Reggie, Alex, and his father were out in the boat as Reggie looked up. There, marching toward them, were the soldiers who had come from Halifax, marching right over them, swamping the boat. The boat began to sink and Reggie and his father clung to the sides as everything slipped past, the fish and lines and nets floating above them as they sank with the boat. Alex was there too. He swam in circles over their heads, but Reggie was too afraid to reach for Alex’s hand, too afraid to let go of the boat. He and his father sank and Reggie shuddered; he was suffocating, needed to breathe. Reggie’s mouth opened and it filled with water. He cried out, waking himself. He was only half awake and thought he was home, that it was time to get up, time to go fishing. Panic welled up in him, left the taste of salt tears on his lip.
Reggie sat up quickly. Never. Never again out on the water. He looked out the window, wanted the bed to stop its sea sway, his stomach sick, tears in his eyes each time it happened. Never escaping the sea, everywhere his stomach sick. He hated it.
He was unable to fall back to sleep and lay listening to the rain that started suddenly and heavily. The whole weight of rain and wet on Reggie who turned to the wall. No one thinks they’ll find him alive, his uncle had said to the neighbour yesterday afternoon. Reggie listening silently, had been furious. Lucky to find him at all, the neighbour had responded. Reggie had felt suddenly sick then and had to leave the room in a rush. Now his father had brought him Alex’s watch. It was Reggie’s now. The responsibility was his. One son was gone – but it was the second born. And Reggie was the first. It is the first born who never leaves. But Reggie had left, had broken all the rules. He was supposed to be the one to stay. Talisman of safety, the first to be born, the first to … He left the thought unfinished. And his father, that too. That too, he’d left. God damn them.
Reggie pulled off the covers and got out of bed. He dressed and left the house. The birds were out now calling and the rain had stopped, the sun shimmered on the fields making them look like water. The long grass rippled in the wind as though in a wave. The whole sky was reflected in a puddle ahead of him. Water. On the land that he loved water, staring back at him everywhere water. Listening, he heard the sigh of wind through the trees and the grass, like the wind on the boat when they turned out to the open sea. A rare wind blowing north pushed at his back. He watched as the grass in the field rolled like waves through the sea. Rolling forward, pushed like him, away, and Reggie walked up the road away from the house, away from the farm. Walked without stopping, more than an hour, straight through the field that turned into sand that slipped out from beneath his feet, the grass of the dunes waving like the field, the wind pushing stronger at his back, all the way to the edge of the sea.