The Pier

by Mike Hemming

Gone now, she was a gritty version of the yellow brick road to adventure. But she was made not of bricks, but of concrete stained with oil, paint, garbage and just years. Shoe leather of thousands of young feet added their patina to her filth and wear. Covered with cables carrying electricity to boats that added ozone smell to the air above her. Fuel hoses leaked their rainbow sheen onto her concrete and the water below. Seagulls messed her surface in daylight, evil-eyed rats scurried in her shadows during night's darkness.

She had a number but the men, her lifeblood, never used it. She was always just the pier. Cabbies knew where to go when a young sailor got in and said or mumbled,

"Take me to the pier."

If he had Dolphins on, he got back to 'the pier' drunk or sober.

During the day, she was alive with comings and goings, men and machines used her. Cars carrying important men and trucks carrying important things traveled her length. Those men less important walked her stained, cracked and pitted surface. But they all used her to reach her reason for being. The black submarines tied up alongside her.

The men used her as a kind of launching pad to adventure and boredom. Foreign lands, exotic women, strange and wondrous sights awaited those who walked her length. Crossing the brow from concrete pier to black decks meant none of those wonderful things, too. It might mean long days keeping quiet in a cold northern sea. Or roasting in hot tropical oceans for a seeming eternity, for who knows what result.

The pier led to the Med, Caribbean, Far East, Pearl and Perth. Lands of fun and frolic. She led young boys to sea, but mostly returned young men full of swaggering life with Dolphins on their chests.

She saw them leave loved ones behind in tears and returning to smiles and yells of joy.

"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy's home!"

Then one day one of her charges didn't return. Instead of joy, sadness down her length and tears fell again on her surface. Instead of kisses of welcome from wives and squeals of joy from children, horrible never to be forgotten words were said.

"I'm sorry, she's overdue and presumed lost."

A crew has walked her surface one last time and will no more. Her boat will never again tie to her cleats and rest easy alongside for protection, rest and replenishment. Strong and sturdy but the years took their toll. Wind, wave, weight, tide and time aged her. She survived many more years since that day until she was replaced by progress. But that day may have broken her heart as it broke all our hearts.