Submitted into Contest #98 in response to: Set your story on (or in) a winding river.... view prompt



The Postman had struggled to find them earlier, and whilst that had been vaguely inconvenient at first, they had grown to find it amusing. Every time they changed mooring, a new innocent Postman would be faced with the mission of finding their new base, a mission that it always seemed wrong to place at such ridiculously early hours of the morning, but such was the life of a Postman he supposed. At least the Postman had signed up for this, he however had not anticipated spending one very early morning every few months waiting to wave to a Postman when he had agreed to move into the houseboat.

Why he had ever made that decision was unclear to him from the get go, he had gone along with the jokes for too long or too willingly, and then there he was before he knew what was happening, lugging suitcases down river paths overgrown with nettles from the summer rain. The first night he had seriously considered pretending that he assumed that his friend had known he was only staying a night or two, but bringing one's entire belongings on holiday was not usual. The presence of his kettle and toaster, and his lack of a flat to return to kicked that plan quickly out of the window, and he settled for calling it a stepping stone. He would pretend he had assumed his friend had known that he was only living here until he could find a new place to live. 

With time, and completely against his will, he had become used to the friendly waves rocking him to sleep, the sound of birds walking along the thin tin roof, and was quite frankly unwilling to give up the joy of the ability to move their house somewhere else whenever they wanted. To awaken on a summer morning to a view of the classic English countryside which had certainly not been outside his window when he had gone to bed, was a feeling he had not experienced before, and doubted he could replace. And the opportunity to do the exact same thing himself was potentially even better. 

To wake in the small hours of the morning, creep on to the deck and steer himself and his precious cargo into the distance was a treat, but the chance to spend the whole day stubbornly not telling his friend where he had taken them was arguably an even part of the deal. He liked to pick places far from civilisation so that he would never identify their location. That way they could not return, and that made it somehow more special. It forced them to enjoy it whilst they had it, admit it was irreplaceable, the joy of having an end.

When working, they had found themselves a suitable mooring and stuck there for most of the year, but now they were free of that life and they were free of the ropes tying the boat very literally down. He supposed they may have gone a little over the top at first, leaving work on their last day blind drunk from the party the team had thrown, and woken up bright and early the next morning to put as much distance between them and their old home as they could. There was nothing holding them here now, again literally.

They didn’t have much family between them to visit, but those they did have they decided they were very much going to take advantage of. After all, any reason to travel around the country was surely a good one, even if it was a second cousin he hadn’t seen since his childhood and who had a whole family of his own that they would now have to interact with. They did, though, have friends - he would much rather refer to some of them as ‘contacts’ - and those they also utilised to their full extent, inviting themselves to dinners in every corner they could find that sounded nice to visit.

The changes of scenery were so ridiculously exciting that they soon realised they would genuinely rather slow things down. And so sounding a little too much like old men for their liking, they did indeed take things at a more leisurely pace. They might find an especially nice village, get distracted staring in all the shop windows all day, and never even make it out into the surrounding fields. So they would stay another day, or maybe two if they were feeling especially generous. Their methods of planning destinations became calmer and more organised too, and at some point they decided that, although they loved the freedom of choice they had currently, too much of a good thing and all that.

That was how they got here, moored cosily back in their old city, but out of choice not at their old mooring. They had settled it between them, and although there still lay an air of uncertainty around it as to whether it was the right decision, a decision had been made and to it they would stick. For the winter, they would be here, picking up odd jobs around where they could to add to their limited savings, and enjoying having friends and connections they could see for more than a day at a time, who they could spontaneously go to the pub with, or who knew where they even were. 

This evening they were sat on the deck, in their aptly purchased deckchairs, watching the sunset. He figured he would never get used to how poetic his life now was, but there it was. Admittedly, it was a London sunset, but a sunset nonetheless, and there was the sound of water that he now so loved and the smell of air that wasn’t fresh but was the best you were going to get and so you were going to be happy with that. Come the summer, they would be off again, into real sunsets and real fresh air, and he could hardly wait.

June 12, 2021 23:43

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