Faithwriters.com challenge – 20 July 2017 – Advanced – Topic: Sea-change
Landing with a thump on the floor finally woke Sam up. He thrashed wildly for a few seconds but he was cocooned in the duvet which lay in waves around like rolling hills in comparison to the wild mountains of water in his dream.
Falling back into the softness of the quilt, Sam waited for his racing heart to still. Gradually he discerned another sound above his heartbeat: a rhythmic drumming of waves against rocks as the Atlantic breakers pounded his island home.
“Need to escape the hustle of city life? Come and enjoy the outdoor life by the sea,” he declared, remembering the seductive advert in the travel magazine. “Seems like my dream home is turning into a nightmare.”
Three months earlier, desperate to forget his recent loss, Sam had responded to an appeal for new residents on a remote Scottish island. Dark brooding mountains, crystal clear waters, and a landscape with more sheep than people seemed could not have presented a greater contrast to the cramped and rundown neighbourhood he’d left behind.
A persistent tapping brought his attention back to the present. “The boat!” One by one, Sam reluctantly extracted his limbs from the bedding and made his way to the kitchen. His old waxed jacket and walking boots were still wet from his earlier trek home last evening.
Sam headed for the slipway, leaning into the teeth of the wind, shielding his eyes from the driving rain as he peered into the darkness. Surging waves helped him drag the boat up the beach, but the retreating water threatened to pull it from his grasp.
As his strength was about to give out, a figure loomed out of the rain. Strong hands grabbed the gunwale and hauled the boat to safety, then hustled Sam back into the warmth of the cottage kitchen.
“Thanks,” Sam said, closing the door behind them. “Is it always like this up here?”
“There’ll be many a storm afore the summer comes.” The voice was hoarse with a thick accent, but the ruddy face smiled back at Sam.
Watching Sam putting the kettle on, the stranger asked, “Are ye thinking of leaving already?”
Placing two chipped mugs of steaming tea on the table, Sam sat down and sighed. “I can’t. After paying my bills, I only had enough for a one-way ticket to the land of my dreams. Now I’m stuck here until I can save some money to get off.”
“Sometimes dreams take a little work. Survive the winter and you’ll never leave.” Thrusting out a hand, he continued, “The name’s Angus, by the way.”
Sam took the proffered hand, “Sam.”
Angus turned Sam’s hand over and stared at the angry red grazes on the fingers and palms. “You need a decent pair of gloves or you’ll tear your hands to shreds. Take these, I’ve got plenty.” Angus pushed a pair of heavy leather gloves across the table.
Picking them up, Sam noted the profusion of scuffs and creases. “Thanks,” he said.
“Gotta look out for each other.” Angus rose. “Thanks for the tea. If you need anything, I’m just across the way.” And he let himself out of the house before Sam had risen from his chair.
During the winter Sam worked alongside Angus, shovelling cow dung, restacking logpiles, repairing roofs, unloading the weekly supply boat, and drinking coffee or beer in the cottage that served as shop, cafe, pub and church. His pale face turned deep red, callouses appeared on his hands and stubble grew on his chin. At first the other islanders stared at Sam as he went about his business. But soon they just grunted at him, as they did to each other.
The first clear morning of spring, Sam found himself side by side with Angus on the quayside in a golden sunrise, watching the supply boat manoeuvre into harbour.
“You built up enough money to leave yet?” Angus glanced sideways at Sam.
The younger man lifted up his arm and prodded the biceps. “No, but I reckon I’ve built up enough muscle to stay.”
“Need at least another year for that,” replied Angus, a smile spreading across his lips.
“I guess you’re stuck with me for a while then.” Sam grinned as he stepped forward to meet the approaching vessel.
Each caught a rope tossed from the boat and tied off to the bollards on the quayside. Working seamlessly with the crew, the two lifted and carried until the boat was empty, then fell into matching strides as they set off side by side for the pub.