(x) Days of Photography is a flash fiction/photography collaboration with Austin Andrews of Disposable Words. This is Day Six.

One man hugged his wife at the gang-plank. A puffy-eyed mother sat in the car and blew cigarette smoke out the window while she waited for her teenage son; she started up the motor as soon as he jumped in the passenger side.

The old fisherman and thumb-sucker had taken up a spot on the pier. The grey gulls that had came over from the city-side of the bay fought with the local white gulls for the first of the fish guts thrown into the water. All except the cat and the gentleman murderer, and the old fisherman and thumb-sucker, had people for them at the pier.

Ten years ago these faces would have meant something to him. The pier was just a place, now, and each face bore a resemblance to someone he once knew.

“Have you quite finished?”

The cat had not finished and continued licking the cut across the bare skin on the ball of his ankle. In her fervour her velvet tongue worked up his leg and caught on the hairs and, despite ticklish satisfaction, he has to pull his leg away. He smiled, looked down at the cat, and said, “Charlotte.” She ignored him after that.

The first of the tugs was heading out and the ferry was being loaded with passengers and freight for the return trip.

The alarm went off on his wrist watch with little surpise.

This is the last scene he imagined seeing before the grace of old age took his sight away: a sea corridored by mountains, and the sun, bright, yet a weak heat; water lapping at the rocks and the sand of the shoreline.

This isn’t the place to make amends, he thought.

He boarded the ferry and bought a ticket from the bemused inspector, who would later share the oddity with his father. His father would ask what what the man looked like. He wouldn’t remember, and finish the thought by saying, “blow-through”, before the pair sat down to dinner at the table.

There was a splash in the water and he looked over to see thumb-sucker’s head going under and above the water. He had caught and held a white gull in his hands. The old fisherman pulled him out by the collar with his pole-and-net and released the bird and made thumb-sucker strip his wet clothes down to his underpants.

He smiled. He was still capable of that.

(to be continued)

Photo Copyright ©2008 Austin Andrews