The old man stood under the low autumn bows of trees, framed by red and yellow and orange leaves. Out in the distance across the lake rose the low, rolling foothills of mountains, barely visible in the morning fog.
He wasn’t a large man, but vital, stocky. He moved deliberately, alternately leaning down close to the surface before him and straightening up again, bringing his critical eye to a point where he could see the whole ebb and flow of the work.
He’d once been a small god, or an angel perhaps, but no more. He’d once believed he had to be more than a man, more aware, more alive, but that was long ago, before he’d met her. Now he was only a man.
His eye ran over the swooping curves in front of him, tracing the fine, compound lines of wood that made up the wide, flat hull of the boat he was working on. About his head swirling sawdust and eddies of breath danced brownian waltzes.
The boat was finished. He had built it for her. Later, they’d sail, in the mid-morning sun, with only the sound of breeze stretching canvas and water caressing the slack sides of the craft. But for now there was still work to do.
He went about rigging the craft. It was slow work, he was not so strong nor fast as he’d once been, so he took his time. Parts previously unconnected became linked, bound by hemp line and love.
He paused, only a moment, to reflect on love. The love that keeps a boat floating long after she should sink, that keeps her going on long after she should have given up. Not a new idea. An old one that made him smile every time it plied its course across the dark pool of his thoughts.
Later they sailed across the lake. Sunbeams, now low and lazy, cut through the sky and water, throwing a riot of light across the canvas sail. He kept one hand on the tiller and the other on the sheet, pulling the sail in. Making the boat go.
She sat beside him, wrapped in a blanket against the cool autumn breeze. He admired her smile and the sparkle in her eye the same way he had run his eyes over the compound curves of the hull earlier, and thought of the way she kept him going. Not by any action, no hands on sheets or tillers. Just by being.
Once he’d been a god, more than a man. Love had prevented him from sinking, had kept him going long after he would have given up. But now he was a man. More than a god.