On the day before Granda’s trips, we would bait the lines, and at night Ma and Unty Leebie would head off to the boatie shore, struggling with murlins loaded with lines and bulls’ bladders bloated up for floats, or big flat ballast stones from the river. I was left to clean up after supper, to see to the fire, to knit, but while no-one was there to see me I would perch a wee while on the stone wall in front of the lean-to, looking across to the boatie shore. Something compelled me to watch, I don’t know why. In the distance, in the plumes of mist lit by fishermen’s lamps, were Ma and Unty Jinna and Unty Leebie, wading back and forth between the Lily Maud and the shore – the lighter murlins floating before them, the weightier loads balanced on their heads. But I would climb down from the wall when Ma crouched in the shallows for Granda to climb onto her shoulders, to be delivered to the Lily Maud with his seaboots warm and dry. As I shuddered, I could feel Kitta – far away – shuddering along with me.
Before the men went away to the herring, they would sing as the fleet left at night. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ... I can never hear the words of that psalm without remembering the sound of their voices and the way the wind would blow them back to us from the sea.
There was a fleet no more at Roanhaven, no more that comforting choir. Whatever god Jeemsie might have bowed to as he set sail, he kept his prayers to himself.