Angus puffed out his cheeks as he threw the lure back into the sea. He was tired of herring. But he needed more to make kippers for the days when fishing was not an option.
The seal lounging on the skerry rocks a few feet away barked. Angus waded a little closer, tossed two hastily removed fish heads. The seal never tired of herring, and Angus thought it a fair trade for his regular companionship. It could be lonely maintaining the lighthouse, miles from any town, and well, the honest truth was he had spent many a day confiding in the seal as if he were one of the parish priests.
There were three lightkeepers for Black Skerry including Angus, who at sixteen was the youngest of the men. Ol’ James had just passed, and Hamish had taken the body to town, to send word they’d need a replacement. Weeks had passed. Angus waited, maintained his post. He was itchy for a change of food and a good rest.
The next day, he fished again, but the seal wasn’t at his usual sunning post. And the next, Angus didn’t fish at all. A stranger walked across the beach towards the lighthouse carrying apples, much to Angus’ surprise and relief.
“Ye here to help with the light?”
The lad nodded. He wasn’t much older than Angus, but he was shorter with a fine bit of stubble and a thick waist.
Angus sussed the man quickly, seeing he wasn’t much of a talker, shrugged and motioned for him to follow.
They spent the morning replenishing whale oil, cleaning the lantern panes and the lamp chimney, and making sure the clock weight was wound. It wasn’t until Angus had shown him the pulley system that he thought he oughta ask the lad’s name.
“Calder.” His smile was shy and hidden by much of the beard.
Angus clapped the man on the shoulder. “Glad to have ye.” And he was, beyond the fact that a new keeper would now share his burden. He found the presence of the quiet stranger to be rather uplifting.
The day drew to a close and Angus led Calder up the seventy-two steps to the beacon room, showed him the bedrolls.
“We’ll sleep here with the lamp, until ye learn the duty rotation.”
The chores had been done in half the time, and with Calder’s assistance, he would finally get some real sleep.
Angus awoke to gentle lips on his. He smiled, eyes still shut.
He heard Calder leave, felt the daylight. He followed down the steps, out to the beach.
Calder pulled a fur from behind a rock, wrapped it over his lightly peached skin until all that stood before Angus was the seal.
Shocked, Angus followed to the shoreline. Calder turned his face up, and Angus touched his lips feeling the ghost of that kiss. He held out his fingers, brushed the seal’s cheek until the waves swept the seal away, further and further.