Chapter One

Hammer

"Hey, Denny, how's life treating you?"

"Oi, Denny! Still playin' wit that rusted out warsh bin of yers?"

"Keeping it together, huh?"

I only gave them a half-hearted wave as I passed the shanty bar, having only heard half of what had been said. I never really listened to much of the chatter that went on around me even when I probably should have. After all, it wasn't like all it was garbage. Some of it was actually important.

Like the harbor master telling me that it was time to move onto the next port.

"Now, Denny, I'm not saying we don't like having you around here, but times are getting hard for all of us. And I just don't can't see how you're doing yourself any favors by staying here with all these commercial fishing rigs cluttering up the bay and all." He tried to smile, but to me, it looked more like he had eaten something awful. "I mean, I don't have anything against small time fishermen, but... you're in this on your own with-"

"Don't worry about it, Rex. I'm leaving today, so you can give the dock to whoever you've got asking for it." The man only blinked for a moment, but it wasn't long before his face split into a wide grin. "Just give me until three."

"Sure thing, Denny." He offered his hand to me, but I kept my own in jean pockets. When I did, he looked away, and I could tell by the way his face warmed that he was embarrassed. "Well then, guess I'll see you off at three today."

"Yeah." It was at that point that he finally understood I wasn't interested in hearing whatever it was he was going to say. All the politeness in the world couldn't hide the fact he wanted me out of there as fast as he could. I was fine with that, though, but only because I was already done with the place myself. "I'll have my payment ready when you come by."

It was during those times that I wondered if my parents ever dealt with that kind of thing. Having people look down on them for our rickety little boat and well worn equipment... Of course, when I was younger, we also tended to keep to the local harbors where a person had to wade out to the rusted out rod that the boat was tied to. No paperwork, no fees, no problems.

"Great. Now I'm starting to sound like an old man," I thought aloud with a sigh. "Next thing you know, I'll start forgetting what I'm supposed to be doing."

"Might want to worry about all that talking to yourself first," a voice called out to me with a splintering laugh. "Nothing else ages a man quite like having only himself for company, you know."

"Morning, Pascal." The older man tipped back his captain's hat and gave me a smile and a nod, and then, without another word to me or anyone else, he went back to leaning on his boat railing and smoking his pipe. He looked so calm standing there with his tired eyes and seaman's jacket, and not for the first time, I found myself wishing that I could be so at peace with myself. "'Fraid I won't be sticking around much longer."

"That so? Where you heading to?"

"Don't know yet," I replied with a shrug. "I was thinking of going south, but that's all I really know." He said nothing as he listened, but I knew he was paying attention unlike most of the guys on the decks. Myself included. "Looks like you're getting ready to head out yourself."

"Yeah, Rex came by a little while ago... Guessing you had a talk with him?" I shrugged. "Figured. Probably hoping to open this place up for the snowbirds. 'Course the only folks that come around here are old hats like me." He paused to take another puff from his pipe and shook his head. "I'll probably just go back home... Hear it's been getting real nice up there since this guy moved in and took over that farm."

"Sounds like a nice place."

"Ah, sorry 'bout that," he chuckled. "Got carried away there." We stood in silence for a time, and after a while, we both sighed and looked off in different directions. "I guess I should let you go," he continued. "Gonna take some time to get that boat ready."

"Doesn't it always?" There was no reason to wish each other good luck or any of that. We just gave each other one last nod and went our separate ways, like men often did, and that was that. It was nice, really. A lot better than most of the good-byes I had gone through in my life.

I never had the chance to say it to my parents, but now that I was older, I realized that it was better off that way. It was hard enough leaving my uncles... and they were still alive. Which, if I was being honest, was the cruelest irony of them all seeing as we weren't actually related. Not that I knew of anyway.

Why am I even thinking about it? It wasn't like I had seen them in the past five years or so, and even when I had lived with them, we were never close. It was like I was left at the baby-sitters, told to do whatever I wanted, and never picked up. Half the time, I was lucky if either one of them was around at all. Maybe that was why it was always so easy for me to live alone on the old Salacia.

It had been eleven years since my parents had gone, but even without having any way of knowing what would happen, they had willed the boat to me as soon as I was born. Sure, maybe the railing had broken off in places, and maybe I had to fix a part or two every couple of weeks. Maybe it was better off as scrap. It was still my boat, though, and if nothing else, she was still good enough to put food on my table and a dozen or so fish for the market. I was proud to have her as mine.

As for where I was to go, it was a place no one had ever heard of. A small town known as Flower Bud where two friends of the family would be the ones to be my uncles. No doubt the pair were better friends to my mother. They talked of her often when they thought I had gone to bed. I was too young at the time to understand most of what was being said about her, but I still remembered how they used to say how much we looked alike. I don't even think they ever mentioned my old man, but I also had a hard time remembering him myself.

I clapped my hands over my ears to clear my head. It hurt, of course, but I was okay with that. It was better than remembering things that were better off forgotten especially when there was so much work left for me to do.

Little did I know that the work was just beginning...