Women gathered at the dock, mothers, wives, girlfriends. One with a baby braced in the crook of an arm, slouched against a rusty railing, smoking. Look, there's your pa, all pasty. Fatter than I remember. The long black shape slunk in, with a great nose on it, but otherwise like a guilty thing, half-submerged. Four or five men on deck doing God knows what outlined against a bright horizon, morning. The mountains still with snow in the creases and the sky half-sun half-thunder cloud. A burger van wafted seaward the smell of frying onions through the gates of the base as two MPs sat in a Land Rover, one with his feet crossed high on the dash, boot toes pushed against the windscreen and the other dangling a warrant in a manila envelope.
The baby fidgeted and began to cry. Ma flicked her cigarette away, exhaled over her shoulder, away from the little girl. The butt marked a shallow parabola, still lit, out into the green sea which flicked the floating cylinder and the rest of the floating debris, smashed pallets, styrofoam burger boxes, shrunken footballs, all local stuff, back against the concrete wall of the quay.
The women drifted off inland. There were warmer places to wait. For some it had become hard to tell what was life and what was interval. The baby chewed on a dummy, looking out at the long black shape in the water. It raised a chubby arm and pointed, out to sea.