|The waters off Malin Head: My father. (standard:Creative non-fiction, 2223 words)|
|Author: Cyrano||Added: May 12 2009||Views/Reads: 2267/1435||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Jack Rafferty knew I'd been stealing apples from the orchard. He gave me an ear wigging. told me about a place where they lock up thieves, even if they're only ten! I thought that would be the last time I'd steal anything....it wasn't.|
Malin Head I've been a thief. My excuse, typical if inexcusable: being always skint. When Jack Rafferty--the island's only policeman--came to our door, he took me aside and told me about a place where they lock up ten year old thieves. I decided right then the building of a boat should no longer be a childhood dream, but a necessary means of escape. Jack did scare me, I'll admit, removing his helmet and yet still ducking to come through our front door was somewhat terrifying, but it was seeing the tears roll down my mother's face that left me with a memory I've never forgotten. I'd never steal anything ever again. That's what I told myself. Never. Before tourists, the island's remoteness was its beauty. Life on Mull was anything but sentimental. The wind most commonly came from the northeast bringing blizzard conditions in winter, and sometimes in spring, and for many months we lived and worked under an iron-gray sky. There was nowhere to live on the island but between the mountain and the sea. The summer brought its warmth: the emerald greens, gold, orange, browns, pinks and blues that glowed, lighting up the mountain's south side. In so many ways living on the island was easy, but then there was the real island, the real folk, the fishermen and the wives of the fishermen. There was suffering. I grew up hearing my mother cry on a regular basis, listened to her sobs in the next room, sleepless nights of anxiety about bills, and then deeper sobs every time my father left the harbor, heading for the Minch or the Bering Sea. Jimmy McCloud was fifty when he purchased the 1955 clinker built trawler, twin mast, near a hundred and forty tons, and half sunk. He paid fifty pounds for her and was the laughing stock of the island. Four years later Jimmy had restored her to be the finest vessel in Tobermoray's harbor. Heartbreakingly, Seaspray, as he named her, was pushed aground in a storm that grew bigger and more bullish than the morning mischief implied she'd be. The grinding undertow sucked Seaspray onto the submerged granite at the base of the mountain, a hundred yards offshore. Jimmy, penniless and heartbroken, left the island for the mainland, returning two years later. My father, sentiment aside, offered him to crew on Nightshadow. Jimmy was to take my place. My father, sensing I was not cut out to be a fisherman, sent me off to the Coast Guard. ‘If you cannot find the stomach to be with us, son, maybe you'll have the stomach to watch over us.' I was just out of High School. I loved it. My only responsibility was to learn to fly—those six years at sea, most of it bent over the bow rail, were well worth the price of the next five years in flight school. Those years were to be some of the best years of my life and I knew it, I mean knew it then! Wine, women, and airplanes, and I was only twenty-five. I qualified my wings flying the HAR3 (Sea King). Seven years later my patch was the Outer Hebrides, Malin, Rockall and Bailey. I had found my life and my calling as a coastguard helicopter pilot. I was twenty-seven when posted to Oban. I'd achieved my goal. My father's patch. On December fourth that first year of my command I got word that Jimmy was sick, dying in fact. When I got to the hospice Jimmy was almost dead. He was gasping for breath beneath an oxygen tent. It was difficult to hear him; so soft, so lifeless was his voice. Three of his old pals were with him. Sid, Harry, and Frank, my father. We talked with each other about old times, thinking we were giving Jimmy some joy. I noticed a movement in his finger, looked into his eyes, and saw he was building the strength to speak. ‘Have you never taken a risk in your life, lad?' he spluttered out, chest hardly drawing breath, as though it might rise just one more time. I'd been encouraged to call him ‘uncle Jimmy' as was the custom for frequent visitors to our home in Tobermoray. I had a lot of uncles. Jimmy was wearing an old woolen vest, and wheezing, while his hands, all veins and loose skin, lay perfectly still at his side. I responded that the risks I took, I hoped, were calculated ones. Jimmy beckoned me closer with a cobwebbed spiny finger. I felt uneasy, afraid of his weakness. ‘Not one of us has ever taken a risk,' he said in a whisper, just before the nurse returned with a clean bowl for his spit. ‘There was a time when we were free men,' and again he coughed, choked up bile, which hung from his lip, ‘see me right, lads, that's all I ask.' The nurse, wondering Click here to read the rest of this story (178 more lines)
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