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The lifeboat.

 

The lifeboat

 

The thudding double booms of the Maroons broke in the night sky. The flares accompanying them lighting the thunderous sky. June shook me awake before turning over and falling back to sleep, she felt warm and comfortable but I wouldn't be again tonight.

I had signed up for the coastguard service whilst still a boy, I was a good sailor and thought to do something useful with my life. I was birthed and raised in a town such as this on the west coast of Scotland.  I knew the seas, tides and currents well, having worked on the lobster boats as a boy neglecting schoolwork in favour of a pound or two and the odd lobster dinner.  

 

In barely seen twilight, I pulled on my gear, neoprene, wetsuit, thick and warm clothes and gloves, the official boots that had soft soles that gained purchase on even the most slippery of decks. I rushed to the bathroom and splashed my face with freezing water to rouse me, before running to the car and racing at well over the speed limit to the lifeboat.

 

Billy was drawing up as I arrived looking even more tried and unkempt than me, his hair plastered to his skull in the rain; steady monotonous and heavy. Thunder was already rumbling and the forked lightening lit the sky with staccato blasts.  I nodded to Billy as we grew ready; equipped and able to face the storm and help whatever poor soul was not able to cope with it.

 

Already a few people had gathered, despite the late hour, this was not unusual when the maroons called the lifeboat out in a small fishing town. Everyone knew everyone, most were related or knew someone that was related to the crew.

 

Those drowning could be your husbands or children, brothers, lovers or friends. I shouted to Billy over the rain and crash of the tide against the old Pier, "who is it?  He just shook his head; he was still pulling boots, jumpers and oilskins from the boot of his car. The lights went on and the boat began to shine like a Christmas tree. I heard the engine surge, smelled diesel, the brilliant orange lifeboat was now festooned with lights everywhere and straining at its tether. Billy and I pulled the ropes free as we jumped on board. The boat surged, rocking us, stumbling back, towards the keel in its urgency to gain the slavering sea. The waves were heavy and pummelling but the boat was designed to compete with everything that could be thrown at it.

It had regularly been pushed to its limits; high seas, high winds, ship killers and we were still here to talk about it, and hopefully would still be tomorrow.

 

The full fury of the wind hit us like a hammer as we left the shelter of the loch, entered the open sea, and the hunt was on, but not for that long as we soon we saw old Shaw's boat capsized with him hanging to the side of it.

 

The captain drew us round and we anchored ourselves with ropes to the lifeboat before jumping to the upturned lobster boat. I made the prow, where the old wooden boat was steady but Billy, perhaps due to tiredness, made only the weed covered, and slippery edge and plunged into the sea.  We always tie ourselves on and so even though it would not be pleasant for Billy, cold and miserable, I would get him out. I grabbed his rope and it pulled back through my hands with no weight on it. I stood there even with old Shaw to save and just looked into the water in disbelief.

 

This is the coastguard service; many people pledge a lot of money and give much time to get us the best of boats, the best of ropes, this does not happen. The captain blew a blast and shook me back to life and I dragged Old Shaw on board. His lungs were filled with water but he wasn't done yet. The old bastard had sailed these seas for tens of tears, many more than me and would for a few more yet, I thought, as I pulled him into a harness and had him dragged spluttering through the waves to the boat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lifeboat.

 

The thudding double booms of the Maroons broke in the night sky. The flares accompanying them lighting the thunderous sky. June shook me awake before turning over and falling back to sleep, she felt warm and comfortable but I wouldn't be again tonight.

I had signed up for the coastguard service whilst still a boy, I was a good sailor and thought to do something useful with my life. I was birthed and raised in a town such as this on the west coast of Scotland.  I knew the seas, tides and currents well, having worked on the lobster boats as a boy neglecting schoolwork in favour of a pound or two in pay and the odd lobster dinner.  

 

In barely seen twilight, I pulled on my gear, neoprene, wet-suit, thick and warm clothes and gloves, the official boots that had soft soles that gained purchase on even the most slippery of decks. I rushed to the bathroom and splashed my face with freezing water to rouse me, before running to the car and racing at well over the speed limit to the lifeboat. The police were always fair on a night when the maroons had blasted the air and a storm split the night.

 

Billy was drawing up as I arrived looking even more tried and unkempt than me, his hair plastered to his skull in the rain; steady, monotonous and heavy. Thunder was already rumbling and the forked lightening lit the sky with staccato blasts.  I nodded to Billy as we got ready; equipped and able to face the storm and help whatever poor soul was not able to cope with it.

 

Already a few people had gathered, despite the late hour, this was not unusual when the maroons called the lifeboat out in a small fishing town. Everyone knew everyone, most were related or knew someone that was related to the crew.

 

Those in trouble or drowning could be your husbands or children, brothers, lovers or friends. I shouted to Billy over the rain and crash of the tide against the old Pier, "who is it?  He just shook his head; he was still pulling boots, jumpers and oilskins from the boot of his car. The lights went on and the boat began to shine like a Christmas tree. I heard the engine surge, smelled diesel fumes, the brilliant orange lifeboat was now festooned with lights everywhere and straining at its tether. Billy and I pulled the ropes free as we jumped on board. The boat surged, rocking us, stumbling back, towards the keel in its urgency to gain the slavering sea. The waves were heavy and pummeling but the boat was designed to compete with everything that could be thrown at it.

It had regularly been pushed to its limits; high seas, high winds, ship killers and we were still here to talk about it, and hopefully would still be tomorrow.

 

The full fury of the wind hit us like a hammer as we left the shelter of the sea loch, entered the open sea, and the hunt was on, but not for that long as we soon we saw old Shaw's boat capsized with him hanging to the side of it.

 

The captain drew us round and we anchored ourselves with ropes to the lifeboat before jumping to the upturned lobster boat. I made the prow, where the old wooden boat was steady but Billy, perhaps due to tiredness, made only the weed covered, and slippery keel and plunged into the sea.  We always tie ourselves on and so even though it would not be pleasant for Billy, cold and miserable, I would get him out. I grabbed his rope and it pulled back through my hands with no weight on it. I stood there even with old Shaw to save and just looked into the water in disbelief.

 

This is the coastguard service; many people pledge a lot of money and give much time to get us the best of boats, the best of ropes, and we are all grateful, this does not happen. The captain blew a blast and shook me back to life and I dragged Old Shaw on board. His lungs were filled with water but he wasn't done yet. The old bastard had sailed these seas for tens of tears, many more than me and would for a few more yet, I thought, as I pulled him into a harness and had him dragged spluttering through the waves to the boat.

 

He had a nice warm sickbay to look forward to and then the nurses in the hospital which the old idiot would love, Billy had nothing any more and I had to tell his wife that he had gone, had to tell his children, shit I would tell his dog if I had to. He deserved that and more at the very least.

The number of times he had dragged my old tired body back on board the lifeboat with me half spent were uncountable. I did what I had to do, you always do what you have to do, even when you would rather die than do it. His wife did not take it calmly but at least the kids were in bed and so I was spared that at least.

 

Eventually, many hours later and still crying I climbed back into bed and mirrored Junes body with my own sucking warmth from it and fell, finally, asleep; when I dreamed of a sealed envelope, I had been given by Billy a few weeks ago.

I woke, still exhausted, but alert and found the envelope still sitting upon the desk in my dining room, under a pile of bills and sales letters. It was addressed to his wife but I opened it.

 

The letter within from Billy told of his diagnosis with motor neuron disease and how he could not face it, how he had watched his father folding up within himself and that he did not want his children to see it.

How he could not face the world anymore. I imagined him cutting the tether and slipping beneath the raging waves rather than face a fate even more terrible.

 

I loved him.

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