• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 11

The lighter

The lighter sits quietly tied to the end of the jetty. The small diesel engine put-put-putting, the rhythm of the engine distinctly even against the chaotic scatter of the small waves hitting the shoreline. The boatman had the throttle eased slightly ahead, an almost imperceptible pull set unthinkingly by an age-lined and work-calloused hand, came from the hardly rotating propeller; keeping the lighter elegantly balance against the mess of waves just away from the fragile roll out jetty. Every now and then a draw of the sea away from the shore would let the propeller blade cut into the shingle of the shore bottom, an perceptible scrunch hidden by the smack of the wavelets hitting the shore and jetty.

The sea was a mess, the weak slack tide and drab autumn off-shore breeze scattering any sequence and evenness from the waves. The remaining wavelets criss-crossed against the shingle beach pulling at the small pebbles, dragging them backwards and forwards, leaving small piles of them scattered on the waterline. Further out the hard buoyed craft bobbed and threw themselves back and forwards against the unpredictable wave direction and height. All of them looked slightly ill and tired at the antics of the sea.

In the lighter the band sat huddled against the heavy raised hull, the reinforced wood along the top of the boats flanks digging into the backs being pressed hard against them, almost all of them were smoking in some description. Mervyl sat with his back against the support for the base of the mast, now removed, the limp hand rolled cigarette, the fires within only just burning, hung from his face. It stuck to the bottom lip of his open mouth, fast in its fixing to his skin, as he mouthed the words the singer would be telling later. His hands move evenly as he practised his part on the banjo balanced on his right hip.


The lighter

Behind him Hilary sat half slouched in his battered boater hat, coat and jacket open oblivious to the weather. The most animated smoker, and their singer, his relaxed pose at odds to the continuous movement of his eyes as he looked around constantly seeking distraction. The rest of the band were almost asleep. Last nights late revelry and the unusual movement of the lighter rocking them unevenly between half asleep and last nights lodgings.

The little girl watched and listened to Mervyl play, her brother fixated on moving the sea from the shore to the moat of his sandcastle, trying to outrun the last bucket of water now running back to the shoreline. Mervyl looked up and smiled at the girl who held his gaze with an expression flicking from insecurity to recognition, her hand flicking up to move her hair away from her brow.

The lighter was cast off from the jetty, the boatman walking unthinkingly back onto the boat as it edged imperceptibly away from its fastening and out to the large ship waiting at anchor for the evenings entertainers.