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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
The Fishing Boat

Gavin woke up to the wind howling and rain pelting down on the glass windowpane of his bedroom. He climbed out of bed and put his woolen socks on. He stood at the window, gazing out towards the sea. He could barely see his fatherís bright green fishing boat as it slipped out of the harbor, heading into the rough North Sea. Gavin worried about his father on days like this, but he always came home at night, no matter how bad the weather was.

When he could no longer see the boat, Gavin went into the kitchen. His mum stood at the coal-burning stove, stirring a pot of porridge. "Sit down, Gavin, and have some breakfast. Iíve made this porridge for you. I even put raisins in it," she winked at him and smiled. "Thereís the cream and your spoon. Itís a cold morning. Eat up!"

Gavin sat down at the table. Nearby sat a bucket, filled with small pieces of black coal. His mum came over and scooped some out, opened the stove and tossed it in. Gavin stole a glimpse of the reddish orange embers burning. "Mum, why canít I go out fishing with father? Iíve never been out on the boat."

His mum looked at him and sighed, "Oh, Gavin. You want to go out with your father on the fishing boat?"

He nodded his head as he poured some thick cream on his porridge and scooped some into his mouth.

"Iíll tell you what; the next day we have good weather, you can go with him. I think youíre old enough now," she said.

Gavin smiled at his mum. "I canít wait, but I donít want to go on a day when it is raining and storming like this."

"Donít worry, boy, thatís not going to happen for a long, long time."

He finished his porridge, got dressed, slipping his wellies on so he could splash in the puddles on the way to school.

Every morning for the next week, Gavin woke up to rain and wind, but finally one morning as he lay in bed, he noticed it wasnít raining. He jumped up and looked out the window. The sun was just beginning to come over the horizon and the sky was turning blue. His father had always told him, "Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning." The sky wasnít red at all. He slipped his woolen socks on and ran into the kitchen, relieved when he saw that his father hadnít left yet. "Father, Mum said the next time it was good weather, I could come with you on the fishing boat. Can I come with you today?" he asked.

His father glanced at his mum, who smiled. "Sure, laddie. Get dressed and slip on an extra layer, and your heaviest woolen jumper, and meet me outside after youíre done with your porridge. And hurry up with you!"

Gavin was excited. He gobbled down his porridge, licked the spoon and bowl, and then got dressed in his warmest clothes. He slipped his bright yellow wellies on and ran outside. The air was fresh and there was only a slight breeze blowing. His mum came out with a bag filled with cheddar cheese and Branston pickle sandwiches, a few scones, several large pieces of shortbread and a thermos filled with hot tea. She handed it to Gavin and gave both him and his father a hug. "Be careful, Gavin. Watch him!" she added, speaking to Gavinís father.

Gavin was off. He stood on the deck of the fishing boat as his father loaded the nets and creels, ropes, maps, charts, and a sharp knife. Gavin watched carefully as his father unhooked the rope from the dock and pulled it onto the back of the small boat. He started the engine and off they went. Gavin watched the small coastal village disappear as they left the safety of the harbor into the wide, open sea. As they passed the lighthouse standing on the edge of the harbor wall, Gavin saw a few seals basking in the sun. "Look, Father. There are some seals!" he smiled. His father nodded and went back to work. Gavin could hear them barking, "Arf! Arf! Arf!"

Seagulls squawked overhead and followed the boat for miles before turning back to the shore. Gavinís dad threw the nets over the side of the boat. They were heavy and smelled fishy. "Stay back," he warned Gavin. He didnít want him to get caught in the nets and go into the sea with them.

Gavin walked around the boat. He could see the coast. Heíd never seen it from the sea before and it looked different. The village was very small, just a cluster of houses against the sea-carved mountainside. Above the village, the mountains stood like giants, holding the houses in their hand. He could see the purple heather covering the hillsides further down the coast. It was beautiful.

After a while they ate their sandwiches. His father poured the tea, which tasted good and hot, and made Gavin feel much warmer. They munched on the sandwiches and scones and saved the shortbread for last. His mum made delicious shortbread. Just then he saw something splashing in the water. "What is it?" he asked his father.

They looked over the edge of the boat. "Itís dolphins! Theyíve come to greet us. Toss them a piece of your bread crusts and crumbs from your shortbread," Father said.

Gavin tossed the pieces into the water. The dolphins swam up right next to the boat. He could almost touch them. They made some funny squeaking noises, ate the bread and crumbs, and swam off. Gavin watched them until they disappeared.

It was soon time to bring the nets in. Gavinís father opened a door on the deck of the boat. Inside was a big hole filled with huge pieces of ice. "Stay back now, Gavin. Donít fall in. Stand over there," he pointed, knowing soon the deck would be a busy, dangerous place. He turned the handle and the nets began to rise from the sea. As they came up the side of the boat, Gavin could see they were filled with fish, crabs, shrimp, and all kinds of other things. His father emptied the net onto the deck. All the sea creatures and fish wriggled about. Gavin was scared. He jumped back, out of the way. Some of the crabs walked towards him. He saw flounder, haddock, and cod. His father started picking things up that he didnít need. He tossed the crabs back in the water, along with the smallest fish, and lots of seashells, clams, oysters and mussels. Soon there were only the big fish on the deck. Everything else was tossed back into the sea. His father picked up a large broom and swept the fish into the ice-filled hole.

Gavin saw dozens of seagulls and other sea birds appear out of nowhere. They screeched and squawked and swooped down at the discarded fish, trying to grab them before they swam away or sunk down to the bottom. Gavin was afraid of the birds. Some of them were very big and tried to swoop at him. Maybe they thought he was a big fish. "Leave me alone," he called out, swatting at them with the broom handle.

His father laughed. He started the boat engine back up and headed towards the shore. The birds followed him in, never leaving Gavin alone. Before he knew it, they were sailing into the harbor. The boat pulled up at the dock and several men came from the fish market with large boxes. Gavin climbed out of the boat and stood on the dock. He felt wobbly and dizzy from bobbing up and down on the waves. He sat down and watched the men picking the biggest fish from the boatís hole. His father handed the fish to the men and as each filled their box, they left. Soon there were only a few fish left. "These are for us," he said, and tossed them on the deck. They werenít wiggling anymore.

Gavin looked at the village and then at his house. It looked much bigger now. He helped his father move the nets to the back of the boat. His father picked up the fish and put them in a box. He handed Gavin the thermos and climbed out of the boat. They headed for home. "Thanks for your help, laddie," he said to his son.

"It was fun, father. Can I go again sometime?" Gavin asked.

"Son, one day youíll be doing this every day, if you stay here in the village. For now, you can come with me once a week, on days when its sunny and you have no school, like today. All right?"

"Yes, Father. Iíd like that," Gavin replied.

His mum was waiting for them at the door. Father took the fish in the house and put them in the sink. He gutted and cleaned them for Mum. She was happy to have them home safely again.

That night they cod for supper, along with some potatoes, leeks, and tomatoes from their vegetable garden. It tasted delicious! Gavin smiled. Now he knew what his father did and how hard he had to work to get fish for them and others. He ate his supper in silence and listened to the seagulls squawking outside.

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