8: Summer green
The tide on which LEGER DE MAIN returned had been an inordinately high one and, once wind abated and water receded, she found her forward end was well up on a rocky, reedy spit which was filling over and jutting out with ambitious plans of becoming a full-fledged sandbar. Her stern kept her level in the deep water but it seemed that her bow was going to be firmly held on dry land for some time to come.
Certainly held, but dry was not in the immediate future of the drenched, misty bay where she rested. All-pervasive rain fell for a week and it was through this spring deluge in the pale light of early evening that a young couple with packs on their backs and kerchiefs tied around their foreheads under limp felt hats, sloshed and slid down the old logging road leading to the bay and met the beached barge.
Shelter! Unexpected and inviting.
They welcomed the sight of broken windows. It usually meant no one lived behind them. Silvered shakes reminded them of home, of fishing shacks, and small cottages along steep shores which gave such shacks their purpose.
The idea of a home by the water occurred to them immediately as they looked, first at LEGER DE MAIN then at each other, and the thought warmed them. They had travelled a long way from the rugged east coast, thumbing and walking across the continent to this wet, mild, welcoming bay with its stranded barge where the cormorants often congregated to dry their wings after fishing.
These small fishers, seeing yet another set of invaders arriving to disturb their early evening settling, left reluctantly, beating their way low over the water, one behind the other in a black line, long necks stretched forward, trilling protests.
The new arrivals hurried along the beach, swung themselves up the old boarding ladder with its chipped black paint, stood looking at the ruins of what had once been a delightful summer refuge for gamblers, and saw what was now left of it as gratifying cover from spring rain.
The split cedar shake roof still held firm in spite of the harsh unrelenting rasp of weather and midnight dances across it by riotous gatherings and, had he been there to see it, the youthful Sogger who had put it there with a happy hammer in a past spring would have been pleased to see how his work had held up under such circumstances, and to know that the trust put in him by his employer had not been misplaced.
Because of his good work the two travellers were able to find a dry place on the upper level in what had previously been the apartment over the office, away from the empty window frames which were wantonly providing ingress and egress for Weather.
Much of the original aroma of a garbage dump had been dissipated by the natural processes of decomposition, and Wind and Weather had done heroics to freshen the remaining settled layer of detritus. It now smelled mostly of guano and newly developing moss.
Tired, wet and hungry, they were not too particular about the rubbish covered floor they stood on, not being able to see it too plainly anyway. They set down their packs, took out and ate some cheese and dark rye bread washed down with water, cleared a space in which to unroll their mats and sleeping bags, settled into them and slept soundly as twilight and darkness came to Shalisa Creek Bay.
During the night the low pressure system which had kept the wet, moist weather stationary moved slowly inland and, when the couple awoke in early morning, Sun was coming up and beginning to show between shredding and dispersing peach Cloud.
It was a token they took to heart as an indication that things were looking up for them at last. They breakfasted on apples, peanuts and the last of their water and then, like good pilgrims of old, they began to explore the sanctuary which had sheltered them from the previous days rain, and theirs were young and happy eyes which assessed possibilities for using the barge.
As they walked out to the deck, appreciating the full warmth of what Sun was providing, the young woman went over to the edge of the barge, saying in sudden excitement,
Look Brian! Look at the planters. Lots of them. Big! Right here, handy. Turf out the grass and weeds and plant our ownstuff.
Perfect! Couldnt have asked for a better setup. Must be fateexceptwe dont know who owns it.
They walked along the deck until they came to the littered stairs leading up to the little hexagonal room roofed by the spire, where the sounds of a flute setting Mozart free to soar over the water, improvising, or playing variations on a theme, had charmed the Bay and its Spirits during quiet, non-casino times.
You know, Megan. I think maybe no one owns it, said the black-haired young man at last. Pretty wrecked.
From the look of it Id say its been trashed for some time, returned his companion, looking up through the glassless small window frames set helix fashion above her as she walked out the doorless opening to the gallery which surrounded the spire. Such a beautiful place to be treated so horribly.
Leaning on the railing she threw her long amber-coloured hair away from her shoulders, and Wind laid eager fingers on it, combing it out to its full length so that Sun could burnish it, while she stood enjoying the view which reached to distant, Cloud-obscured Horizon.
Id say its deserted, unoccupied and unloved.
Maybe we can find out in town, he suggested. Ask a few questions about the area and kind of work this barge and bay into the conversation. Local people generally know everything thats going on around.
Its just as well we didnt go into town right away, replied Megan. People are funny with strangers sometimes.
She was referring to the cautious decision which had seen them bypass the village on their way out to the shore. They were well acquainted with the reactions of some people to the idea of itinerants hanging around for whatever reason, so the questioning would have to be adroit and, on the surface, disinterested. Eager to get a look at this other seacoast, the deferral of the pleasures offered by civilisation hadnt been difficult. Theyd decided to follow their noses to the sea and had found the old logging road which headed unerringly for that destination.
What they saw now as they stood looking out from their dwarfed copy of mediæval-appearing architecture made them both feel glad to have found this haven. The rich deep colours of summer which the casino patrons had seen were now changed to the pale washes of spring. On shore, yellowing willow wands, reddening dogwood branches, pale olive-green alder cattails, shining arbutus trunks the colour of burnt sienna, slicked by rain and topped with evergreen leaves as bright and gleaming as their boles, fir and cedar tips budding light lime. Out over the water Sun slid through moving Cloud above shifting grey, spotting Tide with silver patches, and white Mist hid what else Horizon might offer on a clearer day.
They liked what they saw. It was different to the coast they knewcrowded with growth sprawling out to the waters edge in places. Something growing and grasping at every crevice. A generosity of vegetation everywhere. They stood for awhile, impressed with the beauty of it, almost able to ignore the reminders left behind by human intrusion there, some of which they stood on and were grateful for.
When they went back down the stairs again, kicking bits and pieces of débris off as they descended, they began a more thorough assessment of what they hoped would be their new home.
Thats a lovely, lovely fireplace, Brian, said Megan, standing before the ash and garbage-strewn hearth when they were down in the main room again. She knelt down, leaned carefully into the firebox and looked up.
Id say its certainly usable once its cleaned out. If youll just come stick your head in here, you can see clear out.
The young man, spare from the outdoor exercise hed gained from his lifestyle and the application of not too much food, came over to her side while he finished running his fingers through his hair, before he knelt down as she suggested to look up the chimney into clear light, which he could see around the edges of its cap.
It looks good. I think maybe its not so old either. The masonrys in really good shape. Its just that everythings been kicked around so much, the whole place seems wrecked.
Certainly the windows, laughed Megan. We can probably find some old construction plastic around somewhere to cover them, dont you think? That should keep out the weather. Its kind of starting to ruin things.
Need lots of it, speculated Brian, regarding the expanse of empty warehouse frames and bare window openings in other places, But maybe we can mooch some up. Needs doors too. Its all this junk Im bothered about. Be careful not to cut yourself on the glass.
Oh, dont worry about all this stuff, laughed Megan. Theres a big garbage can right out there. Well just pitch everything off the deep end and itll never trouble us again.
The shudder which went through Bay and all the resident Spirits on hearing this idea went unnoticed because the couple hadnt come into contact with any of them yet, so they were innocent of insult.
Having disposed of the mess in her mind, Megan went on, seeing the barge already cleaned up and ready for habitation,
That lot of awful graphics and stuff will have to go. I couldnt stand looking at that for too long. What sort of minds would put such things on walls?
Maybe we could go to a hardware store and get some leftover paint freelike the way people at home used to return old stuff for recycling.
Thats a good ideaand then maybe we could paste some paper over the holes in the walls to hide them. You know, those old buildings over there farther along the shore, they dont look like theyve been lived in for awhile either. They must have lots of good things in them. We can likely make all sorts of furniture out of what we can find lying around.
Would you rather stay there? Maybe we should have a look at them. Maybe we could make one livable.
Oh, Id rather be here. Itll be like living on our own houseboat again. Must have been a little logging town or something here, dont you think? pondered Megan.
Hardly a town. More like a logging camp I think. There are only a few little houses, and I suppose that long one was the bunkhouse. That big one next to it must have belonged to the bossthey always have the best.
Funny isnt it, how people come and then just go, and here it sits, she mused.
Who knows, remarked Brian, a little gloomily. Maybe government kicked them out. Resettled them, like our folks.
I think well like this place better than on shore, smiled Megan, not wanting to get onto a subject they both found too painful. I know it looks pretty bad right now but well make it beautiful again.
Lovey, smiled Brian, You could make a palace out of a cardboard box.
Oh, and I have too, she replied laughingly. My cardboard houses were the envy of all the kids when I was little.
They hugged each other and kissed for awhile, leaning into each other, getting more and more absorbed in the delight of it until she pulled back from him, saying softly,
Not in this garbage heap.
If thats the case I can tell you well be cleaned up in no time, he replied, smiling at her meaningfully.
LEGER DE MAIN, who had been stung to her wooden heart when called a garbage heap, decided to forgive the remark on hearing the proposal for a change of status quo.
Arms about each other, the two stood on the stern, looked out over the sun-splattered incoming tide which was bringing more than its usual burden of soggers along with it through the Gap, and watched some cormorants out on the water diving for breakfast, the shining rings made on the waters surface flowing out and overlapping each other as the birds disappeared downward.
When they headed for the village a little later they were already well into their plans for the future exploitation of LEGER DE MAIN should she actually be available to them. They decided they could phone Megans auntcollectand have their welfare cheques forwarded to Shalisa Creek post office if they were going to stay around. The prospects looked bright.
The barge herself was getting excited about the whole ideaclean floors, plastic windows, nice peoplethis was more like it!
Once they reached the main street they went into the Sea Urchin and as they headed for a table Brians nose took in a familiar spicy and pleasing scent. When they were sitting down he looked toward the young couple at the next table and nodded to them, smiling.
Long hair and a beard on the man. Just like himself. Long hair on the woman, just like Megan. Denims all around. Delightful aroma from both. Their kind of people.
He struck up a conversation.
Hi. Pretty nice to see the sun again.
Yeah. Once a month if were lucky. Uhyou have to go order at the counterlike help yourself sort of. New here? Where you from?
When they returned to the bay it was with happy laughter. Theyd found friends and also learned what they had wanted to knowthat nobody went near the bay anymore. The young had been forbidden to do soand knowing what condition the barge was in helped them to obey an order for a change. Just about everybody else had better places to go and more important things to do, it seemed. As for the barge, Authority had taken her over and that meant, according to the story tellers, complete and utter neglect. It appeared to be in limboand who cared. There were lots of them abandoned up and down the coast. Industrial junk.
That brought the couple to the definite decision of moving in, and cleaning up the place to start making it fit to live in didnt take too long, as Brians vow was transmuted into action.
With the help of an old snow shovel he found in one of the deserted houses, he went at the job of dumping garbage over the stern as though he were running a race against a stopwatch. Very shortly the barge found herself relieved of the mouldering concoction which had been brewing on her decks and floors for so long. She was delighted.
The foraging ashore yielded more than theyd expected. Although the old houses and buildings had been given a bit of the same rowdy treatment which LEGER DE MAIN had suffered, they were less ravaged because the barge had been moored farther along the bay away from the buildings, and it had been the main attraction and focus for the venting of high spirits.
In one still reasonably got together house Megan found a half worn out broom and mop, pots, pans, jars, dishes, all sorts of household items, buckets, booksin fact, almost everything Mother had put there for her two sons when shed set the place up for them. They gloated over the find.
Look Brian. A little propane stove and I think the tanks still got some in it.
Thats a great help. Maybe we can buy some more for it when it runs out of gasif we watch our money.
Were going to like it here, declared Megan. Well just fill these buckets with water from the creek and well have a clean place in no time.
Thinking of the expanse of dirty floor, Brian came back with,
No time is gonna be some time if I have to carry that many bucketfuls.
They scavenged, swept, mopped and cleaned for a couple of days, while Sun shone on their efforts and LEGER DE MAIN began to look almost civilised again. Then Megan suggested,
We need a break in town, I think.
Brian brightened up a lot at that idea until she continued,
We need to find some plastic for the windows, and see if we can get some paint like you said, and maybe some plain paper for the holes in the plaster, and... .
Huh! snorted Brian. Youre going shopping and you call that a break?
Well, wed better do something before the bad weather comes backand we can have coffee while were there.
It is if Aunty Bridie doesnt get our welfare cheques sent to the post office pretty soon.
Lets go splurge anyway, urged Brian.
All the way into town they dithered back and forth over whether they should have coffee first or go mooching. Megan was afraid if there was any paint somebody else might get it first, but Brians taste buds were tingling for coffee and he thought hed finally quashed the argument by saying,
If we get some paint well have to cart it all the way into the coffee shop and people will ask what were doing. Better they shouldnt.
I guess youre right.
What I been sayin all the way here, he growled.
We wont go for coffee then. We can have a nice cup of tea when we get back home. Lets do that. Itll save money too.
AwforSaint George an Patrick and all the others! came the defeated comment. Lets hit the post office.
Their cheques werent there, but Brian wasnt leaving town without his cup of coffee, and he walked bravely into the Sea Urchin against Megans protests, but when she saw him devouring a trayful of freshly baked big sticky buns with his hungry eyes while they stood at the counter waiting to be served she relented, and they did splurge, getting a couple to go with their coffee, which they lingered over.
When she saw him licking his fingers above an empty plate practically before shed started on her own bun, she gave him half of her sugary treat, telling him,
Youll have to help me out here Brian. You can handle a bit more cant you?
Ohnoyou go ahead. Its good.
But its really much too big for me to manage. Here.
Ohokayif you cant eat it all. You sure?
She divided the bun in half, giving him the largest portion, and was rewarded with a bit of pretended reluctance and a big smile. Then they went looking for paint at the hardware store.
Brian stopped at the tool display to pick up a couple of paint brushes and a small stapler which theyd need, carefully assessing prices, but Megan, single-minded, headed for the paint department, and he looked up just in time to see her disappearing into a back room with a mana young, good-looking one.
Stapler and brushes still in his hand he hot-footed after them, to find Megan had already asked for recycled paint and the clerk was being very obliging.
The truck just picked up a batch last week butlets see. All Ive got is some green latex here. Would that do?
He turned around and smiled invitingly at Megan, adding,
Itll match your lovely eyes.
Brian ran a scorching look up and down the neat young man, but he didnt seem to notice as he continued, still gazing into Megans eyes,
Two cans. Think thatll do?
UmI dont know, hesitated Megan. I think Ill need more. Do you have any other... ?
The clerk reached out, lifted a large container of new paint from a shelf and set it down by the other two battered tins.
There. Think thats enough?
Ohthatswonderful, smiled Megan.
<Dear lord! I was sort of wishing for something a little lessickyand I do hope my eyes arent really that colour. But, how can I back out of such spontaneous generosity now?>
That should do it just beautifully.
Great. You know, you have the most musical east coast accent. I love it. HereIll help you out with this.
He reached for a can, still trapped by Megans lovely green eyes, only to find Brian snatching the paint out from under his hand.
Thanks, but I can handle this, he told the clerk stiffly.
The young man backed off in surprise.
OhI didnt know you were together.
Obviously, bristled Brian, juggling the three cans into his arms and turning away.
Thank you so much, smiled Megan. Im so grateful, and she hurried after Brian, who paid no further attention. He marched straight out the door of the store, while Megan hurried, trailing behind him, leaving the clerk standing there looking after her with disappointment in his face.
Brian, give me one of those, she told him, catching up.
I can handle them, came the stubborn reply.
Youll fall down halfway there. Give me one.
Dancing along beside him, Megan hauled one out of his arms, saying,
You were so rude after he was so nice to us.
Us? Huh! I dont have lovely green eyes. He insulted you, looking at you that way and talking to you like thatHere, lets give our cast off junk to the poor penniless maritimer and maybe shell give us a smileor two.
He was only being nice.
Yeah. Too damned nice. And green paint. Maybe you should have smiled at him some more and got him to give you some white! Itll look like an institution.
My eyes arent whiteand beggars cant be choosers, as Grandma used to say, and if wishes were horses wed be riding. Besides, its not really an awful green, its kind of nice and lightpastellike lichens sort of. Itll be pretty, with the white all around and the brown wood.
Maybe the graffiti isnt so bad, muttered Brian. And your eyes arent lichenstheyre emeraldsand if Id had him outside Id have straightened him up for you in a hurry. Hed have had black eyes.
There came giggling beside him.
Why Brian, youre jealous of him.
Sure, admitted Brian. And why not? Dont guess hes ever seen anything quality like you around. He can just keep his nasty ogling to himself.
Dont be a grouch, Megan returned while they carted the heavy stuff bayward, having been rather flattered by the young mans attention.
Brian walked along at a quick march, angrily telling himself,
<Were not going anywhere near that place again, if I have to take her half a mile out of the way to avoid it in future. Grotty little pervert!>
What have you got sticking out of your pockets?
Ohjayzuss an marry! Its the stapler and stuff I was going to buyI forgotI put them in my pockets when I picked up the paint.
Looks like youve bought them, all right, laughed Megan.
One more reason not to go there again.
Nothin. Lets save our breath for walking.
- - -
For a few days they worked unremittingly, until the cast off commercial plastic wrap and construction grade throw-outs they had scrounged on further trips to town covered the empty window frames, tacked on with the small, unintentionally filched stapler which punched neat little sets of holes all around the fine frames, but promised to keep the rain out in exchange for the damage which Megan and Brian hadnt even consideredconsidering what had happened to the rest of the place.
They decided that brown paper would be stronger than white over the holes in the plaster. Besidesit was more availablefree with the groceries. Mixing up some flour and sugar paste, they glued the cut bags over the holes in the plaster, then put a generous layer of the green paint from floor level to a wavy, uneven tide-line halfway up the walls as far as they could reach. Megans efforts were at low tide.
It certainly covered the graffiti wellwith only a few runs here and thereand also livened up the original decor some, because the brown paper got a bit fuzzy and fluffy from the paint, and the green was decidedly more than pale lichen.
Should have held out for white, was Brians assessment after the work was finished.
Thats all he had.
Thats for sure the truth, agreed Brian sarcastically, still miffed as he thought of the clerk.
It looks kind of artistic, decided Megan doubtfully at last, trying to make the best of it.
Yeah. We could call it Rural Renovation and sell it to a museum for a few thousand, came the unsupportive reply. Im gettin tired. Cant we lay off awhile? Reminds me of my last job when I worked so hard carrying those big rocks by hand one at a time to that breakwater nobody needed on that make work project back homean then we carried them all back to the pile they came from again. I got a helluva backache from that one, just like Im gonna get now if we dont quit, or Ill be laid up for a week againbut at least we got paid.
OhBrian! wailed Megan with a hurt expression in her face, I thought you liked making the place all nice.
Awcome one-off course I do.
He went quickly over to where she stood and hugged her, saying, as he played with her long hair,
Its really looking good. Its justweve been working damn hardand theres sunshine out thereandwe aint gettin any. We could go swimming.
Why, youd freeze your lovely bells right off, laughed Megan. Its cold enough getting a fast bath in the creek.
Mine are tougher than that. So why dont we just go for a bit of a walk ashore? It looks beautiful over there where we havent been and everythings growing green around hereincluding this place and us. Lets go see.
He kissed her, as further persuasive argument and, of course, she gave in. They decided to clean up, relax for the rest of the day and go exploring farther ashore, while Sun and Bay smiled and looked happy with the choice.
Brian twirled himself gleefully outside with the brushes and empty paint cans and hurled them far out from the barge, with the benediction,
Thereget sunkand take that grotty little pervert with you.
As Brian dusted off his hands the cans sank, bubbling green pebbles all over the surface of the water, and he thought that it looked like the last gasps of someone taking the deep six. The wooden-handled brushes floated off together in a watered-down green haze as he watched, imagining them to be a pair of male shoes found underneath an angry lovers bunk and tossed overboard after the intruding owner of them had already been thrown.
Brian grinned with satisfaction, leaning on the rope between stanchions, watching them go, not seeing the frown Spirit of the Bay was casting around figuring thered been enough of this disregard for the environs already, while Tide, anxious to smooth over the transgression, hurried brushes and bubbles along on the last of the days outward journey through the Gap to get them out of sight, as Brian turned back inside.
He regarded Megan thoughtfully as she wiped paint from her arms.
<Maybe I havent been paying enough attention to herat least likemaybe not the right kind. We were sort of on the move a lot before we got here, and now were fixing up this place andI have been kind of tired lately what with my back and all andlike she saidkind of grouchy andmaybe not up to scratch. Maybe I better get myself together. Dont guess that adolescent little smolt even knows how to make love to a woman anywayprobably wham bam and gettcha next time around. Thats not what its all aboutstupid, selfish little sticker.>
Its a lovely day for a walk, he told Megan cheerfully, watching her efforts at bathing from a bucket in the non-functional shower. Ill get you some more hot water.
Carrying a couple of buckets of cold water into the shower for himself after Megan had finished, he took particular care with his toilette. He emerged, slick-haired and trim-bearded, with a smile beginning on his face as he pulled on his jeans, casting his mind ahead with rising expectations.
Holding hands they strolled far along the beach and, getting diverted by Creek, followed its horizontal length inshore until it began sloping up. Then they climbed beside the roaring downward course of Waterfall until they were high enough to look back over Bay.
Sea was on the turn and they paused to get their breath, watching the excitement of Tide caught in the ecstatic grasp of Guardian Spirit and having to earn passage into Bay.
Brian felt his batteries getting charged from this rollicking demonstration.
Rested, they continued working their way up alongside the waterfall until, unexpectedly, they came to a little plateau with a smooth, large rock outcropping, edging a busy pool which caught the cascading water and channelled it, roaring, over its lip on its way downward. The rock itself was dry now from Suns warmth, but the green growth basking around its perimeter by the pool, and little carpets of moss covering nearby rocks, breathed out fine steam, enjoying relief from overly generous rain and mist.
Isnt this something! said Megan quietly, impressed by the surprising find.
Yeah. Sure didnt think anything like this was up here, he replied.
Afternoon rays fell through tall firs, and sage-green lichen which trailed from dead lower branches of an old arbutus swayed lazily in the light, sending dappled shadows dancing on the womans bright hair and on the face of the man beside her, enhancing his deep-blue eyeseyes of such depth a person could drown there in history and ancient knowledge of the sea if they looked too longbut it had been the fathomless glance of love those eyes held for her which Megan had immersed herself in unconditionally for more than a year now.
She walked over and leaned against the arbutus tree, totally absorbed in the place, her eyes on Waterfall, and there was silence between them for awhile, until she remarked,
Theres something wonderfully different here, Brian. Look at the rainbows the mist throws out, and the haloes that shine when the sun touches the water drops on the fernsand its all so secluded and beautiful. Its like the old stories about the places where Little People lived. Faery-like and magic.
Brian nodded, turning his eyes from the flashing water to meet hers, which held summer green through every season of the year.
There is something here Megan. Something like our people must have felt where they lived before their homes were taken away. It makes me feel as though my heart has just brought yours home.
Their gaze held for a long time, becoming more intense as the moments passed before he went to her as she leaned against the tree and, placing his left hand against the trunk of it and his right in his back pocket, he kissed her long and ardently, holding himself back and away from her, so that only her hands touched his chest, until he felt he needed more support than his legs were willing to give right then.
Stepping back from her to the rock, he went down flat on his knees, smiled at her and patted the space beside him invitingly. She accepted quickly and he yanked off his sweater to make a cushion for her to sit on as she came over saying,
Brian, if this isnt heaven then its very close to it.
If it is so, its because youre here to make it that way, he told her, beginning to fall under the spell of the moment as she sat down and leaned back against himbut his ongoing anxiety would not be quieted, which compelled him to ask,
You wouldnt look at another fellow would you Megan?
She laughed and told him,
I heard what you called him when you threw him overboard and watched him drown.
Brian, who had been getting ready to kiss her again, drew his head back, taken by surprise that his quiet moment of personal vengeance had been observed and given such an immediate, naked and complete dissection.
You are Faery. Did you read my mindor what?!
Why of course. Its very open and... .
Dont you dare say empty! he cut her off, And stop skirting the question. You wouldntwould you?
The laughing green eyes teased him as she replied,
So give me a few reasons why I shouldnt.
Brian swallowed, his Adams apple giving away his uncertainty, then, taking up the challenge he lowered her back onto the warm rock, fastened her lovely green, mischief-making eyes with his own honest open blue ones and told her,
Wellif thats whats necessaryit may take some bit of time herebutif you insistIve got lots of reasonsalso kind of Faery-like and magic.
Spirit of the Waterfall, inspired by this positive eager move, sang a song she hadnt voiced for years, tuned to Spring and intended for the enrapturement of two, as she and gentle Breeze threw a canopy of rainbows and misted, falling golden fir pollen over the young lovers.
- - -
The summer which came was a kindly one and the new possessors of the barge were busy. Money the pair didnt have much of but, like the beleaguered owner of the property they stood on, they too had imagination which could turn dirt into gold with the work of their own hands. This pleasant place seemed to offer a chance to do just that, along with respite from wandering for awhile.
The planters around the perimeter of the barge were cleared of their weeds, new earth was brought and seeds were lovingly and carefully patted home while the cycle of the moon was at its full. Gulls and cormorants were discouraged from sitting along the edges of these offshore gardens by some string they stretched over them at a certain height, which tipped any would-be roosting ideas off onto their beaks.
The bird population learned quickly.
The light-filled hexagonal spire room became a sunny nursery for some special plants which were considered too tender to be trusted to the outside world. The little sprouts came up quickly, took a look around, smiled at what they had been given, reached out their little seven-fingered leaves to play at catching sunbeams, and throve.
Getting a garden space ready on the shore nearby took a lot more doing, but the two had found some people of a like mind living on the outskirts of the village who, when they heard of the plans being put forth, gladly lent tools to help them out in exchange for some of the crop which was expected to be available by the end of the growing season.
Local attempts at cultivating one particularly sought after species of plant had been thwarted in various ways by nosy neighbours and prowling policemen, circumstances which had made would-be horticulturists wisely abandon such a project as too risky.
Those who persisted in nurturing such a crop had moved quite some distance away from the village where it was thought that interference would be cut to a minimum, so a hoard of this particular commodity had become a sought after treat around the Shalisa Creek area instead of a readily available supply.
Since the couple on the barge seemed ready and able to fill the needand take the risks involvedthey got a lot of encouragement, quietly given and hopefully well-placed.
Villagers who had noticed the new couple aroundthey were quite colourfully prominent and not easily overlookedand who had asked them pointed questions, now referred to them as those two East Coast kids doing market gardening down by the old logging place, if they referred to them at all.
Certainly the general population regarded it as a harmless pursuit, rather futile since almost everyone around had their own vegetable gardens and thered be little market for excess produce, but the two seemed hard-working, tidy, friendly and polite enough, and no one really paid very much attention to them once the initial questions had been answered with straightforward replies. Soggers came, Soggers wentit was the way of thingsand they were left unmolested.
After that first climb up to Waterfall the grotty little pervert might just as well have been taken through the Gap with his paintbrush shoes. He seemed to have been forgotten just as quickly as Megans debating had fallen under the brilliance of Brians reasoning. Going up became a favourite enterprise. They called the place their Faerys Retreat and treated it accordingly. It was their very own secret charmed space where they could be one together, free from the trampling intrusion of what to them had been, up to this point, a not too kind world.
On sunny summer days they would sit by the dancing pool, cooled by fine spray and touched by tiny falling arbutus blossoms, breathing in the fragrance of the place, and calling themselves Titania and Oberon, as he dressed her hair with wild flowers and she told him how handsomely he filled his role. It was an idyll neither had enjoyed before and they gave themselves to it totally, allowing themselves to feel the way young people ought to feel when young and in love and able to show it openly and without restraint to each other. This they did, in surroundings seemingly created for just such a purpose.
More mature adults, had they seen such behaviour, and themselves already bored and disillusioned with that whole scene, would have shaken their heads with scorn and called it silly, juvenile idiocy. Fortunately for them, the two who might have been so designated were not the least bit infected by such thoughts at the moment. They were idiotically, youthfully and foolishly in love and enjoying every minute of it.
- - -
Along with the love they held for each other they had another love they shared, and that was for Nature. The two had an extraordinary love of gardening. They tended their cleared plot ashore with care and enthusiasm, watering it with the rain they caught in LEGER DE MAINs cistern, or lugging creek water to it in the buckets they had salvaged from the houses ashore. They smothered it in seaweed for fertiliser, weeding and hoeing diligently as they sang and harmonised on old folk songs, or tunes and words they invented themselves as they worked.
Recognising that some of the trees around the old logging site buildings were not of Natures planting, the cherry, apple, plum, apricot and pear were pruned into usefulness, and the two nut trees, filbert and walnut, were patted fondly and often as the two passed by them, and given endearing words of encouragement to ensure their refound happiness in their situation. Extra care was given to a fragile peach tree found clinging to the sunny south side of the largest building which they figured had been home and office to the holder of the logging rights. It was espaliered carefully back onto its old trellis and coaxed into bloom.
Around the empty houses, which once had been secure homes to those who had lived and worked there, they extricated berry bushes and domestic flowers from the grasp of more aggressive wild plants which seemed intent on their eradication, and a plot of perennial herbs Megan discovered was rejoiced over as though it might have been the gold mine discussed by the five boys when theyd first come aboard the barge. The new garden contained bits and pieces from the old gardens, which restored and revitalised the old stock.
Some fishing nets they found bundled up in a shed under an old, frayed tarp were used as deer fencing and, once it was strung around on tripods of old branch poles, with the cork floats hanging like a scalloped necklace of brown beads big enough for a whale, it gave the place an air of life which the two imagined must once have gone on therenets drying, waiting to be mended before being put aboard the boats which surely, they reasoned, had pulled out of this bay in past years to set them in season.
Flowers and vegetables flourished among the insect population. Deer, raccoons and other long-term residents, four-footed and on the wing, tried their best to sample the succulent produce, reaching through, over and under the improvised fences.
Around the perimeter of LEGER DE MAIN tall, dark green, palmate-leaved, graceful plants waved and swayed and were coddled in the arms of Sun and Rain and by the barge dwellers, as ornamental flowers bloomed at earth level and tipped themselves over the edges of the containers the way they had when the casino was in full swing.
The flower boxes around the spire flew banners of deep orange nasturtiums edged with streamers of blue lobeliathe whole collection of bloom everywhere providing plenty of flowers for the house, with cheerful jars of them sprouting on the round burl of fir which had been found ashore and used in front of the fireplace as a table, on counter-tops and on the big fireplace mantel.
Brian made himself a rod and hooks, fishing from the old wharf and from the stern of the barge, proudly bringing his cleaned catch to Megan for her to use her culinary skills on. The heads, tails and cleanings were thriftily dug into the garden, just as those who had lived around the bay in the past had known how to give their crops a good meal of fish to ensure that they had a fine start. His call of Breakfasts coming, became a familiar sound around the bay. The verdict from both of them on rock cod wasalmost as good as home. The two began to put on a little weight, which smoothed out the angular bony outlines they had brought with them.
They left the shellfish to their own devices, using the old rule ofno collecting of them in a month without an R in it. Previous Bay dwellers too had known that Summer here also brought red tide, and they had posted sentinels to warn stray strangers of the danger from poisoning which came with such a harvestancient knowledge known to all who lived with Sea and used its bounty for food, whether in this sheltered bay or elsewhere.
Beach waters became warm enough to please Megan for swimming in, although Brian had been intimidating the fingerlings around shore with his splashing intrusion for some time before that, and the two spent idle hours lying in the sun on the sand afterwards, rather like the sleek young seals which hauled out on the rocks beyond the bay, outside of its arms.
The little wooden trolls castle stretched in sunshine, threw the colourful petals from its flower boxes generously and profusely to Wind and Tide and hummed contentedly to itself.
It was a summer not to be forgotten by the bay dwellers. Corn ashore grew high and healthy, and the tool lenders noted with pleasure, when they hiked down for a visit, that the companion planting which went along with that tall vegetable wasnt only pumpkins.
It was as high as and greener than the corn, and by the beginning of autumn it was promising a large return for all the love and work it had received.
A market had early been established for its disposal and everything was ripening beautifully. The two happy gardeners had already toted up the size of the profit theyd clear and had great plans for what to do with it. Decidedly better than existing on welfare cheques.
They began to speculate into the future, thinking that maybe this could become a regular facet of their lives. Summer making money here, winter spending it somewhere else. Maybe a winter in Mexico. Maybe California or Floridabutafter a few wild and extravagant dreams of that sort, Summer Green looked reflectively into Deep Sea Blue and they knew what theyd do with the money.
They were homesick. They missed family and friends. This money might help the old home business get on its feet again, maybe. Just a wonderful trip home would be enough after beingawaytoo long.
At last the morning came when they stood looking at their money crop, deciding as to whether it should be harvested that day or the next.
If we start now we can have it in before noon, said Megan.
You dont think its a bit early in the morning yetmaybe too damp? enquired Brian. Of course we dont have to take it all at once.
No, but its nice to have it safely put away and the weathers so good for drying it.
The distinctive sound of an approaching helicopter brought their eyes up from green plants to blue sky, and the colouration of the oncoming, low flying aircraft immediately raised visions of a winter spent in less hospitable surroundings than those previously dreamt of.
Oh jayzuss and marry! breathed Brian in sudden fear. Quick! Into the bushes and stay still.
He grabbed Megan by the arm and the two sprinted in a frantic and successful rush for cover as the menace came up and flew overhead.
The sergeant piloting the police bird had been running a casual and unconcerned glance over the scenery below when his intelligent and well-trained eyes absorbed the delightful green of the friendly tall plants which were hugging the corn, and he could tell from that one glance he was not looking at vine tomatoes.
He knew marijuana when he saw it.
Sonovabitch!, he exploded out loud. Right under my nose!
He hovered over the area, noting that the old barge which hed raided so often had smoke coming out of its chimney, and that there was more of the same lush vegetation surrounding the decks in an illicit ring.
He was tempted to land and do a one man job, but Tide was up, most of Beach was under water, and there was no really clear place to land unless he tried the stern deck of the barge, which looked pretty diceystairs, pots of flowers, stanchions with ropes slung between, loose stuff all overalthough he probably would have had a go at it in an emergency. Apart from that, he was enroute to an appointment which would keep him out of the village overnight. He was expected on schedule and he was running tight for time.
<Must be losing my wits. I should have been this way long ago to check it out. So this is the market gardening Ive heard people talking about.>
Restraining himself from the one man bust idea, he had to be content with sending the information down to his buddies on the ground who were not well placed at that moment to do anything about it. They were busy right then collecting someone else with the same kind of greenery for sale who was operating somewhere much farther outside of the village.
By the time the ground forces finally arrived at the bay the next day, a hasty harvest had been accomplished by many hands summoned urgently and immediately after the sergeant had turned his helicopter away, and the two culprits were gone, having swiftly and regretfully abandoned their friendly habitat on the water.
The area was searched but no cache and no one was found and, since the barge wouldnt talk, and a diplomatic neutrality was maintained by Guardian Spirit, Tide, Beach and Bay, the officers were left with nothing to do but burn what scraps remained of the naughty weed and watch the fragrant smoke drift out across the water while they inhaled deeplyin satisfaction of a job well donewellalmost.
LEGER DE MAIN sat in loyal silence to her two dispossessed occupants while this went on. She had enjoyed the company of the energetic young couple and had become used to being looked after and swept regularly. She had doors again, and plastic windows. There had been cosy evenings by the fire and days filled with fun and song, visitors, and little coffee time get-togethers.
The flowers in the planters did their best to hide the cut stumps of the tall plants which had been growing so fine and strong there just the day before, as they waited for their daily wateringwhich wasnt going to happen. Sunshine fell through the plastic windows of the hexagonal room and landed on containers of earth now devoid of the necessity for protection. A jar of fragrant autumn blooms which had been picked the previous morning sat on the round burl table. The two hand-made canvas beanbag-shaped chairs still held the contours of their latest occupants.
The barge took a deep, regretful breath, along with the officers, let it out and got ready to be alone again.