Other that the dam letter he’d got from the solicitor the day before , it had the makings of the was a perfect fishing day. The cloud was high and the pleasant wind blew fresh and from the west . The gulls were swooping in the fresh olive hatches The temperature was up and the fly had been hatching since before noon. They had both caught fish , and the air in the boat should have been much more convivial .
Marty just couldn’t shake off the spectre of the dam letter which haunted him since that morning.
He just could not get the man out of his head,. True enough , his business was going through a bleak period at present , and he was a bit behind with his creditors , but so what . He had always come good before. ; it was the nature of the business.
It was the sequence of things which seemed to bedevil him now. The outstanding bills , his wife in hospital and his son in a spot of trouble at school.
Singularly he could have dealt with them. But the maddening thing was to get a solicitors letter. It made him out to be untrustworthy, and just a short step of a court appearance .
Quite against his nature he had allowed himself to become consumed and distracted by his inner vitriol . This was in sharp contrast to against his usual happy disposition.
Times were difficult enough with his the wife in hospital - he reasoned ,
- but imagine that bastard to send me a solicitors letter
Frank knew him of old and appreciated that his old mate had to let this this run its course. Better he do it here than in the pub later.
- And that man calls himself a Christian..- I call him a bollix.. Sorry Frank
- I mean to say he only had to tell me , I was only two weeks behind.
And that man goes to communion every Sunday. And the merchants the same . Oh yes . Holy men . Well he’s some Jesus if he lets that sort of carry on.. Its all bloody wrong . I dunno if I believe in god anymore.
He looked at Frank who continued to cast downwind effortlessly with the soft whish of his unperturbed timing.
Frank’s countenance betrayed nothing of his pity. He knew pity was not sought and had he offered it now he would be rewarded with scorn.
Marty was so distracted with his travails that he had difficulty tying on his cast .
- Damn , I cant get the Jesus thing.. That man has me .. Distracted ..disgusted .. He’s a bastard Frank …that’s all he is and we’ll leave it at that.
They did.And only the rising sound ruffle of their flapping hoods against their backs caused Marty to look back at the skies over the mountain range to the west. Getting up a bit , he thought but put the thought aside.
- I mean - Marty began again-
-what sort of a ballox would send me a solicitors letter and me wife in hospital and the creditors all down on me . ? What sort of a holy man is that will you tell me .. And hes there every Sunday for the communion gobbling up like it was prawns or caviar.. The body and blood of our saviour.. And does he think for one minute.. But I’m blaming Jesus himself , he let him write it. Jesus knew all about it . Yes sir ..Jesus knew ..
Marty was in the plumbing business, . Business was good . But at the moment he had hit a bit of a slump .
He like many in the post war trade in the town the creditors had a genial understanding with their clientele. They needed one another and for the most part exercised restraint if one was in arrears now and again. Tradesmen usually enjoyed credit for up to a two months before paying for materials.
.Marty had run a week or so over the two months . In this case the supplier had engaged a solicitor, who might have been more zealous than he needed be when he had sent a letter to Marty warning him that if payment weren’t made within the following week , legal proceedings would be initiated against Marty which would necessitate a court appearance .Oddly , whereas the supplier had engaged the solicitor Marty’s is venom was reserved for the solicitor . Marty was not a man who reasoned with any prudence in moments like this. But Frank was disturbed about bringing Jesus into the mix. Marty while not quite devout in his religious practice , he observed the commandments and went to mass every Sunday, fulfilled his Easter obligations , and gave up drink for Lent and for November.
The boat drifted on .
- that man is no good frank, he said .. No good at all with this holiness and all of his bull..
Frank held his council
- I swear to god if that O Donnell was drowning in front of me this minute - I’d turn away.. I would..let him feck of to his Jesus.. I would and that’s a fact. !!
They were coming to then end of the drift when the first squall hit the bow and threw them a couple of feet. Ahead the clouds had turned an ominous grey and the sky had darkened all round them . The breeze was blowing harder now , and he had to raise his voice to s shriek as he reeled up and went to the engine.
- I think we’ll pull in and let that old storm blow over…she’s a dirty looking hoor!
Frank sensed instinctively the change of timber in the voice -one of fear Frank too sensed the unwieldy roll of the boat .Then suddenly she began to lurch, and roll and as the waves slipped down just inches below the gunnels and Frank knew they were in trouble . He buckled on his life jacket, and held on to the gunnels , waiting for a chance to slip off his boots- if he got the chance; no hope of swimming against that swell.
No words passed between them as Marty started up. The island behind was windward to them and to gain access to shelter he would have to swing to the boat around passing the bow through the eye of the wind .
- hold on there so !
Frank’s grip on the gunnels tightened The engine fired. Marty turned the boat into the wind , and Frank looking down to the stern saw the terror for the first time on Marty’s face.
He revved and waited for a big wave to raise the bow and when it came he charged the boat up into the wave in expectation that she’d fall into a smaller trough. The bow lifted as the boat ploughed windward . Then it dropped but before she fell back , another big freak wave hit the bow. The water dashed against the boat almost swamping them. Frank hold stiff,. Marty revved again . The boat now twice as heavy groaned under the dead weight of the water they’d taken in . Marty saw another gap in the waves ahead, and again took his chance in the dip, the boat turned sluggishly, and he got her round before the next wave lifted and rolled the boat, but he engine was now whining high losing traction of the water .
They were some fifty yards off the island now , but their power greatly diminished as the boat battled along sluggishly.
-‘ wonder should we make a dash for it - Marty screamed above the howling gale.
- looks as if its getting up a bit more -!! , don’t like the look of that old cloud…!
The tall poplar trees on the island were swaying and the wind threw itself at them with all its fury, such that they could scarcely hear one another.
Frank cupped his hands and roared down
- Head her in !! Soon as you get a chance **
As he went to turn the boat jnto the wave , the second wave struck . At the same time the boat had dropped into the trough between waves. Another unexpected bigger wave struck and the water spilled in over the gunnels flooding the fishing boat.
She was heavier now and the engine starts to roar ineffectually against the blowing gusts . He persevered .
The engine screeched as he tried to keep her bow into the wind.
But she was heavy now and the prop was only gaining intermittent traction between the dips.
From the calm just minutes ago it was blowing down at them straight across the lake.
They both knew they were in trouble.
Marty tried desperately to hold her steady as he waited for a lull between waves where he might turn her through the eye of the wind.
At last he saw one such .
- hold on I’ll try to bring her round **
The little boat dipped in the stern and the prop took hold, he revved her and swinging her through the wind and wave and while she took a little more over the gunell he had her round . The danger had almost passed . Almost ..All he had to do was to keep her ahead of the following wave.
He said a quick prayer , they were half way through the danger.
He revved her forward and dropped back as the boat lunged forward like a sodden log down the wind. Marty kept his focus now on the following wave at the stern . That’s the one, he thought , that’s the bitch that got them . It was almost a personal thing with him and he shook his fist as they rounded the point at last and glided sullenly into the cove . He felt the first jab in his chest in his moment of triumph but the second when it came struck him like a bullet in the breast bone .
He was about to shout to Frank that they’d head for the pier when he saw Franks figure slump down drunkenly..his head lolling to one side . Marty knew immediately he was in trouble
He noted with alarm the face turn a livid colour .
- allright there ?
-Hold on .Frank.. Hold on ... Nearly there !!
He reached the pier and ran the boaat up on the shale . Frank was unconscious when Marty reached him .He knew his friend was dead .
- good God - Dear Jesus.. He took off his hat and kneeling down on the floorboards he whispered an act of contrition in his ear.
He took Frank’s wrist and again in vain felt for a pulse . Then the neck. Nothing.
Then he lay him of the floor boards , and covering his body with his overalls he said a decade of the rosary and finally got out , tying the boat to the pier. . .
- dear Christ . Frank gone . What would he say to Nancy, . And the children. Was there a history he hadn’t told him about. No ; these things happened.
For the first time he felt the cold and now he felt the weakness of the shock sweep over him.
He had to light a fire.