The Denoons strolled along the pier at the Pictou Marina, admiring all the boats which were bobbing up and down on the water as seagulls swooped about and mewed in the clear blue skies above.
The Marina Man stepped into the Denoons’ way. “Oh, hello! I’m guessing you’ve come to ride one of our lovely boats?” he asked. “Oh, yes, that’s what we’re looking for,” Port Hawkesbury replied. “By any chance, is it free?” “Yes, it most certainly is! We’ve got lots of them right here,” the Marina Man enthused. Pictou stared out to sea at a large rock towering out of the water. On it lived a colony of puffins. Some were perching, while others were calling loudly, catching fish to eat, and swooping in the air around the cliff edge. “Thanks for your help,” Port Hawkesbury thanked the Marina Man, and the Denoons continued down the pier, admiring more boats floating upon the water.
At the very end of the pier, the Denoons met a young sailor sitting at the wheel of his boat. “Hello, my name’s Port Hawkesbury,” she greeted him. “And I’m Stellarton,” he added. Port Hawkesbury then turned to Pictou, who was still staring at the puffins. “And this is my son, Pictou, who seems to be looking at something very interesting,” she smiled, looking slightly angry. The sailor chuckled. “I can see that,” he smiled too. Port Hawkesbury touched Pictou. “Here,” she called softly and sweetly. Pictou only stared out to sea blankly, and he suddenly wet himself, releasing ammonia into the air. “Oh,” said the sailor. “Just a minute,” said Port Hawkesbury, “I’ll change him.” “Alright. I’ll wait right here,” the sailor accepted, and Port Hawkesbury lay Pictou down on the pier, pulling his trousers down.
Pictou stayed focused on the puffins as Port Hawkesbury changed his wet diaper, sniffing seawater blended with a little ammonia in the air. “What kind of birds are those?” he asked her. Port Hawkesbury took a brief glimpse at the puffins, then she turned back to Pictou. “They’re puffins, my dear,” she told him. “Puffins,” Pictou repeated. “Hmm.” Stellarton and the sailor both watched, Stellarton jotting notes down in his notebook.
Port Hawkesbury wiped Pictou’s backside and slipped him into a fresh, dry diaper. She pulled his trousers back up and placed him onboard the boat, then she, Stellarton and the sailor all joined in. The sailor undocked his boat from the pier and sat back down at the wheel. Port Hawkesbury looked at her ten-year-old son, who was still fixed on the puffins. “You seem to be very fascinated by those puffins, aren’t you, my little Pictou?” she smiled sweetly. “Yeah,” Pictou agreed, and Port Hawkesbury giggled. “Well, being the curious little sweetheart you are, you’ll get to see them up close.” She touched and stroked his hair kindly. “That’s right,” the sailor nodded.
“And here we go!” the sailor announced, starting the engine, and the Denoons all cheered as he drove away from the pier. The boat zipped across the harbour, a strong gust spraying a little seawater onto the crew as they approached the rock.
Just as the sailor prepared to halt, a puffin dived down from the top of the cliff, squawking noisily. “Ooh!” Pictou exclaimed, and the sailor stopped his boat just in time. Pictou watched the puffin bob and swim about in the water, smiling blissfully.
Port Hawkesbury stared at the puffin, then down at the sea into her own reflection. Her face twisted in pain and her lower lip quivered, causing her to sob, her throat tightening. As her tears fell, they hit the surface of the water, distorting her reflection into many ripples. Pictou and Stellarton both heard Port Hawkesbury crying, their smiles turning serious. “No, don’t cry,” Pictou pleaded her in French, sniffing her. But the sailor ignored Port Hawkesbury’s melancholy. “Come look at the puffins,” he encouraged Pictou, and he did just that. “Mmm-hmm, yeah,” he nodded.
Suddenly, a sardine leapt out of the sea. “Oh!” cried Pictou, rapidly looking back down to see the puffin twitching in the direction of the sardine. The puffin paddled over to the spot where the sardine had just leapt out of. Pictou watched eagerly, as did the sailor, while Stellarton tried to calm Port Hawkesbury down.
The sardine suddenly leapt out of the water again – this time right in front of the puffin, who in a split second caught it in its beak mid-air and swallowed it whole. “Ooh!” Pictou exclaimed, staring in awe and wonder. The sailor smiled. “That’s the beauty of nature.” “Hmm, yeah,” Pictou smiled rather disgustedly, but his smile soon turned serious, because of Port Hawkesbury. The puffin paddled about in the water, seemingly satisfied with its catch. “Pretty,” Pictou called the puffin softly as the boat’s engine started back up.
Once again, the boat zipped across the harbour past some flying seagulls, heading eastward towards the Pictou Causeway. Port Hawkesbury buried her face in her hands, her tears seeping through the gaps of her fingers and blending with the sea spray.
The sailor halted beside some barnacle-covered wooden posts with cormorants perching on top. Cars cruised past on the causeway. Pictou gazed at Port Hawkesbury, sniffing, touching and stroking her tenderly. “Please. I’m begging now. Don’t cry,” he pleaded her again in French. “Come look at these cormorants over here,” the sailor called, so Pictou turned around. “Ooh,” he said.
Suddenly, some of the cormorants dived down from the posts, cawing loudly. “Oh!” Pictou cried, and the sailor smiled. Pictou’s look turned serious, staying focused on the cormorants. “These ones aren’t as pretty,” he commented honestly. “No,” the sailor agreed, and Pictou took one last glance at the cormorants as the boat revved away, shaking his head sadly.
The boat turned to head westward back towards the marina, zipping into the way of more seagulls, who quickly swooped out of the way, mewing. The boat paused a few metres away from the Hector Heritage Quay, where some people explored the decks of the Hector. Pictou tried hard to comfort Port Hawkesbury.
“You see that ship over there?” the sailor called. “That’s the ship which the very first Scottish immigrants sailed to Nova Scotia on.” “Yes,” Pictou replied, and he took a closer look at the Hector. “How many people were on board?” “About two hundred,” the sailor replied. “Ooh. That’s a lot of people that one ship can carry, isn’t it?” Pictou remarked. “Yes,” the sailor agreed, laughing, and Pictou smiled.
However, as he took another look at the Hector, his face fell. “Legend has it that when the immigrants were arriving on the coast of Nova Scotia, one of them played his bagpipes so loudly it scared the native people away. They weren’t seen for some time afterwards,” the sailor recounted. “Oh, right?” said Pictou, surprised. “Well, according to legend, anyway,” the sailor laughed again, and Pictou nodded wryly. “Sorry,” he whispered to himself, quickly covering his mouth with his hand.
Pictou took a final glimpse at the Hector as the boat revved up and zipped across the harbour all the way back to the marina. The sailor slowed down to a halt beside the pier, switching off the engine and docking his boat. The Denoons all stepped off board onto the pier. Pictou stared back at the puffins, listening to the faint chorus of noisy squawking. “Still with those puffins, Pictou?” asked Stellarton, jotting down notes in his notebook. “Yeah,” Pictou replied.
“Y’all enjoyed your lovely little boat ride?” asked the sailor, and Pictou nodded seriously. “Good.” “Thanks for the trip,” Stellarton thanked the sailor. “T-thanks so m-much,” Port Hawkesbury blubbered. “Glad you did,” the sailor smiled. “G-goodbye,” she sobbed. “Goodbye,” Pictou and Stellarton bid farewell to the sailor, and they all set off back up the pier. Further out to sea, another young sailor rode the small, calm waves.
The Denoons strolled together along the rocky beach, the stones and pebbles clattering together beneath their feet, and the sea crashing against the shore, battering and eroding the rocks. They spotted an old man picking pearls from oysters littered around the beach with a penknife, and slowly approached him. “H-hello, m-my name’s Port H-Hawkesbury,” Port Hawkesbury blubbered. “And I’m Stellarton,” Stellarton greeted the pearl-picker seriously. He picked up another oyster, turning to Pictou. “What’s your name, love?” “Pictou.” The pearl-picker plucked the pearl from the oyster, making sweet sounds. “Pictou. Such a beloved name.” “Mmm-hmm,” Pictou and Port Hawkesbury both agreed.
The pearl-picker plucked another pearl from another oyster. “Why are you collecting pearls?” asked Pictou. “My good old neighbour makes pearl jewellery,” replied the pearl-picker. “I collect the pearls he needs to make his creations.” “Oh,” said Pictou.
The pearl-picker scoured the beach for more oysters, the Denoons following him. Every time he picked up a pearl, he stored it in his left trouser pocket. “I think I’ve got enough pearls now,” the pearl-picker declared after he’d searched the entire beach, but then Pictou spotted two more oysters lying on the sand. “Oh! I didn’t see those!” the pearl-picker exclaimed, and he laughed as he opened each oyster and plucked the pearls out, storing them in his pocket. “Alrightie. Follow me, everybody.” The Denoons tailed him up to a small jeweller’s shop nearby.
The Denoons and the pearl-picker entered the boutique, where a young man was polishing a pearl ring. As the pearl-picker retrieved his collection from his pocket, one of the pearls managed to drop, bouncing across the tiled floor and rolling into a corner. “Oh!” Pictou exclaimed. “Go get it, little sweetness,” the pearl-picker ordered him. “Alright.” Pictou crept over to the stray pearl and crouched down to pick it up. However, the pressure on his bladder caused him to relieve himself, releasing ammonia into the air. He gasped in shock, as did the Denoons and the pearl-picker, which made Port Hawkesbury cry even more. Stellarton jotted down some notes in his notebook. Pictou picked up the pearl and handed it back to the pearl-picker. “Thanks, my dear.” “Alright.”
“Now let’s give these a good soak,” said the pearl-picker, pouring all the pearls he’d collected today into a bowl of fresh, cold water. He fetched some pearls he’d prepared earlier and gave them to the jeweller. The Denoons crossed over to the other side of the counter as he began to drill tiny holes through each pearl. He cut a length of elasticated thread and carefully passed it through the pearls, tying one end up so they wouldn’t fall off. Stellarton jotted down notes in his notebook as he worked. The jeweller tied both ends of the bracelet together and stretched it out slightly to test its strength. He nodded, and Port Hawkesbury retrieved her credit card as he gave the bracelet a finishing polish. “This’ll be $85.99.” She gagged as she paid that price, taking the bracelet from the jeweller. “Thank you. Here’s your receipt.” “T-thanks,” Port Hawkesbury sobbed as she stored her credit card and receipt in her wallet.
Bidding farewell to the pearl-picker and the jeweller, the Denoons left the shop and began to admire the bracelet. “It’s lovely,” Pictou remarked. “Y-yes,” Port Hawkesbury agreed, blubbering. Stellarton touched and fondled the bracelet. “These are genuine Nova Scotia oyster pearls,” he commented, taking a pearl and rubbing it in between his fingertips. “Mmm-hmm,” Port Hawkesbury agreed, and she cupped the bracelet in her hands as the Denoons strolled back home, the pearls reflecting the sparkling light from her tears.