Isle Of Second Chances – Episode 20

He looked over, dark windblown hair framing his weathered face.

“We wait and think deep thoughts until the fish find us. Sometimes there are more thoughts than fish!”

She liked his wry humour and was enjoying the sense of companionship. Her question emerged naturally.

“Don’t you ever get the urge to go back to the work you did with troubled kids on the mainland?”


“But Annie says that you were brilliant at finding a rapport with them.”

“Annie is loyal and kind. I let three kids down. It cost them their lives.”

“How many others did you help?”

His eyes were guarded.

“Not nearly as many as I must have half-helped, then disappointed when another emergency case took over from the waiting queue.

“I would rather take as much time as is needed to truly help some women here, than go back to juggling cases and lives again. End of story.”

“I think you underestimate the good you did.”

He shrugged.

“You work with dry financial statistics. My work was with vulnerable humans who struck back when they felt abandoned, and who needed more help than I had the time to give. For now, maybe for the rest of my life, I’m happier here.”

Nicola concentrated on the handline far more than was necessary. Then the words were out before she could stop them.

“Donald, is there anyone special in your life?”

There was silence for a moment before he replied.

“Nothing survived my breakdown.”

She waited.

“People run away from any kind of mental trouble,” he added quietly. “That’s why Annie is so special. She steps in and tries to help – watch out!”

The fishing line was almost torn from Nicola’s hand.

“Oh!” she cried. “I think I’ve caught something!”

“Haul in your line; leave it in even coils at your feet.”

His own hand jerked.

“Me, too,” he said. “The chances are that in this one catch we’ll have enough fish for Annie’s award-winning kedgeree between us!”

He quickly brought in his line and suddenly four dark blue and silver torpedo shapes were thrashing around on the floorboards. He unhooked them and then reached over to help Nicola.

As she brought in her line it seemed to have developed a life of its own. She looked down into the sea and saw four or five silver shapes swirling in circles.

“Why so many fish?” she asked breathlessly.

“Like I said, they’re shoal fish, seeing the lures at the same time. Keep going, you’re doing great.”

He helped her lift the fish over the gunwale.

“Watch these empty hooks,” he cautioned. “The fish are throwing them all over the place.”

After a few moments, peace returned. She watched him wind the two lines over their wooden frames, stow them away then wash his hands.

“Are we finished fishing?” she asked, disappointed.

He looked up, smiling.

“These are more than enough to give us a meal. If you want, we can come out again in a couple of days.”

“I’m utterly opposed to hunting, so why should I enjoy fishing so much?” Nicola marvelled.

“Because we weren’t killing for pleasure but for our dinner. You were satisfying the hunter-gatherer gene you inherited from your primitive ancestors.”

The blue eyes crinkled.

“Now you’ve caught your prey, neither you nor your tribe will go hungry. And you’re about to bring home your sabre-toothed-tiger steaks to your cave. The gene is fulfilled.”

“Don’t let Annie hear you describe her beloved house as a cave!”

He smiled.

“There is another ancient gene called self-preservation, and I’ve that in plenty!”

Leaning forward, he picked up the starter handle, fitted it into place and then turned it rapidly until the engine fired.

“More reliable than any outboard motor,” he commented.

Opening the throttle, he sent the boat arcing back along the shore. Nicola sat, watching the island float past.

The wind from the shore, rather than the speed of their passage, blew her hair across her face. She tried vainly to control it.

“Nicola, there’s a woolly hat in the locker beneath you,” Donnie said. “I seldom use it.”

She hesitated, and then unclipped the locker door. A neatly folded red woolly hat was there. She reached in and examined it. It smelled of fish, but so did she.

“One of Annie’s girls spun the wool and knitted it for me.”

Bravely, she pulled it on, tucking in her long hair. The warmth that she felt was as much down to his simple gesture of kindness as the wool itself.

“That’s better,” she said. She watched the shore flow past, the yellow of flowering broom lighting up the dark green, the white spots which were sheep on the hill.

Now fully confident, she let her body sway with the movement of the boat to the living sea.

“I love this place,” she said simply.

She looked up to find his eyes on her.

“So do I,” he replied quietly.


Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!