Honourable mention for the Cuffer Prize 2012
I had no idea how old she was. Not until they dragged us both up off the frozen beach rocks and threw us into the back of the cruiser. We must have looked quite the pair.
"Is this your son?" they'd asked her. Son. Who in their right mind would get into that sort of situation with their son? Idiots.
The first time I laid eyes to her was when me and Gossey stormed through the well-worn front door of the bar and marched up to the counter like this was something we had done a thousand times before. She laughed before we even had ourselves parked on a stool.
"How old are you?" she asked.
"Nineteen," we lied.
She wasn't having any of that though. "How old?"
"Well missus," Gossey replied honestly, "if I sees another year I'll be 15."
She laughed again at that then told us to get lost. She wasn't mean about it. In fact she smiled at us the whole time. I guess that's why we felt safe trying our luck again a week later.
She'd let us drink in the stock room. We'd walk in the front door, she'd tell us to go home out of it, then two minutes later she'd show up at the back door to let us in. For 20 bucks she'd sell us a bottle of whatever she had that was more or less full. And we always had enough for a bottle on account of Gossey selling his grandfather's pain pills around school.
Mostly we'd just sit on the floor and play cards. We'd start off playing Texas Hold'em, but as the night wore on and the two of us got sillier we'd fall back into more childish games like Go Fish or Crazy Eights. That's how she usually found us when she'd come back to check up on us; roaring drunk in the middle of a game of Fish.
One night she sold us a bottle of this awful, red, sour stuff. We managed to stomach most of it down, but Gossey ended up getting sick to his guts and throwing up all over the place. When she came back to see what we were up to Gossey was passed out in the corner and I was on my knees wiping up his mess with a roll of shop towels. She looked us over and shook her head. "Youngsters."
Gossey ended up leaving to go air himself out before heading home while I stayed to finish the cleanup job. I was just getting ready to head out myself when she came back again. "Another day, another dollar," she said as she looked around the room. It still stank of the poisonous stomach bile, but at least it looked clean. She nodded her head approvingly before slumping into the wall. Even in my condition I could tell that she was in a bit of a similar state herself.
"Come on out front," she said. "I've still got to clean up before we can go."
We, I thought to myself. I didn't know where exactly it was that we were going but it was just the two of us now. I'd have followed her anywhere and I think she knew it.
After she locked up she took me by the hand and walked me down along the beach. Her hands were still sticky from the blue spray cleaner she used to wipe down the bar; it was like her skin was biting into mine. I loved it.
We listened to the rolling ocean as we slipped along the smooth skin of the beach rocks. We had to hold on tight to keep from going down. We both laughed as we stumbled and jerked each other around for support.
I remember as soon as I saw the boat knocking against the rocks thinking, how easy would it be to steal that? It was only a weak little dory but badness was something my mind always went to first. Apparently so did hers because while my next few thoughts were of all the reasons I should just leave the thing alone, she shook off my hand and went down and climbed aboard. "How's about a ride?" she asked. That was all the convincing I needed to get out my knife and start savagely cutting through the hard, green rope.
She made me row. I did my best to sit up straight and dig the oars in deep, showing off how fast I could get us going. She sat across from me, relaxed and splayed out like a cat. It was as if she was at home, comfortably on her couch and not trapped out on the water being carted around by some mad drunken teenager.
She leaned forward at one point to tie the laces of my boot. I hadn't even noticed that they'd come undone, but in that moment it was like my entire body shut down and the only part that remained alert was my foot. She was so gentle.
It couldn't have been too long after that when we went over. I don't know how. Maybe we'd run up against something or maybe one of us leaned the wrong way, but regardless, we went over and then under. And all I was thinking was, we're gonna end up on the news.
But we never did. We both managed our way back to shore, calling for our breath and stinking of salt water.
And that was the first time I saw her. I mean really saw her. Her clothes were sticking to her like a second skin and I lay on my side making out her shape. She wasn't thin. She had wide curves that swelled and collapsed against the moonlight, but I didn't care. I just wanted to look.
That's when the cops showed up. The owner of the boat had looked out his window, seen his property missing and called it in. "Probably just a couple of kids," they'd told him.
I only saw her once more after that. Gossey and me were playing street hockey a few weeks later when I noticed someone watching us from a car. Sure enough it was herself.
When I got over there I crouched down to her window and asked where she was headed. "I've got to start repenting," she said. "I think my sins have battered my soul." I don't know what she meant by that but I noticed she had a fat lip and a missing tooth when she spoke.
A few nights after that we were down on the beach when Gossey announced he had swiped a bottle of liquor off his parents. I was eager as he reached into his jacket but he ended up pulling out a flask of that awful red stuff. He said he had only taken it for a laugh and had plans on putting it back, but we ended up coming across the same pathetic little dory from my night out.
We poured the booze all over it, then burned her to ashes.
Joshua Goudie was born in Grand Falls-Windsor. In 2007 he graduated from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College with a bachelor's degree in fine arts. He is currently working on his first novel. His short story "Satsuma and Cigarettes" took second place in the Cuffer Prize 2012, and his story "The Goat" was recently published in "The Cuffer Anthology: Volume IV."