the setting sun lit up the gnarled faces of the two men. one–older–with an unlit pipe stuck between his teeth, unraveled the netting, throwing fish into the large oak barrels. the other, younger man, jacket rolled up to his elbows, gritted as he concentrated on steering the boat into the dock. with a thunk and swish, the wood met the stone and the young man jumped over the barrels, reaching for the large knotted rope that would keep their vessel bopping alongside the pier. without looking up the older man grunted; “the barrels, boy. the barrels”. the younger man, never replied, only grimaced as he caught his hand in a crevice.
the dock was quiet save for some insistent pern, demanding their share of the motherload as was their right as avians. the young man continued to moor the boat while the old man stood up, legs encased in shiny black *wellingtons*. satisfied that the boat would not suddenly jerk away from the dock, the young man began the ardous work of hauling barrel after barrel onto the warf. the old man continued to stand as the young man grunted his way through the unloading. by now, the sun’s rays splashed the sky with radiant golden yellows and red-oranges.
when the young man had finished, the old man lifted the nets and cautiously maneuvered around the other equipment until he arrived at the point closest to the warf. the young man stood up from his position on a barrel and leaned down to collect the nets. carefully adjusting his reach, he lifted the nets onto the barrels and when he had finished turned to give the old man a hand. it was unnecessary though for the old man had hauled himself onto the warf with unexpected agility, patted down his jacket, spit into his hands and turned to stare at me.
it took me by surprise when the old man gestured toward me in my long black skirt, blue blouse and black overcoat. i looked around me to see if i was the one being summoned but there was no one else. hesitantly I turned away from the holding area and walked towards them, pretending as if i was not in the least bit apprehensive. as i neared the two men, the younger one turned towards me with a healthy look of suspicion.
on closer inspection, i saw that his green eyes were speckled brown–a trait he shared with the older man. at last i reached these two and with a swift movement, the older man moved as to grab my arm. as sudden as the movement was, i was able to quickly sidestep his reach and unable to catch himself, the old man began to fall onto the warf. alarmed, i sprang forward to grab him. his gnarled hands gripped my arms in a vice, and i dropped to my right knee in order to support him. it was then that the younger man jumped behind the older one to pull him upright. still shaking, i slowly got back to my feet and with a shake of my head, slapped the older man.
it was all too sudden for him to react and he cried out in both surprise and pain; his left hand rising quickly to his face. it seemed the only right thing to do and having decided that i wanted no more of these two gentlemen; it seemed to me as good a time to leave as any, so i walked around them and with a squaring of my shoulders left them–fully convinced i would never see them again, i hurried along the dock; heart racing lest they should give chase. little did i know this fierce act of mine would only tie me closer to the old man with the gnarled hands and the young man with the glittering green eyes.