Boatman's dream 17
By Parson Thru
It was raining gently. A light wind carried the sound of funfairs the two miles across fields from Brean Sands. High tide in the Pill was rocking the boats at their moorings. Rigging pinged against aluminium masts. A moorhen called from somewhere under the bank. There was no moon – the sky was overcast.
Down on the wharf, one’s eyes became accustomed to the darkness. Arguably, it was never really dark. It just took a while to adjust from electric light.
Men’s voices could be heard coming from the houseboat. Amongst them, the unmistakable sound of a bottle rolling across the wooden deck.
“You got a list on there, Merlin? I reckon she’s down ten degrees to port.”
Laughter came from the boat. Then Merlin’s voice.
“It’s a twelve and a half metre tide, Eddie. If you want to let the mooring lines off a turn, don’t let me stop you. Where’s young Danny?”
“He’s outside smoking one of his boonies.” Dennis’s voice.
“What’s he want to do that in t' rain for?”
“Maybe he prefers it outside. Can’t say I blame him.”
Merlin stood up. “Danny! You don’t have to sit out there if you don’t want to. Bring it in here and smoke it.”
“I reckon old Merlin wants a toke, Danny.”
“This is my poison.” Merlin brandished his battered tankard. It had a glass bottom. He raised it above his head. “Buggers won’t catch me with their King’s Shilling”.
Danny came in. His hair was matted from the rain.
“You’ll catch your death out there, son. Grab yourself a drink.” Merlin turned to Arthur. “We’re going to lose all this, you know.”
Arthur shook his head. “Not if we fight for it. The wharf is the birthright of these men. We have to fight.”
Merlin seemed to leave the room. He stood motionless staring at Arthur for what seemed like eternity.
“History flows like the tide.” he said, finally. “The tide is flowing against us. Has been for years. Just over there,” he waved his tankard towards the Severn and Wales, “whole communities are on their knees, and there’s a lot more to come. No, Arthur. We’re fighting the tide, and you know how that always ends.”
“Are you giving in, Merlin?” Dennis asked.
Arthur put his mug down. “You have to fight for what you believe to be right.”
Danny sat at the table. “You’ve got a good case, from what I’ve heard. Maybe history is more on your side than you think.”
One of the dogs stirred in the corner.
“He’s got a point.” said Eddie. “These rights are as old as the hills. How’s BS going to change it all? If anyone was going to, you’d think they’d have done it by now.”
Merlin snorted gently. “Boys. We can only try. Boatmen of this town not yet born will never forgive us if we don’t.”
Dennis passed him a fresh demijohn. “Danny thinks we should get the press involved. Get people talking about the injustice. BS is having it all his own way. He’s never out of the Herald with his grand schemes. There’s a big display in the entrance to the Spa Theatre.”
“There’s another in the amusement arcade on the sea-front. Shows all this area redeveloped.”
Merlin nodded. “I know. I just don’t know what to do.”
Danny finished rolling and leant back a little to examine his handiwork. “Take them on at their own game. I reckon Arthur, here, might get a bit of interest going.”
“How’s your English coming on, Arthur?” Merlin poured himself a cider.
“I’m happier. I can speak enough. You can help if I need you to.”
“We all can!” Rhys shouted.
Arthur moved around and sat next to Danny. “Tell me that thing again about the dog and fleas.”
Danny lit the end of the cigarette and drew deeply. The small cabin filled with herbal aroma. “You mean how humans are fleas on a dog’s back?”
“Yes. Tell me it again.”
“Ok. I’ll try.” Everyone listened in. “When you look at life on the planet, everything seems to add something, or at least not take it away – except for humans. We’re like the fleas on a dog’s back. What does a flea contribute to the dog?”
Arthur watched Danny take another draw on the cigarette. “But the fleas aren’t aware that they’re fleas.”
Danny blew the smoke out. “Fuck me.”
Merlin chuckled gently.
Arthur continued. “What humans do is they know. Humans are the witnesses.”
Eddie drummed his fingers on the table. “And we are the witnesses to what BS is doing. If we stay quiet, nobody else will know. We have to make everyone in the town a witness.”
“Not just the town.”
“No.” Danny nodded. “Not just the town. Fuck BS. Fuck him. Let’s get started.”