Things happen so fast in the small town. And this is where he comes back from there every night, after letting the rich and curious people pay him for the exotic cruise on the river, on his little wooden boat. He can take just two at a time, usually newlyweds or lovers. Earlier, he had more decorations on his boat, but now it's ripped off all luxury the way his imagination got drained off from an aging mind. He is the only boatman around and there are people to take the romantic cruise anyway, as long as exoticism sells. Even his torn shirt and trousers don't deter them from trusting him - or that is what he thought, until a few hours ago.
His last clients were the regular type, about to be married, as they said. And the man chose to propose to her in the boat. He took out the diamond ring and did the usual stuff. The girl was elated, and they just went on to make more declarations of love. Everything was fine till the end of the one-hour ride. And then, as they were close to the bank, the girl said that the ring was missing. It was beginning to get dark, and they found it difficult to search inside the boat. He knew that the ring was a bit lose on her finger, and that she had dipped her fingers, unwisely, in the water many times. He did even try to warn them, but to no avail. Now, when he mentioned that again, the man started raising his voice, against him. There was a tone of accusation in his voice.
And it had been thirty long years since he had done this job, with no single complaint from anyone. When they reached the bank, he made it a point to mention this, but the people there seemed to have some pleasure in victimizing him. He didn't know that the people of the town were not with him, all these years. He never made too much money, but was honest and had a steady flow of clients. Everyone had trust in him - that was what he thought, and he never wanted to lose it. There was no reason for others to feel jealous of him. Or, is it just the hatred that emerges at the wrong time towards the wrong people?
People were crowded around him, all raising their voices. They had a little scuffle with him, and they searched his clothes and the boat, forcefully. After a while, he just sat on the bank, unable to communicate the intense pain within him to anybody. There was no one who cared for him - and all of a sudden, he felt alone. He knew no one would harm him further until they found out that the ring had been stolen by him. But the damage was already done. He felt he was beginning to lose his grip...on human relations, in whatever little ways he experienced it so far.
They didn't even find a trace of the ring anywhere. And then, the couple left, visibly sad about their loss, but never even looking at his direction again. The people left, murmuring inanities. He sat there for a long time, and then he got into his boat and came here.
He clenches his hands and releases them at regular intervals. It's not clear whether his indecision has something to do with the boat, floating powerlessly on the water, not even trying to free itself from the rope that pulls it to a reluctant land.