The Fisherman and the Storm.

Afterwards the younger men grappled through the wind and up the seven steps to the porch of the Poseidon Bar, but the door remained firm. “Closed Due To Storm.” Defeated, but grateful to be onshore, they followed in the footsteps of the older fishermen who had already dispersed for home fires, hot meals and dry clothes.

Grey bearded Conn, weary from the exertions of the day, now found himself pushed to and fro as rain and wind crashed in. He walked from the relative shelter of the high pier walls and forced himself headlong on the coast road towards his sea front house. The distinction between footpath and roadway was obscured by heavy flows of water. Impenetrable darkness pressed down smothering the street lights and he was in his own driveway before he noticed the car was missing. Inside he found a note written six hours previously.

“11.30am. Gone to Donegal, back in an hour, love Maggie.” On the hall table was her handbag containing a woolen hat, gloves and mobile phone. He picked up the receiver on the landline but the line was silent. Fallen branches in all likelihood. A blast of wind rattled at the lid of the old letter box.

He showered, dressed and ate, all the while expecting to be interrupted by the ring of his mobile phone, by her voice from downstairs or by the sudden jolt of her music on the radio. Nothing. As the storm intensified he sat in Maggie’s armchair by the window. Conn regularly returned from sea to find her sitting there. Sometimes she was knitting, sometimes talking on the phone but always looking out, waiting for him, deep furrows across her brow. He normally dismissed the dangers he faced at sea and playfully admonished her fear. However on two very wild stormy nights, such as this one, he had returned home to find her with tears streaming down her face, rosary beads entwined through her fingers. On those two nights he embraced her tightly knowing he was lucky to get the chance. On those nights he briefly believed there might be a God.

He visualized the route of her fifteen mile journey to Donegal, considering the possible hazards. She likely traveled initially along the coast road. It was always liable to sea flooding during storm fueled high tides. If this had been her route, she would have eventually had to drive through the the tree lined groves on the approach to the town where several towering giants had come crashing down in October. Alternatively she could have chosen one of the back mountain roads with their small ancient bridges over phantom waterways – phantom because they could swell their banks in a few hours as the uplands spewed off torrential rains. In these conditions neither route seemed plausible.

Occasionally the gale eased, jumping back like a prize fighter before diving forward with renewed vigor. And when the wind rose again it felt as though the windows would buckle inwards. At these moments he felt a greater foreboding than he had ever experienced at sea. Out in the choppy waters of the Atlantic there were always tasks to perform, a ship to guide through the gloom, a team relying on each other. Here, now by this window, there was nothing to distract him from his fear. All their married life, she had waited for him and now he was beginning to understand how waiting felt. He reached for the Rosary beads.

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