The two boys, Acolyte and Eblow Frink, sat underneath the up-turned table. The heavy oil-skin table cloth was laid over the feet of the table and tied to each with hairy white string and drooped down in the centre. The brown underside skimmed the top of their heads when they lifted their chins to talk to each other so they shifted their weight onto their knees and leaned in, supported on their elbows. Heads almost touching, they could whisper and nod almost undetected.
In their Sphinx like position they could watch the daylight fast disappear as the sun sank into the ground. The darkness of the large room engulfed them. The feeling of being the centre of their own universe grew as the silence weighed down on the canvas undersurface of the cloth above their heads. It flapped gently, like a sail slapping in a false breeze.
“Now what?” Queried Eblow.
“Let’s go somewhere. These boards we are kneeling on, they are just like the planks of a raft.”
They could just see each other in the last glimmerings of the fire, like distant sparks of stars in the hearth. Acolyte leaned over and took the large wooden spoons out of the cooking pot and passed one to his brother and kept the other.
“We can paddle our way to somewhere. Let’s go.” Acolyte shifted on this knees, nudged his brother to do the same and started to use the large pot-stirring spoon as a paddle. Eblow followed suit.
“Where are we going? Is it far?” Asked Eblow eagerly.
The dogs, hearing the excitement in their voices roused from the hearth side and clambered aboard the raft, scrambling for a position at the prow. Heads licking at each boy as they began to paddle.
The last of the light from sunken sun, from embered stars disappeared and the two boys raised and lowered their arms rhythmically. Time passed and they maintained their motions. The spoons felt heavier. The spoons, their paddles, felt heavier; felt larger. Their paddles surged and their rocking bodies moved as the dogs wriggled proudly and the sail-cloth filled and flapped with the draught.
In the distance they heard the sirens but they kept paddling hard and the dogs yapped and howled to blot out the noise. The sirens passed by.
“Look out for the whirlpool!” The boys and dogs leaned to the side and pushed the two paddles deeper into the now rushing waters. The current tried to drag them out to the raging vortex but by perspiration and desperation they managed to keep near the skirted shore of Charybdis. And beneath them the planks eased their surging, settled into a rhythm in time with their tiring arm strokes. The movements lessened, the dogs eased themselves away from the prow and lay along the middle boards. Long and lean grey-mustered coats over their bodies and out-thrust paws on which they rested their heads. Each of their eyes relaxed and white rolled into view but never closed. Eyes and brains always alert for danger, noses ever ready to twitch into action.
Into the calming, gently rocking arms of sleep the two boys had to rest. Wordlessly they agreed to settle on the boards and snuggle their heads into the warming napes of the dogs. Each boy put an arm over the shoulder of their dog and sought the warming forearm of the brother. They had journeyed long and hard through the night. Now let their bark drift as it would, onto the beach with the rising tide or into the rising sun.
The boat nudged onto the gravel beach and off and on again with the incoming tide. The growling under the planks roused the dogs and they in turn woke the boys with their wet nosed nudges.
As they wiped their eyes and the dogslime from their cheeks, the boys could hear loud snorting and scuffling from the edge of the tall spiny grass that lined in clods along the tops of the dunes. The dogs jumped off the flat bottomed boat and ran to the base of the high dunes and stopped suddenly, wagging their tails and buttocks excitedly. Each boy clambered out, careful to drag the boat higher up the beach before moving off. Before they reached the dogs the cacophony exploded into a noisy riot of grunting, squelching and snorting. Pushing, nipping, struggling for position and shoving themselves together and around a tall figure amidst them a small herd of disgruntled pigs or rather boars, polarised on the central woman casually walking into the view of the boys and the enthusiastic dogs.
The melee reached the hounds, the woman stopped. The circulating pigs kept up their excited motion, almost a whirlpool in themselves. She knelt down to the dogs and favoured them with a smile and a hand on each head. The dogs sat and savoured the touch of her delicate palms and fingers as they stroked. Acolyte and Eblow grew nearer, their smiles getting broader as they closed the gap.
“Aunt Circe!” They both called out together.
“How are you boys? Don’t mind these noisy things, they are only jealous.” She looked around sternly. “Be quiet! Be Still!’ In a cold and icy voice. They stopped. Hushed and stilled as if to stone.
“Well, it is nice to see you both. Dawn is always a beautiful time of day here. It’s ideal strolling along the beach with the sun bursting out of the sea and warming everything. The sand just shimmers with the joy of it and each of its every crystal helps to warm me through the day. And me with my playthings here”. She circled her arm languorously over the heads of the pigs, their eyes watching her slightest movements, “What more sport could I want. Except maybe to see you two growing boys; almost men, I should say.” She scanned them keenly, top to toe and back again, a sweet smile following her appreciative gaze. Her breath deepened slightly and her pose adjusted as she moved a leg and cocked her hip to send a ripple through the folds of her opaque saffron shift.
The huddle of swine around her grew anxious.
“My regards to your father, and your mother, of course.” She pondered briefly. “Perhaps you should be gone now.”
With that, and a peremptory sign of her hand, she signified goodbye, turned her gaze to the further beach and with a sigh of clothing swayed softly away from Eblow and Acolyte. The pigs, as if awakened from a dream began their clamour around her and moved as a swarm circling nectar.
The dogs and boys watched as the woman walked casually away, not looking back or down at the noisy herd about her feet.
“She’s right. We should go.” Eblow turned to his older brother who was still watching his aunt Circe moving along the beach. “Acolyte! Father will be missing the dogs. He can’t go to work without them! We must go. Now!” He turned his brother toward their boat, their raft. The makeshift sail once again sagging from its short masts. The dogs turned with them and boarded while the two young men pushed it into the surf and clambered aboard. The tide, reversing itself, carried them into deeper water and the the breeze picked into the sail and pushed them along.
The sun warmed them and soon they all dozed on the boards. Boys resting on the settled shoulders of the hounds. All eyes closed and soon all in the depths of sleep.
The sun flashed into their eyes as they startled awake. Their father was rushing round the kitchen. His form as a giant from their low position on the floor.
“Wake! Wake! The day is here! I need to loose the hounds to the gate. I must hurry boys!”
He banged an upturned tableleg with his heavy staff that almost shook the whole table. The dogs jumped up, tumbled out from the drooped edge of the tablecloth and sat at the giant’s feet waiting for the titbit of breakfast.
“Turn to you mother!” He called over his shoulder as he collected his hooded cape from the hook behind the door and picked up his common bag with a swipe of his other hand and swept out of the front door like a force of Nature. The dogs hurtled after him.
The boys chatted with their mother. Of their visit to aunt Circe. That they had grown so well and how graceful she looked. “Even beautiful in her saffron shift!” Said a hesitant Acolyte. She listened to their brief adventure and pondered the vagaries of family. At the end of the tale she spoke kindly, seriously.
“Boys. Young men that you are, it is time you stopped having these childish adventures. Or at the very least this one. You should never visit aunt Circe alone. Not any more. Only with your father or me, in his ferry. She is a sorceress and may not be able to resist tempting even you. Have other adventures by all means but do not become one of her playthings.”
Acolyte looked at Eblow. He returned the gaze. They nodded assent. Both agreed to do as their mother bid.
“Put the table back on its legs. And the table-cloth where it should be.” As she went out into the garden to feed the geese by the riverside.
Eblow read Acolyte’s mind. “No more childish adventures. From now on, it’s adult adventures!”