Word Prompt: Waste | Story Prompt: from the book “The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman

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“Every surface in the light room gleamed: Tom had always kept it diligently, but now he waged war on every screw, every fitting, until it surrendered a brilliant sheen. These days he smelled permanently of Duraglit. The prisms sparkled and the beam shone, unhindered by a speck of dust. Every cog in the works moved smoothly. The apparatus had never functioned with more precision.

The cottage, on the other hand, had suffered. “Couldn’t you just put a bit of putty in that crack?” Isabel asked, as they sat in the kitchen after lunch.

“I’ll do it once I’m ready for the inspection.”

“But you’ve been ready for the inspection for weeks – for months, for that matter. It’s not as if the King’s coming, is it?”

“I just want it shipshape, that’s all. I’ve told you, we’re in with a chance for the Point Moore posting. We’d be on land, close to Geraldton. Near people. And we’d be hundreds of miles from Partageuse.”

“Time was you couldn’t bear the though of leaving Janus.”

“Yeah, well, times change.”

“It’s not all that’s changed, Tom,” she said. “You’re the one who always says that if a lighthouse looks like it’s in a different place, it’s not the lighthouse that’s moved.”

“Well you work out what has,” he said as he picked up his spanner and headed off down to the storage sheds, without looking back.

That night, Tom took a bottle of whisky, and went to watch the stars from near the cliff. The breeze played on his face as he traced the constellations, and tasted the burn of the liquid. He turned his attention to the rotation of the beam, and gave a bitter laugh at the thought that the dip of the light meant that the island itself was always left in darkness. A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.”


There are two lovely images that I enjoy in M.L. Stedman’s writing, above. First, Tom’s observation (as recalled by Isabel) about how it may sometimes seem as though a lighthouse has moved, when of course it hasn’t. What storms have we been in where we’ve found we’ve lost our way, that the “lighthouse” that was guiding us appears now to be in a contrary location? In what do we place our trust instead, or how can we reconcile the location of the lighthouse, then?

Second, Tom’s observation that while the lighthouse lights up a high point of land to be used as a reference point for those at sea, for those beneath the lighthouse, living on it’s island, the lighthouse beam is useless except to find the lighthouse itself or to see into the ocean surrounding it. The island beneath the lighthouse, and those of us on the island, remain in darkness. How might we see ourselves, then?

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