“Let's give it another go, son.”
Jamie looked as if he was in physical pain; his eyes were almost closed with frustration, and his hands were clasped together behind his head.
“I give up, Dad. Let's just leave it.”
The raft was watertight - Damien knew it, even if his son did not.
“Come on, Jamie. We've worked on this for almost two hours now. Don't give up!”
Jamie fixed his Dad with a stare that looked like it would wilt any plant life unfortunate enough to be caught within his line of angry, brooding sight.
“Dad, we've found what is clearly the most buoyant wood on this beach. We've tied it together as best we can. It doesn't float. And even if it could float, we've also only got a tiny rag for a sail – no wind would take this thing anywhere.”
Damien shook his head.
“Come on, son.”
Damien tried to meet his son's eyes, but to no avail; Jamie subconsciously relegated his eyes to blankly stare at the sandy ground at his father's feet.
“We've tried our best, and it hasn't worked. Ergo, it won't work. Ever.”
Damien smiled, but not unkindly.
“Let me tell you something, Jamie. Every year since 1989, I used to come down here, onto this very beach - Sandy Neck - and make a raft. First it was with my Dad. He always said how lucky we were to live so close to the most amazing bay in America: Cape Cod! Wow! Heh... It got him so excited. After I grew up, for a couple years, I managed on my own. When I met your mother, we came down here and made a raft together. Then you came along, and for some reason, things changed, and I stopped coming down to Sandy Neck beach... Well, no more!”
Jamie's scoff was audible, his voice dripping with the sarcastic attitude that had grown in him over the last year.
Damien couldn't help but raise his voice a little, riled by his teenage son's apathy.
“Let me finish!”
He instantly regretted having shouted: Jamie's face was a mixture of surprise and unanticipated hurt.
It was Damien's turn to have downcast eyes, choosing to gently place a hand on one of the old wooden planks that made up the small, holey raft they had been working on all afternoon, instead of making eye contact with his son.
“I'm sorry, Jamie. It's just that... well, I guess I... urm... I gotta go get more stuff from the car. Wait here, OK? Maybe you could check some of the knots for me. I'll only be two minutes, alright?”
Damien hastily strode off towards the pick up truck parked at the edge of the beach a few hundred yards away, leaving Jamie to mull over the raft, and his thoughts, alone.
“I wonder what that was all about?”
“Maybe it's your attitude, boy.”
Jamie span around to stare at the source of the interruption: a stranger who, unbeknownst to him, had apparently been listening to every word he'd been saying.
“Hey! Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Now, boy, that's no way to talk to your elders, now, is it?”
Jamie stood there, his mouth hung limply open for a moment, before it snapped back closed, teeth clenched.
“I... Don't you know it's rude to speak like that to strangers?”
“Stranger? Stranger... of course. I apologise. I meant no harm nor offence.”
The stranger was a dark skinned, southern man, who spoke with a deep drawl and wore suspenders over a check shirt; Jamie was riled by his laid back attitude, and decided he didn't like him being there.
“I don't know who you are, but I don't appreciate your barging in when I'm clearly busy here. Now, if you don't mind...”
“Heh, heh! I guess that means you really don't recognise me, do you?”
Jamie was stunned; he wasn't sure what to say, so chose to keep his answers short, biding his time, and waiting for things to become more clear.
“Well, I'll be! You don't know me! I know it's been a while, but golly, I thought you'd remember.”
Jamie glanced over towards the parked car, trying to see if his Dad was on the way back yet, swallowed, and looked back at the man.
“I'm sorry, what was your name again?”
“Gee whiz! That I'd be asked to introduce myself to little Jamie Davis!”
“Why, sure! The last time we met, you were just knee high. You and your Daddy used to come down to this very beach an-”
The stranger's eyes looked past Jamie and towards the raft, still lying on the sand beside them. Jamie turned around, following the stranger's eyes.
“Oh, yeah, that's a little project we've been working on.”
“Ah, I see you're both still in business! Hah, hah! That's swell!”
Jamie's eyes lost focus on the old man as his mind momentarily drifted.
“Not really. Dad's not great at this sort of thing, as it turns out.”
“Oh? How so?”
Jamie made eye contact, the old man coming back into focus.
“Well, the lengths and thickness of the cords we're using aren't consistent. The lengths vary from twelve inches to forty, and some of them snapped under the slightest bit of pressure. The right hand side of the raft is more tightly tied than the left, making the left hand side unstable. And the wood we're using is all different lengths, ranging from four feet to almost seven, and the planks are all riddled with holes. The wood isn't buoyant enough to carry me, let alone the both of us. And the sail we've got is a ripped old rag. It needs to be at least, I'd say... triple the surface area to have a hope of moving the raft through the water, especially in these winds.”
“Whoa! That's quite a list of problems you've got there, boy.”
“Common logic, mostly. Dad doesn't seem to get it. But then... he doesn't get a lot of things.”
Jamie was suddenly aware that he was confiding a lot in this stranger so he quickly chose to redirect the conversation.
“So what are you doing here? You're obviously from the south. Why are you here at Sandy Neck?”
“Well, how clever of you to know where I'm from.”
Jamie smiled subtly.
“It's hard to miss your accent.”
“Of course. I suppose you're right. Well, I was born and raised in New Orleans, but came up here after... well... let's just say I decided to go on an adventure at short notice.”
Jamie's eyes narrowed in curious confusion.
“What does that mean?”
“Hey! You! Get away from my son!”
A hand roughly grabbed the stranger and shoved him away from Jamie.
“Jamie, you're right. We've been here too long. Let's get out of here, away from him. How the hell d'you find me, eh? Remembered the stories, did you?”
The old man looked stunned as he regained his balance from being shoved so hard so suddenly, and Jamie stared at his father, mouth agape, aghast that his father would do something like that.
“Dad, that's an old man! Why'd you shove him?”
“Good question, boy, especially as I'm no stranger.”
Damien stared coldly at the old black man.
“You know why, George. Now, leave me and my son alone, or we'll leave ourselves.”
“Dad! What the hell's wrong with you?”
Despite Damien's bad behaviour, the old man nodded, almost knowingly.
“I suppose I should have expected this sort of welcome. Go on, then. Get.”
“I will. And don't you dare follow me.”
The old man shook his head, dismissing Damien instantly; Damien turned and quickly walked towards the car, calling for Jamie to follow him.
“Son! Come on.”
Jamie found himself almost jogging to keep up with his Dad until they reached the pick up truck; Damien pulled away from the car park hastily, the engine roaring into life and the tyres screeching on the dusty tarmac - but even then, a voice could be heard from behind them through the noise of the engine.
“Damien Davis! 1999! I remember Las Vegas!”
Jamie looked at his father from the passenger seat.
“What is he talking about, Dad?”
Damien kept his eyes fixed on the road.
“It's nothing son. Nothing at all.”
Damien wound his window up.
Jamie hesitated for a moment, staring at the stony face of his father, and then did the same.