Call me when you get there.
Before Salvo can begin to shout, it is his father’s voice he hears. He comes running, bandied limbs stretching across the sand, the full power of his height mirrored in the gruff harkening of his shout. He reaches Salvo, weather-worn face stormy and scowling. Quick as a whip, he pulls the stick clean from Salvo’s hand, poised mid movement above his head, getting ready to strike the thing with all the force he can muster.
“I thought I told you to stay put,” his father growls, cutting his gaze away from his son, who trembles in his shadow.
“I think it’s a mermaid,” Salvo splutters, grinning impishly as he tries to reach down and touch the thing.
“Don’t be a child,” his father bats his hand away and motions to the other fishermen, who now approach with interest, regarding the scene before them with the wariness of men so used to the to-and-fro of the sea. The unmoored boats float like unrooted trees behind.
“But-“ Salvo is cut off by the movements of the men. So well versed are they in the language of the sea, they grunt to one another and Salvo tries to catch the hymns of the words as they all look to the thing that lies lurid in the half formed circle of men. Like one they move, heaving with groans as they turn the thing over and peer down to see.
Salvo lunges, trying to push his way through to see beyond the backs of the men. They concede to let the boy squeeze past and Salvo looks down to see the blueish leathery face of a man.
“Come on, now,” Salvo’s father catches the collar of his jacket and begins to tear him away from the circle, now a buzz with discussion and a flurry of gestures.
“But, I want to see-“ Salvo complains, struggling uselessly against the tug of his father.
“No. Ain’t a thing to be seen by a child. We’re going home. Come on.”
“I thought you said I shouldn’t act like a child. And now I’m not allowed to stay because I’m a child. How can I possibly be both?” Salvo pointed out grumpily, but to no avail. His father was already striving forward, his limping gait providing no obstacle to his determined stride. An answer, an order. Move it.
Salvo sulked the entire way back up the beach, trailing his feet and craning his neck to catch another glimpse as the scene slowly weened from his view. They trailed the stones of the town, his father keeping a brisk pace ahead as his son held back in defiance. With each maddening step, his legs too short to keep up with his father, Salvo vows to end childhood on this very day. Gone will be the Salvo of the past, for he is just a boy. That scant, inadequate thing too small to push his way into the realms of men, too weak to withstand the battering of the sea and the labour of knowledge. He wills himself from this day forward into manhood, and his pace quickens with the thrill of the promise.
They reached the last house on the row, the cobbled down stone and lemon yellow window frames signalling home. Salvo ran the last of the steep incline as his father disappeared into the house, slamming the door with wide-palmed hands.
Inside, sounds of awakening rustle with familiarity and Salvo kicks his shoes by the bottom of the stairs and runs into the kitchen. His mother stands, a sunlit portrait framed by the window, drawing all sense of colour into the small room. His father looks up as he enters, and Salvo halts, sensing he has just barely missed the tail end of something important. His mother turns, shoulders loosening and she smiles with some effort. Salvo felt the unfamiliar urge to reach out and grab his mother’s hand, to feel the comfort of her cool fingers, her soft, lean palm and squeeze. Just as a reminder. But he was eleven years old now, done belonging to the world of childish things, and so he ducked under her touch, moving past his father quickly and heading without so much as a word down the hall and to the privacy of his own room.
The revels of his own company were shattered abruptly when he entered to see the dangling form of Theresa, folded like a jellyfish and grinning widely. Salvo felt his heart quicken and felt the traitor heat in his cheeks, mirroring the blood-flushed scarlet of Theresa’s goggly bobbing head. Her teeth shone brightly, dominating her face. From the way that she was hanging, upside down, hair swinging in curtains, she looked to be suspended in a state of manic frowning. The gravity of the act dragging her wide mouth down in a perfect melon rind arch. He swallowed hastily, willing the pounding of his heart to release, praying that she would finally notice the burgeoning new man behind his moon eyed smile.
“Salvo! Did you hear? About the man that washed up this morning? Everyone is talking about it-”
“I know.” Salvo interrupted giddily, though he swiftly checks his eagerness, adopting a lazy ambivalence intended to convey the maturity of someone with something important to say. He moves over to his window and leans against it, ignoring Theresa’s probing glare and staring peacefully out, as though he were observing something of mild amusement.
“What? How?” Theresa demanded, righting herself. Salvo glanced to make sure she was watching and then preceded to sigh a great, world-weary sigh. Folding his hands into the baggy pockets of his shorts, he took his time like an actor, soaking up the rapt attention of his adoring audience, hanging off of his every movement.
“I was there,” he relented eventually, watching the surprise bloom on her feline features and eager to make her continue taking notice, he added, “Actually, I was the one who found him. I rescued him from the reeds and brought him ashore. I saved his life.”
Theresa frowned, taking in her friend, the skinny limbs and boyish bravado. He stuck out his chest as though to prove the strength that lay within, beyond the boy that met the eye and shrank to a coltish imitation.
“Well, I happen to know where he is,” she said triumphantly, “and I plan on going to find out what happened to him. What do you think? Shall we go and investigate?”
*[Be warned, this decision will mean leaving Salvo here, for now, in the comfort of that which he knows and loves, and we will instead follow Theresa as she investigates alone.]