hobart logo

December 27, 2018 Fiction


C. Allen Harrison

Two photo

I took a ferry there with Babas—I was calling her Babas—she was calling me Clod I think. Or I was calling her Naners. And she was calling me—no—was she calling me Teafoam? 

Whatever was written on the paper in my pocket that day. 

And anyway there was that you know that smell of feet inside the ferry and that highhum everywhere in my head and everyone breathing into paperbags. Fog thick on the water through where the window-plastic was unscratched enough to see and waterdrops breaking and sliding whichever way was down when they slid—or no—because of the wind.

Then girders slid out of the fog. 

They pulled us against the tires and tied the ropes and we stumbled across the board wet grinding against the concrete. Graywet claplets below. Babas squatted against a metal-pole and put her chin on her knees. I felt it in my knees too.

There was the sound of buckets slapping water and sloshes along the ferrydeck. Metal-pings and that metalbar-arm swung above us. They were hooking canvas-bundles onto the concrete—horseoil and deer-teeth and bearcock—the canvas sagging against the concrete running water and rotgrit from the folds. They were walking rubberbooted tearing paper and slapping it onto the canvas. The papers soaking limp. Rubberbooting across the board toeflicking water along the deck and into the cabin.

Babas turned her face across me. Her eyewhites bluewhite. Fog catching in her hair. Her bag crumpled on the concrete the straps wicking water. I hooked a strap with my toe and slid the bag to against her leg. 

“Better to stand.”

Voices turning in the fog and the sound of canvas wet-whooshing. Everyone pushing around us. It moving in my knees the way the concrete moved. She was looking at her bag.

“Don’t do that.”

She eased her neck. There was pushing against my back and I put my hand quick on the metal-pole. Ankles against my ankles. Shins shifting against Babas. Someone easing a flatcart through the crowd and they stepping over it it sliding against my legs. Feet slapping across the board. They hefting plastic-bundles tight from their shoulders onto the cart the wheels metal-clanging against the concrete. Babas her face away from them holding her palm on her ear.


Legs shuffling between Babas and me. I leaned my hip against hips. The bundle-thuds thudding thicker. Squeezing burstlets into the fog. Dripping gritwater along the plastic. 

The concrete tipped and I put my hand quick on an arm.


That rubber-and-puddle sound. They pushing people. Surrounding the cart. Their hands on the bundles. Set the paperpad on the cart. Kneeling and turning their heads. Fingers along the bundle-seams. One of them set a razor on the plastic and everything swelled. Hands pulling the bundles. Someone grabbed the razor. Rubberboots kicking. And Babas took the bag and stood stepping sideward her elbow stiff with the bag against her leg. I stepped toward her. 




But fingernails twisted into my back and my shirt tugged into my armpits. I pulled the paper—Teafoam or whatever—from my pants-pocket and waved it. Babas turning her shoulders between them dipping her head around arms and into the fog. 

And the paper was pushed against my chest. 

At the land-end of the pier there were pickups clustered and drifting exhaust. Men squatting against the fenders holding cigarettes with their lips rubbing fingertips against their eyes or standing leg-cocked with a foot on the edge of a pickup-bed and sipping from a steam-wisping papercup. Seagulls pecking a pile of flyswarmed plastic-bags oozing peanut-oil and char. Women sitting on stools pulling knives along mangoes piling shreds of peel curled on the dirt. The streetdust damp and clumped. The air clear above it to knee-height and the sound of it—I don’t know—not-moving—the sound of that still-air above the dust. 

I bent and put my hands on my thighs. Slid them to on my knees. 

I felt my kneecaps twitching slow against my palms. 

My knees were calming—


almost calm.




image: Flash Bros