The boat dipped in the water as Ernie, gilded by the high light, fat and black like the rafters of a wave, settled lower into the bow. Taking a cigarette paper from his lip he started, in highly concentrated motions, to line it with tobacco.
He said, head bent, “still nothing.”
“It'll come,” Mason moved his hand from the motor. Guiding the skiff from the land,
gentling it amongst the waves, his knuckles had become shellfish white. He knew that it was the bone ache, the deep feeling drawing the colour away.
Yellow thumbed, he took his tobacco pouch and rolled its paper smooth.
He said, “Plain packaging was a bastard,” and smiled, missing the smell of tobacco already.
“You'r'a bastard,” keeping it below the curve of the skiff, the reach of the wind, Ernie held out a match. With a low nod, Mason dipped his cigarette in the votive and Ernie flicked it away, spent, to the bright sea.
“Could catch that.”
“That'd be the day,”and as ever, as sudden as the crying of gulls, a keening laughter burst forth between them. Sea birds, panicked by the wild sound, took flight. White sea foam that would become yellow as it moved towards the shoreline, settled in the wake.
The old men fell back into the moon of their boat. A cigarette was set to nodding in the
twist of Ernie's mouth, and, slowly, smoke began to sail from their noses and the cracks between their lips. Ash grew in a casual filigree. Rubbing his hands together lazily, Mason polished his skin in the morning heat.
There was stillness, the heartbeat washing of waves. The line danced a semaphore staccato.
“Mmm,” Ernie frowned, pinched his cigarette, ashed, andante, into the water. He stared up, “that'll be something.”
“Could be nothing,”
“One day soon,” Ernie could hardly see, looking for Mason he looked away, over Mason's shoulder, into the horizon haze, the sun.
It would have been absurd though, for Ernie to wear glasses, thought Mason, and his own eyes had deep roots, wet, as they were, with the humour of the wind.
'Ah the world has never worked!' the thought stepped, light footed, into Mason's open palm. He studied it, found it to be good, and the sound of laughter returned, skipping over the waves, as the starving sea birds circled overhead.
He brought in the line.