An Interview in Maine

A photograph of Jameson Tavern in Maine
Jameson Tavern

Note from the writer: This was both an attempt at creative writing outside of the norm of what I do and a funny story to share. — Ben

“What’ll you have?”

The bartender scowled. I suppose I couldn’t blame them. The weather had been particularly nasty, and it was a Monday. After all, there was a lot more time left in the week to bring stress, misery, and unhappiness.

“Budweiser, please.”

The bartender’s scowl deepened. I suppose I should have asked for one of the many craft beers native to Maine, but honestly I didn’t care about my drink at that moment.

Jameson’s Tavern really is a sight to behold. The “Birthplace of Maine” was established way back in 1779. It looks old and feels older. You can almost imagine what life must have been like all those years ago. How many thousands of people have passed through those doors and imbibed while the foul weather raged outside?

My thoughts were interrupted by his arrival. If the tavern looked old, he looked positively ancient.

“I’m 101, but I don’t look a day over 90.”

He had laughed with a sickening rattle, something that no doubt came from a lifetime of tobacco smoke, when he told me that over the phone. Based on the weathered old scarecrow standing before me now, I was surprised he even knew what a telephone was. His accent was unique, definitely not from Maine. Not from the U.S. at all, really.

“So you want to know about the incident, eh? Do you have any idea how many people have asked me about it over the years, just to laugh in my face and call me a crazy old man? Why should you be any different?”

The old timer’s scowl seemed even deeper than the ill-tempered bartender’s.

“You might be right, sir. But something tells me that you wouldn’t be here right now if you didn’t want to tell your story.”

He scowled at me a bit longer before cracking into a wry smile.

“Right you are, boy. When you get to be my age there isn’t much left for you to do with the small amount of time you have left. What do you want to know?”

I opened my small Moleskine and prepared to take notes.

“What exactly happened in 1934? Could you just tell it from the beginning?”

“Aye, I suppose I could. Are you at least going to buy an old man a drink first?”

I motioned the bartender over, and my companion ordered his drink of choice, whiskey neat, before continuing.

“I was still young in those days, just a lad of 18. Dreaming of faraway places and what I’d do if I ever got there. Something most people don’t tell you about the loch, it gets right cold out there in the winter. You lot think Maine is cold, but I’m telling you this was a cold like you’ve never experienced before. Wind howling. It’ll cut through you like a hot knife.”

He took a long pull from his whiskey glass before continuing.

“At any rate, you don’t care about any of that, do you boy? You want to know the spooky bit, aye. It was towards the first of December and really starting to turn cold. Most of our days were spent collecting firewood for the hearth. That bit seems never ending when you’re a young lad. Just chopping and stacking forever. But we still needed to eat, of course, and what better source of food than fish? We were on a loch, after all. Father had his methods, and his favorite was fishing by moonlight. I still remember him out there in our little boat, deep in winter when it was so cold the loch was almost frozen over, fishing by the moonlight. I used to think he was a crazy old codger. Now I’m pretty convinced he was.”

The old man cackled like a strangled crow, took another long pull from his whiskey and continued his story.

“Father wanted me to accompany him out on the loch that night, help him reel in some extra fish. We were running a bit low, he said. It had to have been about midnight by then. We rowed out into the still night air. It was so quiet. And so cold. I remember shivering so hard I felt like my teeth were going to rattle right out of my skull. We’d been fishing for a while, maybe an hour, when we heard quite the splash not far from the boat.”

He trailed off a bit at this point, and his eyes sort of glassed over. It reminded me of all those pictures I’d seen of soldiers returning from war, bearing their thousand-yard stares.

“Yes, we heard quite the splash. I remember Father telling me to look, and there was this enormous ripple spreading across the water. It must have been huge, whatever made that. I remember staring over the edge of boat, straining my eyes in the moonlight to see through the dark water. It was enormous. When it raised out of the water and leered down at us with its red eyes, I thought it was over. I can still remember it slowly bending down until I could feel its hot breath on my face. My father called out to it, ‘What do you want from us?’”

He took another pull from his whiskey, finishing the glass.

“After my father called to it, I remember the creature looking slowly from him to me. And then he opened his mouth and spoke. ‘I need about treefiddy.’”

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I help technology companies succeed through the power of engaging storytelling. benjamingilstrap.com

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Benjamin Gilstrap

Benjamin Gilstrap

I help technology companies succeed through the power of engaging storytelling. benjamingilstrap.com