Flash: Old Flamer

Image from freedigitalphotos.net

Wind chases waves,
Rolling in the bay,
Thundercloud rumble at the play…

What next?” The poet bounced a pretentious old-fashion feather quill against his lips.

“Maybe, cleaning up your dinner plates.”

The white-haired old man startled, turning around at his candle-lit desk. “Girl, what’re you doing here? There’s a storm rolling in.”

“I’m here same as you, to keep the lantern lit.” Abigail reached around him, grabbing up three plates, a bowl, and two glasses.

“Damn it, you live on the mainland with that no-good mother of yours for a reason.” He grumbled, putting a lid on the dip ink. “Ain’t safe being out here. Not since Akar’s Bridge went.”

“If it ain’t safe for me, it ain’t safe you.” She adjusted the stack before heading to the staircase winding around the outside of the lighthouse interior, each floor within a circle supported against the staircase and the walls.

“It’s my job Abby and you know it.” Francis pushed himself up with his cane to follow her.

“Not since they stopped paying you a salary, grandpa, and you know that.” His smart-mouthed granddaughter dipped the last word in sarcasm and deep fried it. The saucy tone echoed up the metal walls.

He heard the clatter of dishes being added to the others in the sink. It’s been a few days since he bothered to handwash.

Ever since the landbridge to the shore got washed away in early 2020 dropping the old Flamer off the grid again, and the government stopped paying him anything but Social Security shortly thereafter claiming the building no longer qualified as a historic landmark, he had to be careful with the diesel to keep the generator going. No electric for his personal needs, only what was needed to keep the beacon lit.

And washing dishes in cold water set off his arthritis.

“Don’t care.” He panted slightly, stepping off the stairs onto the kitchen level. “Our family been keeping this beacon lit, come hell or highwater, for three generations.”

“What am I, chopped liver?“ His granddaughter cocked her hip to the side and placed a fist on it, shaking a finger at him. “It’s five generations and don’t you forget it old man.”

He sighed, closing his worn eyes a moment. “Abby, don’t follow an old man into his foolishness. Your daddy needs be the last of us to die out on this rock.” Crossing the metal disk doubling as a floor, he used his cane to maintain his balance as it wobbled because the incoming storm pounded the outside of the isolated building.

“Fine, then come with me to the mainland, we got a few more minutes to pull it off in the dingy.” The nineteen-year-old kept up her hard stare, so like his Abby, the one she was named after. When he said nothing further. “That’s what I thought.” She turned around and started the water running. “I topped off the generator before climbing up. You go check the lines for kinks while I get the dishes done before the light goes bad.”

“Abby.” Francis paused at the stair’s landing.

She looked over her shoulder. “What?”

“Thank you, but this has to be the last time. Old Flamer is holding on to the rocks with fingernails.”

“Only if it the last time for you grandpa.” She patted the wall over the sink. “I think Old Flamer has one last nor-easter in him, but it’s time to let go after that. Deal?”

Francis looked up and down the steel steps, the rusty walls that had been his home forever. Where he had grown, buried his parents and his son, laughed with his wife, and chased his grandchildren. Not responding, he headed up the wall playing attention to the wires powering the lantern.

(words 627; first published 11/22/2023)