Excerpt from Chapter One of Redemption – Gold Medal Winner for Fiction at 2015 Florida Book Festival
“Lobster.” “No Lobster.” “No Lobster.” “Crabs.” “Lobster.” “Crabs.” “No Lobster.” Like a medieval incantation old Angus sang out the greeting as the lobster creels came over the gunwale one by one. “Lobster.” “No Lobster.” “Crab.” Uttered with exact same pitch and feeling he intoned a greeting to the creature trapped within. His huge hands deftly unlaced the latticed side of the creel and with a slow rhythm he methodically passed the lobsters to the boy standing on the deck of the boat.
The youngster watched in silence, transferring the lobsters from the gnarled hands of Angus to a large wooden box covered with a wet sack. He watched in fascination as Angus tore claws, shell and legs from the living crab to place the breast meat in the creel as bait along with half a salt mackerel. When the whole fleet of twenty creels were stacked on the deck, the skipper of the boat, Michael Martin, shouted above the noise of the engine to Angus that they were moving. This was the fourth fleet of twenty creels to be serviced that September morning. Michael took the boat out to sea then cut the engine. The craft moved up and down with the swell of the sea. The remaining fleets of lobster creels could wait while their leisurely lunch was consumed. Michael’s gaze on the boy was fond. Angus and Michael talked about their catch and where the remaining fleets of creels would be placed. Callum Mor sat quietly looking at them.
He had shared their sandwiches, supped from Angus’s large mug and listened to their talk of the sea. His left hand was ugly and red with two large welts suffered from lobster nips. He had borne the pain in silence but his tears had been noticed by the two men. They had said nothing but at their lunch made room for him and treated him with a gentle courtesy, which he shyly treasured. Angus sat on a fish box filling his pipe, his pale blue eyes rarely away from the sea that sustained him. His weathered features and great broad shoulders and hands a contrast to the slight eager faced boy beside him. Michael started the engine and the boat swung south as they approached an inlet close to Mieray Island. In the shadow of the soaring cliffs Angus’s incantations, sung softly under his breath, seemed almost like a prayer. Stretching sheer from the sea for nine hundred feet, the cliffs drew their eyes. It was as if to redefine their humanness, that a fleet of creels was set in a channel that cut through the soaring grandeur of the cliffs. An act of impudence, almost, to snatch a morsel from the feet of the gods. Angus deposited the baited creels into the sea, taking bearings from rocks he had brushed against countless times.
All three blinked as they emerged from the grotto and the September sunlight brought them back to life. As Michael piloted the boat northwards their eyes would frequently travel back to the darkness they had with impunity dared, until the cliffs were lost from sight. Angus and Callum Mor busied themselves with securing the catch in wooden boxes that would be floated at a mooring in the bay. The boy’s arms and back ached from the lifting of heavy creels and his hand throbbed painfully. Angus put him in the wheelhouse with Michael. The noise of the engine made conversation impossible yet Michael shouted volubly above the roar and Callum Mor could not hear. His replies were similarly incomprehensible. Words strung together had no meaning above the noise but the osmosis of the sea and the beauty of the day united them in a way that did not require words. They enjoyed their mutually unintelligible conversation all the way back to the pier.
Callum Mor was dispatched home with a large bag of crab claws. He walked along the pier road and up the brae that eventually lead to his father’s croft. He moved the bag of crab claws from arm to arm as its weight told on his small, tired muscles. His sister met him at the rise of the brae, her bright red skirt a counterpoint to the green jersey of Callum Mor. The two colours, his sister now helping in the carrying of the bag, were soon lost to sight, as Michael and Angus returned to their own island.
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