Twist of Fate-fiction, short story
The young man appeared at my door disheveled and dreary, like an aberration against the black, rain-drenched night. Lightning bolts flashed angrily across the abominable sky accompanied by enormous bouts of thunder. To say the least, I, a light-keeper for five decades, had seen many a storm, however, this storm, oh, unlike the others, embraced something mysterious - something commanding - I cannot put my finger on it. Hmm, may I say, 'twas a night I would never forget.
I had, only a few moments prior, thought a faint voice had crackled over the radio, but whatever I'd heard dissipated as quickly as it had appeared, so I had been unable to ascertain if it had been a May Day plea. When the familiar three-rote pattern did not emerge, I had no choice but to wait for further attempts. I had not seen any ship lights, so I had only to ponder where this young gentleman at my doorstep had come from, for indeed, it baffled me. Surely, I would have seen his approach by ship - unless there had been heavy fog - which there had not been.
Yet, there he stood, this stranger, and where would he have come from, had it not been the sea? My lighthouse, (no, of course, it is not my very own, but I feel it as such) remotely set, is almost reachable only by boat. Save for the rotating beam of light emanating from the lighthouse tower, there would have been no light to mark the way. From the site of the dock, one would need to traverse a gray, cemented path of approximately half a mile. The path, embodied by high cemented walls on each side, ends on a decline onto the sparse lighthouse grounds. Had the stranger made his way with a lantern? Yet, he had none in his grasp when he appeared at my door.
Now, if the fellow had traversed his way by foot, he would have had to fight very steep cliffs surrounding the lighthouse, and after that, steep, craggy, sloping, hillsides. Even in the daylight, that terrain causes anxiety due to the soft dirt and the multitude of rocks. I, who am accustomed to walking nearby, am constantly slipping about, and rarely wander the cliff sides. Unless this stranger too, was accustomed, would he have fared better than I, in the dark night?
What cause had I to feel so eerily towards that poor, desolate soul? Had he come to my door brandishing a weapon? When I opened the door, had he threatened my being, or attempted thievery? No, there had been none of the sort, so, I had given him the benefit of the doubt, for again, what right had I to hold this man to guilt of any kind when it was evident he had been in need of some warmth and comfort? Ah, come, let me unravel the details of this story, for if I fail to explain myself, only a void space will remain, and that shall accomplish absolutely nothing.
So you see, my initial reaction was that of wonderment, but quickly, I had also become aware that the poor fellow was remaining at the open door soaked to the bone, clad in dark trousers, completely muddied at the bottoms; his solid brown, cotton shirt hung completely out, and they were drenched, poor fellow, utterly drenched. He had no raincoat, nor any rain protection of any kind; his shoes were like work boots, and I recall imagining they must have felt like heavy weights, not to mention how heavy he must have felt in the rest of his soaked attire. His round face, with a jutted chin, was dotted with mud, as was his brown, long, and stringy hair, which because of the rain, had plastered itself flatly upon his head.
A gust of strong sea breeze caused me to shiver as I stood in the open doorway, and quickly, I stepped aside and bid the fellow in.
“It’s a mighty cold one!” I exclaimed, “What, might I ask, has brought you out in such a torrid storm?”
The stranger stepped inside quickly, but once in, slowly turned his head, his eyes surveying the small room in which, upon my leisure, I kept most vigil. It is sparse with furniture, only a black, round-bellied wood stove, a short black couch, an oak rocking chair, a small bookcase upon which sat my pipe, and a deck of cards, a round oak end table placed atop a large, multi-colored braided rug, and a tall, copper stand on which hangs a glass covered lantern near a small window. The room is small, designed in flowered wallpaper that my late wife had adored, and I, of the sentimental type, could not see to change it over the years.
The young fellow shook his head as if bringing himself to the present. “Oh, sir, forgive me!" and he sprung forth a hand. “I am Blake! Thank you so much for bringing me in from the cold! I’m afraid I got lost!”
“Lost?” I asked, but more in exclamation than in question. “How is it that you got lost, tell me? Oh! Would you like some hot apple cider? A friend of mine very kindly brought me some delicious cider from San Francisco! It’s delicious, I daresay!”
“Hot cider?” asked the young stranger, squinching his nose. “Have you anything else? Coffee, perhaps?”
His reaction caught me off guard. I suppose I expected he would have gladly accepted anything hot to warm his stomach, so his choosiness puzzled me. Nonetheless, I told him, yes, I had coffee and would gladly make a pot.
He did not wait for an offer to take off his shoes. He was already in the process, and I, unnecessarily piped in that he should remove them, and remarked how heavy they must have been.
“Oh, yes, a burden, for sure!” replied Blake, removing his socks and stuffing them into the opening of his shoes.
“Oh, here, we can hang those on a rack in the bathroom,” I said quickly, for their scent was quite undesirable, and removing them from the area would be a great relief.
Without hesitation, he sat upon the couch, and as I headed to the bathroom, from the corner of my eye, I saw him rubbing the upholstery as if trying to figure out its type.
“Thank you, again,” I heard him say as I hung the socks upon the towel rack.
“Oh, you are quite welcome, young man. I am quite glad to have you out of the storm! Imagine! There you be, having a keen time, when suddenly, a storm arises!” I said, making my way back to the living room, and greatly appreciating the warmth of the wood stove.
“Yes, yes, it was a bother, for sure,” Blake said, peering towards the kitchen. “How is that coffee getting along? I would so appreciate some!”
“Um, I do believe it may be nearly done percolating,” I replied. “How about something to eat? I have some left-over stew. Would you care…”
“Oh, would I! I’m famished!” said Blake.
“Ok, then. Hot coffee and stew coming up!” I replied hastily.
Moments later, I attempted to question his ventures near the lighthouse. What made him come all the way out this way? Was he always an outdoor venturing type? Did he enjoy his walkabout? Where was he from? What on earth caused him to get lost?
The young man sat, pulling his feet below him and twisted a bit to the side so his arm rested upon the arm of the couch as he held his stew. "Hoo boy," said he, after a helping of food. "I never expected the storm to come down so heavily and so quickly! I was merely getting some exercise! To me, there is something comforting about cool, overcast days! When I return to the comfort of my warm home, I appreciate it so! Anyway, sir, I gazed up at the sky...I did notice it growing darker, and soon felt a small drizzle. Ah, I says to myself, 'tis no worry! Still, I have plenty of time to make it home, 'tis only a small rain...then...suddenly it began falling harder and harder..." the boy rubbed his arms,"Brrr, and colder, sir! And then...I came to a crossroad I had not recognized previously! What, how do I not remember this? I recall glancing about, already starting to bite my lip, I knew I needed to go one way or the other, right? So, I took to the right, all along thinking I may already be lost, see? So I followed the road as it veered left - and indeed - I knew at this point, I had no idea where I was! My thought was to simply follow the road - what choice did I have? Then, by chance, as I glanced toward the ocean, I thought I saw a flashing light!"
"Ah," I said, nodding my head, "'Twas like a miracle, boy! God was leading you!"
"Oh sure, perhaps," replied my guest, taking another spoonful of stew. "Mmph...at this point, I am wondering, is this a figment of my imagination? I needed to find out! Perhaps it was not a flashing light at all but merely the light from someone's home window! So off I went, and realized upon arrival, that I was upon a high cliff, and at an incline below, there was a - lighthouse!"
"Ah," I said with a chortle,"Yes, yes, tell me more!"
"So sir, I very, very, slowly, amidst the now pouring rain, set one foot in front of the other, balanced myself carefully, and again, I say, very slowly, made my way down the slope. 'Twas was very hard, I assure you! I slipped, I fell, I slipped again - the mud was atrocious..."
"Hmm, yes, I know, I know! Boy, you had an angel with you, 'fer sure! 'Tis that, I believe!"
My guest looked me directly in the eye. "An angel - or perhaps, sir, I just did a damn fine job of traversing myself through the storm!"
There came a moment of silence, then at once, both of us laughed heartily, and afterwards, I offered him another cup of coffee, to which he accepted, and after a fresh sip, he answered my other questions and seemed kind enough and was appreciative of my hospitality. Finally I asked him, "Now what about your homestead?"
He did hesitate ever so slightly, then said lowly, so low, I barely heard, he said, Monterey.
“What was that - Monterey?” I repeated just to be sure. Monterey was a town further south, below San Francisco, well established in the fishing industry.
He chewed, and only nodded in reply, took another swig of coffee, swallowed, and began to scrape his bowl. After asking if he wanted more, he said no, and explained that scraping his plates and bowls was merely a habit from childhood. His family had been poor, and he had learned to appreciate every morsel, including scraping or licking the last remnants.
“Ah,” I replied. “I see. Well, should you change your mind, you are welcome to more. Now, young man, what say I rig up the couch for you to sleep on for the night? I have an extra pillow and blanket, and shall lay them out for you. Afterwards, if you will excuse me, I will need to see to some important duties.”
“And I thank you so much!” replied Blake. “Important duties? Such as what?”
“Oh,” I said, “lighthouse duties. Nights such as these are especially vulnerable to the mariners at sea! Not only on nights such as these, but every night, I must tend to the signal, and other things.”
“Really? That is interesting…would you mind terribly if I came along to observe?”
“Are you up to it? You have already had a long evening, for sure!” I replied.
But after his assurance that he was fine, and would be excited to go, that he had always wondered what it would be like inside this lighthouse tower, I relented and told him his company would be welcome. We climbed the winding stairway with slow, deliberate steps, each holding a lantern, and my thoughts began to wander. Something he said had struck me as odd: he had always wondered what it would be like inside this lighthouse tower. What had he meant by that? Had he been around here before today? What, exactly, had he meant by ‘always wondered’? Odd, indeed. I had had the impression that he was quite the stranger to these parts, then again, I had never asked, so it had been merely an assumption.
“Brrr,” said Blake as we were climbing through the hole and into the space where the giant Fresnel lens rotated. The air was much cooler, which my guest immediately made mention of, and I explained that there was absolutely no insulation up in the watchroom. I apologized and assured him that the duties would not take too long. A moment or two passed quietly, then, as discomforted by the silence, the fellow became quite chatty.
“Have you heard the latest? Henry Ford is going to reveal his automobile, the Model T! I have heard some call it the Tin Lizzy, eh? And to top that, it’s said that he produces them on assembly line instead of handcrafted individually! All the better for it! Imagine, riding in an automobile! Isn’t that phenomenal? I am thrilled about it, and I, for one, intend to buy one!”
“Well, now, it seems I have heard about that…my friend, Charles, visits me and fills me in from time to time, even brings me his old newspapers so I might catch up on a bit of the world for myself! I suppose, now that you have brought up the subject, yes, I have heard him mention something about an automobile in the works! Model T…indeed…but now…assembly line, so you say? Truly? Well, that is quite keen!”
I had begun to inspect the Fresnel lens as I spoke, my spectacles placed halfway over the bridge of my nose as I concentrated on each prism. Shortly, I glanced up to find Blake staring out at sea. The lightning had continued sparsely, nothing as bad as it had been earlier, but it was still a wondrous sight not lost on this fellow, for sure. He stood, gazing out at the night, his arms crossed behind his back.
I then checked the lamp and re-supplied the fuel, checked the wick, and re-lit it. Next, I was to drop the weights from the tower shaft, for they were what drove the gears that turned the Fresnel lens. Blake came over and watched intensely as I hand cranked the weights to the top. He was awed by the clock-like mechanisms, and the turning of the sparkling lens, remarking on their dazzling prisms and design.
Blake fidgeted from one foot to another, and glanced back at sea. Strange fellow, I mused, how it almost appeared that he was looking for someone or something. But, ah, sometimes one’s imagination can do strange things, especially on stormy nights such as these. It was late, perhaps edging towards eleven o’clock, and I, for one, was weary, and more than ready for a good night’s sleep.
“There shall be one last thing for the evening,” I told the fellow as we traversed our way down the stairs back to the coziness of my living room.
“And that is?”
“I will need to write the last of my documentation into my log book. It must be done on a daily basis, you know. Oh,” I said after a moment’s hesitation, “don’t let that trouble you. You are more than welcome to lie down and take your leave of the day! I can take my book and log it in my sleeping quarters,” said I, ending my statement with a chuckle. The poor fellow looked dreadfully tired of my company - and of course, was probably exhausted. He accepted the offer to lie down, and I, after tending to the wood stove, bade him a good night’s rest, then departed to my room. I would only have four hours sleep before having to rise to check on the lighthouse watch-room again.
***Rocky Point Lighthouse Log: 8/02/1908 11:20 pm. Weather cloudy, rain and stormy with lightning and thunder. Wind shifted to the S.E.**
After the second trip to the watch-room during the night, I was able to sleep until dawn, wherein I promptly headed to the tower to stop the lens from turning. After putting three logs into the wood stove, I headed to the kitchen to make tea, then remembering that my guest preferred coffee, I started the percolator and hummed a bit. My usual was tea in the morning, but I had to admit, coffee was a pleasant change. I rather liked it, when the coffee grounds brewed in the water, and a delicious, earthy, fragrance to fill the room. I then began preparation of a pot of oatmeal, enough for me and Blake. I did not hear him stir until sounds came from the bathroom. I heard a low chuckle as Blake entered the kitchen with his socks - quite crusted. He held them up and plugged his nose, chuckling again.
“Yes, those are rather dreary, I should say!” I said, laughing a bit myself. “Never mind, I have some socks you may use, young fellow!”
He made a simple bow, smiled, and thanked me, then gratefully acknowledged the scent of the coffee and quickly asked for some.
“Sure, help yourself,” I told him as prepared two bowls of cereal.
“Why, thank you! I’m starting to feel a tad spoiled! Here I am, a stranger in your home, and you are allowing me free roam already!” Blake replied, and overhearing my humming, commenced to a bit of his own, and there we were, the two of us, delighting in the beginning of a new day.
Once we were settled at the table, I tried not to be intrusive, but my innermost curiosity had gotten the best of me, and though I tried to avoid asking, I couldn’t help myself.
“So, young fellow, tell me, where is your family? Are they back in Monterey? What do you do for a living?” I blurted all at once.
The poor fellow stopped midway from putting a spoonful of oatmeal into his mouth, paused as though thinking, then proceeded to eat his cereal. He chewed silently, looking down at the bowl, and immediately I felt a pang of guilt.
Perhaps from nervousness, I began to stir my oatmeal, though it was already perfected to my taste. “Oh, I’m sorry! How rude of me. It’s just that I…” I began to say, but was cut off.
“It's fine! It is only normal for one to wonder about the details of someone they have just met, I suppose!” he said graciously. “My family - that is, my mother, and my older brother - live in Monterey. We don’t have much, never have, even when father was still alive. He died, oh now, it has been going on two years…”
Quickly, my heart went out to poor Blake. “I am sorry to hear about the loss of your dear fa…”
But I had scarcely had finished my last word, when a sudden pounding on the table occurred, Blake’s closed fist.
“Damn it all!” he cried out, dropping his spoon. “Why is it that everyone feels they have to be sorry because of my father? Why? Look at you! You never even knew him! If you did, you would not be sorry! I, for sure, am not sorry! Neither is my brother! Neither is my mother!”
Now it was my turn to stop eating midway. I dropped my oatmeal back into the bowl. “Ahem - I was - I mean - I did not know-"
Blake cursed again and pushed away his cereal. “My father was a louse! He never really loved us! And anyway, I do not want to talk about it! Shut up now, do you hear me?”
I sensed my own temper rise. Who did this fellow think he was, talking to me as though I had purposely attempted to anger him?
“Here, here!” I said, rising. “I believe you owe me an apology! How was I to have known that talking about your father was a bad subject? Anyway, it was you who brought him up!”
There was a brief silence, and I watched Blake’s face, his lips pursed tightly, his cheeks hollowed, his eyes, wild like fire. What was he to do, I wondered, when suddenly his demeanor changed, and he blinked quickly. “Sir, I am sorry, you are right - you were only being kind, and I - I - had no right to talk to you that way.”
I returned to my place at the table, and picked up my spoon, though I did not yet eat. “Well…I should say, this has been a rather odd morning! However, since you have apologized, I shall not hold it against you. I suppose we all have our sensitive areas, indeed!”
Blake rose suddenly and walked to the small window, peering out as though he were looking for something in particular - or someone.
“What is it?” I asked. “I’m afraid you won’t get much of a view from that tiny window! It is only the south side of that steep hill! Upstairs! That is the ultimate view, as you could surely imagine!”
The young fellow sprang to the stairwell and began traversing clumsily.
“What is it?” I asked again, and I could feel my senses coming alive with curiosity and a touch of bewilderment. I began to follow him, and I, far more used to the stairs, had no problem whatsoever, even considering my age of sixty-eight. I was halfway up, when a sudden, loud, fast beating of my front door occurred. I paused, one foot on the step above, one on the step below.
“Oh, damn it!” came the voice of Blake from up above.
“What? Damn what? What is going on?” I demanded.
The knock - or should I say, the beating of the door - continued, followed by a loud, male’s voice. “Hello, there! Open up!”
Blake had re-appeared and said frantically, “It’s my big brother! He knows I’m here!”
“Your big brother? What is going on?” I asked, backing down the stairwell.
“Open up!” yelled the voice from outside.
“Mister, you better go open the damn door if you know what is good for you!” said Blake without hesitation.
I hurried to the door and flung it open, wishing at the last moment that I had picked up something for use as a weapon; just about anything, even a dinner fork.
A young man, appearing to be about two or three years older than Blake, pushed me aside and concentrated on his brother. “Damn it, Blake! Where have you been? You were supposed to be back yesterday, before dark! When you never showed - well, hell, Momma was worried sick! She was pacin’ back and forth, back and forth! About drove me crazy! Only way she would shut up was for me to come lookin’ for you!”
The new stranger was taller than Blake, and me. He was very lean and wore faded blue jean overalls and a plaid blue shirt, opened at the collar. Like Blake, his face was round, and he had a small brown mole over his right upper lip. Beads of perspiration covered his forehead, and greasy wisps of brown hair hung over his bushy eyebrows.
“Look here! You have no right to come to my home like this! You need to leave immediately!” I said angrily, noting silently how foolish I sounded. Did I really believe this fellow would up and leave just because I told him to?
“Oh, I suppose you are the person who lives here! You take care of this place, huh?” asked the young man who stepped up to my face and sneered defiantly.
“Paul...hey...a real bad storm came up and…” said Blake, stepping in between his brother and me as though he were trying to diffuse the situation.
“Yeah? So what? You afraid of a little storm,huh?” sneered the young man whose name I learned was Paul.
“It was not just a little storm, young man!” I interrupted.
“Oh, is that so?” said Paul, swinging around to look directly into my eyes. “And what did you do, save him?”
“C’mon, man, let’s get the stuff and get the hell out of here!” exclaimed Blake, grabbing his brother’s arm.
“Well, you stupid fool, that is exactly what you were supposed to have done already! Now, as usual, I need to come clean up after your mess!”
My ears rang, my mind, jumbled. Had I heard that correctly? What Blake had said? Get the stuff and get the hell out of here? My mind raced, and my thoughts were trying to remember where I kept my loaded rifle. I could not recall the last time I had ever used it.
I was stunned. Blake, all along, had planned thievery! What had kept him from it? He had had plenty of opportunities! I thought back on our very first encounter and how I had dismissed this scenario since he had not attempted anything when I had first opened my front door. Now, to come to this!
“Go look for some rope!” Paul said to his brother. “Hell, never mind. At this point, that don’t matter none. Now we shall have to take care of business all the way!”
“Now listen here!” I began, but suddenly felt a slap on my right cheek. It happened so fast, I did not have time to register that the offense had actually come from Blake.
“Don’t you go mouthin’ off, mister! That’s my big brother you talkin’ to!”
Paul laughed and headed to the coffee pot. “Does this stuff smell good, or what? I better not let it go to waste!”
Blake laughed, too. “The old man makes a mean cup of coffee!”
Paul came from the kitchen holding his coffee cup in one hand and one of my large kitchen knifes in the other. After a long sip of coffee, he placed the cup upon the bookshelf, and lightly dabbed a finger on the edge of the knife.
“It is rather a shame,” he said, “you being an innocent old man, living here, taking care of this old damn lighthouse. Me and my brother, we lived in the next town over, and our old man was embarrassed to drink in our own town, so he brought us out here. We used to play along the cliffs when we were little. Damn wonder we never fell off, course, we never got that close, I guess. We may have been young, but we were not stupid. "
Paul sipped slowly from his cup as if testing the temperature. Finding it was not too hot, he took yet another, but longer sip. "Yeah, our crazy old man used to come out here and hang out, and ‘cuz our mother was workin’, he made me and Blake go with him. While he drank himself to a stupor, we walked around and got to know the place, some. We’d see this old lighthouse from a distance and make up stories about it being haunted. Blake always wanted to try to get here, but we were too little. What were we, I was about twelve and you were ten?” Blake asked, turning to his brother.
Blake added, “Yeah, I think so! And I had always wondered what this place looked like up close and inside!”
“Well, now you know, stupid, and now it’s time to get down to business. You start gathering things together, and I’ll take care of this old man.” Paul said.
“Give me your gun in case I need it!” Blake told his brother.
Paul laughed sarcastically. “What's the matter, sissy, are you afraid of the boogey man up there? Is he hiding up at the top of the stairs, huh? What’s up there, anyway?”
“There are windows up there and you can see the ocean for miles and miles,” Blake replied. “It’s phenomenal!”
“It’s fee-nom-inal!” Paul retorted in a sing-song voice, then, in a quick gesture, pulled a magnum from his pocket and threw it to his younger brother, who barely caught it in mid-air. “Now move it! We still have a lot to do and still have to get back home! Mother will be expecting us by tonight, so we need to get moving!”
“What are you going to do with the old man?” Blake asked.
“What do you think I’m going to do? Leave him alone so he can contact the authorities? You think I’m going to ask him real nice not to tell on us?”
Blake turned as if heading towards my sleeping quarters, his head bowed, his eyes averted away from mine.
Wild imaginings instantly went through my mind, mad and horrifying, like the rising of gales I had often seen surfacing at sea. Who and when would somebody find me? Would my friend, Charles, be the one to find my body? How could I leave a clue as to what happened here?
Suddenly, I was aware of my head going back. My chin was upward, and I gazed upon the madness of Paul standing before me, holding onto my head with his fingers spread apart. “If only my brother had robbed you and left you - like he was supposed to have! This is his fault, you know. This whole thing could have happened differently! Now, old man, I have no choice but to do away with you! The ocean will make a good burying ground, too. They will probably assume you accidentally fell over a cliff…”
His hand went from my head to the collar of my night-shirt. I waited, hoping to get close enough to grab his shirt in return, and then I would push with all my might! Claw, if I had to, so I could leave marks of self-defense. I finally managed to claw at his right arm, the one holding my collar, but then he began pushing me away. I mustered all my strength, and because he was not expecting me to struggle, I managed to pull away, and in doing so, I purposely knocked over my bookcase. Since the tall, copper lamp was close by, I reached out and toppled it as well. Better to leave signs of struggling.
“Hey, old man, you making this harder than it needs to be?” Paul asked, and finally knocked me down. My right hip thudded onto the braided rug that slipped a little, catching both of us off balance. I attempted to push him in that awkward moment when he realized he was slipping, but was not fast enough.
“Hey, you foolish man!” he yelled, and grabbed at me once more. This time, swiftly, he raised the hand holding the knife, bringing it downward. It appeared he was pointing it at my chest, so I moved sideways, bringing up my right arm across my chest in self-defense, but he barreled the knife into the flesh of my arm. I winced in agony, but was determined, indeed, determined, not to go easily. If this wretched fellow wanted to take my life, he was going to have to earn it.
I was keenly aware of a warm substance rolling over my skin, and obviously onto my shirt. Paul, holding my shirt, saw the stains on his hands. In anticipation, or, perhaps unconsciously, he rubbed his cheek with the back of his hand, leaving blotches of blood there.
“Okay…no…more…fooling around!” he muttered under clenched teeth.
Upwards, I glanced. Upwards, not at his face, but at the flowered wallpaper which reminded me of my sweetest Ruth, and l would be damned if I did not hear her voice telling me to keep fighting…
Suddenly, a shot rang out, and a quick “umph” sound emitted from Paul’s throat. His hand released me, and in an instant, he was on top of me, all his weight, heavy, as though he were a falling boulder! In a panic, I pushed, and he toppled onto the floor. Let me tell you, even though my sixty-eight years made this old man a bit feeble, that day, I had a new strength that I had once thought was long gone! I leapt, quick as a rabbit, indeed!
“No more! Oh God, no more!” Blake was shouting, and he fell onto the ground beside his fallen brother, suddenly crying, “Oh, did I kill him? I only meant to hurt him! I needed to make him stop!”
He grabbed his brother and cradled him, tears streaming unashamedly. “He was cruel at times, but he loved me! He was the one who took care of me when I was so little! Oh God, what did I do?”
Not sure if I should move to console him, I remained in place. Besides, I had come through quite an ordeal myself; I was still reeling from this fellow’s betrayal, yet - completely aware that he had also saved my life!
Unexpectedly, Blake sprang up, and rushing toward me in anger, screamed, “It is your fault! Your fault, do you hear me?”
He sprang upon me, but instead of attacking as I had thought he surely would, he embraced me, upwards of my waist, and cried into my shoulder. It seemed he did not realize that one of my arms was bleeding. He was lost in his own world, and I let him cry, though I was feeling pain, I knew my injury was not life-threatening, and I could manage it soon.
It was a good few moments later that he ceased his crying, and looked down at Paul lying on the floor, then back at me. He finally took notice of my injury, and looked down at himself, knowing he had just been in my embrace. He saw the blood upon himself, but cried out for me. “Your arm is bleeding! We need to secure it!”
I hobbled my way to the bathroom sink. “And so I shall,” I replied. “Come, I can use your assistance! Fetch below this drawer, some rags,” and I pointed to the correct cabinet. As we took to care of the wound, suddenly Blake spoke, seeming to choose his words carefully.
“What are you going to do?” he asked quietly. “Are you going to call the authorities?”
“Well, yes,” I replied. “Yes, that is exactly what I need to do!”
Blake nodded slowly. “I understand. And you will have to tell them I killed my brother…”
At first, I said nothing. We worked on my arm without words for a while, but soon the fellow began to make stifled sobbing noises. I let him be, and at last, we completed the task at hand.
“I have it given some thought, and no, I do not need to tell the authorities that you shot your brother, young fellow, not at all!” I replied, walking toward the small window. The storm clouds had passed, and in their stead was the typical early morning overcast. I remained peering out the window, speaking toward it as I continued. “We will wipe your fingerprints off the gun, and put mine on instead. Then, I shall claim self-defense, of course I shall, it would have been a likely scenario - there was a struggle and I grabbed the gun - and shot for my life! Luckily, you were standing close by when you shot him, so it could well be that I did the shooting from a close range. We will need to say that I was standing next to him at the time of the shot.”
“And,” I continued, “we shall practice getting our stories straight, so by the time the authorities arrive, we shall not worry of conflicting scenarios!”
Blake clinched and un-clenched his fists, then entwined his fingers together. “Sir, why? Is it because I saved your life?”
I paused before answering, “Yes, indeed it is. And, because I see goodness in you, much goodness that is waiting to come out! You only need new guidance, is all,” I said, turning to face him.
“Sir, I do not know what to say…”
“Say that you shall not return to your mother. We shall send her a telegram stating that you are well, and have decided to journey on a bit. How old are you, precisely?”
“21, exactly!” said Blake.
“Well, then, I was right. You are quite young, and so was your brother, of course. A pity, a terrible, terrible, pity! Anyway...I was stating…you can remain here, at my lighthouse! I could use an assistant now that my years are getting on, and I rather like your curiosity of this lighthouse; it makes me believe that you care for it, to a certain extent, at least. With further training, you would become a fine light-keeping assistant, and who knows, one day a main keeper!”
Blake remained quiet, but his stomach emitted a loud growl. It was approaching mid-morning and neither of us had eaten. In spite of ourselves, we laughed at the same time, but then, Blake became somber once more.
“Sir, I am again, dreadfully sorry for the trouble I have caused you! Oh, how I wish that I had never agreed to rob you! At first, I did not want to, but my brother and mother insisted that one last robbery would grant us our way. Mother had lost her job at the fishery, and we could not pay our rent! My brother and I had been in these parts off and on since the years when we were young, and for memory’s sake, we often came out here simply to look. Always, we saw this lighthouse from the distance, when one day, my brother remarked how vulnerable this lighthouse was to thievery, being so far out, and such…he wanted to come here, rob you, and return home, whilst I and my mother made the other preparations for moving.”
Blake paused, and began rubbing one of his arms slowly, watching his fingers glide. “He said he wished he could send me in his stead, but scarcely trusted I could do it.”
He continued speaking methodically, attempting to fit in the details. “But, you see, I was eager to prove myself, not so much as to prove I could do it, but more so I could prove him wrong! I finally convinced him, and he agreed to stay behind to help our mother pack. We were planning to move to Montana, up in the mountains, live off the land. We figured, if we had any money left over, we would treat ourselves to what we wanted. I wanted an automobile! This last robbery was supposed to be our ticket -‘cept deep inside, I was the only one who wanted to stay here, in California. I never told my family, but ‘tis here that I love - the coast is my heart’s true desire!”
Upon hearing this explanation, I immediately burst into laughter. “Oh my, you all thought this measly place would bring you riches enough to travel and re-settle on? Plus have monies left over to buy an automobile? What were you thinking? None of you were thinking, I daresay! Lighthouse keepers are actually poor! I happen to be fortunate enough, for my experience, I earn $3.50 a day. Most earn about $1.50 a day!”
“Well, that is money enough!” replied Blake sheepishly.
“Not for three people who want to move to Montana and find a place for rent, plus all that other malarkey!” I said, and chuckled some more. “And, young man, what made you change your mind? Or - were you still planning on thievery this very day?”
Blake shook his head, looking lost. “I honestly don’t know, sir. Mostly, no, I suppose. You were so kind, and I took a liking to this place. I could have thieved you during the night and been gone by morning, but I could not bring myself to do it! Part of me wanted to run away, yes. I believe when it came down to it, when I left you; I was going to run away and hope that Paul would not come after me! I should have known!”
We stood quite still, the two of us, contemplating as if in bewilderment, all that had happened - the still body on the ground, the preparations we needed to perform.
“Let us do what we need to do,” I said. “But first, will you, Blake, agree to stay on here? We got off to a rough start, but I feel in my bones that you are not a bad fellow at all! Tell me, what say you? I will give you eighty cents a day from my own wages - and you may send some to your mother so she will not have to resort to thievery!”
Blake, without hesitation, nodded. “Yes, sir, yes, indeed! But, sir, I feel terribly about you taking the blame. I do not feel it is right! Can we not say that I was the one who shot in self-defense?”
“No, we cannot. I am the one Paul struggled with, not you! It would be much easier to explain that I was the one shooting in self-defense! As far as I am concerned, your brother came here with the intent to steal, not you. That is what we tell them, is that clear?”
Blake swallowed and said, “But, ‘tis a lie, sir. I know I am not the most honest, by far, but this, this is not like an everyday white lie!”
“There comes a time when a lie is what will make all the difference! Look, here I stand, because of you! Oh yes, I could still blame you for this scheme, but what good would it do to cart you off to prison? You shall not rehabilitate, in fact, you may become worse for it!”
“Blake," I continued, “I am determined that this is our course of action. The authorities will know what we tell them, and that shall be that. I do not fear they will probe this matter further. They could easily understand how someone might attempt thievery here, being that it is remote from quick rescue! We will work out all the details! Come, young fellow, let us begin! Oh, let me not forget to add this very important thing! Thank you, my good fellow, for saving my life! You could have easily gone along with your brother’s plan, but you did not, and for that, I say, thank you! Quite technically, I owe you my life!”
Blake walked to the window, and it was his turn to peer out. He stood quite still, his arms behind his back, entwining the fingers of his hands. I watched him closely, observing that he was overwhelmed, and presently, his shoulders began to shake ever so slightly. In a muffled voice, I heard him say, “I, sir, thank you for saving mine!”
© 2015 Essie