Missing: Part Two.

by | Mar 10, 2024 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

They were all there to greet him on the quay, his two uncles Antoine and Bernard and his four cousins

“It’s time.” The voice cut through the thickness of his dream. A warm knife through butter. He felt both sensations. Sharp metal, soft butter.

“Papa?” He called.

“Yes Jean.” The reply.

“Is it really time?” His stomach muscles cramped.

“Let’s go. They’re waiting.” Confirmation. Years of it. That’s how long he’d waited, or near enough. From the day he had been able to think for himself, Jean wanted to go to sea. He was drawn onto the waves by his ancestors.

The room was dark and damp, but his bed was warm and dry. He would leave one for the other. It had to be so. Jean threw off the blankets and his childhood, shivering in the process.

“I’m ready Papa.” He was wearing his clothes, those which had been given to him by his community. The thick woollen jumper, the oilskin pants and the boots of leather, replacing his wooden sabots. Not second hand but inherited, like the family jewels passed down the generations. He sat at the table opposite his father, an equal now with his own bowl for coffee and his own knife to cut bread and gut fish.

“Where shall we go, Papa?” the boy asked, even though he knew the answer. He wanted to hear it from his Father’s voice, the one he trusted more than life itself. The word picked him up and hugged him, sending shivers down his spine

“Iceland.”

There it was. Confirmation of his coming of age. An icy maturity, enveloping him like a chilling mist. He hugged his mother and three sisters then followed the big man out of the cottage.

It was a short walk to the harbour, he’d done it so many times, in both directions. This time though, there was no return journey. No empty feeling in his gut as he watched the Françoise disappear over the horizon. No pang of pain at missing his father. He was here, by his side and he would be with him as it was the village’s turn to dip below the sea.

They were all there to greet him on the quay, his two uncles Antoine and Bernard and his four cousins, whom he’d barely seen since they had turned seventeen. The men scooped him up and carried him aboard the Françoise.

“Cast off Antoine,” called his father and Jean’s stomach cramped again. A giant Gannet had found it’s way inside him and was struggling to get out. He felt a hand on his shoulder. Looking up, he saw not his father, the kind, generous man who’s hugs were priceless. It was the stony face of the skipper, all emotion banished, his eyes as black as the pitch between the decking.

“You know what to do man. You’ve practised many times. Now do it!” He bellowed. All feeling drained from the boy. Did he say man? He set about his task with a newfound confidence. No Gannet, no cramps, he was a man now, in a man’s world.

He pulled on the thick rope, the fibres digging into his palms. He knew he’d suffer at first, despite all of the preparation he’d done on land. The skin would blister then erupt. The pain would be unbearable but worth it. Soon his hands would be like his father’s, as hard as leather.

Jean thought about his mother and three sisters as the spire of the church dipped below the horizon. A sudden feeling of exposure hit him, as if he was suspended in mid air. The ocean surrounded him and the vessel. What once was a giant structure towering over the harbour, was now a leaf in a pond.

There was a loud crack as the wind changed direction, filling the mainsail. Jean was thrown across the deck banging his head on the hull. Two giant hands picked him up and he was staring in the face of his uncle Bernard. Two icy blue eyes shone through the tangle of whiskers holding him in their grip.

“Not got your seat legs yet, young Jean.” The giant carried him back to his post and put him down gently. “Go with the ship, be part of her. She’s your world now.” The smile from the big man was exactly what he needed. A smile he’d one day forget.

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs

    Ooo Arrr me Hearties. There be a Storm a Brewin!

    Reply

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