8. A Boat

A BOAT
The small boat arrived in the harbour. Well to be truthful it crashed into the wall twice, then arrived in the harbour. It was one of life’s miracles that it wasn’t smashed to pieces on the south wall. It was a crew lifeboat, from an ocean going ship by the look of it, there were no oars. It was a dirty white colour with no markings on it at all.

How on earth it made it given the stormy seas was a topic of conversation in the bar for the whole evening. And the man they found in it, who was he? He was found curled up under the bow cowling, pretty well exhausted, soaked to the skin and had a large gash above his right eye. He wore fairly austere clothes, grey woollen trousers, a white teeshirt and a faded blue fisherman’s smock. His shoes were brown, his hair was blond and he carried absolutely nothing on him at all. All he had were the clothes he wore.
Gimpy and Joe had used a boat hook to drag the boat against the harbour wall and secured it with a rope, dragged the poor man out and took him to the bar to warm up.

“What do you reckon?” said Joe.
“I’ll have a stout” replied Sean.
“No, what do you reckon about him you eejit?”
“Me?”
“Well who else do you think is an eejit in here?” said Joe
“Oh, no idea, you tell me”
“Forget it”.

The conversation fizzled out like a wet firework. As it invariably did when Pat and Joe tried to talk sense. It wasn’t something either were skilled at and in this case both were well out of their depth. Thinking wasn’t their strong point. In fact, neither had a strong point.

The stranger was propped up in the corner of the snug near the open peat fire to try to dry him off a bit and heat his body up. A yellow hue covered his face because of the opaque orange glass of the entrance partition. He was alive but exhausted.
“He looks Irish but those trousers, what are they all about?” volunteered Sid.
“Aye, they look reyt warm though” said O’Driscoll.
“I wonder what his name is?” said Gimpy.
“Ask him, idiot” snapped Siobhan.

Gimpy adopted the time honoured method of asking a foreigner a question and shouted as loud as he could “WHAT IS YOUR NAME?”

Suddenly the stranger cleared his throat, causing Gimpy to take a step back. The slightly built stranger made to stand up but didn’t have the strength and then said clearly “Jens, ich heisse Jens, mein name is” he stuttered in a strange European accent. Then lowered his voice “…. mein name is Jens” he said softly.
The room went into a silent shock momentarily.
“He’s German” said Joe. “I recognise the accent, he’s a German”.
“How do yer know that then smart arse?” said Gimpy.
“Well he sounds German and he said Jens and Jens is a German name” said Joe.
“Jens? Well that’s a stupid name” laughed Gimpy.
“Listen to Professor Higgins in the corner there, it doesn’t matter ‘cos like Joe said, this fellah’s German” said Sean. “like Hitler” he said as an afterthought.
The stranger responded to the name by looking up squarely into Pat’s eyes unsettling him momentarily.

Joe was interrupted when the stranger moved his hands. The whole place went quiet like a wild west saloon bar when Clint Eastwood walked through the swing doors.
“Das Klosett?” he said questioningly, making to stand up.

“He means toilet, water closet….” said Joe.
Gimpy spoke loudly again as if might help,
“In there to the right. It says “Fir” on the door.” he said “Fir” he repeated to make sure he got his message across and pointed towards the door near the dartboard. It was a strange thing that although very few people on the island now spoke Gaelic, road signs, farm names were in the mother tongue and the signs on toilet doors said Fir and Mná instead of Men and Women.
The stranger eased himself slowly across the floor in front of thirteen interested eyes. Old O’Driscoll only had one eye, he lost one in a fight with a young heifer as he was trying to chop it’s balls off. He looked at people sideways giving the impression he was a bit sneaky. His cows also looked at people sideways.
The stranger’s shoes squelched as he walked and all eyes followed the trail of wet footprints from the fire to the end of the bar.

There was a kind of pregnant silence, that uneasy second or two when people who had nothing to say expected some great wit to break the silence by breaking wind or making a sarcastic comment. But nobody did.
“What do you always have to go on and on about swearing for?” asked Joe in a half whispered voice.
“Because you’re embarrassing” said Nora, her voice trailed off gently.
The bar was strangely subdued, everyone appeared to be deep in thought.
Who was he really? What had happened to him to end up in a boat in that state.