The Roaring Forties

A writer sits at her desk, looking through her window over the city of Buenos Aires – the city of “good air.” She tries to write, but she can’t. It’ll be the fortieth screenplay she’s written this month, but she can only squeeze out so many chauvinistic, trivial, petty one liners. They’re designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s an audience that half-watches the TV as they heat up their frozen meals and check their text messages.

She’s hit the pinnacle of her profession, writing episodes for the most successful sitcom in the country. Even with the success of the show though, the company execs have laid off the team of writers that made the show what it is. They say it’s because they can’t compete with the American shows, but it’s really just to line their own pockets. Now she’s carrying the show on her own.

A sailboat rockets along the Rio de la Plata in the strong wind, as a branch snaps from a nearby tree and batters the writer’s window. She snaps out of her distant train of thought and slams her laptop shut. She’s had an epiphany.

The river is calling to her. She fills a backpack with warm clothes and heads straight for the marina. An old, school friend has been moored there for weeks, and there’s a standing invitation for her to go for a quick jaunt along the river with him. She identifies his boat by the skull and crossbones flag, and she jumps aboard. “Vamos a Patagonia!” He jumps from his hammock, startled, and immediately accepts.

After two days sailing southward, they hit the roaring forties. It’s a wind that blows straight through you, and it was revered by the travellers of old. It’s the highway of the seas that carries sailors westward, and all week it had been blowing with gale force. It blew the cobwebs from the writer’s hair. It blew through one ear and out the other. It filled her jacket, inflated her jumper, invaded her underwear and cleansed her pores.

When the wind had purged her of her burdens, she was able to write her fortieth piece of writing. There were no one-liners, cheap jokes or silly gags. She sent it to the company execs via satellite from the tip of South America. Her only regret was that she couldn’t be there to see them weep as they read her letter of resignation.

T.

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