top of page

The Message From Asinara

There is a boat far out on the Tyrrhenian Sea, prow-bent for Sardinia. A man on the deck furrows his brow, strains for the white of sand, the shadow of hills. He has been a week travelling: by punt, paddle-steamer, horse and carriage, the last few yards on foot. He flung his baggage into the first boat to take him across the sea. The skipper took the money and directions, asked no questions, pulled at his cap, told his boys to cast off.Elbows on the rickety rails, the man gazes over the violet sunset water and breathes tar and fish-scales, smells the hot rum he holds in his hands. At the end of the deck, two crewmen sit smoking, their backs bare and black, salted from sea and sweat, hard hands paying out the rope, slowly setting the net. They scratch at their bristles, stare at the dolphins blowing in the wake, steal glances at the stranger leaning against the rails.‘What’s his story?’ says Silvano, letting go a bit more line.‘Who cares, long as he’s paying;’ answers Pedestro.‘Hope he’s already stumped up, he’ll go in if he’s not careful. Those rails weren’t meant for brooding on.’‘Best watch he don’t,’ grumbles old man Pedestro, ‘bad for the fishing is that. Poisons the water does a drowning.’Silvano knocks out his pipe, relights it. The old ash glows red by his feet. It catches the stranger’s eye and he looks startled, moves away further down the deck into darkness.‘Can’t even see him now, blast it,’ mutters Pedestro, ‘first we’d know’d be the splash and crush of him under the keel, then no doubt he’ll get himself stuck in the net and make a wreck of that too. Bloody bastard.’Silvano laughs, feels his arm tugged against the weight of the net, ‘Hold off grumbling – we’ve hit a shoal. Either that or your man’s in the water already! Get off your arse and pull!’

bottom of page