The bay cradled The Hungry Gull, rocking her gently from side to side and Ffooks, his baritone, berceuse, just beneath the pitch of the engine, wooed her. Knott couldn’t make out the words or the tune just yet but, as the town faded, everything settled into a rhythm – the motor, the motion, the timber – a melody began to coalesce. Penn Beacon shrank to the smallest he had ever seen it. A breeze brushed the stern, bringing the song to his ears.
Lock up the streets and houses because there’s something in the air…
He turned, smiling, recognizing it now. He tried to catch Ffooks’ eye, but that boy was shadowed, trapped in glass.
The blue face of Black Venn (Prussian Blue 538, Payne’s Gray 465), the honeyed shoulder of Stonebarrow (Raw Sienna 552, Turner’s Yellow 649), sloping into the east; Penn Beacon (Raw Umber 544 perhaps?); all compounded by the developing thin sky, blended into the offing until there was nothing but the open window of water (Ultramarine 667, Cerulean 137, Chinese White 150).
He was leaning against the wheel, his forehead to the glass, rolling a smoke, lost in music.
Sam, stood up in the bow, his cane before him, taking in the future.
Some time later the engine cut-out and The Hungry Gull bobbed on the sea.
Ffooks came out the cabin.
Sam: “What’s happening? Why’ve we stopped?”
“We’re here,” said Ffooks. “The ledge.”
“Is this it?” Knott climbed out of the tarp, peered over the side. But he saw nothing there, nothing but a vague and ghosted self.
“Course it fuckin is.” Ffooks pulled the tarp from the bucket and dropped it on the deck. “Suggest we just get on with this. Unless you want to do a sermon or something.”
Knott looked at Sam. He was grim faced, swaying. There would be some kind of service. It was never going to be any other way.
“Let’s do it then,” Sam said. He snatched at the gunnel with one hand as he made his way clumsily along the boat.
The lobster scrabbled in the bottom of the bucket.
Ffooks reached in and scooped the creature out by its tail. “Come here, beautiful.” It arched in his grip.
“Let me,” said Sam.
Ffooks looked at him and, laughter ratcheting his smoky throat, held out the lobster at arm’s length, saying, “Grab hold then.” Sam took the tail just below Ffooks’ hand and cupped the yellow carapace in his other. He lifted the lobster up, cradled it, tenderly, like a baby. A great yellow fingernail baby.
“Ah, how sweet!” Ffooks drew his knife and, with two neat swipes, cut the bindings on the claws. Later, it seemed, somehow, to be this action; the glint of the blade, the severing, the release, that set the following events in motion and
dreamlike stasis, and a magic began to unfold, manifesting out of the very air.
The sun silvered and it was as if all the celestial bodies that rounded it were now palpable.
A great silence, a sheet quiet, a vibrant light, swept their realm and the horizon line, the sky, the sea and all things elemental withdrew in one sweeping, impossible gesture and an ethereality, an otherness, was revealed: the invisible becoming all at once visible; the unknowable, now knowable, and imbued with a poignancy and profundity, and their eyes and minds, though always connected, hived.
Sam, tribune, was stood, statuesque; the great lobster aloft; golden bouquet.
The sun prismed the steel of the blade. The aroma of electricity filled their nostrils and pores.
He began to turn his head, taking forever and no time at all. A shape forming at his mouth: a shape, a word.
The lobster in the sunlight, almost blotting it. Its vast, beautiful shadow cast across the bay.
The beguiling began.
The one that they called Sam, the simple one, the fool, the blinded shockhead, was peering into the beyond.
The other, the boy child, the one who answered to the sound of Knott, stood, – beautiful and bright, upon the deck – enchanted.
This one, Ffooks, the kinder creature of the number, with many lives behind him, stock-still, head bowed in supplication, held the blade. The steel, a strange and earthly metal, shone in his human hand. It resonated – and this, all this, he had only some vague sense of.
In another realm, upon a shore (which, to the three boys, was now unthinkable, or only possible as a blear, a memory of a dream), sat a figure on a stool, at an easel on a harbour wall. She was streaming hot black sweetened tea from a flask into a cup that doubled as a lid.
She had risen early from a thin sleep, dressed and boiled the kettle for the tea. There was no milk and she remembered all at once that it was Sunday. On the radio they were talking about the moon landing. It all seemed quite unreal, she thought.
It had been some time since she had painted and she didn’t really know what had prompted her to decide to do so today. But, as the kettle rose toward its whistle, she found and followed the train of thoughts that stretched out into her mind like a string of fairy lights.
Some weeks back she had (eventually) started clearing out the attic. It was something that she had been meaning to do for so long, but the sale of the house had completed and the removal van was booked and the attic was the last space to clear.
Among the boxes of another life she came across the easel that her father had made.
She put the easel beneath her arm and picked up the canvas shoulder bag that contained all the things she had listed the night before on a sheet of paper –
Every article was ticked, so she left the small house and walked through the growing light, through the town and out onto the harbour. It was peaceful. A man in yellow oils was throwing crates of fish up from the deck of a trawler toward a similar, younger man stood on the quayside. The seagulls circled and cried. She watched the men working and then she began to set up the easel. Penn Beacon, as always, in the distance. Three boys in a small wooden vessel headed out into the beautiful morning.
The great disc (though some would later claim it to be more cigar shaped) – silver, tranquil, smooth, simple, high in the mackereled morning sky, passed across the bay in a series of impossible blinks – had travelled a great distance and no distance at all. It sat above the boat for some moments, sentient: