The wharf was abandoned that day. No boats in the harbor. No feet slapping across the wharf’s uneven planks. It stood alone, but hopeful that people would come to enjoy the view, that friendly voices would ring out in the air.
No one came.
So, it sat. Solid and alone.
The sun shone bright and warm and the wharf soaked up the heat. Seagulls soared and circled and the wharf felt a little less lonely. A family of soft brown seals pushed the water in smooth rippled lines.
The youngest one broke from the group and hopped up onto the wharf. It turned its head from side to side, admiring the grayed-brown wood.
The wharf would have smiled if only it had a mouth. It groaned a friendly greeting.
The young seal barked in surprise and hop-hobbled towards the edge. He jumped back into the water and spun in uncertain circles.
The mother called to him in her husky alto.
He turned slowly to look at her. Looked at the wharf. Back at her. He thought about it before barking back his response.
The wharf watched this all with a wharf’s steady gaze and simple patience. Yet, it hoped deep inside its wood and nails that the little seal would come back.
The mother barked a sharp command at her mate and children. She swam over to her wayward child.
He looked up at her with his liquid black-brown eyes and made a soft, childish sound.
She glided over to the wharf and sniffed it with a mother’s studied care. Her long whiskers whispered and tickled its planks. She exhaled a sharp k sound as she sniffed.
The wharf rather liked it.
She sniffled and snorted and shook her head.
The little one head-bumped her throat and made that childish sound again.
She stared long and undecided at the wharf, who tried its utmost best to look respectable and sound.
Time stood still as she deliberated.
They were a frozen tableau. Mother and child in the water facing the wharf. Smooth skin, wet fur, hard wood. They were a nature scene waiting to be painted.
The timer buzzed, signaling the end of my writing hour. I had to shut down my computer and get back to the real world of loading the dishwasher, doing laundry, and dealing with three antagonistic children under five years of age.
It was our special arrangement so I could get some writing done without interruption. They’ve miraculously stuck to their end of the bargain and I’ve stuck to mine.
I looked at that last line. So full of promise.
I wanted to keep going. I wanted to find our for myself if the mother would let the baby stay and play on the wharf. I thought I knew the answer, but stories and characters have their own way of changing an author’s mind.
Maybe she will let him stay.
Maybe she won’t.
It was all up to me to find out the truth and write it down.
But it would have to wait until tomorrow between two and three o’clock.
I had to keep my end of the deal to my children.
And I would keep it.