Storm gifts

On the waterfront here, every storm is cause for a party.

Most of the adults I spoke to can remember the morning when, following several days of storms that kept all the fishermen in port, the sun broke through revealing a morning that looked like God’s first: all splendor and reflections and bathed in a clear, bright light. It was an old fisherman, Artemis, who spied the dinghy floating in the distance and swam out to drag it in, thinking that the storm must have pried it lose from the shore. But the dinghy was not one anyone had ever seen before and inside he found a child.

The boat was so battered that it was a wonder it had survived the bad weather at all. But, Artemis told everyone, the child lay there, cheerful and unperturbed, “as if his mother had just set him down there to rest.” Only, no one on the island had ever seen the child or the dinghy before and they could not explain how they had gotten there.

They gave the child to a woman who could not have children, but everyone shared in his upbringing. He was a happy child and he brought happiness to the entire town. It was as if his arrival had allowed them to believe in magic and miracles again.

Like all boys, he learned to fish with the men and went to sea with his many uncles, each of them sharing with him the secret skills that they would pass on to their sons. The men had repaired the dinghy he had arrived in that first day and he became skilled and fearless using it at sea.

So it was natural that when one of the men did not return from fishing one evening and storm clouds were gathering, they turned to him to go out, find the man and bring him back. He insisted on going alone, saying it was too dangerous for anyone to go with him.

He went out into the gathering storm while everyone waited at the water’s edge. That night the storm raged as it had not done in years. In the morning, the sun rose bright and clear, and people’s spirits soared because they knew that weather just like this had brought the boy to them and the boy had brought happiness and miracles.

So when someone saw the boy’s boat floating out just beyond the reef, everyone cheered. But when they got to the boat, only old Leopold lay inside. When they revived him, he told them how the boy had pulled him off the wreckage of his boat that had capsized and sent him back in the dinghy.

“What are you doing?” Leopold asked him. The boy smiled, “I’m going to stay out here.” With that, he dove into the water. Old Leopold claims he never surfaced again, never even came up for breath. But the boat, as if guided by a hand, made its way through the night back to port.

They told me this story while we were partying down by the water, drenched and joyous. Finally, I had to ask them. “But don’t you miss the boy?” I shouted.

“Why should we?” they shouted back. “He’s right there” and 50 arms pointed out to sea.

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