Esowista 3 and 4

3.

At the end of the road, and across a short ferry, is the Esowista Market Barge.

 

The Osprey’s first sailing was at eight every morning. As always, she was full of visitors to the Esowista. Her sister, the Raven, carried staff, and began much earlier.

This morning, the Osprey’s twin pontoons cut slowly through the morning fog still lifting off of the water. Her captain, Mike Bowman, knew most of the passengers by name. It was usually the regulars that made the morning runs. The tourists would come later in the afternoon.

One group, however, was new.

“Morning,” Bowman greeted them. “I’m Mike.”

The group said a subdued hello. Mike suspected their morning coffees had not kicked in yet.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen you before. Have you ever been on the Esowista?” Bowman asked.

“No,” said a woman that Bowman had the feeling was the leader. “We got up early, because we heard about the bakery.”

Bowman smiled. “Great donuts,” he said. “Also, muffins. My favorite thing to do is take a coffee and a pastry upstairs to Sunshine Coast, that’s the plant shop. If you ask nicely, Sue will let you through the back. She has a ladder up to the roof. There’s a secret garden up there.”

All the regulars nodded in agreement. The garden wasn’t terribly secret. It covered most of the roof, and there was plenty of room to find a quiet space for breakfast.

The trip was short. Before there were any more questions, the Osprey was pulling alongside the floating dock at the base of the Esowista’s port-side.

“Look!” said someone in the new group. “Otters!”

Indeed, two otters were floating beside the dock. They were used to the ferry traffic and blatantly ignored their Instagram fame.

“Be careful on your way up the stairs,” Bowman warned the new group. “This mist will make them slippery.”

His passengers thanked him as they disembarked. Almost all of them headed to the bakery, except for the few that were keen to discover today’s new inventory at Beachcombers thrift shop. Since no one on board was heading back yet, Bowman turned around to return to the mainland dock. The next sailing was scheduled for eight-thirty.

 

4.

At the end of the road, and across a short ferry, is the Esowista Market Barge.

 

The rat was running for its life through Eldorado Antique Shop. Pegleg, the barge cat, was in hot pursuit. The rat ducked under a Mid-Century Modern couch, and then raced up the side of an Art Nouveau desk. The cat cut around the chair and tried to cut the rat off at the corner of the desk. Pegleg couldn’t keep his footing in the turn, and slid into the desk’s leg, instead.

“Dang it, Pegleg,” shouted Eldorado’s owner. He started to get up from behind the counter to try halt the chase before the animals ruined any merchandise. “Captain’s got to get some exterminators in here,” he muttered under his breath.

Of course, he was too late to intervene and the action had moved on to the hallway outside of the shop. Since most of the vendors were closed for the evening, there were no screams of startled visitors.

The rat ran past Sunshine Coast and then dodged right, toward the conduit passageway grate that led down to the first floor. If it could make it to the grate, Pegleg wouldn’t have time to go down the stairs at the far end of the hallway and cut back across Beachcombers’ storefront.

Pegleg had anticipated this strategy, and was close behind, despite losing sight of the rat past the hanging curtains at the entrance of Eldorado.

However, the rat was too fast, disappearing down the grate just before Pegleg caught up to it.

Pegleg meowed forlornly at his missed opportunity, but then retraced his steps to track down the French fry from Motor Launch that the rat had dropped near the beginning of the hunt.