Paulo and Santori

by Moreng Swinburne

Paulo and Santori

In from the open sea without sail or rudder, an open boat drifted silently through the entrance of the old harbour carrying an unusual cargo.

Two men were leaning against the bar in the only caf found on the island. One, a young fisherman was staring at nothing in particular while the caf's patron filled two empty glasses with ouzo. Throwing the fiery liquid down his throat and gasping he said...

'I got time off work to go to the funeral; boss is going as well'.

The other, also a fisherman but much older said...

' I hate funerals...one day I'll have to go to my own. Do they know who it was yet...the one they found?'

The young fisherman sucked more ouzo into his mouth, face contorted he said......

'know who the crew were because the boat was Paulo's, but with cabin windows broken and hungry sea-birds getting in for a feast well, whoever it was... is an unrecognisable mess now.

The wave crashed into the boat like a great battering ram, it was like as if the small wooden ship had been picked up by a giant hand and hurled against a stone wall. Paulo in the wheel-house was knocked off his feet and had to scramble to get up and straighten himself. He was steering when the onslaught of the wave broke all the windows, standing he was up to his waist in cold sea water. He'd heard a muffled scream over the crashing and banging of the sea. Perhaps a crew member hanging on to something for dear life somewhere aft, but in the present state there was nothing he could do it was every man... The engine had overheated and broken down at the beginning of the storm so he ordered the fishing nets to be attached to a long rope and thrown into the sea from the bow, act as sea anchor and hold the boat facing forward into the wind. It wasn't working and the small vessel zigzagged left and right like on the end of a giant pendulum heavy sea coming in from every direction. Another great wave collided with the boat head-on, the shock threw Paulo forward crushing his throat on the wheel.

As the dark stormy night drew in he'd switched on the powerful mast lamp and despite the lack of engine power the batteries held and the light didn't fail. The only thing to be seen was the entire deck awash in brilliant white foam. The ship was now half under water. Paulo, half conscious 'thought' about the other men aboard wondering if they were still alive then passed out into a dark dream.

It was daylight, he was bobbing against the wall of the cabin waist deep in cold red sea water wondering where he was and what had happened. Paulo had been healthy and strong and his body could take more punishment than the average man, but because he'd sustained many wounds and lost a lot of blood was now very weak. When the sea's great onslaught smashed the windows of the cabin, the exploding glass had cut into his face and torn off an ear, he'd been thrown repeatedly about the cabin. A bone protruded through the lower part of his left trouser leg where blood flowed freely. The storm had now ceased but the boat had taken in a lot of water so that it lay so low in the sea it had the same manoeuvrability as a raft. The tiny fishing vessel had carried five, Paulo and four other men. Paulo knew all the men and their families but as no-one had come to help him he presumed they were all drowned. He tried to get up on his feet and find out if there was anyone left on board. Nothing happened, his legs were broken. He tried to shout for help but no sound came out then the door slowly opened and before him stood Santori.

Paulo was well liked in the fishing village where he lived and much loved by his family but not the favoured one, that was a privilege reserved for older brother Santori and younger sister Bella. Bella and Santori were always together, either out walking, sat next to each other at the family table or in church. Santori loved his younger brother Paulo, but saw his little sister as a precious gem, fragile and beautiful like the stars he stared at at night. He once took a strand from her long black hair and kept it in a tiny silver box close to his heart. Bella and Santori often walked at night along the cliffs that surrounded their island in the Aegean to the 'high point'. A place of great beauty overlooking the sea where they would stare mesmerised for hours over the dark waters in silent communion. One night Bella went there alone and never came back. Santori looked long and hard everywhere, worried she might have come to some harm. Then finally he came across her broken body on the rocks below the High Point. He blamed his own negligence for her death and began wandering about in a morbid trance. He had always involved himself in the comings and goings of the fishing fleet, now they were no longer of any importance; he showed no interest in anything or anyone and eventually disappeared. The whole village searched for days then at last found him shuffling to and fro muttering on the cliff where Bella had fallen. Some said that he had been trying to find her spirit; some said that he had been contemplating jumping from the cliff to join her. No-one really knew but he never spoke another word from that day on. Santori was twenty eight years old Bella seventeen and as the years went by though still a young man he grew old very quickly. His body became frail, his face wrinkled and he crouched as in pain when he walked, her loss wore heavily on him. Santori had once been the most respected member of his family, but that was long forgotten. Years later when Paulo inherited the fishing business, he took Santori in to look after but one morning awoke to find him gone from the house. An open boat had disappeared from its mooring in the night and Santori was never seen on the island again.

Now Paulo, a much older man, sat in a pool of bloodied sea-water on the cabin floor of his crippled vessel with Santori standing before him bathed in a strange light.

He felt himself being carried out onto the deck into the sunlight and laid out. Slipping away into an uneasy dream he knew that at last he would have to face the truth and explain why he had followed Bella up to the high point that fateful night.

From far away he heard these words.......

'There is a great love in our family and you are no part of it',

The boat drifted for days and nights. Paulo gazed up at the cold night sky and the millions of bright stars that shone down, knowing not one of them shone for him.

The young fisherman stared at a scar on the back of his left hand while both glasses were re-filled.

'After weeks at sea, Paulo's boat came all the way back from where it had started and broke up on the rocks under the high point, don't you think that strange. Perhaps other forces were at work, who comes out on top in the end, man, sea...God..who'?

A small crowd had now gathered on the jetty of the old harbour.

In the open boat lay four dead men neatly laid out in a row.

They were the drowned crew lost from Paulo's fishing vessel. One of them held a small box made of silver.

Paulo and Santori by Moreng Swinburne

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