[A short story for my creative writing class. Any criticism appreciated.]
Horace sat alone at the kitchen table, reading his newest volume of Irish history. He didn’t notice that his mug of hot cider had melted the thin plastic of the tablecloth again. Silently turning the pages, Horace lost himself in the mysteries of the old country. By degrees, he lost all sense of self. He forgot he was a sixty-three year old man in Wisconsin; in his mind he was a strong young man in Ireland. He forgot he worked in a sad gray office building all day; in his mind he was a historical researcher for National Geographic, being paid to explore the weird old ruins on Ireland’s rugged west coast, near the choppy shores of the North Atlantic.
Holding the heavy book, Horace fell into a half-sleep. Suddenly, he wasn’t pretending anymore—he truly believed he was an explorer in Ireland. In his half-conscious stupor, Horace went over to the closet to put on some hiking boots. Opening the door, he hardly blinked as various odds and ends clattered out into the hall behind him. He put on two mismatching hiking boots and a bright yellow raincoat over his rumpled plaid shirt. With a gray fedora on his graying head and an old umbrella in hand, he ventured forth.
Outside, it was snowing for about the fortieth time that winter. “How curious! Snow, at this time of year!” Horace shouted madly to himself, his gray mustache positively quivering with excitement. “And in the county Galway! Won’t Penny be surprised to hear this!” He twirled dizzily in the wind.
Horace meandered across the gritty sand toward the shoreline of Lake Michigan. “The sea! The sea! I must be in Galway Bay!” he cried, swaying a bit in the gale. His poor umbrella struggled valiantly, suddenly turning inside out. “Oysters, I must dig for oysters!” Horace poked rather limply at the snowy sand with the broken umbrella.
A Coast Guard officer was patrolling the perimeter of the shore. She frowned. What was this man doing out here, in the cold? Surely he’d heard the news of the imminent blizzard. “Hey, what are you doing?” she called out.
“Digging for oysters!” Horace cried, triumphantly displaying his catch.
The officer looked at Horace’s fist dubiously. It was clutching a bunch of rocks, dead plant matter, and sand. “Oh really?” She reached for the walkie-talkie on her hip.
Suddenly, Horace lurched over, snatching the device. “An artifact!” he crowed. “Good work, little lady! But this is only the beginning. We have so much left to find!” And with that, he turned around abruptly and galloped into the frigid water, now swirling with snow.
The officer kicked off her heavy boots and dove in after him. One way or another, Horace landed face-up on the Wisconsin beach. Soon enough he was in a screaming ambulance, tearing down the slippery streets.
He gasped desperately for breath. He came out of his trance. Someone was pushing on his ribcage. His lungs were on fire.
Horace frowned, struggling to focus on the hazy figures swarming above him in the dry, warm darkness. “Where am I?” he asked feebly.
The officer stopped giving CPR and smirked. “County Galway Hospital.”