I expected to be ignored, so it came as a surprise when the ferry woman returned my smile of recognition. Taking it as a hopeful sign, I slowed my steps and veered slightly towards her, ready to abandon any idea of conversation if she should suddenly turn her back on me.

Her boat, the The Sow’s Ear was tied securely to the dock and swayed gently, rubbing against “bumper” tires that protected the weathered boardwalk planks. The smell of river water and mud, mingled with decaying vegetation was strong, but not unpleasant.

“Finished for the day,” I asked, “Or is there an evening tour scheduled?”

“Done. No crossings tonight. It’ll be a peaceful one.” Denim overalls covered a sturdy body and a short sleeved shirt bared hefty forearms, dark from the sun and powerful enough to pole the big boat to the Isle of Ancestors. “Heading for supper. Join me?” she asked, pointing to a diner across the street.

“Thanks, that would be nice,” Nervous that the slightest display of pleasure might cause her to run off, or worse, lead to an hour of awkward silence, I kept my tone neutral and said no more. We’d met once when she’d ferried me to a midnight adventure, but although I’d tried to engage her in conversation both going and coming, she’d hardly uttered a word.

We quickly settled into a small booth at the back of The Salt and Pepper Diner and after we ordered, the ferry woman looked me square in the eye and bluntly asked, “What do you want?” She held up a beefy hand when I began to protest. “No,” she insisted, “you sought me out. Why?”

“I recognized you from Heather’s drawing and wanted to ask your advice on a writing project.” Her eyes didn’t waver, so I continued. “What with all the portraits in one place and the identity poems the Ravens have been writing, I wondered. . . . . . .”

“Not my business, I captain The Sow’s Ear.”

“I thought an interview perhaps, or an anecdote you’d be willing to share. The portrait doesn’t even give your name. I’ve loved Lemuria from the start and only want to know the people a little better.”

“Didn’t see that comin’,” I heard her mumble.

Just then waitress arrived—lemon chicken piled high with mushrooms for me and the largest bowl of beef stew I’ve ever seen. “Here’s your regular, Mir, let me know when you and your friend are ready for dessert.”

(Portrait of Miriam Konrad by Heather Blakey–Soul Food Cafe–www.dailywriting.net)

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