25 Things Every Writer Should Know:
There was an old man and a young man. The old man sat at his table in a quiet part of the restaurant and the young man talked to him as though they had known each other for years but in fact they had only met earlier that day.
There was just a couple others in the restaurant and their quiet spot was so because of the way the shadows seemed to keep the rest of the lights from fully covering their corner. The way they sat made it fully their corner and the others in the restaurant would mistake them for regulars. It was close to the docks and the usual clientele were boaters who stopped in along their way to something better.
The restaurant was small with dust on the floor that did not seem to bother the wait staff with walls covered in nets for cheap decor. There were photographs inside the nets all along the walls and slightly faded from the sun that came in through large windows. There was a mounted striped bass that flitted sunlight off its blueblack and grey checkered scales and the wind smelt of the sea and tasted of salt in the air.
"What should we drink?" asked the young man.
"I don’t drink very often," replied the old man.
"Then we should make it a good one." He motioned to the waiter. "Two whiskeys, please."
The waiter nodded and went to the bar. As he poured each shot the two men sat quietly. He came back a moment later, and sat the two shots on the table. He left without response.
The young man took his glass. “What should we drink to?”
"Home. Family, friends. Perhaps the things we’ve done and didn’t do."
The young man was silent for just a moment. “So we shall.” They both tipped their cups and drank.
There was silence again. The young man found this uncomfortable. “I must thank you for helping me out on that road,” he said. “A flat tire without a spare, and no cell service in the area. How unlucky is that?”
"Quite," the old man replied. He did not attempt to say anything further. The young man sat there for a bit longer hoping for more. There was none.
"Are you from around here?"
"I am from nearby," replied the old man. "But I have not been here in many years."
"Really? This seems like such a nice area."
The old man shifted in his seat. “Then you are not from here either?”
"No," he replied. "I was driving through this area on my way north. I have business there."
"What sort of business do you do?"
"I sell services in the computer industry."
"I don’t know much about that."
"It’s a good industry to be in right now."
The young man motioned to the waiter to bring two more whiskeys. The waiter did not see his motion and so the young man went up and ordered the drinks directly at the bar. The bar man pulled the bottle out from below the bar and poured into their glasses a second time.
The young man considered this for just a moment. “On the rocks this time.”
The bar man nodded and pulled two pieces of ice out of the icebox and put them into new glasses. Then he took the shot glasses and turned them over the new glasses onto the ice. The young man nodded and took the glasses over to his and the old man’s table.
The two men did not drink them as shots but the young man brought his glass to his lips and sipped on it slowly. “And what do you do?” he asked still holding the glass.
The old man did not respond for a moment. “I am old and have not worked in a long time. When I was young I lived here with my family and worked in town.”
"How far away is the town? Is that where the tow company is?"
The old man was quiet again and then “No. The tow company is from one town over. It will be some time before they are here.”
"How long has it been since you have been back here?"
"Very long. I was a young man when I left."
"Why did you leave?"
The old man was quiet again and the young man shifted in his seat, suddenly uncomfortable.
"Long ago when I was here, the coast was further out than now. The town stretched out further than where the beaches and the port are now but it was small and quiet. My family lived there and I worked as a fisherman on a boat called Thetis. Every day I would go out to sea and put my nets out and wait for the fish to come in and then bring them on board. I would sell the fish in town every day and go out the next and do it again and you may think that now it might have been a boring life but I was happy and I kept my family well by my success on my boat.
One day there was a storm as great as I had ever seen and while I was out in the boat it came in and flooded the town and the sea covered all the buildings and roads and everything. I was on my boat while it happened and it was as if Hell had become ocean and wanted to devour the world. When I washed ashore the city was gone and I left and didn’t come back, until now.”
The restaurant was quiet now and only the young man and the old man sat there. The waiters had gone into the back and the bar man was reading a paper quietly in the corner. The young man sat and said nothing and did not seem to know where to look.
"I must return to the sea," said the old man. "The sea owes me, and I owe it. But they are not debts that can be repaid or settled."
The young man glanced out to the sun as it was setting on the ocean off the docks and with the masts and sails of the ships crosshatching the orange and teal colors that reflected through the bar windows with the light slightly skewed by the imperfect glass of the windows and wondered how it was that he came to be in this restaurant with this man and how it was that his car hit the pothole that blew his tire and why he was so far from home at that. There was luck in this, he knew, and there was bad luck in this as well.
The phone rang at the bar and the barman answered. A moment later he came to the table with the old man and the young man and told the young man that there was a tow truck waiting for him. He thanked the bar man for that and paid up his tab, and then left the old man there as he stared out into the sea, ponderous and regretful.