THE WHARF

Writers are often asked where inspiration comes from. And the truth is, it often comes from someone else. Before I moved, I belonged to a wonderful writing group at the library of an overcrowded New York City suburb. Our Fearless Leader would send us a weekly prompt, and once it was to write about “a girl on a bench in the rain”.

I recently adapted the short story I wrote then to the novel I’m working on now: The Winds of Morning is a “prequel” to LET THE CANYONS WEEP and depicts the family’s emigration to the States. The scene in the manuscript is one where Molly contemplates her husband’s wish to leave Ireland behind.

I thought I’d share the original story, the inspiration for that scene, titled The Wharf.

Daisy had taken to wandering down by the wharf of a late afternoon. She loved the soft salt sea air of Wexford, the left-over smell of fish from the morning’s haul, the screams of the wheeling gulls. Toward the end of the wharf a series of barrels, once full of salt cod, were lashed together to the pilings and made a sort of rough bench for the fisherman who sat and swapped stories after their work was done. But at this time of day, it was deserted — the men and children gone home to supper and early bed, the women done with their day’s duties, save perhaps a bit of darning by the oil lamp.

At this time of day, her own brood lay sleeping under the old lady’s vigilant eye. Daisy sat quite still, enjoying the quiet slap of waves against the piers, watching the clouds gather for their afternoon sally into port. Today, they only created a fine mist that was gone almost before it started. She shook out her hair — Daisy was quite proud of her hair, which had become soft and full from the rain, not unruly or tangled as so many ginger heads did. She took great care of her hair, never realizing that it was the brilliant green of her eyes that attracted others the most.

She turned her shoulders to the sun that was just gleaming again through the clouds, enjoying its warmth on her back. One of the young toughs of the village sauntered by, posturing and making eyes at her, but she ignored him completely.  She had precious little time; she wouldn’t waste any of it on him. Her offspring would wake and need to eat soon. A slight but unmistakable darkening of the sky to the east was taking place, and she was not surprised at the call when it came.

“Daisy!” The quavering old voice was sweet and affectionate, but Daisy pretended not to hear. “Daisy, time for supper!”

She took one last lingering look out to sea.

“Daisy!” the sing-song call came again. “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!”

With that, Daisy stood up to shake herself all over, stretched out to claw the edge of her barrel, jumped down, and sauntered home again.

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