Flash Fiction: The Live-aboards

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write about a boat. Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of A BLANKET FOR HER HEART. This post comes from the opening of his current work in progress.

The Live-aboards

by RC Bonitz

She’d had it with her father and the barflies he’d been presenting. Why he thought she’d marry one of them she did not know. Though even her Mom no longer called them louts and lunkheads. Her Mom wanted a grandchild in the worst way. That wasn’t likely to happen. No way, she’d never marry one of the so-called men on this island.

The smell of fresh baked muffins and roti filled the shop as she pulled the last of the mango cakes from the oven. She starts baking before the sun comes up and then opens the shop at 7:00 when her Mom comes in to help. Today she just had to take a walk to burn off her frustration. Daddy had presented a proposal from Henry last night, for the third bloody time. How many ways did she have to say no before they both got the message?

She plopped her apron on the counter, left the shop open so Helen could get in, and set off toward the docks. It was a beautiful morning, the sun low in a golden summer sky and the sea calm with very little swell. Tourists would flock aboard the ferry today and they’d be busy at the shop.
Passing Mumford’s Book Shop (owned by Patti, her best friend) and Ceaser’s Marine Store (he was at least sixty and married or her Dad would be pushing him at her you could bet), she was quickly on the docks. Most of the fishing boats went out before dawn, but Henry’s hadn’t left yet. He couldn’t be waiting for her answer? After two rejections he thought he had a chance? He was nowhere to be seen though, so maybe she could relax for a few minutes before he…

A sailboat bobbed quietly at the gas dock. An unusual looking boat it was, with complicated cruising rigging and a sleek modern hull more likely to be used in round the buoys racing. It had that kind of rumpled tired look of a well-used live-aboard.
The hatch slid back a little bit as she was about to hail the boat. Then it slid back a little more. There was life aboard the live-aboard. The hatch-board disappeared below and a child stuck his head out, saw her and smiled. About six years old, he put a finger to his lips and climbed out on the deck.

“Hi,” he said softly. “Daddy’s sleeping.”

She assumed that meant she shouldn’t wake the man, but she had other ideas. She was the harbormaster as well as a shop owner, you see, and his Daddy had to move that boat. People needed access to the gas pumps, especially early in the morning. The man also had to supervise the child, or else the mother did.

“Your daddy needs to wake up. He has to move your boat,” she told him and then she noticed he had no life jacket on. Some parents were so lax with their kids. What if he fell overboard? “You need to find a life jacket.”

He shook his head. “I can swim.”

“You need to wear one. It’s the law,” she insisted.

The hatch slid open all the way and a sleepy-eyed male head appeared, blonde hair all askance. “What’s going on Emma?” he mumbled.
She did a double take at that. Emma? The child looked like a boy with a boy’s haircut and clothes. Emma, definitely a girl’s name. Oh well, to each his own. “Your daughter has no life jacket. You need to put one on her.”

He yawned and rubbed his eyes. “Emma’s a good swimmer. She doesn’t need one.”

“It’s the law. And you need to move this boat.” And dress her like a girl.

“After breakfast,” he muttered, and turned to go below again.

This man was so—insufferable. Lackadaisical, arrogant, whatever. “You can’t cook at the gas dock.”

“I know that,” he shot back and came up to stare at her again, this time awake and alert.

“Life jacket, no cooking, move the boat,” she snapped.

“You got any other demands you want to dump on us this morning?” he growled, giving her an evil glare. He intended to ignore her; she could see it in his eyes. Men.

She drew herself up to her very imposing five-foot-six inch stature and gave the man her fiercest imitation of a scowl. “I’m the Harbormaster. You better pay attention.”

He blinked and broke out in a genuine smile, then emerged from the hatch and stepped on deck. Bare-chested, he wore only a tattered pair of cargo shorts. Which revealed a barrel chest and lots of sculpted muscles. Took her breath away he did. Almost. He was still a jerk.

“Sorry, Cap’n,” he said. “We’ll move right away. If you’d like to tell us where to move to?”

She almost said “call me Master, not Captain”, but didn’t want to push her luck. As long as he did what he was told. “Dock C. There are two empty slips. Take your pick. Then come up to Lissey’s to register and pay up.” Official pronouncement completed, she turned on her heel.

“Lissey’s? Where’s that?” he called after her.

She wheeled back around to face him. “At the end of the dock, just past the bookstore. The coffee shop.”

“They serve breakfast?”

“Breakfast and lunch.”

He nodded, still smiling. “No dinner?”

“You want The Sea Horse Grill for that.” she started to leave, then remembered one more thing. “Get a life jacket on her too.”

“She can swim half a mile without breathing hard,” he insisted.

“I don’t care. It’s the law.”

“How far can you swim?”

“That’s none of your business,” she growled. The nerve. He wouldn’t be such a smart-ass to another man.

“I think you should wear a life jacket when you’re on these docks. You might fall in,” he said with a smirk

Damn the man. “These docks are my front yard. I’m on them all the time.”

“This deck is Emma’s front yard. She’s on it every day,” he said, eyes boring into hers.

Stubborn jerk. Probably right about his daughter though. But, the law was the law. And his attitude was terrible. “Every time I see her without a life jacket, it’ll cost you twenty-five dollars. Consider this time a freebie and a warning.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Are you the welcoming committee on this island? Chamber of Commerce rep?”

Lissey frowned. What kind of a question was that? “No. I told you, I’m the Harbormaster.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. You had me confused there for a minute,” he muttered. “Emma, start the engine. I’ll tend the lines.”

“I’ll free up your lines,” she offered. He wanted the child to operate the boat? The man was an idiot.

“Thanks, but we don’t need you,” he snapped.

The Spot Writers- our members.
RC Bonitz


Val Muller


Catherine A. MacKenzie


Kathy Price


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