A grey mist rolls towards the bay, slowly enveloping each swell of the bobbing sea. The harbour is quiet, the only sounds are the gentle clanging of sails and untied equipment on moored boats rolling against one another in motion with the deep blue ocean beneath. The water lapped around the legs of the pier and kissed the hull of each of the vessels. The harbour was forged by nature, surrounded to the east and west by looming grassy hills. To the South of bay, lay the small village of Boraow, one of the smallest fishing villages on the northern coast. Small stone built houses descended the steep verge that joined the sea to the sky. The village and the sea were divided by a road that skirted the base of the village and around the perimeter of the bay. There was a sheer drop into the freezing Atlantic waters. The roads were silent at that time in the morning; there was no sign of any other vehicle other than his.
He gently pulled up at the far end of the town, the heavy 4×4’s gears pushed to action as he parked at the end of the long stone wall that extended from the road and out into the sea. Stretching across his side, he unbuckled his seat belt. As it clicked and released, he let the tattered material pass across his body; he sat in silence, looking out over the bay, watching the darkness beginning to lift on the horizon. A part of him wanted to stay, to sit and watch the sun come up before driving home and crawling back into bed. That wasn’t an option, not this time. Looking around the cab of his car, the passenger seats material had completely come away in patches having been pawed over the years, yellow stuffing poked out through rips in the headrest. At the foot of the seat lay an unbranded blue plastic bags filled with tins of baked beans and biscuits. The radio was gone. He hadn’t listened to music in years, not if he could help it at least. It had been one of the largest complaints from his last crew –
‘Please Skip, something other than the shippin’!” They’d moaned at him over dinner one night in the boats small galley. He’d said nothing but kept his head down as though he hadn’t heard. The crew knew him better than to push. Every now and again, he’d have to take on a new crew man or deckhand and they’d push the issue until one of the more seasoned lads would give them a sharp kick under the small dining table, they all got used to him eventually.
He sighed heavily as the bay became brighter, soon the tip of the sun would rise above the Eastern hills. He pulled the handle from the driver’s side of the cab and felt it stick. Pulling at it again he felt the handle jar in position; he let go and the handle stuck out at a right angle from the door.
‘Bally thing’ he grumbled. He twisted his body to face the stuck door and leaned his hands behind him onto the empty passenger seat, pivoting his whole body and placing all his weight through his arms. He rested his hips at the edge of the driver’s seat and propped his feet against the driver’s door, beneath the window. Now, wedging between the gear stick and the door, he gave one short, sharp, strong push from his legs, forcing the door open with a steely groan. It swung open, as though it were about to swing off of its hinges, as it swung back towards him, he quickly sat up and stopped it with his hands. He’d been meaning to get the hinges and lock fixed but it just hadn’t been a priority for him, what with everything else.
He sat at the on the edge of the driver’s seat with his feet dangling out of the cab. He propped the door open with one foot as he contorted his body around to the back of the car. He pulled out his yellow safety boots from the floor behind the drivers seat. He lifted them over his head and pulled himself back up to sitting. He groaned. He could feel the muscles in his lower back twist as he moved. He had been amazed that it had taken his body this long to start aching, he first felt the searing pain through his spine about six months ago and he hadn’t been surprised. He almost felt relived by the pain, a reminder of his own mortality. He sat for a moment, his chin resting on his chest. He took long deep breaths through the pain and felt his chest moving up and down with the controlled air flow. He could feel his heart pounding against his rib cage as it compensated for the agony rippling through his back. Within a minute, it was over. Lifting his head, he looked out to the houses in the village behind him. A few windows now glowed with a dim light behind heavy curtains. The others were waking. Heaving their bodies out from under warm blankets and heaving on layer after layer of thermal clothing, blearily searching their rooms on tip toes for socks and shoes, trying not to wake sleeping partners on creaking wooden cottage floorboards.
He needed to get moving. He wanted to be clear of the bay before the first man was in the harbour. Before anyone noticed. He heaved himself out of the cab and stretched. It wasn’t a long drive from his cottage on the hill to the harbour, but he instinctively stretched once he was out of a confined space as though he had been cooped up inside for hours. He moved round to the rear of the 4×4 and opened the doors to the storage at the back. On a normal trip, it would be packed to the roof with supplies. Toilet roll, tins of fruit, beans, pasta, packs of butter and cartons of long-life milk. His holdall would be bursting at the seams with spare clothes and warm layers for a long trip. But not this time, there was one box of supplies that he lifted out and placed on the concrete, the floor was damp from the approaching mist and the spray from the water beneath. He took the holdall and threw it limply into the box. He closed up the doors and locked them with the keys. He went back to the front of the car and pulled out the plastic bag and added it to the cardboard box. Leaning back into the cab, he clicked open the glove box and pulled out a white jiffy bag envelope, already addressed and stamped and clicked the glove box back. He pulled himself out of the cab and looked inside. Taking the driver door with his right hand, he slammed it shut and turned the key to lock it. He withdrew the keys and held them in his hand. There were three keys on the circular chain, one was for the car. The only was a long dark golden Yale key. The third was small and shiny and stood out against the other duller well worn keys. He put them in the envelope and sealed it. He walked to the end of the stonewall road where there was a bright red post box; the only one in the village. Taking a breath, he put the envelope in through it’s darkened mouth. He looked up at the village. There were 5, maybe 6 more lights glowing from the houses.
He picked up his box of supplies and few worldly belongings and moved down the stone steps that were built into the wall that thrust into the ocean. The steps led to a wooden walkway that connected a number of jetties together. Each jetty moored 10 – 12 fishing boats, all gently bumping against one another with the swaying tide. His was on the third jetty from the stone steps, he always placed his girl in the most coveted spot – right at the end of the jetty, first boat out and last one back.
The wooden slats creaked under his feet as he walked towards his tin home. The jetty was older than he was, seaweed covered the legs from their deep setting within the seabed to the visible inches above the lapping water. Their wood was beginning to rot beneath its deep green façade, giving the jetty an uneven movement under with the weight of every step. A committee had been formed. Fundraising has been discussed. He was on the peripheral, uninvolved and never asked.
He approached his small boat, its hull originally a deep royal blue, but it had been battered by rough seas over the years that left scars on her hull, exposing her metallic framework. He had often thought to repaint it but had mainly let it rust, just keeping it coated enough to keep the barnacles away from the equipment. The name however, the name on the side looked as fresh as the first day he painted it on her bow – In brilliant gold – Amber Rising. He remembered that day; he had paid for the boat in cash that he had been saving for over two years. He had been on some of the toughest boats, in some of the roughest seas that he had seen just to scrimp and save every penny to buy her. He’s stored his pay in an old biscuit tin that he hid under his mattress when he was home and stuffed inside his holdall bag when he was away. He was so worried of some stealing it, of someone taking his dream away. The same day that he had the keys in his hand he went straight to the small fishing supplies shop on the harbour road and bought a small pot of gold paint and a brush. He sat on the jetty in just his shorts and a t-shirt, letting his bare legs hang over the side. It was one of the warmest days he could recall now. The hot Cornish sun slowly browning his exposed arms, bringing out the freckles across his nose, his bright red hair glistening in the golden light as though it were ablaze. It was one of his fondest memories now. As he stood on the jetty in cold morning at first light, the looked at the gold glistening writing and smiled, feeling the warmth of that day flow over him. He smiled a half-smile and looked up towards the village. Nearly of the houses now had that dim glow from within. He heard the slam of a car door echo from the top of the hill. Time to go.
He put the box with all of his remaining belongings inside the boat and carried them up to the wheel house. `He went back down to the deck and released the heavy rope that tied him to the land. He felt the small boat begin to drift away from the jetty. He look one last look at the village. He climbed his way up the small ladder into the wheel house once more and closed the rusted door behind him. Spurring the boat to life he could feel the vibrations of the motors beneath his feet. As he steered the boat out of the bay and towards the wide expanse of ocean, he looked East, towards his little cottage that stood alone. He took a deep breath and looked ahead once more. He navigated his way through the rolling hills to the harbour mouth and out into the mist. He took a crumpled pack of cigarettes and a box of matches out of the pocket of his overalls and lit one. He took a long drag on the cigarette and blew the smoke out of his smiling mouth. He was free.