by Bruce Meyer
He watched Rank bring her so close to Pigeon Point he could almost see its grey stone back through the gale.
Then the Clara B broke up.
Rank and Harry shouted in the water but their voices soon vanished in the wind. He wondered if his shipmates made it ashore. If they had, they’d be calling for him. He heard nothing. The current was dragging him farther out and tugging to get his slicker off.
He thought he could see the point. He could picture last June’s evening with his friends, the glow of golden light on the procession to the water’s edge for the blessing of the waves. The guys in their black suits, the girls in their chiffon dresses all descended the rocky slant, careful not to scuff their polished Oxfords or let the ladies twist an ankle as they balanced in their awkward heels. Wind caught their chiffon dresses and moved the crinoline and lace like a bouquet of blossoms. Each girl, as a traditional rite of passage, took a single flower from her corsage and tossed it on the calmed bay. The sea was so still that evening, the sky cloudless. The flowers floated and bobbed, and each girl said, “I bless these waters for what they give us.”
Anne had worn a yellow gown. It billowed on the wind, and as the breeze wafted it he was reminded of wild lupins that grew along the roads. He hadn’t had the money to take her as his date. She had gone with a trucker’s son. A few weeks later she went away to university where she met a man and became a lawyer’s wife. But he could still picture her, bending to cast her bloom as the gentle waves returned it to her. She was laughing with her date by the arm. The wind mussed his hair and sent it in all directions, and he felt poor.
The next day, he signed on to Rank’s boat.
“She does her job, my Clara B,” Rank told him, adding that if he worked hard, he’d someday earn a boat of his own. But the way he saw it, there was no future on the sea. Hauling traps was only a means to an end. By his calculations, three years of back- breaking at the catch would get him to the city where he could learn a trade or attend college. Ann was gone by then, but as the old folksong said, “He would surely find another.”
The future could still begin. He could still make it back to shore if he knew he was swimming in the right direction. Tugging at the water, he was certain the shore was close.
He thought his foot struck a rock, something solid submerged beneath him, but when he moved it with his right toe, Harry rose to the surface, still looking at the bottom to see how far out they were.
He pushed Harry away. The cold was eating his bones. He had to give it everything he had. Whether the water in his face was sweet rain or sour waves, he fought to return and decided if he made it back to Pigeon Point where the girls had blessed the waters he would never leave the firm world again.
Bruce Meyer is author or editor of 64 books of poetry, short fiction, flash fiction, non-fiction, and literary journalism. He was winner of the 2019 Anton Chekhov Prize for Fiction. His most recent book of short stories, A Feast of Brief Hopes (Guernica Editions) appeared in 2018. In 2020, Guernica Editions will publish a collection of his flash fiction, Down in the Ground. He lives in Barrie, Ontario.