September 14, 2012 by The Citron Review
The fine, misted rain drifted sideways in long columns as it fell, glittering down onto the silver puddles beaded across the docks. Aisling heaved her canvas sack up onto the edge of their father’s sailboat, then pushed it into the small open cabin and climbed up after it. She’d packed a blanket, knife, and an extra length of rope along with a loaf of bread, a few apples, and a small thermos of hot cocoa mixed with some of their father’s coffee. But Liam’s compass she wore around her neck on their father’s lanyard for safe keeping. She’d snuck it from his room to play with yesterday, and when their mother told her that Liam had been taken across the sea, Aisling worried that he would need it.
In their father’s seat by the tiller, she sat and waited for the boat to start moving, looking ahead into the brightening rain; on a clearer day, she would see Scotland. Then she remembered the cleats and jumped down to the dock to untie the boat as their father had taught them, pushing off with her foot as she climbed back up, and the boat began drifting out into the harbor. The rain against her face reminded her of the wind and the sail she needed to catch it. She could reach the main sheet from the tiller, and sat down again with the rope in her hands.
Aisling pulled, then pulled again, but nothing happened. To put more weight on the sheet, she stood, her feet leaving the deck for a moment, but still the sail refused to rise. With the hull rocking beneath her, she sat and looked at Liam’s compass. East it pointed. She thought that if she could see through the rain and clouds, she would be able to see where he was, and how to get there. The boat was moving on the water, but heading no further out to sea, and a little while later the stern bumped back against the dock, the tide returning her safely to where she had started.
Matthew Brennan earned his MFA in fiction from Arizona State University. He is a novelist, translator, short-fictionist, and freelance editor, and his short fiction has received several awards and fellowships. More than four dozen of his stories and translations have been published in anthologies and journals, including The Superstition Review, Pure Slush, Fiddleblack, The Eunoia Review, Recess Magazine, Emerge Literary Journal, and Per Contra. Brennan serves on the editorial staff of the Hayden’s Ferry Review and Speech Bubble Magazine. http://matthewbrennan.net