Sail Forth – Bronwyn Hughes

I took off my grimy apron as she loosened another cigarette from the pack in her oversized, paint-covered smock. “If you’re going to smoke,” I said, pulling her to her feet, “let’s go out back.”

Outside, she sat on one of the cement steps next to the walk-in fridge, between the recycling bins, scooting to one side so I could join her. I shook my head, not wanting to get my linen dress dirty. 

“So what’s going on?” I coaxed, mindful that we only had a few minutes before the morning rush. Strains of heavy metal music came from the auto-repair shop next door, where Benny started work every morning at six, waiting until eight to be our first customer.

“Today’s the unveiling,” she whined, playing with the laces on her paint-splattered Doc Martens.

I put my hands on my hips and stared down at her. So talented and creative, she had easily won the design contest for the three-story mosaic mural celebrating Mobjack’s sailing team winning the national championship. “It’s not like you to worry about what other people think,” I prodded, impatient to know what was wrong. 

“I’m worried you’ll be pissed because the mural they’re going to unveil isn’t based on the approved design.” 

“Excuse me?” 

My father-in-law, Dwight Sr., had converted the former department store in the center of town into office space to house his growing law firm. As a favor to his granddaughter, he agreed to let the sailing team put a mural on his building with one condition: He had to approve the design. Sylvia’s profile of Coach Kent with a line of triumphant sailboats in the distance met with Dwight Sr.’s conservative approval. Everyone contributed broken pottery, tile, mirror shards, and ceramics, along with locally abundant materials like piles of oyster shells and colorful sea glass. When the scaffolding came down, an enormous drop cloth clung from the roof of Dwight Sr.’s building, concealing the mural for today’s ceremony.

Sylvia ran her hand through her salt-and-pepper shag-cut before looking up at me. “I altered the design when I made the template. That’s why I insisted on keeping the project tightly veiled until today.” 

“Oh my God, Syl, what’s on that wall?” I squeezed my temples, imagining the worst.

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