No one was watching him. He was alone. He spat and grabbed the oar before he had to swim after it. He cursed himself and the fickle dinghy that would go to any tide’s beckon. That night he ate raw periwinkles that he collected from where he stood with the oar. They gathered in colonies on the tide line and they reminded him of Frannie’s little black buttons, the ones that traversed up her chest to the brooch at her throat on their wedding day. He wriggled the tip of his knife into the shell and prised each black doorway open, extracted the tiny fish that spiralled into the shell. They were no bigger than a finger nail and tasted of iodine, their ink leaving black marks on his fingers.
He spent a cold night on the mound of ribbon weed, wondering what he was to do. The night hummed and clicked around him, scratched with furtive sounds but he was used to that. It was being alone he couldn’t enjoy and he thought again of Frannie and that clock that ticked beside their bed at home. He forced himself to remember the sound of the clock and like a baby he began to feel comforted ...
... a baby in the dark night squalls for its mother, the storm harasses the house and there is no fire left in the hearth, the clock, tick, tick, tick. The owl and the wind outside but inside just ticking. She picks up the baby and settles into the easy chair and gives him suckle. He gobbles at her breast until the milk begins to rush. She rocks to and fro until the baby sleeps, milk trickling out the corner of his mouth and she comes to my bed. She turns me over so I spoon against her body, cupping herself into me. I harden in the cleft of her buttocks and enter her, half asleep in the darkest night and move inside her slowly, mindless, until my chest is suddenly wet with sweat. I soften and stay there and we sleep together again, no words, just bodies and warmth.
In the morning his oilskin had peeled away and he lay exposed to the slanting sun and stared straight into the sky at an eagle that lay in the warm air above him. He wondered where its mate was. Those tawny, ragged creatures always had a mate.
Something splashed out of the water but when he looked all he saw was a disappearing black fin. His body ached with cold and sadness. He climbed to his feet and brushed away the dried seaweed. What to do.
He spent that day with hunger thudding in his gullet but there was fresh water plenty. It roared down off the mountain and splashed through the black earth into the little harbour. He followed the river upstream to where he found a pool bordered with stone that was grey green with lichen. He crossed the water at the shallow point and scrambled around to the other western side of the inlet.
Long planks of wood poked out of the water like bad teeth. He retrieved one. Then another. Finally, he found a piece with Erica cut into the grain.