in which he turned his back on History and Logic, and gave his devotion to Rhetoric? He decided to try and find out. “Have you heard of this housing community from your sisters?” “Oh, that dreadful Taxcutland,” sighed Rhetoric. “It’s a fool’s dream, you know. Tax cuts. Same old story…the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.” “Well if you had your choice, where would you buy a house?” “Oh I have no question about that at all,” said Rhetoric. “Stimulusville, that’s the way to go! I just think, when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody!”

The sailor had never heard of Stimulusville. But Rhetoric’s voice was so dulcet and sweet, if she liked it, he was sure it would be a fine place to live. He made up his mind. He would marry Rhetoric.

It was a wonderful wedding, the weather perfect for it. Hope the pelican served as ringbearer. The old man gave the sailor the dowry, as promised, in gold bars. And the sailor used it to buy a house in Stimulusville. He would pin all his dreams on this community, just as his new wife, Rhetoric, wanted him to.

The house in Stimulusville cost a lot more than the sailor thought. But he, Hope and Rhetoric were so happy, he figured it was worth it. Rhetoric told him to think of it as an investment.

But then the bloom wore off the rose. Stimulusville, it turned out, was leaking money pretty fast. Every year, it seemed the city council ran a serious budget deficit. They raised the taxes to cover it, but then all the businesses would pack up and leave — usually to Taxcutland.

The sailor’s taxes went up, and up, and up. Rhetoric would always say it made perfect sense — the money had to come from somewhere, and where else would the money come from? The city elders used the money for “stimulus” packages for chronic welfare queens, druggies, carjackers, perps, and other losers. Then they’d run their budget deficit, raise taxes, and drive more businesses out to Taxcutland.

Worst of all, his new wife Rhetoric seemed to be sleeping with every other guy in town. She was a flirtatious, precocious young lady, not at all unpleasing to the eye. Everyone liked hearing what Rhetoric had to say; she made a lot of friends, and there was no limit to how friendly she’d become with them. That was always the problem with Rhetoric; she never seemed to know where to stop with things.

Eventually, Rhetoric ran off. The sailor’s house, now mortgaged two and three times over, anchored him to Stimulusville for the rest of his life.

After a good cry, he realized he hadn’t seen or heard anything from his pet pelican in awhile. He searched all over the yard, and finally found the pelican, drowned, by the pond. His pet pelican Hope was dead. How he’d miss that pelican! He realized, he’d chosen his wife mostly out of concern for the pelican’s welfare, and that one single act seemed to have been exactly what killed it.

One day, a while after he buried his precious Hope, but not too long after, Logic came to his doorstep with a casserole. She heard he’d been having a tough time of it. He told her how much he missed her, how much he regretted turning his back on her. He should have bought a house in Taxcutland and married her. Logic agreed that was quite sensible. Why, she wanted to know, did he marry Rhetoric and move into this awful place? I don’t know, said the Sailor; it seemed to make good sense at the time.

No, Logic said; it didn’t, and you always knew that deep down. The sailor realized she was right.

You know, said Logic, nobody’s ever told you this, and you didn’t have too many chances to figure it out for yourself. But I disagree with my older sister almost as often as with my younger one. When you saw Logic and History both found the same plan appealing, that really should have told you everything you needed to know.

5 thoughts on “The Sailor, the Three Sisters, and Hope

  1. Now that I read it I remember the original post … I vaguely remember some discussion of why it changed from a duck to a pelican, too, but I can’t remember what it was.

    Good story.

    • Thanks!

      Ducks are usually freshwater. Except for certain varieties that were pointed out to me during some kind of “Oh yeah, what about THIS species?” kind of an exchange…which served to distract from the point of the story. Also, once I saw the picture of saltwater ducks, they looked to me rather wild, sleek and serious, losing the comic appeal I had in mind. Besides, I like pelicans. Pelicans is funny.

      • Are you sure ducks are usually freshwater? Has that been peer-reviewed? What does the consensus of all leading duck-ologists say? 🙂

        [Sorry, couldn’t resist…]

        • I remember remarking that if you retain the right to reflexively define anyone who disagrees with you “not a peer”, then “peer review” becomes a moot process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *