The men drift about the streets and pubs of Greyling Bay, their ropes slashed, their rudders broken. It’s a women’s world now. They own the cafes, the boarding houses and the knick-knackery shops. They clean the holiday cottages, mow the tidy handkerchief lawns, paint the fences bright blue and pink and plant the window-boxes with pansies and geraniums. The men no longer hunt after the shoals of silver but collect coins in buckets from tourists who peer suspiciously at the rust on Gwiddon’s breast and ask, “is it safe?” before stepping aboard with nervous, sandaled steps.
Yes. Greyling Bay had changed but not so much that Owen can’t still see the granite and feel the pain beneath the hanging baskets, and feel the worn treads in the steps up to The Jolly Fisherman, once the harbour-master’s office but now a shop selling baskets from China at silly prices, crab shells turned into ashtrays and plaster seagulls on metal spikes. Does it matter? The sea is still there, sighing, whispering and wailing. The bitch. The whore. His lover. She will bring the men to her again. She’s only biding her time.
Owen wipes his eyes, surprised to find them wet. The warming sun has lifted the wind. Gwiddon bobs like a bath toy on waves flecked with white-tipped waves.
He jumps down. Her engine starts first time. Sweet as a nut. Ann will be wondering where he is, complaining about wasted fuel. She has a meeting this afternoon with the local tourist board and he has to pick Beth and Gwyneth from nursery and then he and Gwiddon will chug around the bay, wearing a silly pirate’s hat with a harvest of eager tourists on board and dream that once their quota is exceeded he can toss them overboard.
Once he wished for sons. Now he is glad he has none.