by Martin Maenza
Eventually, closing time came that evening. Brandy went to the back room to fetch her coat. As she buttoned it up tight, she called to her boss. “See you tomorrow, Manny,” she said.
“Sleep well,” he replied.
The bell above the door jangled as she walked outside.
Brandy walked through the silent town, down across the waterfront area before she would have to turn north to the small street that led to her little apartment. A slight fog was nestling above the water and the harbor area, not enough to completely block her vision, but more like a gentle, nestling blanket tucking the town in for a night of slumber.
The boats tied off bobbed up and down slightly, and the water sloshed up against the wall with a slap-slap-slap sound.
When it was quiet like this, when there weren’t others around talking and laughing, she could still hear his voice in her head after months apart. “You’re a fine girl,” it echoed like a song’s refrain. “Such a fine girl. But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea.”
Tears started to form in her eyes. She shook her head violently to knock them away. “Why?” she said to herself again as she often did. “Why?”
There was a small stone in the path before her on the wall. Brandy felt a sudden wave of anger, and she advanced forward and kicked at it. “Why?” she said louder. The small stone flew out across the water, skipped twice, and then sank with a sploosh sound.
There was silence for a moment, save the slight sobbing of the young woman.
“Brandy?” a voice called.
The brown-haired woman whirled around and saw the outline of a person in the fog.
The person spoke to her again. “Brandy, don’t cry.”
She blinked. That voice, she thought. I know it.
The figure suddenly turned and darted off.
The realization of the voice caused Brandy to take pursuit. “Stop!” she called out ahead of her as the fog got thicker. “Wait!”
The figure was heading for the waterfront, down one of the docks. Brandy ran after him. Could it be? she thought to herself. Surely he would have come to the bar? Her hope, her desire for it to be the man she loved, drove her onward.
A slight wet patch on the wood caused her to loose her footing. “Whoa!” Brandy caught herself before slipping off the side of the structure. In the distance, she could hear the rumbling of thunder.
Brandy pressed on. If the man had come down this way, surely he would have to be ahead of her. The only thing on this dock were some tied-off freighters. Perhaps he had come in one of them.
Her heart was racing as she hurried on, full of excitement and passion, and maybe just a bit of fear. If it was her man, why would he run? Why did he not see her?
These thoughts filled her head, and she almost got too distracted to see the end of the dock approaching. She stopped herself just in time and started to catch her breath. The fog was thick but rising. There was another rumble of thunder, this time a bit louder.
“Where…?” she started to ask aloud, then stopped. She noticed something near the end of the dock.
Brandy bent down to inspect it further. What she would was a longshoreman’s dark coat and a cap, crumpled in a pile. “What the…?” She started to pick them up. They were familiar to her. And she felt a bit of a warmth to them.
She brushed the fabric of the coat against her face and closed her eyes. They were just like those he wore. But a coat was here.
Her eyes sprang open as a scent reached her nose. Brandy sniffed the coat’s collar. It was his aftershave, a scent he wore, one he had gotten from France that he liked so much. It was very distinct, not like the Old Spice most of the men in the bar wore.
“Erwin?” Brandy called out aloud.
The fog almost seemed to be thinning as the wind kicked up. A burst of lighting crossed the sky, and a loud boom of thunder roared. The water off the end of the dock began to churn and swell.
For the first time tonight, fear swept over her. “Erwin?” she called out.
The clouds exploded, and heavy rains poured down upon the dock.
Brandy shielded her eyes and spit away water near her mouth as she was caught fully in the sudden storm. Her coat grew heavy as it absorbed the falling water. She tried to rise and move, but wind knocked her back to her knees.
“Erwin? Anyone? Help!” she called out in a panic.
Lightning and thunder crashed again. The wind began to howl through the rain, slamming the huge drops into her.
Brandy buried her head between her knees, trying to shield her face from the onslaught.
The wind howled again, and this time it had a more distinct sound to it.
Dooo-ooo yooo-ooouuu-uuu looo-ooo-ooo-ooove hiii-iii-iii-iiimmm?
Brandy blinked. Had it been her imagination. “What?” she yelled out over the howl.
The wind howled again.
Dooo-ooo yooo-ooouuu-uuu looo-ooo-ooo-ooove hiii-iii-iii-iiimmm?
“Yes,” she said softly. Then again, louder, “Yes!”
The water surged up again, this time in a huge wave over the edge of the dock.
Brandy screamed as the mighty wall of water towered above her, hovering, then crashed down upon her. She grabbed for something to hold on, trying not to let the mighty wave roll her off the side of the dock and into the choppy current of the harbor.
As the wave subsided, running back into the sea, she shook her head to clear her eyes again. Brandy coughed once, then again. The soaked coat was still in her grasp. She started to gain her footing again when she saw it: a figure lying prone on the edge of the dock.
It was man, naked.
Brandy’s eyes grew wide. When she saw the figure was not moving, she gathered up her courage and approached it. Bending down, she went to touch the body, to turn it over. It was cold to the touch.
She let out a gasp when she turned the face over. She knew the face. “Erwin?”
The man’s body jumped, and his eyes fluttered open. “Brandy?” he said in a weary voice. “Brandy?”
“Erwin!” she cried. She couldn’t grasp what was happening, but seeing him again brought forth a well of emotion in her. Those eyes, those beautiful blue-green eyes. “Baby, don’t move!” Brandy started to take the soaked coat from her arms to lay across his body.
Erwin shook his head. “No…” he said. “…my life, my lover, my lady is the sea…”
Brandy tried covering him. “No, you can stay here,” she said, “with me.”
Erwin shook his head. “No…” he groaned. “…no harbor is my home…”
Brandy reached forward to touch him, to comfort him. Surely he was in some kind of state of shock.
As her hand brushed against his cold cheek, his body melted away. His whole body collapsed into a pool of water that then fell down through the cracks in the dock’s surface.
“No,” Brandy cried. “Nooo-ooo!”
Erwin was one with the sea once more.
“And, so, my friends,” Abel said as he put down his fork. Before him on the plate was a small pile of bones from the fish he had just consumed, “ends our little tale. Erwin once told Brandy that his first l-love was a-always the sea, but she didn’t understand that he m-meant it literally. The young sailor was one with the oceans in more ways than one.”
Abel pushed his seat back from the table and stood. “And with that, I b-bid you goodnight. After a feast such as that, a nap is in order.” And with that, the storyteller started for the door of the room, humming a little tune. “Dooda-dit-dooda, dit-dooda-dit-dooda…”