Day On the Water (Revised)

Writer of Age

Life is funny and sad. Some days fit right in the middle somewhere, those feelings that is. Days have a way of sticking themselves in a lot of things. That menace of dread, drear. Or the warm hand that sends a shiver, its touch so secretly wanted. Yeah, days can find themselves middle-some.

Atayo watched the waters slowly ripple in. Some days, he found himself sitting by the water. He’d smoke and think. Cigarettes one after the other, something bitter to drink, his head full of reflections. He’d roll over the day…slow. Just like the water, how the tide would creep in, then out. These days, they were rare, like sunlight in a world of rain. They were nice, but, he lit up another cigarette, they weren’t filling. At least, not all the way.

Boats would come and go and he’d watch as they slid by, effortlessly. He knew how to become a Captain. All he needed was a boat, and a little water. Then, Atayo could simply sail out and name himself Captain. So simple. He didn’t have the boat though. One cut in as he looked out, a slow purposeful motion. It bobbed slightly, moving with the waves, passing on by him without pause. Moments after another rolled in, a catamaran, he’d dreamt of one of those. Atayo didn’t know much about boats, just that he wanted one, and that he’d wanted a catamaran.

His dad had always wanted a boat. Something to take out into the open waters, to run beside the waves. To feel that open wind and sharp salted air. He knew, because he wanted that very thing. Atayo could see the salt-water fishing poles strapped to one of the passing boats. It was bittersweet, watching it grow closer. He could see it; line running out, caught in a fight with the of the fish of a lifetime. That part was sweet.

His waitress approached. Jen, she was nice, checked on him just enough to make sure he felt remembered. To him, that was a sign of someone who knew their work. He was easy though. Sit and watch and think, sipping on that sharp drink, slowly. Too quickly and his thoughts would muddle. These days, those rare lightful ones, he tried to stay thoughtful. Too quick and he could fall into that dreary spot, it was damp and solitary there.

Some crafts he knew by name, most came and went daily. Particularly, the one’s he dreamed of steering. Some day.

A tear slipped down his cheek. Atayo wiped it away quick, before anyone could see. He didn’t know how, but one day, he’d make it happen. A deep longing reached into his heart. It was stark, and total. He could see it, right there. He could reach out. Yet, they would slip right on by, riding in with the currents, out with the tides. By moon-lit and sun-blazed waters, they’d fall beyond his fingertips, then out of sight. In his daydreams though, he would sail out beyond the bridge, into open waters. Still, like these rare sunny days, that didn’t fill him up.

Atayo put out his cigarette before lighting another. Jen came by and he asked for the check, it was cheap. He didn’t have much anyway. Enough for today, enough for what he needed. He wasn’t quite ready to leave. Sometimes, sitting for a while, brushing off your caretaker, you just wanted to ‘get outta dodge’, as they used to say.

Atayo left the café for the canal’s edge, to sit by the water. Occasionally he’d swim, if it was hot enough. He’d watch the coming and going of the tide, or the schools of minnows that would swim along the water’s edge. The water had always called and calmed him. Maybe, he had filled his head with dreams of sailing, of how it must feel to be on the open water, taking care of himself. It was a place that made a man. To only have one person to rely on. Those that came out of that, on the other side, they were different. Some were stronger, others returned broken, or not at all. It was one of those things. You never knew until it was finished.

The day slipped slowly by. Though, not as slowly as some of the boats rolled, teetering on the edge of antagonizing him. The afternoon faded, and Atayo found himself lying in the grass beside the canal. Small pieces of it poked him in random places, some unfelt until he moved, others a constant prick he couldn’t help but notice. It didn’t matter, his thoughts were heavy. Atayo felt unsure of what to do or where to go, his direction was muddy. Like waters on the edge of a storm. His days filled themselves like this often. A brewing uncertainty.

He watched a large two-hulled boat drift in under the tall bridge. It was a catamaran, the one he would wait for, the one of his daydreams. It was white, bright white, the captain kept it clean. That was a sign of a good captain. Some boats…he’d wonder just how they stayed afloat, not this one. This one looked like he could run ahead of a storm, buffeted on it’s coming wind. Not that he would try that, he didn’t have a boat. He slipped into that place of want and watched as it came into the canal.

The boat slowed, everly so. It seemed endless. The man steering looked right at Atayo, his gaze pierced. They had seen one another countless times. Atayo could see his coarse, wrinkled hand atop the wheel, guiding it, bringing it home. The boat nearly whispered its presence, like it scarcely existed. Water lapped softly on the break-wall, that soft sound filled the air. The man walked from the helm, but Atayo was looking at the boat, it was beautiful. He could feel his feet on it, seafoam spraying up, wind whipping through his hair and worries.

“Hey, boy!” The man called, his voice gruff.

Atayo started, they had never spoken before. His feet hung over the edge of the canal wall, he’d been lost in that day-long daydream. The man tied the boat off, tethering it to a moor by the water’s edge. He walked to the rail, leaning on it and called out to Atayo again. “Hey there! Can you swim?”

Atayo stared briefly before yelling, “I can!”

“Swim out here then!” He said it roughly.

Atayo didn’t know what to think, but he stood. After emptying his pockets he dove into the water. Being a canal it was not exactly clean. But, he would do anything to stand on that boat. The water was warm, it was the middle of summer, hot and humid. Even if he had to scrape grime from the hull, he wouldn’t mind. Better than smoking cigarette after cigarette and stuck on thoughts of sailing. As he swam he left those behind.

He wondered what this man wanted. He could have asked first, but something told him to just jump in. Sometimes a thing just feels right. He knew, all too well how easy it could be to get trapped, actionless. Instead, he swam. Water has a way of making things further than they seem, it took him long minutes to make it to the boat. He pulled himself up, panting.

The old man stood there, looking down at Atayo, arms crossed. Atayo thought he seemed  angry, but a slight laugh and that visage slipped. He didn’t say anything, but, turned and walked back to the wheel. It  could have belonged on a ship two-hundred years before, maybe it had come from one.

“Untie us.” The man said.

Atayo didn’t know, maybe this guy was planning on taking him to the sea and sacrificing him to the gods of ocean and wind, people did some weird things. Maybe he just needed a hand or wanted company. Atayo didn’t give a shit. He felt his feet on the floor, its pocked and slightly coarse texture felt right, like he’d pictured. He looked back to the canal wall, where his things lay.

Though only a few oddments and some cash he hadn’t wanted to get wet, “My stuff?”

“You can get it if you’d like, but, I’m leaving now.”

The man waited, Atayo looked back, and cringed. It wasn’t much, but it was all he had. He didn’t want to miss this though…

It was a sharp moment, one that seemed hard, he started to untie the boat from the mooring. Every time his hand looped around the hitching, it got easier. By the time he threw the tether aside, he had forgotten about his things. Immediately the boat started drifting. The tide, it was heading out, into the bay. The man stayed quiet, that silence was a solid thing, something that seemed tangible. Not necessarily stern but, implied.

Atayo stayed by the boat’s edge. He watched as the café and canal fell behind. Soon though, he turned his attention to the bay, beyond the bridge, where the ocean started to take over. The captain hadn’t spoken, and when Atayo went to say something he was quieted with a gesture. Heturned to enjoying the ride. The bobbing felt slight, easy, like they were gliding.

The boat passed beneath the bridge, which loomed above, casting a shadow across the water. Once beyond it the man called out, telling him to untie another rope, the one the held the sail. It took a moment and felt awkward at first. The man didn’t say anything. Instead, letting Atayo struggle, then figure it out. Then, it was up and the boat leapt into motion. It no longer drifted with the tide, it flew atop the waves. The wind picked up, he felt a tug, its pull on his hair, it billowed against his face.

It was a moment before he realized the man was calling to him, waving him to come over. He did. Boats of all sorts sailed and careened through the bay, others drifted along. They were pointed straight out, aimed toward the open sea.

“I’ve seen you sitting by the water, watching the boats come and go. Day after day.”

“Really? I didn’t think it was a noticeable thing.” Atayo said.

“Many things can be seen beneath the sun. Here. Take the wheel.”

Atayo hesitated, but it didn’t seem to be a moment to do that. He fought it, that quick jab of fear, and put his hands on one of the worn wooden spokes. It was heavy, that weight seemed to seep into his hands. It was a warm thing. Atayo looked back. The man was looking to the open water, where land let go it’s hold of the bay and ocean took over.

“How does it feel?”

“Good.” Atayo said.

“My life has been on these waters. I imagine all men have their troubles, their hardships. But, they also have their hope, their life and love. I’ve seen how you watch the boats. It was the same way I used to. One day, someone stopped and my life changed. I learned. Many don’t make it, even the ones that pay, that want, that dream. But, sometimes…sometimes there is someone who wants it more than all around. Sometimes there is someone willing to learn what is needed.” He walked from the helm, Atayo still held the wheel. “And sometimes, they need someone to reach out and give them that chance. It happened to me.”

Atayo turned, any words dead on his tongue. The captain stared straight ahead, his gaze unmoving, his eyes looked elsewhere, somewhere inside. Atayo felt awkward and turned back to look across the bay.

“Atayo.” He knew his name? “No one can come and take you to your dream. No one is going to give it to you, you must chase it. This boat is simply a vehicle to get there, it isn’t the dream. Learn well, learn quick, your life is in your hands now. It always was anyway.”

There was a splash. When Atayo looked back, he was alone. It was him, the boat, and the ocean. He searched the water for the man but didn’t find anything, the water fell quickly behind. Looking down he found a piece of paper with his name written on it.

“Atayo, the boat is yours.’

The wind whipped through his hair, it came and went in a wild way. Atayo looked ahead, tears streamed freely. He felt like he was dreaming, but knew he wasn’t. He looked back again. Maybe… In the distance he thought he could see small splashes of someone swimming, but he couldn’t tell. Waves chopped the scene, making it hard to make anything out in the distance. His hands gripped the wheel, it didn’t slip beyond his grasp.

“One day.” He reminded himself.

The End


Read More Short Stories, Check Out My Novellas, and See What I’m Working On Here






*Thank you for reading. Each small story I write, is a piece to the world that grows, some fit in Rangforne, some do not. Your attention, comments, just the act of reading through this, is greatly appreciated. These short stories, are brief glimpses of the world to come. Come along, there are stories afoot, tales to tell and wonder to behold. Terrors and those that would face them, and the journey it takes to get there.*

*Welcome to my small corner of the world. Pull up a seat, we have boundless room. Here at Catylist Inn there is room for all.*


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