River Mist Tales: The Boy

Hurry, this way, before the river mist settles upon the dooryard. It may be a while before your path home is revealed.

The seat by the window is most comfortable and there’s tea in the pot, if you haven’t brought a wee dram of your own.

Ignore the cats, don’t open the windows when the crows come calling.

I’ll be working in the darkened alcove across the room if you have any needs or she knocks upon the door.

She doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Enjoy her photographs and her 12-line tales. Though she is a bit loose with the truth and a bit too revealing with magic, as your kind calls it.

Until your next visit, may your wonderings be bold and your imaginings be wise.

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The Boy

The first time I saw the boy was during a free concert held on the docks downtown.

He was standing a few steps into the water, from a small stretch of sandy beach below the docks, a bit of open space between the docks and one of the historic buildings built along Water Street, this one housing a cafe and art gallery.

I decided he had arrived aboard the graceful wooden schooner hoisting red sails, sporting a flag of skull and crossbones, anchored not far offshore.

His feet were hidden below the water line, he was wearing his long clothes, his pirate costume, pants cut off, shirts and vests hanging in crumpled untidy layers, ill fitting, salt air and sun faded, his tricorn hat appearing too big for his head, a head he kept bent, giving all his attention to the small model boat he was moving through the calm water lapping the shore.

After watching the boy for a few minutes I returned my attention to the band, listening to the raucous, toe tapping music, then following a few songs sent afloat, I drifted back to the far side of the dock, the boy pirate and his model boat were gone, the schooner was still anchored nearby, but there was no dory heading out to it, or tied along side of it, or anywhere within sight.

The second time I saw the boy pirate was during Pirate Days, among the artisans, musicians and actors, young and old, dressed in costumes, he appeared part of the crowd, just another kid enjoying the festivities, except this time I watched him with obvious attention, and yet he disappeared once again in a fleeting moment of distraction.

A few days later, I found the young pirate on a quiet autumn dawn, when the streets were empty of people, instead fog roamed along the sidewalks, dipping in and out of doorways, rushing around the corners of buildings softening the strong edges, shrouding the still-lit street lamps, hiding from view the water lapping the shore only a few steps away yet seeming miles in distance as if we were moving through a dream.

The lad was walking along the sleeping street carrying his model boat, his feet bare, his head tilted down so I couldn’t see his face, but I saw him, and so I followed him even as his stride became more purposeful as if he knew I was there, behind him, as if the fog was pushing him up the street, and like the fog his form would rise and fall from sight, fading, becoming wispy, thin, almost transparent before becoming solid again.

There was a whispering current about my ears, stay back, stay away, you must not follow, it said over and over, growing loud and strong before fading away soft and loose, as if it were the fog’s voice swirling around me, rising and falling like waves crashing, crashing between me and the lad.

But I could not stop following the pirate, I could not turn away, my curiosity was rising, breaching my cautious mind, where was this young pirate going, why did he always appear alone, who or what, was he.

As we continued north, heading toward the boat docks, the headland, the end of the street, the known storefronts, window displays, and those steps leading to glass fronted doors disappeared into the ebb and flow of fog, landmarks faded from sight, only the lad, his clutched boat, the darkened road, the sound of surf, anchored me in time, stirred my courage.

The ground beneath my feet changed tone, the pirate and I had walked onto the wooden pier, heading down a gangplank towards floating docks where fog shrouded boats slept lulled by the rhythm of tides, the fog had wrapped itself tight around me, and through that blinding wet dark a gentle song of salt crusted rope, of metal, of water hitting wood rose up, I could not see beyond the ghost like figure of my pirate, until tripping over an transom I found myself onboard a schooner hoisting red sails, and high up a fluttering Jolly Roger, as the sun rose into a clear blue sky, with nothing but vast ocean all around.

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