A Wharfinger Tale - December 31 2009
It wasn't much of an office and certainly not a clean and modern home. A couple of chairs, an old desk with 3 legs. Half of a broken whisker pole stuck under the back corner of the desk kept it from falling over. A two burner diesel fired galley stove that was constantly belching foul smelling smoke when lit. A sink full of dishes that hadn't seen soap in weeks, and a kind of a "box" with a lump that pretended it was a mattress. This was home for the Wharfinger and the office of the marina. The old Wharfinger had worked and lived there for.well, no body knew for just how long.
It had been raining all day and no boat owners had been seen at the marina. After a freezing and snowy week, they had all stayed away. And after all, they thought, if there had of been any problems with their boats, the Wharfinger would have called them. And, really, it was too cold and wet to think about boats right now. Christmas had just past and all the families were still trying to get back to normal. No one had time to even think about their boats. Also, the New Year's parties were about to start. There was appetizers to make, champagne to chill and wives had to warn their husbands about "Not getting involved with that pretty divorcee that had moved into the neighborhood". It was a busy time.
The old Wharfinger cracked open the front door of the office, just as a gust of wind blew a blanket of wet through it. The old man, soaked and now chilled, sucked in a lung of cold air, chuckled, and talking to himself said, "Damn, gonna have to wear my Foulies inside from now on." Then laughing to himself, he stepped out into the dark and wet night. "One more trip around the place tonight. You never know when some darned fool has gone and let his mooring lines chafe through." He said out loud. (After so many years of being alone, he wasn't always sure when he was talking or just thinking it. I didn't matter much these days anyway, he often told himself). It took about two hours to walk around the marina. Checking each boat in it's slip to see if it was secure. He'd never missed a problem with a boat. Whether it was a questionable mooring line, or some halyard or sheet that was loose. He'd seen (and fixed) most of the problems that might have shown up. The owners never knew he had saved some of them from expensive repair bills. "I'm just doin' my job", he'd say.
The old Wharfinger had been doing his job for a very long time and the owners had come to expect that he would be there. The pay was poor and the hours long, and still, they expected him to be there. No one ever thanked him. No one ever gave him much notice. They just expected him to be there. He took a little longer to walk the docks this night. The wind was stronger than he thought and the rain had chilled his old legs. Walking was getting harder each and every day. Especially at this time of the year. By the time he'd gotten back to the office it was almost midnight. "Stumpy" had met him at the door with a purr and a rub on his cold stiff legs. The old stray cat had shown up at the Wharfinger's office about a year before. The tail of the stray was missing the last 2/3 rds of it's length, so naturally, it was named "Stumpy".
Sitting on the galley stove was a battered and black coffee pot. The Wharfinger struck a match and held it to the stove's burners. Foul smoke puffed out and around the pot giving it another layer of soot. One more coat atop countless others forming a tarry patina. Sitting next to the desk was a broken and faded old cooler. It was the closest thing in the place, to a refrigerator. He pulled out an opened can of cat food. A luxury he'd bought for his best friend "Stumpy". The two of them, now taking pause, one with a cup of stale coffee, the other with the by-products of some fish caught long ago.
The Wharfinger stood by the window for a long time watching the gale outside. Little gusts of cold air would come sneaking around the tiny spaces in the window frame. Each time he would shiver and take another sip of the dark liquid in his cup. After a few minutes, he turned and spoke softly to "Stumpy". "You know old sport, It's New Year's Eve. In a couple minutes it will be a brand new year. And You and I have made it through another calendar again. You being my friend, and all. It was GOOD!..
I was thinkin' just now, while I was watchin' the weather outside. We may have had some tough times, and things might have been better. But there was always something to do that made a difference. Something that we did that made life a little better for someone. Being needed is the best thing there is. I can't ask for anything more than that. So old kid, Here's to you and all my friends and even those I ain't friends with, yet. "Stump"..Here's the best words ever spoke on the Eve of the New Year.
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
For auld lang syne, my dear,
The End..(of 2009)
May 2010 Be all that you wish for and More.!