6: Barge binge
Confusion, embarrassment, accusation and litigation tumbled one upon the other in a pot-pourri aftermath of the hit at Shalisa Creek Bay, as club members competed with each other to see who could be first to distance themselves from the debácle. Some of them had names and positions which would in no way be enhanced by this sort of publicity.
Each fresh article of news which appeared made titillating fare for those who professed to a more law-abiding nature, as they avidly absorbed everything the media told them about the heinous law-breakers who had been flouting the rules of decency so flagrantly for so long and so close to their own neighbourhood.
None of the casino members sailed anywhere near the location of the confiscated club outstation after that humiliating day, partly from mortification and partly because they feared being incriminated more deeply in the affair than they already were, but mostly because they were forbidden to do so by Authority.
A great interest sprang up in sailing south once more where, it was rumoured, a person could engage in a little honest gambling without being accused of criminality. It wasnt as convenient or private, and it certainly was more crowded and less exclusive, but at least it was legal.
Points north fell from grace on their charts again, as most of the fair weather sailors did their best to forget the unpleasantness associated with the barge bust, as well as the instigator of the whole unsavoury mess.
Their fine and elegant boats no longer needed to be guided through Soggers Gap into Bay, to rise and fall safely on the tides within its arms. Shalisa Creek Bay, to their way of thinking, had fallen off the edge of the world taking the owner of its floating casino with it.
Matters dawdled along their slow and winding course as they do in such cases, while the remainder of that year sunned and stormed itself away and the wheels of justice ground, if not exceeding fine at least exceeding slow, snored, woke with a start for Fall Assizes, and ground some more.
During this time the barge and its infamous use faded and fuzzed in the memories of surrounding communities as other more interesting crimes, less worked over by the news media, began to push coverage of the barge case into the morgue files as far as sensationalism was concerned. There was also talk of legalising gambling and, if it did turn into a respectable pastime, there would certainly be no news in that story anymore.
The faithful barge with its trolls aspect waited and waited as that memorable spring which saw her closure as a casino began to bloom and blow, but no one came except the waterfowl who sunned on her decks and used them as a fishing platform. Still, as that season had whispered amorously into the ears of Summer, she remained ready and hopeful.
Then one sunny, dusty, butterfly filled day while she was enjoying the flight of swallows and dragonflies through her skies, the Shalisa Creek barge found herself rudely emptied of her contents, and a man with a heavy hammer nailed some No Trespassing by order of... signs to her sides, screwed some large hasps on her doors, whose own locks hed forced open for entry, and added some padlocks which he closed with a snap of finality. He raised the boarding ramp, threw a chain lock around it in the up position, climbed down the old metal stern ladder and then left with the movers, taking with him on a couple of sea trucks all the finery she had held, including the little stove which had warmed the peripheral spaces to tropical temperatures.
This in itself was a shock to her tranquillity, but what followed after that was even worse.
The slow pace of the judiciary had condemned the LEGER DE MAIN to victimisation by vandals.
At first it was only a few local youths who, having heard about her almost every hour on the hour of their spare time at home, wanted to check her out simply from curiosity. They werent the least bit restrained from access by such things as rough roads and threatening signs once theyd discovered what a great hideout she was for beer fests and getting away from adult supervision.
Five of them arrived at the entrance to the overgrown logging road one bright but chilly Friday evening in their old worked-over van which had previously belonged to the father of the eldest occupant who, on his sixteenth birthday, had acquired the wheels and a drivers licence one month before. The old vehicle had died too many times on the original owner and he had wisely decided that beating a dead metal horse only made a noise.
His son, however, had a way with engines and other truck parts, and once the cataleptic body was turned over to himby a lease of indeterminate length which was to be paid for in good behaviourhe and his friends breathed fragile life back into it, and the resuscitated van became their home away from home.
They fixed up the interior with old carpetting, threw in some cushions from the same era, added an ancient portable camp stove circa nobody knew, some overhead nets for stowage, into which they stuffed their bedraggled sleeping bags along with a lot of cast off old camping gear, and then considered themselves fortunate to excess.
The scope of their reach for overnighting at new and interesting places had now been given infinite possibilities provided they didnt push their new mobility beyond its distance limits. Walking home from far away places wasnt in their agenda for fun.
The name Hey Hey!, which was painted across the faded hood, surrounded by the inevitable yellow flames tipped with exploding red, had been lifted directly from the shouts which came from the five occupants as they tore around in their resurrected vehicle on their forays looking for good times and girls. When likely subjects were located, girl or party was treated to a vociferous Hey Hey! chorus of approval.
Girls didnt really matter much at this point because the young men were young and hadnt quite come to terms with the other sex yet, but it was fun to pretend, and there were lots of good times which they made for themselves, mostly out of junk and opportunity and an occasional case of beer which an older brother would procure for them if they had the money, which usually they didnt.
This devils dozen, which they were forbidden to consume by law and their parents, they would stow with much care and secrecy in a wooden tool box which was bolted to one sagging back door of the van. After the padlock on this battered, oil and paint spattered container had been shut tight they considered its contents to be safe from prying eyes.
Then, glancing furtively around to make sure no one had observed the switch of cardboard box from brother to brother, they would break up their covering huddle and sweep away from the scene of the illicit transfer of drugs, quickly and quietly rattling and banging along in Hey Hey! while everyone in the vicinity looked around to see what was making all the noise and Authority, in the form of a curly-haired sergeant who happened to be off-duty and sitting in a car nearby, grinned tolerantly to himself and looked the other way, remembering the days of his own youth.
This was a seldom happening and he figured that a dozen bottles, split five ways, one of which would probably be used to fizz everybody with during the spreeas was the procedure he rememberedwasnt going to cause too much social upheaval on a Saturday night in a small village where everybody knew everybody elses business.
His modus operandi was justice tempered with mercy. He knew the five boys well, and their parents, so he also knew that a word to fatherly authority would take care of things should the five really get just a little bit too far out of line. They would be sat on thoroughly in that universal parental practise of the philosophydont do as I do, do as I say.
On this specific evening Hey Hey! and crew had churned their way to the old logging road which led to the bay and its much publicised barge. The chassis of the old truck had been redesigned by the new owner and his friends so that it could take a few hard thumps. It had been ruins before theyd acquired it, so there were no worries about appearance, dents, leaking oil seals or broken springs. The passengers figured they were lucky if they could manage to get the engine turning over and all four wheels going around in the same direction on their bald tires at one and the same time.
The rough logging road was a final challenge and test of the skills the young mechanics had honed on their project, and the reconstructed wreck became a tribute to their ability by arriving at the end of the trail with almost everything it had started the gruelling run with still attached.
Exulting over this triumph, they unloaded their little inflatable from the roof where it had been stowed none too securely, lugged it to the beach, carefully loaded their illegal cargo onto it, rowed out as it puffed bubbles and patches, and prepared to board the barge.
LEGER DE MAIN, curious herself about this new type of patron, made no objections.
Dont drop the beer Westman, came the cautioning words as the big, well-muscled sixteen year old clambered up the stern ladder with casual one-handed agility, dangling the precious box of bottles in the other.
Next time we should get cans, came his rejoinder. Hey, this is a blast! Come on up here.
The other four wobbled out of the deflating inflatable, went up the ladder two at a time and began an excited tour of the barge decks in the fading light of the setting sun. When they came to the outside staircase, winding its way up to the little lookout balcony which circled the spire, there was nothing for it but to investigate, so they set down their box of twelve and up they went, leaping, laughing and shouting.
One of them, out of breath at last from running and dancing around and around the little catwalk, leaned on the railing and looked out over the blanket of rippling golden sheen covering the bay.
Sun was tucking Sea in for the night, and the beauty of the place, with Bay before him, Peninsula to his left and Horizon hazy with mist, made him thoughtfully silent, until at last he said,
My Gran says the people who used to live here called themselves We of Every Nationthats what Shalisa means.
At his words the other four came over to lean and look, because they had learned that whenever Kazuyoshi mentioned my Gran says, some interesting information usually followed.
There was unspoken respect for what Gran Kamisaki had to say. They considered her better than a set of encyclopaedias and a large dictionarymaybe even better, because her expounding of information was much more colourful and interesting, as well as a source of fantastic if not too crediblefor their way of thinkingstories of the distant past from her homeland.
To their minds, Ghosts, and Spirits who had been locked up in stones by opposing Spirits, and such like tales, belonged somewhere back in their very young childhood but, because of people such as the parents and grandparents of Kazuyoshi and Rajit, they had recently come to a rudimentary understanding of what history and myth had in common, even though the understanding and facts of that history might be a bit confused and elaborated on by young listeners when it was retoldrather in the way some historians treated the subject.
Theyd heard long ago about The Little People, Flying Carpets, Magic Lamps, Bottle Imps, Good Witches, Bad Warlocks, Mystics, Wizards and Spells, Zodiacs, Tarot Cards and Astrology, and had derided all that into oblivion with youthful scorn as childhood was left behind, but this new glimpse of inner space exploration offered by adults, with a different perspective than the one they were used to, had them willing to reconsider all sorts of things at the moment, in a somewhat more mature and analytical way, and to reconsider old tales even though they might outwardly ridicule some of what they absorbed and discussed.
Is that what that name means? asked Rajit, who was interested in languages because his family had fled from one country to another so often that they had learned many tongues.
Thats what my Gran says, Kazuyoshi offered, And its because from way back to whenever anyone can remember, people in boats were always coming herelike people who lived farther up the coast and, you know, like she says, everybody who ever sailed over here from anywhere else to this country and, you know, all those people who were always sailing around trading and looking for places to make money, and sometimes some of them wouldnt want to go back home. Theyd stay and live here.
Bet a lot of them didnt have any choice once theyd wrecked their ships on the peninsula, laughed Joss, who was the son of a very logical and reasonable coastguardsman.
Yeah, maybe, came his friends doubtful endorsement, But it wasnt just that, cause they could have kept on going down the land on foot or something or built more boats. These people stayed because the ones who were already here saw this bay and peninsula as a magic place, my Gran says, and the new people liked that so they wanted to stay.
There was more silence until Wilf Westman prompted, with a disbelieving laugh,
Wanted to? What kind of magic? Spirits running around chasing people? Eerie lights? Disappearing boats? Theres been enough of those sunk around here to leave plenty of ghosts.
No, not that. Legends and myths and things. Like, you know, they say there was supposed to be a mountain they called Always Helpful Place somewhere here, and the Shalisa People knew where it was and thats why they never went hungry or had to go anywhere else for anything because their elected head man would just go there and stay for awhile and come back and whenever he did, things got better, and lots of other People from inland and around, when they got into hard times, would come here looking for help and they always got it.
Oh that, scoffed Wilf. Yeah, my Grampa said some outsiders thought it meant there was a mountain which was a mother-lode of gold, and a lot of people used to come and try to find it and all they ever got was dirt and worn out picks and shovels, and sometimes they killed themselves doing it. The Shalisa People always tried to tell these guys not to go climbing around like that because it was dangerous, but nobody listened, and lots of them fell off the cliffs and got killed, especially around some waterfall thats here somewheremaybe that one way over there. I mean, just look at it around here. Its like straight up the side of a high-rise in some places.
Anyway, continued his friend, It was considered bad luck to go tramping all over the peninsula, like, you know, insulting the People and their Spirits. The only one who was supposed to know the location of this Helpful Place was the elected leader and he passed the secret on to the next leader and if strangers came and got too pesty, a Spirit who guarded the place did them in.
My dad says it was a lot of hooey that got started when some smugglers hid their booze here, Joss told them, And they started the rumour about bad Spirits to scare people offand he said somebody found a stash of the smuggled stuff and traded it to a prospector for a gold mine claim somewhere and everybody thought it was supposed to be here, and the Shalisa used to find these guys who were looking for it dead at the bottom of cliffs with their pockets and packs loaded with rock samples. They figured the weight of the stuff overbalanced them and they fell off of places.
Well, Im not about to go diggin around that pile of rocks lookin for gold, stated Hamish, whose parents were Soggers. If there was any there itd been found a long time ago, and I dont need any bad Spirits on my backmy Dads enoughand anyway, if the Shalisa were so rich how come their houses over there are so little and dinky and theyre all gone away?
There was laughter after those reasonable words, and Sun stole the sheen from the view by dipping below Horizon, helping to remove any lingering illusion of gold and magic, making Joss remark,
Its a damn cold wind up here. Lets go down.
They acted on that suggestion, thundered down the stairs to where theyd left their beer and then leaned against the sets of many-paned windows to peer into the interior, admiring the beams, varnished floor and big stone fireplace.
Sure looks nice in there. Too bad we cant get in, said Rajit wistfully, cold hands deep in his jeans pockets as he regarded the lock on the door at the top of the three steps. Sure would be neat to sit in front of a fire there.
Maybe we can, replied Wilf, going up the steps and examining the hardware which prevented them from enjoying themselves. Get the dinghy up and lets have the painter off it and an oar. The screws on these things arent usually that big. Well use a bit of leverage and yank it off.
For a moment they stood in a cluster, grinning their guilty but delighted approval for this act of vandalism, then they put their arms around each other in a huddle and let out a triumphant Hey Hey! which echoed and re-echoed around the rocky arms of the bay as though it too embraced the mischievous fun, then the five opened the door and started in, took a look at the shining floors and, home training still holding sway in their lives, they actually took off their shoes at the door and entered on sock clad feet.
They rushed excitedly through office, caretakers quarters and upstairs suite, then came back down and lit a fire with wood left in the stone space provided for its containment, not a stick of which had been removed with the furniture.
The fact that the barge belonged to someone else and that the legal system had its heavy hand on her never surfaced to worry them. In their untechnical minds she was just abandoned, and there to be utilised since no one else seemed interested, and they meant no harm.
They were quickly and unanimously apprised of the fact that here they could drink when they wanted to, smoke if they felt like it, do what they pleased, and be as underaged for those activities as they were, without detection or interference. Better still, the weather would have to wait until they emerged from their new found shelter before it could get at them again. Overnighting in a castleHEY HEY!
They opened their beer, Hamish took out half a package of cigarettes which his older brother had sold to him, passed them around, and they lounged on the floor basking in the bright warm firelight, behaving the way they felt their grownup selves ought to behave, smoking and drinking, and feeling really in control and pleased with themselves.
Let the Crown hem and haw in its proceedings against the owner of the fascinating creation as long as it liked. Ignorant of this process, they worried not a bit.
Think we should go to that party at Kens tonight, Westman? asked Hamish, addressing the obvious leader of the group.
Naw. Cant. I promised Grampa Id help him on the tug tomorrow and if I show up hungover he might tell Dad, and Ill get killed.
There was disappointed but understanding silence. Everyone knew that the killing of Wilf would mean the instant confiscation of Hey Hey! and the lifting of other hard-won privileges which were an indication of the trust his parents put in him now as a responsible young man.
And Kaz has to go out on the fishboat with his Gramp too, he added, hoping to gain some support and spread a little of the weight of refusal onto one of his buddies. Right Kaz?
Yeah. But its kind of fun, so I dont mind.
There was laughter from the others, and Hamish said,
Seems to me it wasnt much fun until Karen and her parents came along to go fishin.
How about thatbeing able to go working with your girlfriend, observed Joss, with a meaningful grin.
I dont work with her, replied Kaz, defending himself. My Gramp and her Dad just motor out together. Were sort of family. We help each other. We like each others company. Two boats can kind of look out for each other.
Oh sure, teased Wilf, Karen just happens to be there, like you are whenever you get the chance now.
The smiling young fisherman remained silent, hoping the subject of his girlfriend would be dropped. There was some quiet beer drinking after that until one of them, who was madly in love with beautiful cars because he didnt have one, said,
My cousins coming to visit next week. Hes got a TransAm.
Agh, Joss, laughed Wilf. What hasnt your cousin got?
Bet it cant make the road we just came over, scoffed Hamish who appreciated sturdier country vehicles. Those whimpy things are for city sissies.
Maybe we should ask him out here to give it a try, laughed Rajit, as he sat gazing into the fire hed been the first to envision, carefully sipping the contents of his bottle to make it last.
Good idea, agreed Joss. Find out what its made of. Hey guys, dont bust the bottles. We need the refund toward the next batch.
- - -
Accordingly, the next week, Josss cousin was invited to view the barge, but much to the disgust of the plotters, they never did find out what the TransAm was made of. They found out instead that the driver of it was chicken and wouldnt take his beautiful chariot over no damn pile of rocks so, in spite of the fact that he supplied the beer, he spent the evening getting loaded with scorn from the others for his decision while he suffered himself to be jounced along, to and from, in Hey Hey!, whose driver had no such qualms. In return, he pretended not to be at all impressed with the location of the beer party or the barge, although he secretly thought both were terrific.
For awhile after that reasonably quiet barge parties were held in the evenings as the quintet enjoyed having such a cool hangout, along with a few buddies who were let in on it and, in fact, the whole thing was turning into the equivalent of a youthful intellectual society, all things discussed being of intellectual interest to the participantsfood, computer games, soccer, internet, cars, damn school, food, after school jobs, parents and family, foodgirlstentatively, and usually with lots of laughter to cover up the serious intentand LEGER DE MAIN found their company stimulating and fununtil word got around, in that way it has of doing.
The cousin from out of town went back home and told his girlfriend, who told a few friends who told a few others who told a few people who...
Shalisa Creek! became the rallying cry for restless, adventurous youngsters looking for new places to have summer fun, and they came from miles around and from far away, with the crowds reaching their peak every weekend and holiday.
The old logging road bounced and rattled with a volume of traffic it hadnt seen for years, and the log skid was turned into a launching ramp for every sort and type of small water craft imaginable, many of which were questionably able to return to the beach once theyd reached the barge. Those with motors whipped the waters of the bay into foam as they charged around playing chicken with each other, or hauling skiers, inflated inner tubes and surfing discs behind them.
Fires littered the beach with blackened, charred logs. Broken bottles and cans littered the tideline. Plastic everything was cast away everywhere, along with old one-of-a-kind sneakers, worn out towels and pieces of clothingouter and under.
The original five hosts of the barge now found their stewardship totally wrested from their control, and their cautions regarding care and quiet were shouted into oblivion as large, noisy, smashing gatherings took place aboard wherein everything which could possibly be set upon was broken, hacked, carved up, and thoroughly beaten.
Empty beer bottles and cans, which had been treasured by the poorer and more careful members of the herd, now hurtled through the small windows until the last pane was taken out in a contest for a drink. Doors were used for rafts or got broken up and stuffed into the fireplace for fuel. Song and dance roared around the open decks in larger and louder quantities.
The brave, daring, reckless and foolish ones pranced on the catwalk railing and the roof and fell, jumped, or were pushed into the water without benefit of the safety devices once so conscientiously provided by the casino owner for his guests. Raucous laughter, screams and expressive, explicit language which echoed and ricochetted off the cliffs, prompted the cormorants and other waterfowl to move elsewhere for awhile. Small, four-footed Forest People fled in terror.
Things became so intolerably rowdy that people living well away from the bay were almost dispossessed by the takeover. Sound travels far, over water, and this sound was loud enough in its own right. The noise could be heard bouncing over the scenery for miles around, and residents who had known nothing but peace and quiet were now subjected nightly to the roistering row of rock-and-roll and heavy metal, full throat from ghetto blasters, amplified stereo discs, on tape and live, as the barge occupiers enjoyed themselves tremendously, ran wild without restraint and made outrageous nuisances of themselves.
One or two gripes the police sergeant might have overlooked as unnecessary bitching, but the sudden deluge of angry telephone calls from lobbying residents which came in to his station over a short period of time told him this was not a complaint in the category of five boys with a case of beer having quiet fun.
This was a crowd, out of control.
With thoughtful determination he organised, got his two boats, and extra men from out of town together, the marine crews for the barge, the rest to hit the beach from the logging road, and in the fading light of a late summer evening they headed out for the Gap to control a crowd.
As the boats approached the bay, still some distance away, the sergeant remarked to his buddy,
We could have found our way here without instruments, blindfolded in a solid fog at night just by homing in on the sound. How long has this been going on?
Guardian of the Bay regarded the approaching craft with recognition and relief and let them pass, soothing her Rocks with promises of future catches in exchange for peace and quiet in the area now.
As the boats came through and pulled alongside, the tone of noise aboard the barge changed from uncontrolled crowd to unruly mob as the trapped revellers realised they couldnt get away. Some began to pelt the police and their vessels with bottles and cans, empty, half-full and unopened, which they knew would be confiscated anyway.
Screw it! the Heat! came the first cry of warning, too late.
Bug--- them!get rid of your bottles quick!
Here, have a drink, Fuzz Face!
Piss off you finks or well sink you!
Get the searchlightssee if you can hit the searchlights!
First one to hit a cop gets another beer!
Hey, Flat Hats, whynt ya go fix yerselfs?
Wilf Westmans quietly despairing remark was lost in the uproar as he groaned,
Aw sh-- ! My Ole Mans gonna kill me!
Drink your beer before they get aboard, advised his friend Kazuyoshi. Well get killed together, but at least if were drunk maybe it wont hurt so much.
The scene on the beach resembled the breakup of a Bacchanalia as young bodies, clothed, half clad and unabashedly au naturel tried to escape in all directions, including some efforts directed toward swimming out of reach. The officers let them swim. They knew the water was too cold for anyone to get very far.
Others were apprehended trying to hide bottles, plastic bags filled with prohibited vegetation, pipes and other paraphernalia under bushes and logs, as huge roaring fires threw gigantic, fantastic and comically animated shadow figures back against the treeline.
When things finally subsided and a semblance of civilisation was brought about, with the bareskins putting on anybodys clothes they could get hold of quickly, the culprits were ordered to form a bucket brigade, made up of anything that would hold water, for squelching the flames which were reaching blithely up to the sky, ready to set a conflagration going in the whole area, while the sergeants land forces tried to pull and kick the smoldering fuel out into the water.
That was another barge party neither participants nor police soon forgot.
- - -
It took more than one visit from the law enforcers to deter this explosion of collected energy. Unlike the discoverers of the fun place who now no longer attended the howl-ins, the remainder of persistent users were belligerent, violent, undisciplined, uncaring and full of destructive hellery, with no respect for authority or anything elsenot even themselvesso the appearance of uniforms only made things seem more challenging and exciting and encouraged further development of the same wild behaviour.
After weeks of this mayhem the barge interior had become such a shambles that even the wreckers decided it was too wrecked to have much fun with any more. The varnished floors had disappeared under mud, cigarette butts, trashed packaging and worse types of revolting cast-offs dropped everywhere. Holes had been battered into the plastered walls and spray can graffiti defaced the fine white finish. The built-in stainless steel galley stove had disappeared under piles of spilled food and drink. The double sinks were so full of junk they could have been used to start a good bonfire in. The heads were smashed. The place reeked of urine and vomit, composting food and mouldy, damp cardboard containers. Stepping around in piles of garbage, broken glass and flattened beer cans became hazardous and smelly.
Also, the police always showed up now whenever things got going well, and some second offenders were beginning not to be seen around anymore.
It was Weather which finally put a finish to the rumbles.
Heavy autumn rains fell, as though Nature herself was at last offended beyond endurance, and as the weather deteriorated along with the barge, the crowds thinned. Gradually the bay recovered its quiet as the party-goers found another, more accessible favourite place elsewhere to gather at and wreck, until no one at all came anymore for beer and bedlam.
The dust on the rutty overgrown road turned to muddy deep puddles as the rain set in and, on evenings when the skies cleared a little, killdeer and nighthawks could be heard once more. There was a cautious return of small forest animals to the shore, and flocks of scavenger birds searched eagerly among the trash aboard the barge, each individual ready to defend a find with vigour and valour. Wasps and flies pigged it out on the feast, and immigrant spiders, parachuting in on their own home-made equipment, wove intricate and cunning traps in the corners of the glassless window frames, attempting to arrest the smaller wingéd intruders.
The battered LEGER DE MAIN heaved a sigh of relief. She had no doors and no windows, and the No Trespassing signs had been ripped off for firewood, along with the Private Club adornments, so that all she had left was the still shining painted name on her sides as identification. She was glad the vandals hadnt started on her hull. That and her sturdy construction still held firm, probably because no one had thought to bring along a chainsaw.
Grateful for the silence which followed the unsolicited and prolonged binge, she listened to Tide lapping back and forth against her, watched thankfully as Gull and Cormorant returned, and sat as she had before, communing with Nature and the ancient Spirits of Land and Sea, waiting for quiet Winter to come.