Friday, June 14, 2013

FFF: The Lighthouse

For each of the last fifty-two Fridays, Kurt has posted a piece of original flash fiction. This week's is a celebration of a journey's end...

The Lighthouse
Word Count: 599

Brett’s foot landed heavily in the surf, waves lapping at his ankle. He dragged the rowboat up onto the shore at the foot of what used to be a lighthouse, back when it still had a light in it. Now it was just a house, albeit a tall one, with broken glass and rusted walls and rotten wood.

“Ho, there,” said a familiar voice—one that belonged to an unfamiliar face. “Can I help you, young man?”

Brett peered at the tired old woman’s body and wondered how his aunt’s voice had found its way into it. “Hullo, Auntie Reese,” he said. “It’s me. I’m back.”

“Brett?” she said. “Is it really you?”

A younger Brett would have run up to his aunt and thrown his arms around her. This Brett walked.

“It’s been a long time,” said Auntie Reese.

It had. Brett released his aunt and took a look around the beach. The lighthouse had been operational when he left. The pier he had dived from as a child had been torn down and replaced by a larger one with metal guardrails and mounted binoculars. He whistled. “This place sure has changed,” he said.

“So have you,” said Auntie Reese, smiling.

Brett frowned. He didn’t feel all that different.

“Do you have a place to stay?” Reese asked.

“Not yet, but it’s still morning,” said Brett. “I’ll find something. What happened to the light?” He pointed up at the lighthouse.

“Bad wiring mostly,” said Reese. “And time. My Winston passed three summers ago, and he was the only one who really looked after it. After your father…” She didn’t finish.

She didn’t have to. The last thing Brett remembered before setting out was finding his father washed up on this very beach. It was funny, in a way, that the same ocean had given Brett so much life on his journey and had taken life away from his father.

“You know,” said Reese, “he’d always hoped to pass the lighthouse on to you, rather than his brother.”

“Who owns it now?” asked Brett.

“The council bought it from me after Winston died,” said Reese. “They might be willing to sell to someone who would take care of it.”

“It could use a coat of paint,” said Brett, smiling.

“It could use a lot more than that,” said Reese. “A lighthouse without a light is just a house. And this island needs a good lighthouse with a good caretaker. Someone who won’t run away.”

“Aye,” said Brett. “A fixed point on the horizon.” His voice trailed off. He’d have to talk it over with the wife, when she arrived in a fortnight. And he’d need to have set up lodging by then. And he’d need to arrange schooling for their daughter. And yet… part of him wanted to run up to the old place and move back into his old bedroom.

“So, does that gleam in your eye mean you intend to stay?” asked Reese.

“I don’t know,” said Brett. “I’ve only just arrived. Anything could happen, really.”

“Well, at least let me cook you some breakfast before you set out again.”

“I’d love that,” said Brett. “But I can’t. I have so much to do this morning. Perhaps dinner?”

Reese nodded. “You know where to find me.”

“I do,” said Brett. “Thank you.” He started up the beach, towards the town behind the bluff.

“Brett,” Reese called after him. “Did you find what you were looking for out there?”

Brett grinned. “I didn’t know what I was looking for,” he said. “But I found a great many things.”

Edited by Carolyn "I Love How This Ends" Abram.

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