Solitude: a short story

Thick, inky darkness swirls around the small wooden boat; motionless, it sits in the secluded cove by the rocks, no sound or movement betrays its presence, it is invisible.

A shaft of moonlight angles downward, now, not quite so dark it reveals an old man sitting quietly in the bow. His fishing line, a silver thread, disappears into the fathomless depths. A tremble skims up the line from below, in one quick motion the old man stands and pulls his line up, up, and with nary a splash, a squid, glowing on the hook, flies high over his head. There’s a soft thud as it lands in the bottom of the boat, he grunts softly in satisfaction, he holds the cephalopod over the side of the boat as it sprays its life’s blood, dark black ink, back into the sea.

Darkness again closes around the boat, leaving the old fisherman alone with only silence and his catch for company.

The well of the boat is half full with squid and half a dozen nice size flathead. His son’s restaurant, Fresh from the Sea, will have plenty of their specialities on the menu tonight. Squid Schnitzel, with two garlic prawns on a bamboo skewer standing up proudly through the middle. Grilled, whole flathead for two, with a light garlic butter and parsley sauce drizzled over the top.

He is proud of his son.

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The first rays of soft mauve and the palest of pink come creeping into the sky heralding the dawn. The old man stands to pull the anchor, thinking of the mug of hot coffee, and steaming hot, golden crumpets, smothered in butter and dark plum jam waiting for him at the restaurant.

He hesitates; sets his stance as the boat trembles. He carefully looks over the side as a large, silent, shadow appears. Slowly the underwater denizen becomes clearer in the pale blue water. Hanging motionless, just under the boat is a large shark. The boat trembles again as the shark rubs along the wooden hull; using it as a cat does a rubbing stick.

The old man sits, silently, he reflects on his life and family. Retired, he has the chance of fishing most days, to help his son certainly, but he is also indulging in a lifelong love of fishing. His grand children he sees every day, often walking them to school in the early mornings. Then, his chores done, he visits the cemetery for a quiet talk to his dear wife of forty wonderful years, love of his life, gone now for many years. A nap in the afternoon is enjoyable, and a necessity these days.

He joins his son at the restaurant, his job to clean the squid and scale and gut any fish caught. An early tea with his son and he is just in time to read a bedtime story to his beloved grandchildren. A cup of tea with his daughter-in-law, then home for an early night so he is able to start again, long before dawn the next day.

He starts. Jolted out of his musings, he peers over the side of the boat and is relieved to find he is alone. Sighing with relief, he once again begins to pull the anchor; he sets the oars and turns his boat toward home.