It was dark, the rain pouring like there was no tomorrow. The river, like an angry wife, displayed its tantrums in full flow.
A lone candle cut through the darkness.
The Coracle Man, as he had done always, sat in his filthy hut at the river bank. Sitting at the same desk from where he had awaited patiently for 30 years, for passengers to ferry across the bank.
It didn’t matter to him that the river was in full fury with the rain lashing hard. Rain or shine, he had been there, moving people from shore to shore.
The river was known for its unpredictability. Calm sometimes, devilish mostly. A lot of men had tried being a boat man… only to be devoured by the might of the river. Only this guy had survived.
The villagers said he possessed ‘special skills’. All these years, he had effortlessly ferried people across the ill-mannered river. Through raging torrents, he had taken people across safely, always.
Though people always felt safe ferrying with him, no one dared to have a conversation with him. He was notorious for not replying to anyone and giving a cold stare to anyone who repeated a question!
‘The only one he talks to is the river’, they said subtly implying that he could as well be half-insane. ‘Doesn’t get any better, you know’, said the village headman.
The villagers knew that they needed him. No one but him had lasted for more than 6 months in the ferrying job and people were scared of the river.
He was now in his 70′s. The prime of his body now gone, the arms and legs no longer strong, he still managed to get his job done well.. only because he now relied on his will power.
Something in him wouldn’t let him retire.
There was some sadness and longingness in his eyes. His cheeks bore the strain of a man who had lost much in life. With every passing day, it grew intense.
“He always lived alone, never had a family”, the villagers said.
The oldest man in the village, through his failing memories, recalled that something bad had happened 30-35 years ago in the Coracle Man’s life and ever since he had lived alone, refusing to talk to anyone.
That night, a stranger who seemed to be in a hurry appeared at the Coracle Man’s hut.
In the dying light of the candle, with a commanding voice, he said he wanted to go to the other side.
Without uttering a word, the Coracle Man got ready. The rain and the river were still having a bout of violence.
The next morning, an empty coracle came floating on the river. The Coracle Man and his passenger nowhere in sight.
Up and down the river banks, the villagers searched for them. No sign at all.
The river was unusually calm that day.
The police came a day later in search of a man who had gone missing. The cops had a photo, an old man in his 60′s or 70′s. No one had seen him, the villagers said.
Few days later, when the villagers cleaned up the Coracle Man’s hut, they noticed a newspaper clipping preserved carefully in his desk. It was the story of a girl who had been murdered and thrown into the river, the accused being an affluent lad from the city.
There was another clipping. This one said the same lad had been acquitted as there was no witness to the murder.
Someone in the crowd mentioned how surprised he was by the silence of the river.. something he had never seen for years.