A.J. Walker


December 2020

Close to the Wind

It was a misty start to the day; all the better for us. Captain Moss told me when I first started that fog was seen as a portent of a good day. He didn’t believe in saints and all that but weather was a different matter to sailors - especially ones sailing close to the wind. Our engine was running quiet as we continued northwards. At least these days with the modern tech we didn’t need to have all eyes on deck for the rocks off the coast or for the interceptor ships of the Scottish Naval and Customs Service. We had two of our small drones forward and aft with their infrareds looking for early signs of bogies. We’d only spotted some small row boats of local fishermen and a larger boat which we had down as a trawler out of Portree. 

We were all experienced at this now and a really tight crew - a true family. It was my tenth trip to Scotland on the whisky run; and I was still considered the newbie. It was the best job I’ve ever had and I was coining it in. Moss was happy that trickle down economics at least worked on his boat. It was a neat deal. We took up beer from the South (what used to be called England before it all went batshit crazy) and we were paid in whisky. The price of beer in the English Entrails was ‘cheap as chips’ according to my mate Billy and the whisky went for ‘crazy money’ when we went back. Basically we used the beer as both ballast and money.

The fog was beginning to lighten up and darken again as we approached our meeting point. We were meeting Wallace - who most the crew had christened Gromit  for some reason (apparently some old TV show or something) - at a small inlet close to the Port Ellen lighthouse. It was great place to meet. It was literally only a couple of hundred metres across from the rocks to the rowdy pubs of Port Ellen - as the crow flies. But it was over two miles following the coast line and even further by road. If there were any overland issues with Customs officials or overzealous police over from the mainland we knew Wallace would have something blocking the road or causing a distraction. We were close but not close enough to worry. Being on the south of the island it was quick and easy to slide away for us and Moss knew the waters very well. 

‘Hey!’ Shouted Captain Moss. ‘Bentley, get yer arse in gear.’

I’d been watching the waves crash against the rocks beneath the lighthouse.  I wasn’t a lover of the sea out in the deep, but I loved it at the edges. I’d done some reading and found out the rocks here were some of the oldest in Britain. Fingers of Dalradian dykes cut out into the sea here like fossilised ribs of some ancient beasts. It seemed a million miles away from the cities I knew in England.


‘Sorry, sir. Captain.’ I ran over to the back of the boat and readied the replacement drones for our outriders; I was going to miss the heavy work with the merchandise. I’d seemed to drift into being the drone master since Smith had been caught selling oysters in Manchester. He only got caught retrospectively as the person he sold them to had then sold them on - the following day - to the Mayor, and he had got sick on them. I would only eat oysters when I was in Scotland. I didn’t like them much to begin with, but when in Rome and all that. In any case I seem to be getting to like them. Perhaps an acquired taste like olives or blue cheese - I say olives but I’ve never had them - I’m only going on what Robbie Davies says. 

Andrea and Barbara came in on autopilot as soon as I sent out Cheryl and Daphne - hey you’ve got to have easily memorable nomenclature, and like the old storm namers from back in the day I chose women’s names. I will neither confirm or deny the allegation from Bazza - aka Vice Captain Wilmott - that they are all names of ‘Bentley’s conquests’. I mean, I should be so lucky, I don’t know when he thinks I would have had the time for this. And in any case the chance of me having a whole alphabet of conquests... did he really think I had the time and inclination to only take home someone to complete an alphabet set - and where would I have met a Daphne?  I only had to go up to Ingrid so far (in terms of drone names). As long as I had enough spares to repair and enough batteries these should suffice for our little trips.

Ingrid was my current favourite, but don’t tell Andrea - but the first always have the most significance, doesn’t she? But Ingrid was our latest - my latest - bird. And she was special: she could lift and deliver a full keg of beer up to 10 miles from the boat. And return with a similar volume of whatever product we were being paid with. The strength of my little beefy bird really was something to behold.


This is the beginning of a story. Wonder where it will go… A.J.Walker, Dec 2020.



Sylvia poured a second gin for Carole and herself. She prided herself in the creation of them.

‘These are always a true work of art, Sylv.’ Carole said. ‘If you ever come around to mine your getting a gin and a splash of tonic. Maybe some ice if I remember if I want to be fancy. I don’t even know what half the stuff is in here.’

Sylvia smiled. She didn’t have an artistic bone in her body, but when it came to gin something seemed to be unleashed.

‘Aye, it is easy. No trouble at all.’ 

Carole carefully tacked the gin trying to avoid stabbing her eye again with the straw, which was just there for effect or to jiggle around the cornucopia in the glass.

‘I suppose you should be good at making these.’ Carole said. ‘After all your years of practice.’

‘I’m not sure what you mean.’ Sylvia took it as a compliment at the time but would later wonder if it was the opposite. 

The third and fourth gins proved to be different again. And were more challenging to drink safely than they were to make.


This was written for Thursday Threads #442. But it was written on Friday i.e. too late for the Threads.
The thread that neede
d to be included was: 'not sure what you mean'.
Thursday Threads is a flash challenge issued each Thursday (hence the name I expect) and takes a line from the previous week's winning story to be used as the prompt.
Check it out to get involved.