By Tom Foster
Wednesday, August 17th, 1989
Sleep was good, in fact it was said that some people liked it so much they got nearly six to eight hours a night. It was a precious commodity he had gotten so little of lately that Roland couldn’t remember the last time he’d managed to sleep more than a few hours at a time. Well, at least on the mainland that was. Out here on the open ocean that was another matter, out here he could sleep at least four or five at a time and not be bothered by anything but radio static. The gentle slapping of waves upon the side of his boat, the Black and White, was soothing enough that he could almost imagine he was all alone out here, without worries or anyone that could possibly bother him. That illusion was ruined quite readily whenever he set foot upon land once more, in fact it was shattered outright when it came to his life.
Roland was a simple man, he liked simple things and didn’t care to complicate his life with the things that younger folk and even people his age thought of as necessities to a more appeasing life. What was thought of as normal these days by others was often seen as extravagant or unnecessary by him. Even his crew, good boys all, were constantly taken in by the trappings of a world he didn’t truly understand. He was into his good old rock n’ roll, his simple little AM/FM radio and a fridge that was stocked with generous quantities of food and alcohol at all times. He made a good living as a semi-retired fisherman, he even rented out his boat for charters now and then during the summer and fall when tourists came around to experience the fun of deep sea fishing.
Thanks to his pension from Boeing, earned after nearly two decades of faithful and hard, backbreaking labor, he lived quite comfortably upon his boat. The average day in his life was spent waking, fishing and drinking, placing eating and sleeping somewhere in between when remembered such things. His daughters had once told him that he could probably live on nothing but what the ocean gave him if he so desired. Roland had laughed as he had agreed, thinking it more than fair to claim that he could do just that.
Of all the many reasons to stay away from land as much as possible there were a few reasons to stay within the Ilwaco docks. His daughters, Cora and Kylie, were the first upon the short list of such reasons, his girls were a part of his life that Roland couldn’t and would not give up. Unlike their mother, his girls were both innocent and full of life, unwilling to bend down to life in their youthful ways. He loved them both dearly despite their strong resemblance to their mother. At least they didn’t look like him. Both of the girls had laughed more than once when they had heard him say this.
They had his fire, his zest for life that he hid from so many. Not even his crew had an inkling of just how full of life Roland was, they thought he was one of the crusty old sea crabs that lived and breathed fishing. In part they were right, he did enjoy the feel of the waves that rocked his boat to and fro at times, finding in that peaceful motion a serenity he couldn’t describe. What they didn’t know was that they were more important to him than he really let on. He’d known his current crew only two years, but never before in his life had he known a group of young men he would be proud to call sons. Every one of them were different in their own ways, they were young, brash and arrogant at times, but they were good boys.
When it came to his daughters he’d already warned them amply that the first one to look at Cora or Kylie in a manner he didn’t like would find himself ruing the day he discovered his manhood. As fine as the boys were in their own ways, Roland did not wish his daughters to mix with men that would likely end up like him in a decade or two. To be fair the boys had taken his warning to heart, they’d been polite gentlemen when the girls had been aboard the Black and White in the past, but still Roland had watched them. He supposed it was the prerogative of a father with his daughters, especially two beauties such as his two teenagers.
Both Cora and Kylie had their mother’s rich brown locks, but they at least had his eyes, sparkling orbs of brown that dazzled whomever they settled on. He’d caught both Kevin and Stiles staring at them before and had felt the need to slap both young men upside the head to remind them where to direct their gazes. To their credit each crewman had averted their eyes quickly, tending to their duties with a vigilance that had caused Roland to grin.
His daughters knew of his overprotective nature and had groaned and moaned about it before, but never had they told him to stop. Something told Roland that they enjoyed have a bulldog of a father that would be there to look out for them. It did manage to keep the wrong boys away from them at times.
Roland’s ex, damn the woman anyway, was a true witch in nearly every sense of the word. She was the mother of their daughters and did care for the girls, but her attitude towards Roland was one of absolute poison. He’d still to this day failed to understand what drawn the two of them together, they’d never once proven to be compatible. It had most likely been her shapely form, the way her lips pursed when she was happy, which he realized hadn’t been for a very long time. Marriage to the woman had been not unlike watching a boat capsize in slow motion. The completion of their wedding vows had been the gaping hole knocked in the boat that was his life, while the slow sink to the bottom had been the monetary and emotional drain she had taken upon him during their time together.
He had lost more financially in the ten years he’d been with her than he’d ever lost in his life. The woman was what he’d learned was called a shopaholic, far more dangerous than any alcoholic he’d ever met, and he’d met a few. She’d been able to rack up bills on credit cards without any effort, spending his money and her own on some of the most asinine things he’d ever had in his home. The gadgets in the kitchen had been only the tip of the iceberg, but when she had tried to remodel the entire house to her liking Roland had put his foot down, demanding that she stop or he was leaving. She hadn’t paused very long before she had shrugged her shoulders, telling him to go. Oh if it had only been that easy.
He’d gotten his revenge on her at first, leaving her with all the credit card debt and only half the means to pay it all back. She’d had her own job, but in reality she had made only half of what Roland had brought in from Boeing. He’d been the main provider within the household and had done his level best to save and scrimp every last penny that he could for their girls. His wife, damn her bones, had justified her spending by attempting to state that she was doing everything for the benefit of their daughters as well. Roland had at least tried to explain to her that a shopping spree for a bunch of mechanical crap didn’t need to come before such important things as diapers, formula, food and other necessities. Her argument had been straightforward and pointless as she had claimed that he was far too old school to ever see that the things she bought were meant to make life better, to give their children a better understanding of how the world really worked. He’d accused her of being a horse’s ass too many times to count after such arguments. Looking back though he could honestly say that shutting her up with such a statement had been rather pleasing. Donna had always been in his mind a selfish and rather foolish woman, but damn had she been fine. Maybe that was the only reason he’d tried to make their no-win situation work.
Roland had attempted to marry again a few years after he and Donna had split, but that little farce hadn’t lasted even two years before he’d realized just how much like Donna his new wife had been. Veronica had been a pampered, snooty and very superficial witch, but damn and hell she had been a good lay. In the bedroom the two of them had been dynamite, their passions fueling one another so well that they didn’t even need to say anything. Outside the bedroom though was another story since not once had they ever been able to agree on anything other than the need to split up. Upon the signing of their divorce papers Veronica had given him a smile and a wink, suggesting they seal the deal with a little round of “goodbye sex”, whatever the hell that was. Roland had offered her a smile in return and politely told her to go sit on a broom handle and spin. The way her eyes had widened at that little insult had been worth the ranting and raving that had come only seconds later. He’d vowed from that day forward that if he was ever foolish enough to get involved with a woman again he would make sure to avoid the pampered and spoiled witches that seemed to be around every street corner anymore.
The boat rocked gently upon the waves as Roland smiled at the memory, keeping his gaze out the front window as he sat in the captain’s chair. No one else was allowed to sit in this chair, only him. Once he’d caught the smallest of his crew, the one they called Ferret, sitting in his seat. He’d hauled the boy out by the ear and then made him walk back out to the rear of the boat, where he’d put his boot gently into the boy’s backside. The others had laughed at Ferret’s misfortune but had quieted when Roland had turned his stern gaze upon them, nodding as he had let them know with his gaze to carry on with what they were doing. He liked his boys well enough, but they knew enough now to not flout his rules when they were on his boat.
Inhaling deeply through his nose Roland leaned back in his chair as he stretched, closing his eyes as his thoughts drifted to the strange catch he’d pulled up in one of the crab pots just the other day. Even when his crew wasn’t on board Roland liked to go and cast out his pots just to see what he could get. He kept as close to the regulated size as he could when it came to keeping what he caught, but now and then he would shirk the rules, keeping a crab that was perhaps a half inch to an inch too small. They all tasted the same in his opinion and to be honest there wasn’t really a shortage of them.
The other day, it was definitely a mark of age when every day seemed to be just the other day, he’d pulled up something that had been downright confusing. He’d been out a ways from the docks before he’d dropped his pots, leaving them for a short time as he’d taken a nap while waiting for them to become weighed down. The buoys he’d placed upon the ends of their ropes were easily heavy enough to keep the pots from floating away or sinking and were painted in several garish colors to as to distinguish them from anyone else’s. Roland had never encountered the problem of mistaking his pots with those of others, negating the chance that he would be seen as a poacher by anyone. He’d heard stories of how other fishermen had been robbed of their rightful catch by those who didn’t care about the rules or even decency among tradesmen.
Aside from a large fishing gaff he kept for hauling the pots in Roland also kept a mean little Mossberg shotgun secreted away in his wheelhouse right beneath the helm. He’d be damned if he was caught unawares by a poacher or anything else on the sea. His crew didn’t even know about the weapon, but Roland knew that he wasn’t the only one to carry such an item aboard his boat. There were at least half a dozen others that carried such implements aboard for reasons close or the same to his. The sea itself could not be harmed by such a weapon, but those who sought to cheat or harm were not as immune.
To this day Roland had never been poached upon or threatened in any way by anything that had come from the sea. He had been greatly confused though as he had pulled in his pots that day. The first shock had come when he had pulled the pots up, heaving the rope over the side of the boat as he’d began to pull it in slowly one hand over the other. The rope had been slick, wet and smelled of seawater just was natural, at least until he had reached near halfway down. As he’d continued to pull the rope had become coated in some thick, viscous material that he’d not recognized. It had been clear, almost like mucous or some other runny material, but lord had it stank. The gunk had smelled of rot and decay, causing his eyes to water as he’d continued to haul. When the stuff had gotten on his gloves and then dripped to the floor of the boat Roland had almost retched, holding onto the rope as he’d sought to compose himself.
Holding onto the rope he’d taken several deep breaths before continuing to haul the pot upward, his eyes watering almost shut at the horrid stench as he’d finally heard the telltale clank of the pot as it had connected with the boat. Roland had then redoubled his efforts to lift the pot from the water, gasping for air as the translucent gunk had continued to plop upon the deck. As the trap had come up he had gripped the bars of the cage carefully with his fingers as he’d done so many times, transferring the trap to the deck as he’d foregone placing his hand to his nose. His gloves had been covered in the slimy gunk as well, as had his coveralls at that point. What he’d seen in the trap though had been stranger still.
Crabs were never still when they were hauled up, they would cling to the sides of the trap, scuttle around and over one another and cling for dear life to anything they could grasp with their claws, their eyestalks and mouthparts moving constantly as they were hauled from their watery home. This time had been different in that while the crabs had still been clinging to the bars of the trap they’d been absolutely still, not twitching a single bit as they were each coated in the strange goo that covered the cage.
Roland had cast his gaze in every direction then, looking for something, anything, even though he wasn’t sure what he was hoping to find. There had been not a single boat out on the water besides his own, leaving him to think that if the goo was a hoax it was one elaborate trick to play on a middle-aged man who didn’t often interact with anyone. He couldn’t imagine anyone going to the lengths to cover his trap and rope in goo, which had only offered up more questions at that moment.
Each of the other three traps had been coated with the same strange gunk that had been on the first, further confusing him as well as causing Roland to lose his appetite as the smell had seemed to take over his boat, suffusing everything with its stench. The sea air had been little if any relief as Roland gagged upon the odor, breaking out his hose and large squeegee to rid himself of the physical aspect of the stench at least. He’d turned the fresh water pump on as he’d hosed off the traps and the crabs, watching in amazement as not only did the gunk completely fall apart upon application of water, but once it was off the crabs, their skittering was almost deafening as they suddenly seemed to come back to life. Roland had stared, flabbergasted as he had continued to squeeze the trigger for the spray attachment, as the crustaceans had seemed to go into a frenzy, tackling one another and clawing at each other as though in a maddened battle lust.
He’d watched, mesmerized, as one of the larger specimens in the first trap had literally ripped one of the smaller ones to pieces, tearing its legs off first before it had bashed the shell of the smaller crab repeatedly before the smaller specimen had finally fallen still. The savage act had ended there, as though the larger crab’s blood rage had been satisfied by the severe beating of its fellow. Roland had shaken his head as though to clear the previous image from his mind, but it had stayed with him until now, as had what had come next.
The gunk had parted and flowed easily as the fresh water had hit it, pooling towards the large drains that were built into bottom portions of the deck railing. Roland had thought nothing of returning the strange goo to the ocean where he had suspected it had come from. What he hadn’t expected was the sudden tumult that had occurred shortly after he had watched the large crab beat its fellow to death. He had been approaching the trap, licking his lips nervously as though the crab might soon break free of the cage and decide that he was next in line for a serious ass-whooping. He hadn’t even stretched his hands forward to spring the door of the trap when the boat had lurched suddenly beneath him, almost spilling Roland onto his ass near the rail as he had spread his legs wide to keep his balance.
Reaching back he had felt the rail behind him as from beyond the confines of the boat he’d heard the thrashing of water not too far away. Turning to look over the railing Roland had felt his eyes widen as he’d seen the churning waters and the sleek, distinctive forms of several large and very pissed off looking sharks. The large fish had been ramming into one another even as they tore at each other’s flesh, their teeth flashing as they continued to swim within their strange frenzy.
Sharks were not entirely unknown on this coast, but more often than not a fisherman would have no true issue with the deadly creatures. Roland had seen a few of the beasts in his time upon the waters, but never had he seen something like this, at least not outside of a nature program. Even then he’d always seen the televised sharks go after a wounded animal or the bait that the foolish camera men and deep sea divers tossed out for them. Why anyone would be foolish enough to plunk themselves in the water with something that could saw off a limb with ease was beyond him, but it did make for interesting viewing.
Roland had wasted no time as he’d gone quickly into the wheelhouse, firing up his engine before pulling away from the frenzy as fast as he could. Despite his limited firsthand experience with sharks he knew that they were nothing to be messed with. The damned things could tear a hole in a boat if they were properly motivated, hell a frenzy like the one he’d seen could probably take his boat straight to the depths if the mood struck them. He’d kept going until he could no longer see the churning waters, his heart still thumping as he’d finally killed the engine.
After several moments spent catching his breath and trying to still his racing heart Roland had gone down into the galley to crack a beer, gulping it down in nearly three swallows as his nerves continued to jangle. Tossing the empty can away he’d then straightened up, feeling certain that he wasn’t alone upon his boat. That was a ridiculous feeling, he knew his boat up and down, there was no way anyone could have stowed away without him knowing about it. Many captains knew their vessels so well that they could tell when a single screw, nut or bolt was loose or out of alignment. When asked how they could possibly know such a thing most men would say something along the lines of “I just know.” Roland liked that explanation, it was short and to the point and even better it didn’t allow for a lot of useless interpretation.
The feeling had continued to haunt him as he’d taken a short meal of leftover meatloaf and garlic bread from the fridge, using the small microwave he kept aboard to reheat the food. As he’d waited to eat Roland had rolled his shoulders as the feeling had intensified, not liking the way the unseen visitor, if there’d been one, had seemed to elicit a feeling of nervousness within him. He didn’t like being watched, and he especially didn’t like feeling as though someone were watching him while remaining hidden. That was just damned creepy.
For the rest of the day the feeling had continued to plague him, causing his skin to crawl until he’d put into port finally. Roland had searched the entire boat top to bottom twice just to make sure he wasn’t going nutso, but had found nothing. He’d managed at least to place his catch of crabs in the large cooler that he kept on the deck, extracting them from the cage easy enough. The one crab that had been thrashed to death he tossed over the side, frowning as he had seen the large cracks that had been placed in its shell. Roland knew that the pinching claws of a crab were downright nasty if they managed to latch onto skin, but to think of how much force the crab would have had to use to crack the shell of its fellow was eerie.
Putting into port that day Roland had stepped from his boat as though in a daze, the strange events having taken just a bit of a toll from his mind. It wasn’t every day that one got so see strangeness on the level of what he’d witnessed, but he couldn’t deny that it had been just a bit exhilarating as well. Shaking his head Roland had hauled the cooler from the deck, already doing the mental tally in his head of just who he’d be giving crabs to after they’d been cleaned. He only kept as much as he could eat, which was perhaps two or three crabs. The rest he usually gave away to people he would consider more of acquaintances than friends, or to his crew.
Roland was a solitary person, he didn’t amass friends the way others did, preferring his privacy more often than not. His girls had told him more than once that he was a hermit, that he needed to get out and experience life more. Roland knew they cared about him and wanted him happy, but he was content where he was. His own happiness came from watching his daughters grow up and make their own choices, decisions that he was proud to say had been entirely theirs since they had become teenagers. He’d guided them as much as he could, certainly more than their mother ever had, and had no regrets with the young women they were becoming.
Cora, the eldest of the two, was currently a junior in high school and a stellar athlete as well as a scholar. She was nearly as tall as Roland and had his smile, a true beauty among her fellow students. From the time she’d been a freshman she’d been a varsity athlete, always impressing her coaches and performing to the best of her ability. Roland had gone to nearly all of her games, the few away games that he had missed had been in northern Washington and he’d been a bit pressed for gas money at the time. Cora had told him it was alright despite the fact that he’d felt as though he’d let her down. In the eyes of his daughters though Roland could do no wrong, which made him all the more determined to do right by them. Cora was planning on attending the University of Washington after her senior year and had already applied for several scholarships to help with costs.
Roland had put away a good deal of money for his daughters, money that Donna had thankfully never had access to. Had his first wife known about the fund he’d put together for their girls it would have been frittered away years ago. Roland didn’t know whether he would have kicked the woman square in the ass for something like that or not, but the thought was strangely pleasing.
Not to be outdone by her big sister, Kylie was just as tenacious when it came to her studies and to sports. While Kylie was smaller than her sister she was no less tough, proving this many times over both physically and emotionally. The two sisters had grown up being close to one another, always looking out for the other when needed and quibbling like normal siblings at other times. Roland had found it necessary to pull them apart more than once in their lives, but thankfully they’d been raised to forgive and forget, which made such altercations hardly worth mentioning once they were done. As a freshman in high school Kylie was still one of the most popular kids in her school, a fact that Roland was very proud of.
Neither of his girls drank, smoked or did anything else their father would disapprove of. He trusted them implicitly and had always known when they were lying. Both Kylie and Cora suffered the same malady that had afflicted Roland for much of his life when they lied, their hands shook noticeably, giving away the lie easily. It was a strange quirk to have, but thankfully it had kept Roland from having to guess when his girls had been trying to fib. So it was when Kylie and Cora told him that they weren’t doing anything harmful to themselves that he believed them when their hands remained rock steady.
Whether or not they were virgins he really didn’t want to know. Roland believed that sex was best left to those who had been together for longer than a few weeks, which seemed to be the average high school relationship, or for marriage. Just as his wife had told him, his daughters had called him old school for his ways of thinking. Roland couldn’t help it, that was the way he’d been raised. Kids in this day and age didn’t seem to want to wait for anything, they wanted to know exactly what life was like and what it had to offer before they were really ready. Roland supposed it was a sign of the times, that his elders had been much the same way, wondering what “them damned kids” were in such a rush to grow up for.
His only two rules when it came to sex were simple, he didn’t want to know about it and he didn’t want any unexpected grandchildren. Roland had told his daughters that he would always be there for them, that he’d do whatever it took to keep them safe and cared for, but god help him if he was going to help raise another child at this point in his life. To himself he’d stated that if such a thing were to ever happen he would take as good care of his daughters and their children as he could. He was set up well enough that he could take them in without bankrupting himself, but at this time in his life he wanted to kick back and relax, not raise another child.
Thankfully his daughters had told him that while sex was indeed a thought that ran through their minds they weren’t about to disrupt their lives by getting preggers, especially not in high school. Roland knew that each of them had boys trying to “get after them” as the saying went, but thus far he had yet to hear of either Kylie or Cora taking the time to return their affections. He was almost convinced that if any young man decided to take liberties with his daughters then that youth would find the business end of Roland’s shotgun buried into their crotch. He had no stomach or patience for young men that thought they were God’s gift to women, nor did he particularly care for the smooth-talkers that were, as the kids said, “just a squirrel trying to get a nut”. That ridiculous saying alone had caused Roland to roll his eyes more times than he could remember. He’d heard a couple members of his crew use such a saying and had quickly put a stop to it, explaining just why he’d spoken out against the saying as Stiles and Corey had listened to his ear-blistering lecture.
They were good boys, he liked them more than any other crewmen he’d ever had, but at times they were just boys, something that was necessary for every youth it seemed. Roland knew what being a boy was like, hell he wasn’t that old. At times though he had to wonder if he’d ever been as arrogant or as foolish as some of the young punks that now strolled the walkways and hallways of the world. He could remember being sure of himself, hell he could even remember being one hell of a ladies man back in the day, but arrogance had never been something he ascribed to.
Among them only Corey and Stiles were truly arrogant at times, thinking themselves to be like the Don Juans of the crew. Kevin and Ferret were far more reserved, almost shy in a way. The stories that Roland had overheard of their lives in and out of school were enough to induce a headache at times as he had learned to simply tune them out, shaking his head and rolling his eyes over and over at their ridiculous antics as well as the way they communicated with one another. Boys would boys, that saying was far truer than many people could ever guess on his boat.
Leaning back in his seat again Roland cast his eyes outside, pulling his mind from the memories that came so readily these days. The weather outside today was overcast but looked in no way as though it were about to rain. Grayish-white clouds blanketed the sky without a break of blue anywhere to be seen. All around his boat the waves rolled on gently as he felt the sway and pitch of the ocean. Blinking several times he rubbed at his eyes as he then sat forward,, yawning as he then shook his head. His attention was captured by the CB radio he kept near the wheel just then, the squawking almost making him jump out of his skin as he adjusted the volume just a bit.
“Hey Roland, what’re you up to you old barnacle?” Roland grimaced as he listened to the voice, recognizing George Vanower from the deep bass of his voice. He’d known the man for several years now, in fact he was the closest that Roland had ever come to calling a friend. The two men had met when Roland had first come out to the coast and had become somewhat close over the years. They kept their private lives apart as much as they could, but overall Roland could admit that he liked the other man.
Vanower was a schoolteacher full-time and a fisherman part-time, though lately he’d been talking of how long it would be until he could take his retirement and just fish full-time. He and Roland had discussed how one could possibly make good money doing nothing but charters all summer and fall and then kicking back during the winter and early spring. Roland had agreed that this sounded like a fine idea, and in fact he was interested in trying such a thing. So far he’d done only a few charters for the summer and had no intentions of taking out many more tourists, leaving them all to George and several others who were aching for the business. Word got around in such a small town as to which charters were best at finding the prime locations for fishing and which ones were a waste of money. Roland had earned the privilege and prestige among the many other charters to be able to take the appointments he wanted and foist the others on the other boats that were always ready to go.
His crew was always willing to pull up at short notice and take a charter out, though more than once when he had called on them he had learned later on that either their parents, friends or girlfriends had taken offense at their loyalty to him. Roland made no apologies, when he needed a crew he knew who to call and if they didn’t respond then he’d find someone else. For the past two years his crew had been tight with one another and bound to come when he called. They all thought he was an asshole, they’d certainly muttered this and several other words behind his back when they thought he couldn’t hear them, but they knew that for as tough as he was he was also the most fair. Next to himself, George Vanower was undoubtedly the most fair and demanding man on the docks.
Vanower had a number of years to go until he could seriously consider retirement, but Roland had laughed with the man over many a beer and cigar that retirement would no doubt be far harder than actually working. George had aspirations to do nothing but fish all day, but Roland was thinking that the man would find out soon enough that what he wanted wouldn’t be quite so easy to handle all day every day. He’d most likely miss his students after a while.
Grabbing the mike he clicked the button to respond, “Nothin’ much, just trollin’. What’re you up to today?” Roland took his finger off the switch, grinning slightly as he waited for George’s response. After several moments he frowned, cocking his head to the right as George didn’t talk back.
“You still there?” he asked, pressing the switch again. Roland checked the display on his CB to make sure he was on the channel he always used with George, frowning as he saw that it was on the right channel. Why wasn’t George answering?
“Life is going to get a lot worse Roland, a whole lot worse.” The voice that came from the mike wasn’t George’s, in fact it wasn’t anyone that Roland could easily recognize. The voice was decidedly feminine, possessing the delicate lilt that came from a female voice. Roland’s jaw hung open slightly as his heart began to beat quicker within his chest.
“Who is this?” he said into the mike, depressing the switch as he then released it again, blinking as he licked his lips nervously.
“You’re going to lose those you love, you’re going to keep those you care for and in the end, you will keep those who mean the most.” Roland frowned heavily as he listened to the voice, growing a bit angry as he heard the words. Whoever this was it had to be some sort of sick joke, that was all that would make sense.
“Look, whoever this is, this ain’t funny. Get off the line now and go fry an ant or somethin’ you sick-“
“There will be pain Roland Mcregor, but in the end you will be freed from all strain and will be allowed to rest. Your time will come, but there will be hell first.” Roland’s eyes widened as his nostrils flared noticeably. This was going a little far for his liking, in fact he was ready to reach through the damned wire and throttle whoever was on the other end, if only such a thing were possible.
“George are you puttin’ me on? C’mon now this ain’t funny.”
“Bear, Ferret, Stiles and Cross, they will be your strength Roland, but like you, they will eventually fall. All must be lost before anything can be gained.” Roland’s eyes widened even further as he heard the names of his crew, further incensing his anger as he gripped the mike hard enough to strain the plastic casing.
“Listen you little witch, whoever you are, you don’t dare threaten my boys. You hear me and mind me now, if I find out who this is I don’t care what your folks say I’m gonna paddle your spoiled little ass red. This isn’t funny now get off the damned line!”
“Kylie, Cora, they will-“
“You don’t talk about my girls!” Roland exploded, almost cracking the mike in his hand as he leaned forward against the wheel, gripping its rounded form as his jaws worked madly, clenching and unclenching as a wave of both rage and fear washed through his body just then. He wouldn’t’ stomach anyone talking about his girls or his crew, they were good kids all of them and didn’t need this kind of grief.
Wait, what kind of grief? Was he jumping out of his skin for nothing? Roland didn’t care at that moment, no one spoke out against his girls or his crew, and no one would dare to threaten them when he was around. Anyone that did was taking their life into their own hands.
“Kylie and Cora, they will walk along the hard roads, they will know hardship, indeed they will reap what they sow, for they will be the salt of the earth along with so many others.” Roland was breathing heavily as he found himself wanting to rip the CB from its mount at that moment and dash it to the ground, throw it in the ocean, just something that would rid him of the damnably smooth voice that continued to issue forth from the speaker.
“You listen to me girlie, if I find you-“
“You will not. You will remember this only as a dream, and soon enough not even that.” Roland stared wide-eyed at the CB as the hissing crackle of static began to issue from it, replacing the smooth voice that had issued such dire and hauntingly vague predictions. Roland tapped the mike against the CB, still frowning as he tried to hail the voice again, thinking of several more choice words for the sultry-sounding witch that had so disturbed him.
“So what’s going on leather face, are you in one of your moods today?” The sudden emergence of George’s voice startled Roland so badly that he jumped back with a small shout of surprise, looking warily at the CB as he tried to bring himself back to calm in that moment. Clearing his throat several times he then pressed the switch again, speaking clearly as he answered.
“Just a lot of ah, lot of static I guess, I’m here.”
“Well thank God almighty, the old sea dog speaks!” George said before Roland could hear the man laughing good-naturedly.
“Yeah, yeah, don’t press your luck or I’ll just shut it off.” he quipped, chuckling uneasily to himself.
“Yeah right, then who’s gonna bug you while you’re out there all by your damned self, the gulls?”
“At least the gulls fly off when you shoot at ‘em.” Roland said.
“Yeah you’re right, I’d just shoot back.” The two men shared a good laugh as they fell into the easy rhythm they enjoyed with one another. Roland let out a large sigh as he shook his head, trying to convince himself that the voice had been a trick of his imagination, a figment created from being out too long on the sea by himself.
“So hey if you want to come on in later I’ve got a twelve-pack and a couple of Excaliburs with our names on ‘em. School’s out for the day and I just need someone to sit around and enjoy the day. You up for it?” Roland was thinking of the voice again, but he heard George plainly as he nodded, realizing just then that the man couldn’t see him.
Pressing the switch again he replied, “Yeah, just let me square a few things away and I’ll head on in.”
“Anything biting today?”
“Nah, pretty slow, nothing really happening out here.” Roland replied, still thinking about that damned voiced.
“Well, I’ll keep ‘em cold till you get here eh? See you when you get in.” Roland agreed to that notion as George signed off, leaving little more than static as Roland stood looking uneasily at the CB for several moments. Shaking his head he then went down to the galley to make sure everything was stowed away properly and put up before making his way back up the wheelhouse. Firing up the engine he then pointed his prow towards the mainland once more, still thinking about the voice. As the few miles passed he allowed himself to pass the uneasy experience to the back of his mind, where the dark corners would relegate it to the forgotten corridors of his consciousness. It might take some time, but Roland found that he was more comfortable relegating such a thought to the dimmest of memories. By the time he pulled into port he was almost convinced that it hadn’t even happened.