A Gift of Prophecy or a Curse?
Chapter 1 : Excerpt
Silver Cape Cove, Newfoundland
Someone was watching him.
Thomas Morley sat on the cuddy in the bow of his father’s trap skiff, as proud a fisherman as ever pulled on an oilskin jacket. His third spring fishing and by God, this boat, on this ocean, was the place of his dreams—riding the swells, the scent of brine in the air, the satisfaction of steering into the Cove, loaded with cod. Nothing could beat it.
But today, the uneasiness had returned and settled on him. The rumours, the whispered secrets, the talk he knew went on behind his back—cripes, some days ‘twas like the cling of a dark pall.
The sun rose, casting its golden light on Fodder. Standing in the stern behind the small wooden engine house, he was the man in charge. Holding the tiller stick, he eased the thirty-foot skiff through the water and the evaporating morning mist. The old make-and-break engine putt-putted, and a wake of foamy white waves rushed away from the stern.
Thomas scanned the sky and the headlands, noted how the wind veered around, saw gulls and murres circle—
That’s when he spotted the old woman.
He could just make her out peering down from the cliff. Sizing ‘em up she was, sitting on that beat-up old chair he and Charlie tried to steal one night last summer until an owl’s hoot frightened Charlie. ‘Twas the old woman out to witch them.
Shrouded in her shabby black shawl this morning, she carried two biscuits and a bundle of tea leaves wrapped in a white cloth in her apron pocket. He gulped and gave his head a shake. Cripes, how’d he know what was in her apron pocket?
She’d been in his head for a while now. Yes, by God, his problems truly started the night that old woman came and saved his life. First, he wondered if the fairies might have taken his mind while he was berry picking, but Uncle Harry said ‘dat’s not what the fairies are about at all’.
He glanced up. Uncle Harry dozed, his back against the engine house.
A gentle swell rocked the boat as they pushed past cliffs, heading toward their fishing grounds. Martin, like every young boy new to the water, kept close to the side, the boat’s gunnels seized in a white-knuckled hold, the freckles showing up clearly on his pale face.
Be a while yet before they came upon the trap and where the real work started. The squawking sound of the turres echoed above him. Thomas’s eyes went funny, colours spun, and by jumpin’s, try as he might, he couldn’t keep his gaze from returning to the figure staring down from the cliff. He felt her in his head, in his bones. Another fit coming on? Nah, not a single warning yet. Not the pinpricks of light, nor the smell of burnt wood. His body didn’t shake and twitch, or fall into darkness. Instead, his head filled with the image of an empty trap, water all around, but not a single cod. He tried to move but his body, still rigid, could only let out a groan.
Martin kicked his feet. “You all right there, Tom?”
“Yep.” The thick smell of diesel and the high squawk of the gulls brought him back to the skiff. “Waitin’ to get out to the trap is all.”
Martin muttered, “Aw, jeezes,” then leaned over the side of the skiff, lost the last of his breakfast.
His younger brother’s second week out, and he still got the heaves in the morning. “Feedin’ the gulls again?” Thomas laughed.
Martin glanced back, squinting. “Shaddup you.”
Recalling the sickness himself, Thomas threw a pitying glance toward his brother. God-awful stuff. The sickness plagued him, too, those first days out on the water. Like Martin, he was only fourteen when Fodder gave him the nod and threw him an oilskin jacket. Best day of his life. Somehow, he couldn’t remember Martin being as excited about being called to the boat and given his place.
Martin stood, sucked air, his chest expanding. Uncle Harry opened his eyes, leaned forward and called out to him. “Drap o’ warm tea’ll settle yer stomach once we gets the trap hauled.”
Lifting his cap, Thomas tucked away a tangle of hair.
Martin staggered. Still trying to find his balance as the skiff swayed and pitched.
“What’s we in for this morning? Another day of bitter disappointment?” Fodder said to Uncle Harry.
Still resting against the engine house, Uncle Harry grunted, cleared his throat, and spat over the side.
“Hard to say, Joshua b’y. Seems like plenty of feesh, though. Can’t be no worse than the last few days.”
The crease in Fodder’s brow deepened. “That’s the truth, then.”
Uncle Harry and Fodder had fished together so long they could read each other’s minds.
Passing by Will Budden’s fishing berth ‘twas no trouble to see they had a great catch. Will’s two sons, Levi and Mel, dipped fish from the trap, while Danny Pearce, their shareman, worked from the small punt alongside. They were out early this morning.
“Good load you got there, Will,” Fodder shouted over the engines.
“Yes, Joshua b’y. Plenty out here this morning. Goin’ ta have to use the cod bag to bring it all in.” Will’s laughter rang out over the water.
Mel waved from the other boat. “Want to go da Bonavista after supper, Tom?”
“You knows I do. I’ll come up for ya soon as I’m ready.”
As they neared their berth, Thomas headed to the stern to fetch the punt they towed behind them. “Go up in the bow and get ready, Martin.”
Fodder’s expression changed. He stood still, feet planted firmly in the skiff, arms straight at his sides, eyes cold as the underbelly of a cod. He glared at Thomas, then snapping into action, he slowed the engine, the skiff eased forward toward the marker. With well-honed skill, he settled it over the trap. Gentle. Why couldn’t he be this mindful with people?
“All right, b’ys. Tom, you and Martin take the punt.”
With a sudden burst of energy, Martin scurried toward the stern, pushed past Thomas. “No need for two of us out there, is it, Fodder?”
“Yes, there is. Go on.” He didn’t even turn to look at them.
Stars of light spun around Thomas. Goddammit. Not now. He waited. Couldn’t trust himself to jump over the side if a fit appeared to be coming on. He scanned the water, drew his focus back to Fodder, then Uncle Harry. No one looked his way. He lay his hand on the gunnel, the wood warmed by the sun, swung his legs over the side and into the punt, landing steady and strong, body straight.
Martin placed his hand on the gunnels. With a leap, he landed next to Thomas. The punt, pitching from side to side, nearly capsized.
Thomas held fast, waited for him to settle.
Martin shook his head. “I got to learn how to do it like you, Tom.”
“You will.” He looked into Martin’s serious brown eyes. “Cripes, this is a waste, wha? The two of us out here.”
Martin untied the rope, inclined his head in Joshua’s direction. “I s’pose he’s afraid to send you out here alone since you haves the fits.”
Thomas cringed. “Fodder, did you send Martin out here to mind me? Or do I have to mind him? Just as well for the two of us to stay ashore, if that’s the case.” Fodder peered toward them. “Ya saucy bastards. Another word, I’ll come out and heave the two of yas overboard. ‘Ear me?”
A bunch of Judas’s, they were. But what could he do? Molly Chant said he had power. Utter foolishness it was. He had no power, helpless as newborn pup, blind and useless to the world.