the Last Newspaper in the World
23 January 2015
24 ON BEING HERE
It was winter dark by the time we had finished. Instead of going home, or joining the others at The Strand, I drove over to the beach. The air was much cooler now but the wind had dropped and there was no rain. A half-moon provided a dim light. The store and café were closed with only night lights on. Grabbing a jacket from the back of the car, I walked over the dunes to the beach. Foam glittered in the moonlight on rows of even waves. Suddenly I felt very calm but sad that my home town was changing forever. I turned to look back and saw Angelique standing on top of the dunes behind me wrapped in a blanket. I walked up to her through the sand, feeling like I was wading through quicksand. When I reached her, she said nothing but opened the blanket to fold me into her. We stood together. It was warm.
A light flickered somewhere and turning around we could see a 4 x 4 coming down the hill with its warning lights on.
‘What’s that do you think?’ I said.
‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘Let’s go and have a look?’
Reluctant as I was to leave behind the moment, I followed Angelique down to the road. As the vehicle came down the hill and drew closer to the T junction by the store, I saw that it was a police vehicle driven by Jimmy. It was towing a large sea-going waka his people had been building. We had featured a story on it recently, something to do with carvings. The boat was being built to commemorate the past and connect the tribe. Jimmy nodded to me as we walked over to the truck when it stopped at the junction.
‘Jimmy, hi. Does Mr Stead know you’ve borrowed this truck?’ I asked.
‘Of course, it was his idea.’
His father sat beside him, with the crew in a convoy of vehicles behind them. They drove over to the beach access and backed the trailer down on to the sand until they reached the hard, wet sand. Angelique and I went back up on to the dunes to watch. The crew had parked their vehicles and walked down with their gear to the beach. When they were ready an old woman said a prayer and Mr Tatua led a haka. He said something to Jimmy, who stepped away from the others and waved to us. We went down the beach, the blanket licking the light sea breeze.
‘The old man has invited you onboard,’ Jimmy said, nodding towards his father who was making final preparations for the launch.
I felt the palm of Angelique’s hand on my back, saying farewell as I quietly stepped forward. We were in a good area for a launch. The swell was a little lower as the current ran out from shore. Jimmy backed the trailer into the shallows and we heaved the waka seawards. Mr Tatua signalled me to climb on board next to him at the rear. Jimmy took up the steering oar behind us and the crew began to paddle hard through the lines and out beyond the surf. I looked up and the sky was clear now, the moon lighting the bay like it was extra day. Standing unsteadily next to Mr Tatua, I looked back to the beach and saw Angelique fully encased in the blanket. I didn’t know where we were going, but I knew where I was.
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Copyright © 2012 Mick Stone
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