12 - Two Cans of Beer and a Lone Seagull


12 – Two Cans of Beer and a Lone Seagull

The wind is howling. It is a real stormy night. The rain is lashing down. Almost stair rods but not quite. The noise is louder in the back bedroom due to the skeiling ceiling. Roof slates were only the thickness of a rafter away. A hard surface and bouncy rain. The sash window was taking a bashing. The top section loose and rattling. Only that day had it been eased ready for painting. David Wilson is in the study which was in the back bedroom converted for the purpose. He is having a renewed bout of depression. It is the storm. He associated it with that fateful day two years ago. He is in torment.

His wife Jenny was in the shower. It was eleven o’clock and just past their normal bedtime. She would get ready and climb into bed probably going sleeping. Would not wait for him. By now she knew his moods and would be anticipating this moment. She might read hoping that he will lighten up but knew in her heart that is just a false desire.

David is thirty nine. His birthday was last week and that had been a miserable affair. He is tall and good looking but carries a permanent look of anguish. An ashen greyness that hints at his inner turmoil. He does try hard. Very hard in fact and for the most part manages to keep his emotions in check. Jenny understands. That said her patience is wearing a bit thin and feels that at any time she might say something inappropriate.

He had not always been like this. Up until that time two years ago he had been a vibrant happy go lucky, life and soul sort. Always involved. Always prepared to put in the extra whether for work or play. Energetic and full of life. He works as a financial advisor. Was very prosperous up until two years ago. Now he just makes ends meet. He looks up at the clock on the wall. It is now nearly midnight and the storm is abating. He will sit there a while and then sneak into bed.

Jenny, David and Rich had grown up together. Met at five, first day of infants school. David and Rich grew to be best mates. Did everything together. All the young boys stuff and then shifted into the teen years to embark on the joys of discovery that we are all familiar with. These were very happy days. They went to big school together and then the same University. At University they joined all the sports clubs. Rock climbing, rowing and sailing being the main ones.

Three years after university Jenny and Rich started dating. Nobody was surprised. It was almost written. Two years later they were married. In church. David was best man of course. They went abroad to tour Italy for three weeks. A honeymoon that they both really enjoyed and cemented their relationship. When they came back they had a huge house warming party to break in the brand new detached four bedrooms they had bought together. Four bedrooms ready for the screaming kids that they both yearned for. They started trying straight away but without success. Three years later they both had tests and it turned out the fault was with Rich. From that moment on a slight chill crept into their house that over time started to manifest itself into a major problem. Resentment is a terrible affliction for a relationship. It slowly drives in a nail that bends and cannot be removed.

David knew of the problem but was of course not able to provide any help. All he could do was act peacemaker and take Rich out on their usual jaunts. Sailing was a particular passion of theirs. They had bought a boat together. The Mystery. They kept it on the beach chained to a large chunk of concrete. A sailing dingy. Fibreglass with a wooden frame. Not one of the racing classes. Just an ordinary boat built with pleasure and comfort in mind. A wide beam and a cross seat suitably located for rowing. Removable rowlocks. They always carried two oars just in case. Seating around the stern. The port and starboard seat tops lifting to access compartments to store thick well stuffed cushions. The tiller was a wooden bar that just slotted into the rudder. The centre board was well placed. Easily lifted or dropped. A taller than usual mast. A jib and a large main sail that was slightly over sized to take account of the extra height to the mast. At twenty feet it was a good length for a dingy. Would be considered by most knowledgeable people to be about the maximum to be called a dingy.

On that May day two years ago David had checked the weather. They went to the beach and rolled the boat to the sea on the small set of wheels that fitted neatly under the keel. Loaded their fishing tackle. With lunch packed into a cool box they donned life jackets and headed out across the bay. For emergencies a water proof two way radio, attached by a small chain to a cleat. There was just a gentle breeze about a force three wind coming off the sea that was sufficient to provide reasonable speed on a starboard or port tack. They hoisted the sails with Rich working the jib and centre board which he put right down. David obviously on the tiller and working the main. A lone seagull momentarily landed on top of the mast before, being disturbed by the flapping sail, flew off. The starboard tack took them out to the far point of the bay. Maybe two miles from shore. There they turned to port moved the sails over and started a beam reach across the bay. This point of sail the fastest. Out from shore the wind picked up a bit to a force four which took them along at some speed. Half way across they turned towards the shore and started a run with the main out, the jib goose winged and centre board raised. Halfway to shore they changed direction, dropped the centre board, set the sails and started on a port tack to the point on the other side of the bay. The sky was looking grey. The weather changing. Starting to set in.

Now the wind was getting up. The weather is rapidly deteriorating.
“I thought it was supposed to be fair all day.”
“That’s what I saw Rich. Set fair until tomorrow.”
They were still about two miles out and the wind had picked up to at least a force six maybe even a gale force seven. They were in the middle of a large squall. The waves were now building. At least a metre and growing.  That was too much for their dingy.
“We need to head back David and quickly”
The boat is now getting tossed about violently. Water rushing over the gunwales. David tries to release the main. Drop the sail. The sheet is trapped. Stuck in the pully. The jib is flapping loose. The jib sheets have been discarded. Rich is trying to bale. The baler completely inadequate. There is violent rocking as they negotiate the increasing wave height. They are keeling dangerously. A sudden huge gust and they are over.

Rich is on the wrong side, goes over the gunwale hitting his head on the boom. Gets trapped under the main. David has managed to stay in the boat. He throws his weight over the upturned gunwale trying to right the dingy. The weight of the sail being slammed by the increasing waves is too much. He rescues the radio and sends an emergency signal giving location and boat’s name. He is then into the water desperately trying to reach Rich. But it is too late the worst has happened. Thirty minutes later the inshore lifeboat arrives. They manage to get the boat upright and lower the sails. The cool box is floating open with two beer cans drifting on the waves. They were towed shore and the emergency services took over.

The funeral took place within two weeks. One year later David and Jenny were married. Then the fits of depression started. Jenny thought this was the result of Rich’s death. In some ways that was true. It was his death that was the cause but not in the way imagined. Since school David had been in love with Jenny. So in love that he was besotted. When Rich and Jenny were married David was devastated. When the boat went over David had the opportunity, if only briefly, to save Rich who was unconscious. If he had immediately plunged into the sea he could have reached him before the sail had totally engulfed him. Instead he delayed. To make that emergency call. David knew this. He also knew the delay was deliberate just a fleeting hesitation but enough to seal Rich’s fate. A momentary decision driven by an overwhelming desire to be with the one he so loved. It is this guilt, gnawing, slowly destroying that is just simply too much for him to bear.   




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