There were tears in the eyes of the man with curly silver hair as he explained her quirks; how she liked things done, how she responded in certain situations. He wanted to leave her in capable hands. He passed us sugary tea in tin mugs then split pins and shackles and other flotsam and jetsam. When our fingers brushed, we smiled, but ours were smiles of sympathy and his was of sadness.
It was the same when we came to leave. We’d spent months together and weren’t sure when we’d see her again. We felt off balance, a hollow ache in our stomachs, a metallic tang in our mouths, but summer was ebbing away and our old life was calling us back in.
She was so beautiful, and we basked in the admiring glances of strangers. When we went out, we were intoxicated. We felt invincible and free, and sat up through the night with only the moon and shooting stars for company. We licked the salt off our lips and swept the hair from our eyes, let loose our hallucinations until the sun rising warmed our bones.
A sudden gust propels us into the surging surf, and horses’ tails flick up over the bow. The main sail blows taut with a snap and the halyard dings against the mast. My right hand grasps the tiller which pulls excitedly at this speed; my left wipes spume off my face with a diesel-soaked glove.
We cross the wake of a gargantuan tanker and the pots and pans percussion sets to below as we crash through the froth. Three men on the stern wave and we’re so close I can see the cigarette butts hanging from their upturned lips.
We avoid bobbing bottles and tin cans, planks of wood. We skirt lobster pots marked with rusty oil drums. Sometimes we dodge even bigger containers, fallen from ships during storms.
We live on the edge, like our neighbours, the trawlermen and riggers. We stuff down snacks because we can’t make a square meal and glug rum to keep the sickness at bay. We yell songs into the wind and tell crass jokes and piss over the side and shout at seals and lob crusts at puffins.
It’s fierce and unforgiving out here, and we live as savages. It’s as well the man with curly silver hair can’t see us at times like this.
Sarah-Clare Conlon is a Manchester-based copywriter and editor, and graduate of the Centre for New Writing. Victoria Baths’ inaugural Writer-in-Residence, she is Best British & Irish Flash Fiction listed, and her work is in print with publishers Arachne, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, Dunlin and Salt, and the journals Flash, Lighthouse and Stand.