The old wooden skiff with a small outboard motor cut ripples through the bay’s glassy sea. The old steamer with discolored paint on the hull and even a few spots of actual rust with the resultant line trailing down to the waterline and black keel stood like a ghost ship in the gray fog, anchored in the middle of the bay with the hills silhouetted along the channel framing the open sea beyond.
Hake Wilson, an old man in a worn Navy pea coat, maneuvered the skiff to the head of old creosote wood pier. He climbed the ladder and slowly ambled toward the foot of the pier. His gait was altered from past injuries. The collar of the pea coat was up. He wore an old Navy watch cap. He was not in a uniform, just wearing the stuff men wore at sea. Hake’s salt and pepper hair was long, hanging out from under the watch cap.
At the foot of the pier waited Ulyana Bondar and the young girl. They were similarly cloaked in gray wool hooded long coats. The girl, perhaps nine or ten, had a brightly colored wool shawl wrapped around her neck and protruding from the coat. The hoods were thrown back and both the woman and the girl wore tasseled wool caps, the girl’s matching her shawl. The wind coming off the bay was biting cold.
The old man Hake leaned over and placed a kiss on Ulyana’s cheek. It was a note of respect for her and something that happened long ago. Next, he picked up the girl in his arms and walked out the pier stopping about half way. Hake kneeled down and looked the young girl in the eye, holding her shoulders.
“Child, I only came by to see you. It would be my greatest joy to spend every day, every moment with you as you grow up. But your mother is taking good care of you, and she needs you. I have been called to help some folks. I thought it was over, that I had helped enough, but I have been called away again. I must go. I don’t know when i will get back. My greatest wish is for you and your mother to be comfortable and as happy as you can be. Remember i love you. You should always try to do the right thing, even when it’s difficult. If you do, things will turn out all right.
“I love you.”
Hake picked the young girl up, walked back to the foot of the pier, put her down beside Ulyana and repeated the kiss on Ulyana’s cheek, again out of respect.
The woman and the girl remained standing holding hands at the foot of the pier as Hake walked with his altered gait back to the head of the pier, climbed down the ladder, sat at the stern of the skiff, released the lines, and motored back to the steamer. The two remained as they watched Hake, barely visible now, climb the accommodation ladder, turn and wave at the gunnel as one long blast screamed from the ship’s whistle.
Then as the accommodation ladder was raised, the anchor came out of the water and was stowed in the hawse pipe as the ship began a slow turn before moving out to the channel and disappeared in the misty fog of the open sea.