Mo tied off the boat on the spit of a jetty that led to Guppys backyard just beyond the boat he has been working on. Guppy greeted the short barrel of a man warmly.
“I’ll just walk on back home Gups. You can bring her back in anytime…” he spoke easily, but even though there was clear curiousity in his expression, he asked no questions. Sandy vaguely remembered Ella’s comment about Guppy not going out on the water anymore because of ‘that thing that happened’ but the thought flew out of my mind when Mo asked Guppy if he could use the bathroom before he started off back home. Sandy immediately pictured Mo stepping over Jerry’s coagulated blood and grew pale but Gups mildly replied, “You’re gonna have to check Sykes on down the road Mo. I gotta get moving.” It was then that Mo noticed Sandy sitting on the back step to the kitchen and with a nod and quickening of his step he replied, “Right on Gups, take it easy, a squall may be coming in a bit later.”
Mo’s departure left Guppy and Sandy with the business at hand, though Sandy still was not exactly sure what that was. Earlier on after Guppy had called Mo, he had gone out back and seemed to be rummaging around in a shed but in the growing darkness of the evening Sandy could only see his outline lumbering around. Now, Gups brought out a folded tarpaulin from the boat he had been working on and a long coil of rope and made his way to the kitchen.
Jerry still lay there, his one eye gaping at nothing and his mouth frozen in a slack jawed howl. His limbs were stiffening into an unnatural position and the pool of blood seeping from him had grown a dank black colour. Gups lay the tarpaulin down beside Jerry in the little space of the kitchen and Sandy hurried to the other side and without speaking she pushed, panting heavily, while Guppy pulled until Jerry was rolled onto the tarpaulin. Once they wrapped him up in it, Gups used the rope to tie Jerry tightly so he appeared a blue mummy.
Since Guppy and Sandy were dealing with total dead weight, it was no easy task to get Jerry from the kitchen to the couple hundred yards to the waiting boat. Gups hoisted Jerry as best he could over his shoulder and Sandy tried to help pick up the slack until they half dumped/ half positioned him into the boat. Gups went back and brought, one by one, what he had been looking for in the shed – four large sort of round concrete block type stones. Sandy had noticed that he had been using similar blocks to these to help prop up the boat on whose hull he had been working. After depositing the blocks into the boat he stood on the jetty looking out at sea. Then, taking a breath, he stepped gingerly into the boat and held out his hand to Sandy.
After untying the boat from the jetty, they both settled in on either side of the craft with Jerry lodged between them. Gups then throttled the engine and they pulled away from the jetty and cut a course out into open water.
They cruised far out till Sandy could no longer see and land nor the glow of ambient light that would depict a tell tale coast line. Eventually Gups killed the engine and they sat drifting in the dark with only lapping of the oceans slight waves against the sides of the boat. “It’s been over 25 years since I been out on the water,” Gups said finally breaking the silence. Sandy looked over at Guppy but he wasn’t looking at her, he was staring out over the water.
“I was always out at sea, loved it since I was a born. Learnt to swim before I could walk, learnt to fish before I could talk is what they always said. That’s how I got the name Guppy. Ella came long after me, one of those “unexpected accidents” my father said. By then he was already heavy on the bottle and our mother didn’t last long after that, she died two years after Ella was born… they say it was pneumonia but… I think she just gave up on living.
I was already working on a small fishing boat then and wasn’t home much as I had to be the one to make money to try to pay the bills. I hated leaving Ella behind, alone in that house with him. Sometimes she would just be alone, he’d go out for hours and leave her by herself talking to her dolls. She was always so lonely, it’s like she stored up words till she saw someone and it would just stream out like busted dam… Seems like she never got out of the habit.” Gups shifted slightly in the boat and Sandy could hear the lilt in his voice as if he was holding back tears.
He continued, “Anyway eventually I got my own boat, nothing big , but it was enough to get me out on the water and let me fish on my own. One day I came inland with some fish and this pesky little brown mutt ran out from under a pier and wouldn’t let me alone. Tiny little thing, but she had a face of a little old lady. I took her home and Ella called her “Lady Primrose”, she said she heard the old neighbor, Mrs. Flannery, next door taking about liking primrose tea and since the dog looked like a little old lady we should call her Lady Primrose. Lady Prim followed me everywhere and once I went to my boat, in she came, and pretty soon my Lady spent all of her dog days out on the boat while I fished.” Gups stopped talking then and for a while Sandy thought maybe he wasn’t going to continue. A slight breeze began whipping up over the waves and she shivered slightly, remembering Mo had talked about a squall coming in.
Finally, Gups began again, “One morning I was going out to fish as usual when my father staggered out into the jetty saying he wanted to come as well. I found it strange as he would never ask to come out on the water, he would just sit at home drinking and waiting to see what money he could get from me when I got back in from fishing. But I complied and sailed out to my usual spot and set up with Lady Prim by my side and my father sitting just at the bow.
At first the conversation was sparse but then he got around to what he really wanted. He wanted me to sell my boat. My boat. He wanted the money from when I sold it and said I could just go work for another bigger boat as crewman. He was trying to appear as if he knew I had a love for the water and working for a trawler for some time meant I would be out on the water longer. But then he said it … ‘Don’t you worry, I’ll take good care of Ella while you’re off’. I knew it then… he wanted me gone, long term… I guess I had seen it for a while but was hoping against everything I knew inside of me that I was wrong. But every time he called her name or would look at her with predatory longing when she moved around the room, I felt a burning uneasiness. It was Ella he wanted.”
At that point Guppy bowed his head and Sandy could see him clenching and unclenching his fists. When he began speaking again it was like he was imploring my to understand his predicament, “I was barely 20, I didn’t know what to do. I should have just left with Ella but then go where and do what… All I know is how to fish. I shouldn’t have left her alone there with him,” his voice broke with anguish but eventually after a few deep breaths he grew calmer and continued.
“I was tall then but my father was still a big man and half drunk or not he could still probably beat me within an inch of my life, he’d done it enough times before. But I didn’t care then. I told him if he dared touch Ella I would kill him and that if he didn’t listen I would put a hurt on him he would never forget. But he knew how to hurt me more.
He didn’t attempt to catch hold of me, instead he shot his hand out and grabbed a surprised Lady Primrose and slung her out into the open sea. I yelled out and tried to jump in after her but he grabbed onto me from behind and held me in a vice grip, choking me. I could see her trying to swim back to the boat, trying to bark but unable to as she bobbed in the water. I kept trying to yell but I could barely get any sound out with his arm tight around my neck. I felt the heat of my face as I struggled against his arm and I spluttered, gasping for air thinly. The last sight I remember was Lady trying her hardest to swim toward me, her little face terrified as the waves of the ocean threatened to overcome her before I blacked out…
I woke up when he kicked me hard in my ribs. We were still out at sea. He had waited till Lady had drowned then he fished her body out of the water and left it lying in the boat next to me, so that I would know that she was dead. He thought that would break me and I’d give into him. I was… I was so overcome with rage I just lunged for him and began battering his face and his chest, the boat rocked wildly, for even though he was surprised at first he began to fight back. My foot hit my tackle box and it flung open spewing its contents all over the floor of the boat as we grappled. At one point he finally pinned me down in the boat pummeling me hand in the face, I couldn’t see anything, I just scrabbled my hand in the bottom of the boat, reaching for what ever I could. I grabbed onto my knife that had fell out of my tackle box and plunged it straight into his neck. He was dead instantly. Blood spouted everywhere. I pushed him off of me and just lay there for a long time… Him on one side and Lady on the other. Poor Lady was dead… I couldn’t protect her, she trusted me, she chose me that day on the beach and I let her down.” Gups stopped again. Sandy reached out in the darkness and found his hand and just held onto it without saying a word.
Gups eventually moved his hand and began working in the dark securing the blocks around Jerry’s corpse as he finished the rest of his story. The sky had grown cloudy, there was no moonlight, and the breeze was picking up fast. Gups related that he threw the body of his father overboard where it floated for days on end. By the time a boat discovered it bloated and half eaten by fish, no one put any thought into further investigating into a drunk who had fallen off his son’s boat and drowned. Lady’s body however, Gups had taken back home and buried in the backyard.
Guppy ended by saying, “I still sold the boat. And I didn’t go to work out at sea anymore. I started working on boats instead… painting, building, fixing… you name it. I used to love the sea but I couldn’t bear going back out and seeing Lady Prim swimming toward me every time I went out. It wasn’t about him. I still think he got what he deserved, but I failed Lady and I couldn’t afford to fail Ella too. When I got back home I lied to Ella about what happened… she never found out the truth about that day. I’ve never told anyone what happened until now…”
By this time Guppy and Sandy heaved Jerry’s body overboard and with a loud splash it sank into the darkness. Sandy sank back into the boat, breathing hard from the exertion and looking at the roiling mass of clouds in the sky.
“Let’s go home,” said Guppy quietly and he started the engine and they headed back inland as Jerry sank to the depths below and the rain began to pour.