A/N

Well, here we go.

This is a story I wrote when I was in 7th grade as a school assignment. I must say I considered it rather brilliant back then. Now, not so much. But I haven't tampered it: this was the final draft that I handed into my teacher. Comments are welcome, but I don't think I'll be revising it.

As Mathew rounded the end of the alley he was traipsing through in the early light of pre-dawn, coming back from the bakery with a danish in his hand, he spotted his boat. It was slowly floating away from the dock. Mathew started running.

It was a good five feet from the dock, and gathering speed. Nothing to do but to jump for it. Taking a few paces back, Mathew estimated that he could do it. He ran forward, jumped (danish still in hand), and found that he had estimated wrong.

Spluttering curses at children (in particular, mischievous children) he managed to grab the rope that had tied the boat to the dock. Tugging on it, he led the boat back to the dock. As all sailor men, he was proficient in swimming and made quick work of getting it back to where it should have been.

Mathew heard muffled giggles coming from behind some barrels of fish. He struggled up on the wooden planking and roared. Tying a quick knot to secure the boat to the dock, he leapt up and raced toward where the sounds were coming from. He was a very scary sight to say in the least with dripping clothes, matted wet hair, and a face redder than an apple. Three kids shot out from behind the barrels, laughing and pointing. Mathew followed them for sometime, bent on getting his revenge, but he soon grew out of breath and had to watch them disappear down a narrow alley.

"You…you come back here… again... and I'll getcha!" he yelled, extremely out of breath. He was rewarded by…squeals of laughter?

He sighed. Well at least he had prevented his boat from floating around to who-knows-where. He walked back slowly, getting his breath back and was rewarded by the sight of his danish floating away, out of sight.

Mathew growled and cursed colorfully.

The sun, peaking above the hills on the other side of the bay, cast a bright hue on the wharf with its many boats. The pungent smell of fish, ocean, and quite a few other unidentifiable scents drifted through the air, floating into the many small shops and houses surrounding the quay. The inhabitants of the village were slowly awakening to face the new day.

Mathew moved nimbly back to the boat with a practiced air, he went into his cabin and put on some dry clothes. Then he turned to his stove, still ravenous after his half-danish. Should he have beans, fried beans, or leftover beans? Such a variety, surely he could find something to eat… He hurried back out when he heard lots of shouting. He had forgotten that his boat was untied. Now in the way of a huge ferry and three other small fishing dories like his, he had to move fast.

Today he was having trouble starting his motor. An old, rattling thing that was held together with duct tape, it was being difficult. "Stupid motor…" Mathew grunted. The motor finally started after Mathew thought to put more gas into the tank. The boat had a very small tank that did not hold much fuel; consequently, it was always running out at the most inconvenient times. Finally, he managed to get it out and running. The bay water sloshed noisily against the boat, the occasional piece of debris clanking loudly against the aluminum hull.

Besides having a hull (!), Mathew's boat had a large cabin. It was equipped with a small stove, kitchen sink, bathroom (complete with a toilet and sink), storage cabinets, and bed. He even had a shower out on the deck using large dark water bag, heated by the sun with a hose protruding from it. Mathew's (only) home sweet home was on the boat.

When Mathew came back to the bay that evening he had a full catch of fish. Hauling the bag over his shoulder he headed for the local inn, known as the Black Shiner Inn. He entered through the back door reserved for staff.

"Got a good catch?" inquired Belinda, the owner and cook. She was standing over a pot of stew that was cooking busily on a 6-burner stove. Mathew, in reply, made a non-committal noise.

"Well fine then. Here's your money and off you go." she said in a hurt tone pointing to the door. Mathew left thinking that he hadn't made a very good impression on her.

Mathew crossed the street and headed over toward the pub. He felt eyes staring at him as he entered the door. The village was a proper one, and not many people went to the pub as often as he did. To tell the truth, usually he didn't go that often, but he had been going daily for quite some time now.

"Hey there. Lookin' for the usual?" inquired Bill, the bartender. A rough man, Bill had no trouble dealing with rowdy customers.

"Yep...I've had a tough day." Mathew sighed. Sometimes the pub was the only place he could down out his seemingly endless worries. Bill filled up a large glass of Harpoon, one of Mathew's favorites. He sipped the froth off first.

When Mathew left the pub at around midnight, he was as mad as a wet hen and drunk as could be. Wandering across the street, he went and banged on the inn's door crying "Let me in Belinda! I've nowhere to go…My love!" Red faced from exertion and five too many beers, he passed out.

When he came to, the grey mist of dawn was creeping around the buildings. He sat up, his head spinning crazily. Maneuvering carefully, to spare his head, he stood up. He walked down to the wharf slowly, where he got into his boat. Starting the motor, Mathew groaned at the sound of the two cycle engine echoing through his head like a giant coffee grinder. Going out when it wasn't completely light out and him having a hangover was not a good mix, but he felt that he needed to get away from the village and his shameful reputation of being a drunkard.

Once Mathew had reached open water, he set the boat on a course and went into the cabin to retrieve his pellet gun. He was very proud of it partly because his father had given it to him, but also, it was an expensive and powerful European brand. On the deck again, he looked around for a good target. A couple of boat lengths away a flock of seagulls swarmed over what looked like…..fish!

Before he got out his fishing gear though, Mathew wanted to do some target practice. Quickly he took aim - and was almost knocked down. The boat had shuddered violently as a seal swam head into it. Looking slightly stunned, the grey seal gazed up at him. Mathew gazed back at it. The seal seemed like part of the sea. It was bobbing in time with the small waves that crossed the ocean. Sleek, with a thick hide, the seal seemed to blend seamlessly into the ocean.

Mathew raised his gaze. He saw seals everyday. This one was no one special. He has more important fish to fry. Mathew gave a half-hearted laugh at his poor joke. Looking out at the horizon, he realized the fish were slowly moving away. He started and turned around to prepare his nets.

Suddenly Mathew knew why he was having such a hard time with life and his drinking problems. He didn't feel comfortable, or happy, with his surroundings. For him to be content, he had to learn to be happy where he was and with who he was. He felt as light and as happy as a swan. He could probably fly! What a marvelous feeling! And all because of one silly seal. As if the seal heard him thinking this, it winked at Mathew and was gone without a trace.

In the midst of his joyfulness a most unexpected thing happened. Kerplunk! went the motor as it died. Mathew was stranded in the middle of the sea.

Time passed and Mathew began to lose hope that he would ever be noticed and rescued. Since he had his fishing gear, Mathew was able to catch fish, but his emergency water supplies that he kept on the boat at all times were running low.

When Mathew didn't show up all week with his catch of fish, Belinda knew something was wrong. Leaving the inn, she made her way to the wharf. Mathew's boat was gone. She made her way rapidly to dock 22b, where her departed dad's ancient boat was kept.

As Belinda raised the sails the wind picked up a notch as if to help her on her courageous journey. Gliding out of the harbor, she noticed a flock of birds off to her right. About and hour later she also saw a grey head, almost invisible, bobbing in time with the sea. A seal! She hadn't seen one of those in years! The bay was so polluted they generally stayed far away. Doing a few hasty tacks, energy renewed, she tried to get closer. But alas, it was not to be. The seal slipped back into the sea leaving no trace that it had ever been there. Belinda cried, "No no no! I give up! I'm turning around right now!" Belinda tried not to let the tears slip out and started colorfully swearing. She had wanted to see that seal so badly and was discouraged at not finding Mathew and his boat after so many hours at sea. Shoulders sagging, Belinda prepared to head back to shore.

Mathew was awoken out of his stupor by a wild "No no no!" chorus and loud swearing. Crawling out of his cabin, he managed to get up on deck. There, in the distance, was a boat that had just come into view with a person cussing loudly in it. The wind had buffeted his powerless boat into a little cove where it had been caught between some rocks. Lurching up, he stumbled across the deck and tried to make enough sound and movement to attract the attention of the other boat. "Over here! Over here!" he rasped.

Just as Belinda was completing her 180-degree jibe to go to back to shore, she heard a distant shout. Dropping her string of curses she looked where the voice was coming from. Tucked into a little outcrop of rocks was Mathew's boat and…Mathew himself! Filled with a new energy, she tacked and made for the cove.

"Hop in, I think we'll have to leave your boat here," said Belinda. Mathew, still dazed, but having recovered some of his senses said,

"Okay… Thanks, I owe you one." Mathew replied. Belinda, so delighted that shehad actually found him, laughed. It was a deep, throaty laugh, not delicate like a "proper" lady's should be. Yet, all the same, Mathew found it attractive.

3 months later, Mathew and Belinda got married by the sea. A beautiful day predicted a long and healthful marriage. As if a present from the sea, that day Mathew's boat washed up on shore in excellent condition. Mathew gave up going to the pub and learned how to be happy with who and where he was. He moved in with Belinda at the newly christened Grey Seal Inn. They both prospered and lived long, happy lives along with four children and one hydrangea bush that came along later… but that's another story!