The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

05 November 2016

Of Madeline and the lighthouse keeper

Peter LaRoche was a cranky, crabby man. He rarely said a word to anyone, which was probably a good thing because his words would likely not have been kind. 
He manned the light on a slender spit of land where harbour met the sea, and he took that work very seriously. He was meticulous in the completion of his duties. He never squandered time or money. He was methodical and precise in all things. And he was lonely. 
People in town assumed Peter was alone by choice, and cranky by nature. They never thought to listen to his story to find out where he was from or if his heart was whole. Instead, when he entered the store to carefully select his meagre rations, the women doing their own shopping would fall silent around him. The same scene would play out in the hardware store when he’d stock up on nails and kerosene. This would happen week after week. He would row away from the solitude of his lighthouse to endure the silence of aloof townsfolk. 
Until Madeline came. She was hired to take over the public library after old Mr. Robson retired. 
Madeline Smith, librarian, was going to change Rose Passage, but no one would ever expect it from the look of her.  She seemed perfectly librarian-like: quiet, organized, mostly plain, and helpful. If you looked closely, though, you would note a mischievous dimple in her cheek and a glint of red in her hair – and most tellingly of all, she wore purple-framed glasses. 
Miss Smith and Mr LaRoche first crossed paths at Stella’s – a home-style restaurant with rooms to let overhead. Peter was sitting alone for his one-meal-out-a-month that was all he allowed himself. Madeline helped herself to the seat opposite him, and with chin in hand, she twinkled at him, and proceeded to talk his ear off. (She was quiet, yet, but knew how to tell a story.) Other diners fully expected Mr LaRoche to scowl or even stomp out, but to their surprise he merely watched her and ate his meal. He didn’t say a word to her but that didn’t stop Madeline from continuing to talk to him whenever she met him at the grocer’s, or passed him in the street. 
The news was quickly shared from neighbour to neighbour the day Mr LaRoche was seen to actually speak to Miss Madeline. They were eating ices under a tree in the square, Madeline idly kicking her legs, watching the clouds while the man talked. What anyone would have given to know what was said!
Gradually, one brave soul after another would extend the lightkeeper a greeting, or offer some remark about the weather, to which Mr LaRoche would respond with a nod and a smile. More and more people registered for library cards with the desire to discover what powers Miss Smith may have, to make the mute speak and the cranky smile. Instead of magic, they discovered Madeline’s natural friendliness and kindness. Somehow they found themselves joining garden clubs and bridge parties with people they never would have spared a thought for before Madeline set them in each other’s path.
Many librarians have a gift for matching a reader to a book, but Madeline’s particular knack was for putting people together. Rose Passage became a town of friendship where not one soul was overlooked or forgotten, for Madeline saw how the quirks and corners in each person would work with those in another.
As for Mr LaRoche? Well, Madeline showed him how his quirks and corners were perfectly suited to hers. Not three months after that day under the tree he asked for her hand in marriage. She twinkled at him, and said yes, of course.