Futh stands on the ferry deck, holding on to the cold railings with his soft hands. The wind pummels his body through his new anorak, deranges his thinning hair and brings tears to his eyes. It is summer and he was not expecting this. He has not been on a ferry since he was twelve, when he went abroad for the first time with his father. It was summer then too and the weather was just as rough so perhaps this should not be taking him by surprise.
His father took him to the ferry's cinema. Futh does not remember what they saw. When they sat down, the lights were still up and there was no one else in there. He remembers having a bucket of warm popcorn on his lap. His father, smelling of the lager he had drunk beforehand at the bar, turned to Futh to say, "Your mother sold popcorn."
She had been gone for almost a year by then, by the time Futh and his father took this holiday together. Mostly, she was not mentioned, and Futh longed for his father or anybody to say, "Your mother . . ." so that his heart would lift. But then, when she was spoken about, she would invariably be spoiled in some way and he would wish that nothing had been said after all.
"In those days," his father said, "the usherettes wore high heels as part of the uniform."
Futh, shifting in his seat and burying his hand in his popcorn, hoped that the film or at least the trailers, even adverts, would start soon. Some people came in and sat down nearby, but his father went on just the same.
"I was there on a date. The girl I was with didn't want anything but I did. I went down the aisle to the front where your mother stood with her tray all lit up by the bulb inside. She sold me a bag of popcorn and agreed to meet me the following night."
The lights went down and Futh, tensed in the dark auditorium, hoped that that would be it, that the story would end there.
His father leaned closer and lowered his voice. "I drove her up to the viewpoint," he said. "She had this very pale skin which glowed in the moonlight and I half-expected her to feel cold. She was warm though - it was my hands that were chilly."
The screen lit up and Futh tried to focus on that, on the fanfare and the flicker of light on expectant faces, and his father said, "She complained about my cold hands but she didn't stop me. She wasn't uptight like some of the girls I'd taken up there."
Futh felt the warm pressure of his father's thigh against his own, felt the tickle of his father's arm hairs on his own bare forearm, the heat of his father's beery breath in his ear hole, his father's hand reaching into his lap, taking popcorn. Finally, his father sat quietly back in his seat to watch the start of the film and after a few minutes Futh could tell by the sound of his breathing that his father had fallen asleep.
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore is published by Salt. Read our review.