Fiona Purves + Karen Dawson

The Leaving

Friday, November 7th, 2008

The dancing had started long before the sun went down. Music sprang from every corner of the little boat, and their feet were a blur as they flew around the deck. But as the moon rose in the sky and the street lights began to illuminate the happy revellers, the excitement grew and the chatter turned to the new life ahead.

Will there be dancing in the new country? The children asked.
Of course, of course. Every night probably.

The adults danced and laughed and the children ran from one side of the deck to the other, pointing out the houses they knew. The gabled roofs shone in the moonlight, the lights of the boat sparkling as they reflected on the darkened windowpanes.

Look, there is Frau Goldinger’s house, one cried.
And see, my grandmother’s old home, another laughed.

Alongside the boat the river ran, chill and deep, grey now and colder as the sky darkened around them. It grew rougher as the river widened out towards the open sea.

Will there be cake in the new country? a small boy wanted to know.
Every day, every day, the adults told him.

The children were happy at this, and danced faster and faster. Some of them began to sit together for warmth and pull their coats or shawls tighter round their shoulders as the clouds grew heavier. They were growing tired, and some of the musicians changed their music to a slower rhythm. They played tunes from the countryside, from their childhoods, and some of the older passengers sang quietly to each other.

Will there be peace in the new country? a mother asked, wrapping her baby tightly.
There must be, they told each other.
For sure, For sure, they nodded and smiled.

The adults spoke less now, each lost in their own thoughts. Somewhere an old voice still sang quietly. The smell of the salt sea was around them now, and some of the little ones sniffed the air, like puppies. The dancing had slowed at first and finally stopped. And the children drifted into sleep, as the little boat carried its precious cargo out, out to sea.