The Dividing Tide – Episode 03

Responsibility settled upon Garren like a physical load, as it had four years ago. At the time of the accident some said Garren’s father and brothers had deserved what they’d got, because they’d been smuggling goods ashore from the French ships.

But high duties imposed on goods at the time had created hardship for many, and almost everyone in their area had been involved in the night trade.

The family received much kindness and sympathy, he remembered gratefully. But sympathy hadn’t brought the men back, nor put food on the table.

Yet again Garren wished he’d gone with his father and brothers that evening. He’d only been a youth, but another pair of hands in the stormy seas might have been all that was needed to bring the boat safely to harbour.

He would never know.

He turned to the men.

“Don’t we have families to feed as well as the seiners? It’s not just them who depend on the pilchards. We all do. Now we can’t fish at all!”

Joe took his pipe from between his teeth.

“They wants to get their full quota when they come so they can pack ’em and send ’em abroad to Italy,” he said. “There’s big profits to be made doin’ that.”

“Aye, while we starve!” Garren replied, to murmurs of agreement.

He glanced up to watch a group of children who were making their way along the quayside. Amongst the group he spotted Tansy.

She was dressed in a blue pinafore and walking sedately, and suddenly Garren realised how fast his little sister was growing up. She would soon be in long skirts and out to work.

His spirits lifted a little. A few shillings extra coming in would be a help.

“Tansy!” he called.

“What?” she asked as she passed, looking shyly at the other men.

“Has Mother decided about your schooling? Is it Christmas time you’re leaving, or Easter?”

She lifted her chin.

“I’m to stay on as a student teacher till summertime. Mother says it’ll help my prospects of employment.”

Not till next summer? Garren’s heart sank. How was he to keep money coming in? Years of working in cold, damp fish palaces had left his mother with a rheumatic condition.

The most she could manage was a few hours a day “doing” for the parson’s wife. Her earnings were not enough to feed and clothe them.

Well, then, he must find other employment. Jobs were scarce, but he was willing to turn his hand to anything until things were sorted and he could return to fishing.

Almost anything, he corrected himself. He would never go cap in hand to that traitorous seine company to ask for work.

The breeze changed direction. As one, the men looked up.

“Weather’s on the turn,” Old Joe said, pointing to where ominous dark clouds gathered on the horizon.

“Aye,” Garren murmured to himself. “In more ways than one.”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.