In my novel, There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Stones Were Not So Smooth, Alison Alexandra, and her friend Amanda, go on a cruise – a freighter cruise. And they see many things. This happens before they even leave their home port.
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On the far side of the ship is the body of the part. Amanda and Alison Alexandra again rest their elbows on a mahogany railing and watch the activity of a large swath of the harbour. In the centre channel a tug boat hauling a scow piled with crushed automobiles is making its way to the inner reaches of the port, toward the railway terminal.
The tug is a dented and patch-painted vessel with the rumbles of a tired engine. The scow looks as if it has been in service for decades It is painted in haphazard colours of green that barely keep the rust in check.
“That looks like the end of the line carried by the end of the line destined for the end of the line,” says Amanda. “Yet they come in the other end of the port all shiny and new.”
“Maybe you just described life,” says Alison Alexandra.
“Oh – ewwww,” says Amanda.
“I agree,” says Alison Alexandra.
“Then let’s wave at Charon,” days Amanda. “Let us be hearty.”
They both lean over the mahogany rail and raise their hands high. Amanda leads them in vigour as she seems to reach for the sky with her enthusiastic wave. Alison Alexandra is tempted to put both of her hands in the air, but she refrains. She does not want to appear as if she is attempting to outdo her friend. As it is, matching Amanda is spectacle enough. They get the attention of the two crew in the wheelhouse of the tugboat. One leans from the door and waves back, while the other man behind the wheel gives a long blow on his horn.
What is unexpected, and apparently not visible to either crew in the wheelhouse, is the appearance of a figure stepping between the piles of crushed autos on the scow. Not only is it difficult to tell if it is a male or female because it is dressed in a long outer coat, but it is also hard to say if it is an adult or a child, as it is quite short. However, there is no doubt about the enthusiasm of the waving hand.
“Would that be a worker or a stowaway?” asks Amanda as she keeps waving.
“I wouldn’t think they would need any crew on the scow,” says Alison Alexandra. “What is there to do? And – anyway – look how they’re dressed.”
“A stowaway on a scow?”
“Looks like it.” Alison Alexandra wishes her military grade binoculars were not still packed away in her cabin. “Maybe they’re using the scow as a ferry from one part of the harbour to the other.”
“They’re not asking for help?”
“No.” Alison Alexandra has stopped waving. “They’re dancing.”
“Should we tell Ellerton?”
“Do you think we should?”
“No,” says Amanda. “Let them dance.”
The figure on the scow – man, woman or child – does a pirouette as the tugboat pulls away across the calm water of the harbour. The two crew members in the wheelhouse have returned to their duties.
“We can dance,” says Alison Alexandra.
“Together?” asks Amanda.
“Oh, yes – I think so.”
“Paper/scissors/rock.” Says Alison Alexandra.
Amanda flashes out two fingers as Alison Alexandra flashes out five.
“C’mon – hurry.”
“What will we do?” asks Alison Alexandra.
Amanda takes Alison Alexandra’s right hand and extends it, while she places her right hand in the centre of Alison Alexandra’s back. Alison Alexandra rests her left hand on Alison Alexandra’s right shoulder.
“Do you think Ellerton has a guitar?” asks Alison Alexandra.
“Or a Supper Club Combo?” Amanda adjusts the distance between them.
“Oh, I would love a saxophone,” says Alison Alexandra.
As they take their first steps, the man/woman/child in its long coat stops their own dance. They approach the edge of the scow, but halt just behind the tier of squashed automobiles to keep out of the sight of the two crew in the wheelhouse. The tug is making its slow but steady workhorse course across the harbour, putting more and more distance between it and the ships tied to the dock.
Amanda prompts Alison Alexandra back beside the mahogany railing, but is unable to dance the growing gap between them and the scow. They come to a stop and lean over the railing when they realize the man/woman/child is cupping their hands around their mouth.
“Ole!” they hear, across the expanse of water. “Ole!”