Red Sails in the Sunset
Donald R. Fletcher, author
My dad found a beautiful vacation house he rented for a whole month. It’s located on the lower east bank of the Potomac, where the river is widening into its estuary. The house has a broad front lawn that slopes down to the water, where its owner built a small deck which, at high tide, is right over the water. That’s where I’m sitting in the late afternoon, remembering a song of the 1930s as evening approaches.
Red sails in the sunset,
Way out on the sea,
Oh, carry my loved one
Home safely to me.
He sailed at the dawning;
All day I’ve been blue.
Red sails in the sunset,
I’m trusting in you.
It rather fits. There are a few sails on the estuary, off at a distance, starting to be tinted orange-red in the lowering light. And Dad’s friend has an impressive cruising sailboat with two tall masts and a long bowsprit, schooner-rigged. Mike went out with them early this morning on a one-day sail; which is why I’m sitting here, watching across and down the river, to see them come back and tie up at the mooring in our anchorage.
Swift wings you must borrow;
Make straight for the shore.
We marry tomorrow,
And he goes sailing no more.
Well, it’s not quite like that, but Mike and I did have a discussion yesterday. He started to propose to me, and I wasn’t sure. We talked a long time. We finally agreed that we’re not ready, either of us, to make that kind of commitment, although Mike thought it would be great if we could.
There! Those are their sails—Dad’s friend’s boat! And they’re looking distinctly reddish, as some small clouds are looking, too.
“Jake, get that small dinghy ready, the one with the outboard that belongs to the house. If the others plan to stay on the boat, you can bring Mike ashore.”
Of course, there’s no rush. Those sails are still small and far away, and they’re not on a powerboat, after all. I’d say they’re moving along well. Maybe the Skipper is helping to make way with his inboard engine.
Yes, he must be under power. I see the beautiful sails coming down, as he turns directly into the wind—what wind is left, in the approaching evening—to make for the mooring buoy. Good for you, Jake. I see you’re in the dinghy and ready to move out, too.
That’s strange. At this distance the figures are hard to distinguish. They’ve got their vessel secured to the mooring. I can see that, and see Jake standing up in the dinghy as he brings it alongside. Now I can see other figures in the cockpit of the sailboat, but none is climbing down to get in the dinghy. From their gestures, there seems to be some discussion going on.
Now, finally, the dinghy is pushing off, turning in an arc to point back this way, but there’s only one figure in it. Where is Mike? That couldn’t be Mike, because Jake could have no reason to stay on the sailboat.
There’s a tantalizing wait, while Jake brings the dinghy to shore, hauls it up the narrow strip of beach to a secure berth, then climbs the few steps to the deck overlooking the water.
“Mike wouldn’t come with me,” he reports. “They had a spare bunk in the men’s cabin and they’ll need another pair of hands for crewing. Their plan is for a five-day cruise to explore a couple of offshore islands, and the Skipper invited Mike. You know how hard it would be for him to resist.”
Yes, I can imagine that well enough. Then Jake mentions Crissy. I thought I had made out the figure of a young woman on the foredeck, standing with Mike as Jake was pulling away.
“She’s the Skipper’s daughter,” Jake supplies. “A delightful young lady, she seems to be.”
“Good for you, Michael Bridgeman,” I think, as I mentally cross another name off my list.
Author Notes: At age 101, after publishing nine books, Don Fletcher is writing flash fiction and short prose pieces.