Grouse, over-indulged with tender, nectar-spurred broom blossoms, whirred off low into bushes, calling their young with insistent, high piping notes, as Rose walked slowly and thoughtfully through Meadow on her way to Grandfathers place.
Summer was beginning to show a full and flowery face, offering rose- campion and daisies to show above the leggy, enthusiastic young grass, and purple-crowned thistles dared anyone, even those on wings, to approach without caution, while their fragrance, as elegant as their showy flowers, enticed bees, hummingbirds and butterflies to a banquet, as these visitors helped with ensuring seed for finches and next years crop.
Rose, as willing to succumb as anyone else, approached cautiously and inhaled the fragrance as she went along, even though Breeze carried armfuls of the opulent scent away from the flowers to enhance the surrounding space.
A nervous family of quail, with Father scouting on the path and Mother and chicks scuttling unseen in the low growth, decided to make a sudden break for it and get across to the other side of the path before Rose came too close.
Seeing their intent, she stopped quickly and remained quiet to let them pass, always fascinated with this sight, while Fathers bobbing, forward-curled gallants plume led the dash, and the almost imperceptible movement of swift legs seemed to float the whole family in a chaotic wave over the path, like Tide forgetting which direction to be heading, until Mother, bringing up the rear, collected the gathering and shooed them across, an anxious, feathered marshal with a confused clutch. Rose counted fourteen chicks making the mad sprint for cover.
Laughing to herself, she continued on her way after the disorganised little troop had disappeared into the grass on the other side of the path. The unexpected impromptu comic performance had lightened her mood a little. This morning her walk to Grandfathers place was more than just her usual light-hearted stroll, her thoughts being on more weighty things.
Time and Tide, always on the move, had washed steadily and steadfastly over the shores and shallows of Shalisa Creek Bay and, as Spring merged with Summer, change, inevitable and inexorable, had merged with them. This year it had been manifested not only in the greening of the shoreline and the songs of birds establishing homes, but in the visible results of a land reclassification in the area of Shalisa Creek Village.
The road which had ambled its way to and through the little village had recently been shunted aside by the construction of a fast four lane highway outside of town. This now allowed travellers to continue swiftly north after it had shed the confines of the speed limitations once imposed on it by the village bylaws and local vehicle operators, who were used to holding conversations with friends walking alongside as the driver inched slowly and carefully forward, while bits of information were exchanged about which fishing boats were ready for the upcoming season, how the crops were progressing, and whether the hay was ready to be brought in yet.
The new blacktopped boon for hectic traffic had been granted by those in power, not only to satisfy the demands of constituents whose wheels were always seeking somewhere different to roll to and whose owners wanted to roll them there faster, but also to accommodate more economic expansion and more tourism in that general area, both of which arrived, ready and willing, with money and credit in hand.
The economy was looking up, so industry and commerce dared to invest other peoples investments again, while tourism, having fallen off, once more had begun to burgeon, both in style and number, until some of the tourists who had recently retired had looked around and decided that this wasnt a bad part of the country to remain in. They had found the countryside around the village charming, and a large part of the charm was the pricetag when compared to that of better known and more favoured areas.
Here was beauty and restful quiet, compared to their busy lives in the city, so those who were weary, jaded, and overloaded with too much input and output, saw a place to rest without jeopardising their hard-earned, carefully planned and saved for futures.
The Crown, keeping its eager eye on current trends, had decided to capitalise on this latest public fancy. The logged land, which had been such a threadbare, tattered liability before, promised to turn into a bonanza now, re-categorised as real estate for housing development. It was put up for sale as acreages, subdivisions and lots, aiming at a future lucrative tax base to swell government coffers, and the Village of Shalisa Creek found itself no longer catering exclusively to the needs of struggling farmers, fishermen, unemployed loggers and happy Soggers.
The waterfront properties which came up for sale would not have been considered choice by any of the established villagers. If it had been, it would have been built on some time before, but it offered a sweeping panorama of sea and skyand sweep was the word when Weather got angry. Most of the buyers knew little or nothing of the winds which blew around that coast, or of just how cold salt water and fog could be, so these lots, graced with sun and waterfront at low tide and the best of times, looked ideal and sold fast when shown with a shining summer beachwhile Tide was in retreat. Every agent knew enough not to show them otherwise.
Much of the land which was located close to the village had been logged selectively, rather than by the clear-cut method which came in later, so these lots, green with rejuvenating growth, looked like ideal country retreats, and they sold fast. Buyers were looking for a breath of country living which would include relatively untouched landwhich they could touch for themselves, not the rocky, empty, rain-scoured, stump-encrusted slopes they so often referred to as moonscapes, which were found farther along the new road.
- - -
Some of the touching was not gentle.
Returning in BRIGHT LEAF one afternoon from a trip to the village, Rose passed close to shore where land was being cleared by a crew to make way for a new house. On this property stood the tree holding the massive home of Bald Eagle, a residence which had been used for many years. The nest had all the aspects of a venerable old hall in Natures world, being large and expansive from constant renovation and occupation each nesting season. Every twig, dead branch and bit of construction material which had gone into it had been selected carefully by each generation to make sure everything was solid and able to last through friendly and unfriendly seasons, according to Eagle building standards.
Seeing the two big birds circling anxiously overhead, and hearing the chainsaw, Rose feared that the men working there were not aware of what she considered to be a treasure on the property, and that they might bring the tree down by mistake.
She pulled onto the beach and walked up to the saw operator who saw her coming and paused in his work.
Hello, she smiled. I live just a little way from here, farther up around the arm of the bay. Are you clearing for a house site?
Yeah, came the affirmative as the man regarded her and then the canoe resting on the beach. We hope to get building here pretty fast. You that Shalisa Creek Bay woman?
Rose wasnt quite sure what sort of designation that was supposed to be, but she answered,
Im Rose Hold. I guess youve seen the eagles nest have you?
You mean that old tree there with the dead top?
He indicated the nesting site by pointing his chainsaw at it.
Yes. Its very old. They nest here every year.
Too bad, came the reply. Its right in the way of the view from this property.
Its really quite a unique piece of nature, Rose told him, not encouraged by that answer. Everybody knows about it around here. Theyre beautiful birds, fascinating to watch, and theyre part of the life which has gone on for so long in this area. Perhaps the new owners will enjoy such a wonderful sight. It mustnt be cut.
Yeah, well, he replied, looking at her with annoyance, You cant stand in the way of progress lady. Im sure there are lots of other trees around they can use. I guess you have plenty on your place.
With deliberation he picked up his saw, walked over to the tree and stood at its base, gauging which way it might fall.
Rose knew then that, unless she made this man aware of something more than her ideas about historic natural sites, the tree and its nest were lost.
Anger came up and shook her.
Youre worse than a fool, she told him with furious disgust. You leave your children a barren inheritance. Dust and rocks. Youll be remembered with shame and bitterness as a destroyer instead of a creator. So Ill tell you this. Its forbidden by law to cut an eagle tree in this area and if I find youve broken this law, Ill lay charges quickly and punitively.
The man hesitated, not expecting to be challenged in such a way. He knew the law but had always chosen to ignore it, since no one had ever bothered to complain and it appeared that no one cared. This woman, by her appearance and words, indicated trouble. His own anger at being frustrated in his work and threatened with legal action flared up.
Get off this property you stupid b....!! Youre trespassing.
Believe meI mean it! she warned quietly and emphatically, then she turned and walked quickly back to BRIGHT LEAF, knowing she could not physically deter this man. She pushed off from the beach and paddled swiftly away, wanting to be gone before the possible sound of the trees destruction reached her ears, hoping that her warning had been taken to heart.
The impact of that meeting stayed with her for days until she was able to reconcile herself to this violent annihilating concept of progress, as she sat quietly at Grandfathers Place, accepting what she could do nothing about. She was only too aware that change was inevitable and was part of all ongoing life. She knew that change brought good as well as bad and, apart from simply accepting with resignation the things she might find disturbing, she had tried to see somewhere in it the possibility of doing good to balance the downside, or at least find the ability to use it to produce good in some fashion.
She wondered now, sitting alone among the old trees, just what good she could find in this unsettling idea of progress she had encountered. At the moment she couldnt see too many possibilities.
Thinking back on the incident by the beach, she was sorry she had lost her temper and forgotten Grandfathers determined but gentle approach of discussion and persuasion in such matters.
<Im truly ashamed Grandfather. I know I shouldnt get angrybutits not easy. One of the reasons I took law was to help those who were victimised by others. Now I feel Im not doing that and, although I threaten with the law someone who might consider breaking it, that just makes me feel as though Ive failed and have used a last resort, and I know very well I should deal with things differently.>
Rose got up and took a path which led to the cliffs overlooking Sea. Wind was brushing streaks of white cloud across the sky and ruffling the surface of the water. In the distance she could see a couple of boats heading into the village, a power boat and a sailboat with two masts, which reminded her of Davids yawl. He had phoned once to tell her that he was waiting until the cast was off his leg before he brought the plane out with the work he had for her, and he wasnt sure just when hed make it, but that there was no hurry, because nothing was of immediate necessity.
Ordinarily, that would have set the matter aside until his further contact if she had been in her office back in the city, but she wasnt, and she hadnt simply forgotten the call.
<Its just that he brought with him enough of his own feelings of wanting to escape the busy milieu I used to be part of, and that helped me to feel more at ease with the choice Ive made. I didnt realise what it would be like when I cut myself off so thoroughly from the life I was used to. Ive found that I dont really want to totally lose touch with that other world, even if I dont want to live there andhe added some extra fun and laughter when he came in the spring, with his flute and Ulf and Gurth. I think I was hoping hed make it a habitnot that it matters. Fitz and the kids certainly keep things hopping here butIm beginning to feel completely useless, as though I have no purpose for being, and its as if nobody else cares whether I do or not either. Who wants to feel like justnothinga total nonentity?>
She watched the boats disappear behind the headland as they continued toward the village, then she turned and headed back down to the bay.
- - -
During their week-end excursions in search of a quiet retreat, one pair of would-be land buyers got off the track and ended up wandering down the old logging road which led to Rose, Fitz and the children. Thinking they had followed correctly the directions given to them by their real estate agent, they stopped their vehicle at the entrance to the old logging road and decided that no car, and especially not theirs, could get very far along that piece of abandoned track. It needed a four-by-four, if not more.
They considered doubtfully, then decided that since they couldnt drive in, theyd walka walk which turned into a heel-blistering hike in unsuitable footwear by the time it was finished, ending with the two people becoming argumentative, out-of-sorts, out of breath and out of kind thoughts by the time they fell onto the beach at Shalisa Creek Bay.
This in itself had been enough of a trial, but what met their eyes once they were there troubled them even more.
As summer had progressed, the weather had become sunnier and the water in the shallows of the bay had warmed up for swimming. The children, totally uninhibited where playing in the water was concerned, swam, sunned and played without thought of clothing, Isabel even being of the opinion that she was keeping their good clothes from getting ruined with too much wear and tear.
Fitz, being an old seaman and used to swimming unencumbered, and Rose, feeling there was nothing wrong with behaving in that natural way, abandoned their polite and somewhat formal stance on these matters toward each other once they found that they were both of the same mind about such things. They relaxed and joined the enjoyment of the water without hindrance of clothing.
The two lost real-estate seekers, tired, frustrated, and ready to take umbrage at anything which might be slightly out of the ordinary, had come upon what they took to be a wanton revel in progress when the scene farther down the beach, of adults and children swimming together without swimwear, was fed through their own sieve of morals, manners and codes of dress. They retreated quickly back the way they had comeas quickly as their hurting feet would take themfeeling shocked and threatened.
Shortly after, as a result of this misdirected safari after land, in the village where land seekers congregated to recharge themselves before leaving to drive farther up the new blacktop, Sea Urchin staff began to overhear patrons talking in scandalised voices, punctuated with perplexed little laughs, about that bunch of nudies who had been seen down on the beach. The fact that the sighting had been on private property and the observers had been trespassing didnt enter into the conversations.
This made a couple of the waitresses nervous because they werent sure which bunch or beach was being referred to, and they also felt a bit put upon that now theyd maybe have to keep a lookout for stray people whenever they went to their favourite spot with their friends for a casual and refreshing swim as they had done for all the years they had been alive here.
The bay dwellers, not knowing of the furore they were causing in the village because of their swimming habits, continued with their innocent behaviour, unaware of the concern.
- - -
When an increasing amount of traffic took the turnoff to the village, looking for rest and refill before continuing on their way north again, local residents and those in the surrounding area found themselves turning into directional signposts as they stopped to pick up their mail at community boxes, or when pausing at crossroads to make sure it was safe to proceed. They became experts at directing lost, strayed and confused drivers to various places, replying to anxious queries which were shouted at them about where this and that road or property might be, or where to find a restaurant, when heads popped out from vehicle windows of dusty, panting conveyances owned by out of the area strangers.
The cafés and grocery stores found themselves pressed for space and staff as their volume of business grew. Long-time customers had to wait in lineups to get their purchases which once had been made in a leisurely, unhurried, sociable and uncrowded fashion. Now their ears were assaulted with loud remarks of displeasure from people who were used to having ten or twelve fast checkouts to handle them at their supermarkets back home, and they were in too much of a rush to stand around making idle pleasant conversation which held up the service.
The availability of tables at Sea Urchin sometimes became a musical chairs affair, and a certain amount of resentment began to build between the two factions which were shaping up, as those who were used to finding lots of empty tables and those who had never seen such a thing before began to bump into each other at coffee and lunch times.
Visitors of more than one days duration had quickly discovered that they shouldnt sit at a particular corner table at certain times because it was the property of some people who owned it by squatters rights. They had been coming for coffee in the morning for so long that they were considered fixtures at that time and no one had ever expected anything else.
The group regularly included a fisherman who no longer fished but whose opinions were always listened to, a tugboat captain with a voice and laugh which filled the café when he was present, a P.Eng. ret., who used his professional skills to engineer practical jokes with the food on the table, three large and fascinating women who seemed to be always getting the better of the men whenever they joined the group, and a doctor who had retired from that profession early but still practised medicine, sort of, if any of the older established residents came to him for helpand most of them didfor ailments not requiring hospitalisation, and which were more of the Im a bit worried about this type of problem. These visits were usually paid for with eggs, vegetables, flowers for his wife, knitted goods, or like trade items, which the doctor received with gracious gratefulness, hoping as he did so that the donor was not going to be left wanting of that particular item.
Any other friends and acquaintances who might drop by the café at such times were also welcomed warmly into the corner table gathering.
Things began to sort themselves out, as the newcomers learned to take the seating nearest the door where the draft blew in, at least during the time-space agenda filled by the long-term patrons, and only occasional strangers would head unknowingly for the sheltered corner. Real estate agents, who were mostly local people and just newly certified, never violated that undisplayed table reservation while having lunch or coffee with prospective buyers. After all, they still had to live in the village and deal with their old friends.
Throw the Rascals Out found itself with patrons asking for what bartenders there considered to be exotic concoctions, prompting them to ask for the recipe from the startled and disbelieving visitors, who routinely received these delicious refreshments without question during their ordinary routinesback home.
The merchants were caught in the middle, delighted with new business but torn by old loyalties. They did their bravest best to keep peace and pace and, as the days totals totalled up, their smiles increased exponentially. They actually told themselves they didnt mind getting rushed off their feetit was funand profitable!
There was one irritation which some old time residents, who lived mostly close to the waterfront which had given so many of them their livelihood, did not smile at. They were getting referred to as Soggers by the new arrivals, as the term filtered into everyday conversation, along with the reference which implied worthlessness to those on whom it was used. The misinformation had been picked up from locals, as people meandering around were curious about the bay which possessed the name they saw on their touring maps, and were told of the various and sometimes mischievously exaggerated reasons for its colourful tag.
Word spread. Dont go near that place. Its awful!
Residents of the Bay and Guardian of the Gap were blissfully unaware of this new description of themselves but, had they known, they might have been grateful for the explanation as to why they were not being bothered by newcomers. Peace still enfolded peninsula, bay and surroundsit was just too awful for anybody else.
Guardian of the Bay, being very wise indeed, continued with her own patrolling, although she was not called upon to overly exert herself. Few boats came that way and those which did usually kept their distance, having heard of her stern discipline, and the unsavoury things which lay beyond her corridor of influence.
Annoyed at being dispossessed from their favourite tables in cafés, barbershops and pubs, the village residents put up a stolid front and hoped that these newbies might soon get tired of village charm and would go sit and look at the view from their new houses or sail their big boats back home for the winter, which would leave room for ordinary people once more.
The general situation in the village became even worse when the marinas, now owned by new proprietors, started to raise the rates of their leases for berthage at an ever accelerating rate, forcing many longtime lessees to move their vessels elsewhere.
None of the local marina owners had been proof against profit when it came in the form of real estate values. They had found out how much they could sell their places for when energetic land dealers kept calling, bringing offers to purchase with amounts of money which seemed astronomical to these people who had spent most of their lives just keeping patches on their coveralls and engine grease off their lunch.
They sold out and departed quickly for warmer climates, and the actuality of realising their own dreams which never until now had been thought of as concrete possibilities, leaving their faithful patrons to deal with new owners as best they might.
Dealing soon turned into outrage when it was found that rates were being inflated to accommodate an expected summer influx of water borne holidayers in big boats, who were appearing on the waterfront more and more frequently within a very short time lapse, presumably bringing with them big wallets to match.
This strategy would allow the marina owners to collect their profit during the summer season, keeping the operation barely operating with a caretaker during the winter, because there wouldnt be much to do then, and few local boats to do it for anyway, as most of them would have been priced out of the private moorage market, intentionally or otherwise.
Some of the new owners didnt want to be bothered with demanding locals who expected all sorts of fringe benefits which were now being discontinued, such as inclusive water and cheap electricity to go with their berths. Those who might still hang in there would have to find other accommodation for the winter because there wasnt going to be any of that anymore. This place would be closed for the season. The proprietors themselves would be somewhere else in a sunnier place, being cared for in another facility which stayed open all year around.
There was an exodus of lease holders from the sheltered marinas as their terms expired. The government wharf began to get clogged with fishboats, tugs and other commercial vessels whose owners had previously enjoyed privately owned facilities which had always been available at reasonable rates and which they had used for years. They left behind spaces they had considered theirs indefinitely, and which had been decorated with nameplates firmly attached to the finger of the wharf they had occupied, as proof of that trustWESTMAN WILL, HAI-SO, METHUSELAHand they now found themselves displacing LOUISA THREE and other such poverty stricken workboats whose owners also didnt like the idea of the crowding suddenly going on around them when they were pushed from berth to berth as the harassed wharfinger tried to accommodate the sudden demand on space at the public wharf.
The gatherings at Sea Urchin and Throw the Rascals Out were now surprisingly subdued and serious, as the skippers of these boats began to discuss the situation, wondering just what the outcome would be and where this would all end for themselves. The retired fishing boat skipper was of the opinion that seeking space elsewhere might be a feasible option, and all of them decided they had better start looking for that, fast, wherever it was.
- - -
Sky and Sea melded into one pale shimmering sheet, leaving no trace of Horizon from shore to infinity. Haze softened light into bright grey as Robin, intent on hanging his late evening sonnet on more than one tree, trilled his clear notes out across the edge of Beach where they sparkled into void, each one pursued by the next until, satisfied that his was the best and last song of the day, he retired and left Bay to silence.
No sound intruded from boat, barge or shore dwelling as Twilight gently pushed remnants of Day away. This was a time when the bay residents usually sat quietly with their own thoughts before darkness closed down and brought most activity outside to a halta time when Day handed care of Bay over to Night through an evening consultation.
Into the bright grey space which stretched out from Beach came a dot, at about the place where Horizon usually lay in close union with Sea.
At first it might have been just an uncertain speck in someones eye had anyone been looking, but it grew, staying constant in its place until a trailing, glittering, widening vee identified a boats wake, indicating that there was indeed water between sky and land. Still paying out its spreading, undulating tail, the black dot took on a more definite shape, becoming a boat, then more specifically a trawler, and at last the double planking on its bow could be seen by Guardian of the Bay.
It kept its course true, never deviating by a degree, heading straight into Shalisa Creek Bay as though familiar with the route, cleared itself through Soggers Gap without hesitation and without challenge from Guardian, and only when it had cut its motor and was approaching the old wharf did it veer and come about to tie up there.
It was a big boat, and old, and it was plain that its fishing days were over, for much of the gear necessary for the fishing trade was absent from its decks, but it was not in that state of decay and neglect which comes to most retired wooden working vessels once their economic usefulness is over. The double planking shone with thick varnish, the paintwork had been done recently and with care and the two painted eyes, one on either side of the bows, were bright and watchful and never slept, so that Bay Guardian received a steady, open and unthreatening return of her scrutiny, and a look of familiarity passed between the two as the boat passed through Gap.
The trawler came up to the old wharf quietly, on the opposite side and a little astern of the space occupied by ELFINSHOE and, with no fuss and a minimum of sound, the two people aboard made it fast. Once settled, it sat contentedly, as though it had just come home. The fading light made it difficult to make out identity, but the name boards which sat over the eyes like eyebrows, were large and clear, consisting of only five carved letters saying plainly, HAI-SO.
After awhile a short man with equal amounts of grey and black hair came out of the wheelhouse and, carefully stepping onto the hazardous catwalk, made his way ashore, walking toward Roses residence, from which lamplight fell with a warm light on the garden outside.
The door was open, for shed heard the boat pull in, seen it being tied up, and was curious to know who had come through the Gap so steadily and fearlessly but, rather than calling a greeting, the visitor stood politely aside and knocked, and when she came out expectantly, he said,
Excuse me, I hope Im not bothering you. Im Shiro Kamisaki. Are you Rose Hold? and on hearing the affirmative he continued, I understand you own this wharf and my wife and I were wondering if you rent berthing space.
Oh, no I dont rent, came the smiling reply, But youre welcome to tie up for the night if you like.
There was something of disappointed resignation apparent as she looked into his eyes, when he continued,
We were hoping for something more permanent. We thought perhaps you had space by the month.
Rose was taken totally by surprise.
Uhoh, this isnt a marina. There are some marinas in the village though, not too far from here by water. You could probably try those tomorrow.
He shook his head with a little smile.
Ive just left there. The rates, you see, became too high.
Immediate concern showed in Roses face. She knew what was happening in the village.
Ive never rented space, she explained. For one thing, the wharf is in poor repair, and theres no running water, electricity or any other facilities for boaters, but you can stay here for as long as you like, until you find a place which has those things. You can use our water and such while youre here.
Thank you so much. Thats very generous of you.
He hesitated, seeming to ponder a problem, then told her,
We wouldnt want to intrude. We understand this bay belongs to the Shalisa, and maybe isnt open to everyone.
This is Shalisa land and theres a registered commercial oyster bed here, but dont worry about that. We like good company, and for that the shore is open to every good skipper up to high tide line, and farther if the land is respected.
He smiled then, and replied,
Youre very kind. Itll make my wife Tashakawa so happy. Thank you again. Goodnight.
He turned and left as quietly as he had come, while Rose stood looking out toward the old wharf, wondering if she shouldnt have told him about the boards which werent there, but as she watched his careful and nimble return she realised he needed no such warnings and could probably negotiate such a walkway with his eyes closed, so she went back to sewing a patch onto the seat of a pair of jeans which belonged to Morgan and let the peace of the evening return around her.
The five young people aboard ELFINSHOE had watched interestedly from their windows as the fine old fishing boat pulled in close by, but they were restrained from satisfying their curiosity at once by Isabel, who told them to stop staring and being nosy. Besides, she figured they had better wait and ask Rose where this boat hailed from before they made their presence known, so the children moved back from the windows and contained themselves as best they could. They settled down to eating their apples and reading their books, with only the occasional peek out the windows by the twins until darkness ended their overlooked disobedience.
Fitz had also seen the boat arrive and noted that Rose had been made aware that it was there at the wharf. He finished washing up the dishes from his evening meal, lowered ROSEBUD to go for his usual late row with Charm and, on his return, he pulled past the HAI-SO and had a few words with the two people sitting on her stern deck, who by that time had been transformed into two dark shapes aboard the trawler. They exchanged pleasant small talk about how beautiful the evening was, as he held his place beside them with an occasional flip of the oars, then he returned to LEGER DE MAIN and resumed working on the rope mat he was making for the foot of the companionway on JOLLY ROSE.
Sun went west through the haze and Sky welcomed huge full Moon pushing up from east Horizon.
Burnished deep orange by haze, it rosethe kind of moon no artist would dare to paint for fear of having the work laughed at as being ridiculously overdone. It lit Bay and surrounds with light the colour of celebration fireworks, pouring it onto the hidden pool where Spirit of the Waterfall held court, and it fell headlong down the spill, splashing warm colour into the rushing waters as they ran with outstretched arms and rising anticipation through moonlit-tinged foliage as Sea came in to meet the embrace, bathed with the same colour.
HAI-SO felt the friendly push of incoming Tide against his hull, listened to Breeze coming from Shore, watched Moon gliding up Sky, and lay restfully beside the old wharf.
It was a familiar bay, although he hadnt seen it for years. He had been brought here often in previous times to be beached for bottom scraping when there had been no slip in the village for fishermen to do that work, and no fishermen who would have paid hard earned money to use it even if there had been.
That sort of upkeep had always been done between tides, on gently sloped sandy beaches, where the boats were careened and cleaned. Here he had met tugs and planes and, he thought now, the barge he saw over there on the spit looked familiar too, an acquaintance he was sure, from the days when the bay had been busy with barges and log booms coming and going. True, the building which topped it was certainly a recent addition, but he reasoned that no matter what friends do to their exterior, their hearts usually remain the same.
Perhaps in the morning, he decided, theyd talk, but now he was resting after the journey from the village had been completed so successfully, pleased to be lying at a safe berth which wasnt as crowded as the government wharf which he had left earlier that afternoon.
That one had reminded him too much of other days.
- - -
He had been built in a more leisurely age, when owners took pride in watching their boats being shaped from the tools of skilled craftsmen who knew which woods would do what and always had just the right kind for each requirement, ready and waiting to be put into a vessel.
The man who had commissioned the trawler had come by often as the new hull was worked on, bringing his sons with him. He would watch a little as caulking proceeded, listen to the cataloguing of the progress which had been made, run his hand over the fine new wood, then step back with a satisfied look and say, Hai, so, until his small youngest son, Shiro, began jokingly to call the boat by that name because his father used the expression so much at the building shed.
When launching time came there was nothing for it but to call it that, because everyone else had also started to refer to it as Mikos new boat, HAI-SO, and Miko was not about to fly in the face of Fate.
The new trawler lived up to all the expectations which had been projected about it and the fishing fleet looked on it with smiles and comments of, Next year or so maybe I can afford one like that.
In spite of all this and good fishing, worry began to gather on the features of HAI-SOs skipper over a period of time as he read the newspapers. The wharf, though it still rang with laughter, often had groups of men standing about in sombre discussions. There was talk of danger to the fishing fleet from submarines, a type of craft HAI-SO had never met and, from the sound of it, didnt want to.
Many of the young fishermen were not around the wharf anymore, for there had been wrenching departures, and returning was spoken of in terms of when I get leave. Everyone wished IT would soon be over and the sons could come back to take up fishing again.
Then things seemed to get worse. One day Mikos wife cried bitterly, the children sat in silence, and Miko huddled with his friend Will Westman on the tug WESTMAN WILL, talking into the night, when words like robbery and hijacking and bloody bureaucrats were heard.
The next day, to HAI-SOs mortification, Miko and the captain of WESTMAN WILL fastened new, hastily painted name boards over his own fine, carved ones, which declared him now to beHI JACK.
He no longer belonged to Miko, but had become the charge of the captain of WESTMAN WILL, sold for a price which was not disclosed, to be leased under the care of a responsible and careful skipper for the duration. The men hugged each other and there were tears in their eyes as they walked away from fastening the name boards.
Two days later HAI-SO found out why he had been so humiliated. A government boat arrived and certain of the vessels in the fishing fleet at the wharf were singled out and requested to leave under escort.
He lurked behind the protective stern of his friend WESTMAN WILL, feeling like a hunted fugitive under his new name boards as the others motored outCATCHER I, CATCHER II, AIKO TAKASA, OCEAN GOLD, GEISHAtheir wakes slapping forlornly against the other boats tied up there as they left.
Men stood and watched in silence as the little procession disappeared beyond the breakwater.
Once it was gone a strange pall of silence fell over the wharf as though someone had died. Some of the watchers walked away with their heads down and their hands in their pockets. Some stood leaning on the rails of their boats staring at the empty spaces where the now detainees had been berthed in freedom. Some went below decks and sat in quiet thought.
Those were not good times.
HAI-SO, now HI JACK, went to the fishing grounds with a new crew. Around him there were some mutterings that Will Westman was a profiteer, and some made an accusation worse than that in one wordtraitor.
Some people had not understood that the sale had been made, not for greed, nor for defiance of authority, but for friendship and a sense of justice. Some of those who muttered wished in their hearts that they had been graced with the foresight to take advantage of such a situation to acquire a boat like HAI-SO cheap, to be used for leasing out.
The very name HI JACK became a flag of contention. The word renegade was often used when referring to the boat, and a distance began to manifest itself between those who knew what had been behind the purchase and those who thought they knew.
Some skippers spat when HI JACK pulled up at the cannery to offload. The man who had leased the boat, and his crew as well, found themselves ostracised by some of their former friends. There were loud and sometimes violent arguments in the pubs, from which men went home with split lips and bruised knuckles.
Often a few of the participants in these struggles didnt get home at all for the night, winding up being lodged in the local lockup instead for causing a disturbance in a public place.
The skippers of WESTMAN WILL and HI JACK found the bunks there not at all uncomfortable when compared with the berth of a pitching boat in a howling gale, although they admitted to each other that the stationary accommodation did seem to go around in circles a bit sometimes after a pub evening ended with government accommodation for the night.
Their wives smiled tolerantly, put arnica and witch hazel on the cuts and bruises, and suggested that perhaps another subject of conversation might be found to grace the tables at Throw the Rascals Out, because they felt a little too much throwing was going on.
There was even an attempt at arson which was foiled only because Wills young son Bud happened to be sleeping aboard the trawler and caught the two stealthy visitors as they began pouring gasoline onto the stern deck. Bud was big for his age and at that moment very angry, and only a quick leap over the side into icy water saved both would-be arsonists from permanent injury.
- - -
Time alone defused the situation, for IT was finally over.
Some of the young men who had left came back to the fishing fleet, looking much oldersome never did. Nor immediately did any of those families whose men had taken their boats on that escorted journey out from the Shalisa Creek Village wharf so many years before, including the Kamisakis, who had sold their trawler, and others who had been farmers in the area and had never owned a boat.
People began to forget what all the fuss about HI JACK had been. There were new boats and new skippers and a new cannery up the coast. Prosperous times seemed to be ahead and HI JACK was left in peace at last. The man who had leased the trawler through the bad times, and now the good, stayed with it until he could no longer work the boat, and so the search for another honest man began.
The big fishing boat sat behind the bigger tug, waiting for new hands to take him out again and, on a morning when the sun shone, the air smelled of fish and seaweed and all the coast knew Spring had come, a young man walked down the ramp, onto the wharf, and along the finger where the two boats were tied up.
He stood for a moment looking at the trawler and then, laying his hand gently against the hull, said softly, as though to himself,
HI JACK heard, and felt in his planked spirit a burst of joy, even though it was the son and not the father who had returned.
Another young man, large of chest breadth and arm muscle, walked out of the cabin of WESTMAN WILL and glanced curiously at the visitor on the wharf, then with a leap he was off the tug and onto the boards, shouting,
ShiroSHIRO! Youre back!
A wild, mad little dance took place on the finger of the wharf as the two young men hugged each other and jumped up and down until one lost his footing and both fell into the water, still laughing and clutching at each other. They clambered out, sputtering and streaming and began again.
At last they stopped, breathless, and Bud Westman asked,
Why didnt you write and let me know you were coming?
I didnt have timeI came because my heart told me to.
The words silenced the bigger young man for a moment until he asked, fearing he knew the answer before it was given,
Hows your father?
Gone. And yours?
They hugged each other again, feeling it was well that no one could tell which salt water on their faces was from the sea and which was not, and Bud turned quickly away not wanting emotion to take over too strongly.
WaitwaitIll get some tools.
He ran back and boarded WESTMAN WILL, sloshing in his wet clothing, and when he returned the two leaned over the stern of the trawler, working and prying at the name board there and at last it was off, slipping into the water from Shiros wet hands, and HAI-SO discarded his disguise, free to be himself again.
One of the two boards on the bow followed the splintered stern board with a splash, but Shiro kept the other, saying it was to remind him never again to take anything for granted.
- - -
It took time for Shiro Kamisaki to learn the arts of a fisherman, but he worked hard and remembered things from his childhood, and was tutored by the willing former skipper, until the student took over the boat himself when the old man who had now become his teacher, decided his pupil had made enough progress so that he could now manage his boat and crew himself.
While this practical schooling was underway Shiro managed to find time to spend with a young woman, one of those who belonged to a family of others who had been banished from the area and who had begun to return to the towns they had called home and the places where they had been born, so that the Kamisakis had old friends as well as new.
Only occasionally would his young wife find Shiro thoughtfully studying the name board of a boat, with the name HI JACK painted on it, which hung on the wall in the little room he used for an office.
Through strikes, disappearing fish runs, government restrictions to conserve breeding stocks, and ever spiralling costs, HAI-SO and Shiro endured, and went out to the fishing grounds.
None of the Kamisakis sons followed the fishing trade. Only one stayed in the village, becoming an accountant, and the daughters married professional men from the city, leaving to live there. A grandson, Kazuyoshi, showed interest in fishing, so that when it came time to leave the fleet in fulfilment of the promise Shiro had made to his wife that he would no longer go to sea after the grandchildren were assured of a university education, Shiro and Tashakawa decided to give up the house where the family had lived for so long.
Money had not been plentiful but they had given their children the best they could, and helped their sons and daughters when financial troubles became worrisome, as they often did. All of the lease funds and the purchase price of one dollar, along with the interest accruing from the sale of HAI-SO, which had been carefully banked for them by Will Westman, had been equally divided among the original family members and Shiros share had gone, partly as down payment on a house, and anything else left over went for day to day expenses and the education of the children.
Now they found their own lives needed a change. They felt their house was too expensive to keep, for they had only the money from a small investment to live on and it seemed extravagance to continue living in a house larger than they needed.
They thought the matter over carefully and concluded that the big boat was too old and outdated to bring much from a sale, and if Kazuyoshi really wanted to fish they could help him buy a more contemporary vessel which would be the only way for a young man to make any headway in the now very competitive world of the fisheries. Besides, HAI-SO held too much of Shiros past, and the thought of finding it later, cast aside by an uncaring new owner, holed and rotting on some beach, like so many others hed seen, tore at his memories.
Instead, they decided to convert the roomy craft into a live-aboard, and to stay at the wharf where HAI-SO had been berthed for so many years, because the moorage rates were much more reasonable than any rented house they could find, and the price theyd get for the sale of their now suddenly valuable property would relieve them of future money worries, both for themselves and Kazuyoshi.
Shiro had forgotten. He had taken something for granted again. The flow of new people, new money, new marina owners, and new boats surging around the village arrived to remind him.
Only the progression of time with all the changes which came with it could be taken for granted.
Once more he and Tashakawa thought carefully, and decided that somewhere there must be a cheaper wharf. They set about finding just that. They asked and listened and searched, until the evening waters had brought them to Shalisa Creek Bay where HAI-SO now rested so contentedly.
Tashakawa and Shiro sat together on HAI-SOs stern deck, feeling grateful as they watched the full orange moon rise, remembering not to take it for granted.