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A Boat at the Pigtail Steps (2)

Save for the sometimes whir of the refrigerator and the tick clack of the patented baseboard radiator along the far wall the room was quiet, and dark where no light seeped from the streets below.

Far off a nighttime muffled voice bid someone 'Goodbye' or 'Hello' and a car door slammed once and again. Someone home or gone home.

But this was not his home, and never could be. It was filled with the wrong smells and sounds and empty of anyone who could call him by his Christian name or share the first of the new wine or the last of the old.

And he was empty tired. Sleep would come, bidden or not, as it must. And visions of turbaned heads and plodding caravansaries, of tall ships sailing, of long roads wandered, of distant times and loves and nights remembered, and golden oceans and of all tumbled all together. And darkness and light and darkness again.

And light again, blinking blinding, late morning or early afternoon light and strange-costumed people passing, clothed as never for an age and more anywhere but in his mind seen, and a breeze plucking at his clothes and hair and laden with strange smells of spices and the sea and the wind swirled around him and spread before him the Pigtailed steps and he standing, and a quay below with a ship's gig crewed and waiting and an elderly gruff seaman waving to him and beyond a bay of tall ships beyond and an elderly trim frigate at single anchor with the Blue Peter flying and a white pennant snapping in the breeze. And he, unthinking, walking down and down to the gig feeling different and stronger and more eager for the next moment and the next than he had in years. And rough hands handing him along into the gig and then, after a time, he was on the deck of the frigate.

And there was a tall blond haired fellow with his hat athwart his head and a shorter darker one smiling and shaking his hand and he knew their names and they introduced the Captain of the ship and her officers, and he knew them all as well.

And the Surprise fetched her anchor and her breeze and her tide, and he was home to stay.

© 2000 Warren Godfrey