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15: Changed plans

Tranquil places bring reflections
And the strength to change directions

Spring at last began to behave the way everyone expected, after they had grumbled about the wet reality and waited and waited. A week of rain, wind and chill gave way to warming overcast and cloud for a few days, and then sunshine filled Shalisa Creek Bay.

painting on silk

     Barge, boats, beaches and cliffs steamed from the warmth of the sun, turning the bay surrounds into a hazy background of yellow-green early growth, seen through a mist softly, like an ancient oriental painting on silk, flooded with sunlight, the whole illusion disappearing before noon, as everything dried out a little and returned the scene to normalcy.

     Grandfather’s house had a welcoming open door once more even though there was still a coolness in the air, and ELFINSHOE was bouncing again with the activities of five youngsters, going to and from their floating home to barge and beach. Watching the five children boarding the barge, heading for turret and spire, Rose finished her morning tidying of self and house and walked down to where BRIGHT LEAF waited.

     Lately, whenever she went down to the canoe, one or more of the children had come running, asking to go with her, and she had taken them along, drawing their attention to the changes spring brought to plants and trees as these exchanged their winter drab for new, colourful clothing. River otters frisked in appreciation of winter’s retreat, eagles soared mating on the wing, and Canada Geese brought their little fleets of fluff out of drydock, sometimes a dozen at a time, for their first sea trials.

     This morning the five youngsters had chosen LEGER DE MAIN for their playground, and she could hear their laughter and the sound of running feet as they chased each other up stairs and around turrets. She pushed the canoe into the water and set off for a paddle all to herself.

     Gliding along through the last of Sun’s generated mist, she felt the serenity of Bay returning to her, as she remembered what it had been like to be a child herself here, with busy people coming and going, while she owned mornings of freedom without restraint, the only rules being the ones she had been taught from birth—respect and consideration for others, herself, and everything else which made up her world.

     She went out through Gap, giving a salute with her raised paddle to Guardian Spirit there, took a look at Sea and found a quiet and peaceful surface rippling and mirroring her little craft, with Tide moving lazily in, almost at full, then she turned back, close to shore where the broom was opening in an extravagant golden celebration of the season. Paddling back into Gap she saw the rock cleft ahead, now a long strip of flowering yellow, ready to guide in cautious, knowing seafarers.

     After beaching the canoe she took time to treat her already buoyant spirit to colour and fragrance in the garden, under the veiling pink and white bloom of the fruit trees, and where the flowers and herbs the young couple who had gardened so diligently were now showing off what help and happiness can do.

     Seeing Fitz leaning on a stern deck stanchion of the barge, with Charm sunning beside him while he regarded his boat, contemplating a spring refit for JOLLY ROSE, she decided to avail herself of his open invitation to come aboard any time for a cup of coffee, or if she just wanted a relaxed conversation about work to be done, which was demanding attention everywhere. Their partnership in the upkeep of everything had evolved very rapidly as they took advantage of co-operation as a friendly and useful commodity.

     She returned to BRIGHT LEAF, paddled to the stern of the barge, went up the ladder, and it was while she and Fitz were in the galley making coffee that they heard the twins running down the stairs from the spire, shouting,

     “Galaxy pirates! Galaxy pirates!”

     The warning cry from the two had scarcely echoed from the spire gallery in the sunny morning, before all the children disappeared inside the barge, while Rose and Fitz stood on the stern deck to watch the incoming traffic the children had warned them of.

     “Hope this isn’t trouble,” murmured Rose, noting the military green colour of the leading boat.

     “Seems that never takes a holiday,” returned Fitz.

     On closer observation, the first of the two incoming boats was seen to be towing the second one. Genoas were doused and mainsails on both boats slatted idly in still air as they passed through the Gap on the quiet high tide.

     Two white dogs were standing on the bow of the yawl in tow and, as the procession came nearer, Charm took up a stance on the barge deck preparing to run off the invaders if they dared to board, for although she might be wary of children, dogs were just overgrown rodents to her and she was having none of them around here.

     “I guess somebody’s engine broke down,” observed Fitz unnecessarily, as the boats came within hailing distance. “They seem to know how to get through the Gap without problem. Lovely lines on that first one. She must have been a fine sight once—and the other one’s a beauty too.”

     As they watched, the two boats headed, not for the old wharf but straight for LEGER DE MAIN, and the lead boat skipper, a round smiling man with a woman of equal proportions seated in the pilothouse with him, came out on deck and called,

     “Hi there. All right if we tie up beside you? My friend’s engine quit on him. Lucky we were almost here.”

     “Oh, go right ahead,” agreed Fitz, and then made himself helpful to get the job done, putting the military green boat to port and the tow astern.

     Charm was in no way inclined to encourage this hospitality. She fluffed herself up to her largest dimensions, put on her angriest threatening face, crouched down switching her puffed up tail, laid back her ears and yowled a challenge which the dogs were quick to reply to.

     There was a shout from the cockpit of the second boat ordering Ulf and Gurth to quit that right now, and pleadings from Fitz for Charm to stop teasing the dogs, none of which abated the noise much until the boats got their fenders in place and managed to tie up. Then the skipper of the yawl, whom Fitz noticed had a large amount of long curly hair and seemed to be hobbling as he went forward, quieted the two dogs with a single gesture and put them below decks.

     It was then that Fitz saw the cast on the yawl skipper’s right leg.

     “Sorry about the row,” the newcomer called. “They usually listen to me, except sometimes a cat gets them carried away. It’s friendly rivalry though, so no cause for concern. All right if we come aboard?”

     Receiving permission, the dog owner hitched himself up the stern ladder with mostly the strength of his arms and hit the barge deck with his good left foot, putting out his right hand as he did so, saying,

     “You must be Fitz Jolly, my wealthy tenant. I’m David Godwin, your broke landlord—in more ways than one. Guess we’ll have to have a talk.”

     Before Fitz could respond with more than his hand to that surprise, the man looked at Rose and gave her a startled smile of recognition.

     “Well for—Geeze!—Rose Hold! How about that. What are you doing here? I thought you were in the Big City down east getting your People out of trouble.”

     “I’ve been. I found out I am my People,” returned Rose with an equally welcoming smile, “So I came back here and got me out. I must say I’m not surprised to see you though. I half expected you’d return to the scene of the crime sooner or later.”

     “Why not? Didn’t you convince them that it wasn’t one?”

     “Once, okay, but don’t push your luck.”

     Then glancing at the cast his leg was adorned with she added,

     “Looks like you already have. Did somebody hang you out a second storey window by your ankle for non-payment?”

     “Uh uh,” he laughed, as the couple who had towed him in came aboard. “Got this legitimately.”

     Turning to them he explained,

     “Rose and I know each other. This is Bettina and Harry Currie—we’re sailing buddies— Rose Hold—Fitz Jolly. If you get invited aboard CRUSTY watch out for that top step. It’s vicious. They just bought their boat recently and this is her shakedown cruise. I came along to help, but—uh—look who’s doing the helping.”

     “Don’t worry about it, I’ll fix your engine,” Harry comforted him, while the laughter subsided.

     “Oh, no problem,” David came back hastily. “It’s done this before and I know exactly what it is. Just need the time to get at it and I’ll probably have that now.”

     Fitz, who had been throwing glances down onto the decks of the two boats moored alongside, found himself another surprise in the green one.

     “I swear,” he said, “I’m sure that’s the LADY LILY. I know those deck fittings—custom made—and that skylight—I remember watching the shipwright building it when I was just a young man, and then there was her launching and what a sight she was, all flags and whistles and dripping champagne. I never thought I’d see her again, much less on this side of the world. Where did you get her?”

     “You know my boat?” asked Harry, pleased. “I bought her from a friend of David’s at the yacht club we belong to.”

     “Watch who you designate as my friends,” cautioned David. “She’s not a bad boat if we scraped all that green bile off her. She certainly was well put together to begin with.”

     “She certainly was,” agreed Fitz. “My father had her built.”

     “Well, trust Harry to come up with a treasure buried under a pile of manure,” laughed David, through the exclamations from the others.

     “You mean you really are... ?” Rose caught herself before she gave away what she now considered to be Fitz’s anonymity.

     Fitz gave her a little smile, then said,

     “Why don’t we go in and have a little nip to celebrate all this company we have? It’s not every day a person gets to meet his landlord and his father’s boat again both at one and the same time.”

     “Oh, let me go back down and get a bottle or two of my own wine,” offered Bettina, who wasn’t overly fond of a commercial nip when her own was available. “After all, we’re kind of dropping in on you unexpectedly.”

     “You’ll love Bettina’s wine,” David assured them. “I know I’ll never forget my first taste. She puts all the fun and aroma and colour of the harvest season into her bottles along with the other ingredients.”

     “Gee, sure is great here,” observed Harry, looking out over the bay. “We had a great sail and a nice overnight in a little town David knew of and boy, did they have a great pub!”

     “This one used to be pretty good too,” remarked David as everyone started for the three steps except for himself. “Uh oh. Left my crutches on board.”

     “No sweat,” smiled Harry, “I’ll get ’em for you later,” and with that the short round man came back, lifted him easily off his feet, carted him up the steps and set him down at the top.

     “So you’re a weight lifter too. Thanks Harry.”

     Balancing in the doorway, David got his first look inside his battered casino.

     <Aw—geeze!—somebody’s painted it green!>

     He’d been looking forward to seeing the barge castle again, but his memories of it and the sight which had gradually appeared as they’d approached hadn’t managed to mesh.

     <She’s been trashed. Some stupid bastards have wrecked her! What’s the matter with people? Is it inherent in them to destroy everything? Can’t they leave anything alone? I wouldn’t have minded if somebody’d used it and enjoyed it—but this!>

     As they had come closer he’d seen the empty window frames covered with plastic, the neglected, weedy flower boxes, the doors made of old boards, the grey-green ropes between the stanchions.

     The cheerful eagerness he’d begun the journey with had withered. He would almost rather not have seen it at all again than coming onto this.

     It had been such a happy, bright dream when in the making, and he’d enjoyed living aboard so much on the occasions when he’d found time to spare for being here alone. Somehow it and the bay it sat in had given him a wonderful sense of suspended time. Problems disappeared. It had been like a private new world for him, especially when he walked ashore with Ulf and Gurth.

     During those times his mind had found space to expand and he’d been free, the way he’d felt as a child. Free to let his imagination do what it wanted—to interact with the things around him—to feel suddenly relieved of all his responsibilities, while he skipped stones dancing across the water, examined shells, admiring their intricacies, marvelling at the fact that some soft-bodied little creature had actually produced it, without fuss, noise, waste. He’d made whistles of grass and elderberry twigs. Walked in the meadow beyond the bay and played his flute while Ulf and Gurth kept him company, trotting beside or ahead.

     Then Tree, Water, Bird and Animal had come into his sphere of consideration. They’d given him a communication of restful harmony, of calm well-being which had made him feel he really didn’t need much else, as he became part of Earth, Sky, Sea and everything around him, separately or in total, soaking in the joy of simply being, without questioning, devoid of problems and worries.

     He’d had friends who understood him—his dogs, his flute, his boat, and ashore and in the sea around, although he could never quite explain it, he knew there were spirits. Spirits of the Bay. Ancient beyond time. They laughed with him when he swam in Sea, sang in Tide and sea-life as he rowed, lifted Raven in flight, put forth green shoots for Deer to browse, carried TJUTELA across space and time safely into the bay.

     There were others, more like the spirits of people long gone, who still walked their favourite paths and sat on sunwarmed rocks to dream a little, gather flowers in the meadow, make love by the singing waterfall, and one in particular who owned the space by the big fir tree on the beach—or perhaps it was he himself who generated all this activity and gave such life to what was around him.

     For him there was knowledge here which needed no words and which no books held. It stood by itself, requiring no logic and no explanation. It was. The Spirits were.

     Now he stood on the threshold of his ruined dream and saw—green! He felt tired, dejected and a bit defeated as he stood there, balancing on one foot.

     <Almost two years gone by—and it’s changed everything so drastically. I’m glad I didn’t know about this. It would have chewed at me. While I sat there cornered in one place the whole damned world took a couple of turns—for the worse.>

     Suddenly he became aware that he was being watched covertly by five curious young people who had been listening to everything and, deciding cautiously that friends had arrived and there was no danger, were sneaking peeks from around the office doorway.

     “Well hi—what have we got here? Forest sprites? Come on out. I’m harmless.”

     Slowly and cautiously, they emerged, first the twins, then Therése and finally Morgan and Isabel.

     The twins regarded him with interest and then Bernice invited in her turn,

     “Hi—you come on in.”

     “Let’s see what I can do,” laughed David making a couple of hops into the room.

     “Here, I’ll give you a hand,” offered Harry. “I’m a good crutch to lean on. Where’ll it be?”

     “Not the beanbag please Harry. I’ll never get out of it again. Something straight and solid should do it.”

     “Try this,” said Harry, helping him into a hollowed-out cushioned log chair which Fitz had made from a large piece of a cedar bole. “How’s that? Okay?”

     “This is great,” David told him appreciatively, then, watching the children watching him, he asked of Rose and Fitz, “Are you two running a school here?”

     “Something like that,” smiled Rose, evading the question. “You don’t object to children on the premises do you?”

     “Good lord no! All my nieces and nephews think I’m one of them. Haven’t been encouraged to visit them lately though. Bad influence. Bet I know where you youngsters hang out. It has to be that harlequin mansion with all the balloons and things, moored over by the wharf. Right?”

     “How did you guess?” asked the twins in one voice, smiling with delight and forgetting caution.

     “Because that’s just the boat I’d choose if I were your age,” returned David. “Bet we could have had a great soccer scrimmage but—sorry kids.”

     He stuck out his cast-enclosed leg.

     “Where did you get that?”

     “Why is your leg in cement?”

     “That’s what you get when you break a leg—so be careful of yours.”

     Walter walked over and had a good look, touching the cast.

     “I don’t think I want one if it makes you walk funny like that,” came Bernice’s assessment.

     “I think it would be wowsie,” grinned Walter, making his leg stiff and hopping as he’d seen David do.

     Then, adapting his new friend’s manner of speaking as he patted the cast he suggested,

leg in cast     “Bet Isabel could make that look real pretty.”

     “What! A gambler in the crew? You and I are going to get along just fine. How much you want to bet? How about five loonies?”

     Five pairs of eyes got together and then Isabel said,

     “Walter doesn’t have five loonies.”

     “Oh—well—I’ll stake him and, let’s say, if everybody agrees it’s prettier after than before, he gets to keep the whole lot. Okay? Who’s Isabel? You? Who’s going to hold the pot? Harry—you’re it.”

     David handed over a ten dollar bill and found himself surrounded, involved in a wager he knew ahead of time he’d certainly lose as all five told him their names on request—Bernice and Walter giving theirs two or three times.

     There were excited suggestions as to what should be put on the cast.

     “You need balloons an’ a kite.”

     “An’ space pirates in their space ship.”

     “Whales and dolphins,” came from Therése.

     “How about a canoe,” was Morgan’s contribution.

     “Do you think you could squeeze a dragon on there somewhere?” asked David.

     “Mmm—and I think flowers and butterflies around the top and bottom would really set it off,” Isabel finished up. “I’ll go get my paints and stuff.”

     “Better take my sock off first,” suggested David, but before he could reach for it two pairs of eager small hands quickly yanked it off, and he rolled the opened leg of his jeans farther up on his cast.

     The log rounds Fitz had made for seating, topped with hand-sewn and stuffed canvas cushions, were pulled up to his trestle table of old boards and, since there wasn’t enough seating to go around, the children settled on the floor around David as Isabel set out her paints and began work.

     Bettina and Harry poured out their wine, and it sang gently in the glasses, mellowing the conversation as Isabel worked busily and Fitz told them about the LADY LILY.

     “She was named for my grandmother and sold when my father died. I certainly hope you two will spend lots of happy hours on her. Our family did. I hated to see her go. She does look the worse for wear, but you can probably give her some restoration and she’ll be good for a long time after. He put nothing but the best of materials into her, not that you can tell by looking at her now. She was all brightwork, and the varnish below decks was his pride and joy. Wonder how she got here. Maybe came through the Canal. I’m glad she’s come to someone who’ll appreciate her.”

     “Well I sure appreciate that diesel engine she’s got,” laughed Harry.

     “You know,” said Bettina thoughtfully, “Maybe we should hold a rechristening and change her name by adding LADY LILY to CRUSTY. Give her back her original one without having her give up the new life she’s into now.”

     “Let’s have a glass of wine to that,” agreed Harry.

     Over at the artist’s corner, Isabel had David standing on one leg, leaning on the chair so that she could get to the back of his cast, saying the dragon would have to curl its way all around it. That done, she told him,

     “You can sit down now. It’s almost finished.”

     “This better be quick drying paint,” returned David doubtfully, turning around and dropping gratefully into the chair.

     “Well of course it is,” answered Isabel with a superior smile. “At least that’s what the lady who gave it to me said.”

     “How am I going to be able to see my dragon?”

     “Well—look—there’s his tail down bottom and his head out front—see his fire? You’ll have to get a mirror for the rest. Now—let’s see. Got it. Hold still.”

     Under David’s astounded and fascinated gaze his toenails were quickly transformed into gold and then Isabel said,

     “Okay. Now we all put our initials on it. I’ll put mine in the middle. Here Therése. You can have the big toe.”

     “Me next,” shouted Walter forgetting politeness in his excitement.

     “I get the little toe ’cause I’m the littlest,” declared Bernice.

     “Guess I get what’s left, as usual” said Morgan, throwing his gaze up to the ceiling in resignation as the brush was passed around, “There. Twim—twim-bee—Twimby,” he enunciated, “Needs a ‘Y’.”

     “Yes—yes! We’ll call him Uncle Twimby,” laughed Therése, clapping her hands.”

     “Uncle Twimby!

     “Uncle Twimby!” came twin approvals.

     “She’s always naming everything,” Morgan told David sympathetically. “Can we call you that?

     “May we,” came the correction, “And it is kind of—nice. It suits you.”

     “Suits me?!”

     “Yes. Kind of fun like, and funny.”

     “Geeze—everybody spots the joker. I’m outnumbered. I accept my fate. I surrender. Uncle Twimby it is.”

     “Better fix it then,” said Bernice and, taking the brush, she looked at the little toenail with the big ‘B’ sprawling over it, said, “There’s no room there,” and then squiggled a ‘Y’ onto David’s toe.

     “Hey! That tickles,” laughed David, wiggling his five magnificently decorated and signed digits.

     “Okay,” called Isabel, “Hey everybody—is this cast prettier than when we started?”

     There was no doubt. The vote was unanimous from the others.

     “Agreed, Uncle Twimby?” asked Morgan, laughing.

     “Who could argue with this lot? Agreed! Hand over the pot, Harry.”

     Harry put the bill into Walter’s small, reaching hand.

     “Look at that!” he said admiringly. “Here Isabel. That’ll buy lots of groceries for us. Mommy used to say that about those blue ones.”

     Hearing that remark, David wished he’d upped the ante, while he noted that ‘Mommy’ was referred to in the past tense.

     “Have you figured out how to restore CRUSTY?” he asked those at the table.

     “Well, to begin with, maybe we should hurry up and start taking off that green paint to see what’s under it,” Harry told him. “If she was built that good she must be a real sweetheart with her fittings all polished and her varnish down below shining around.”

     “That would be wonderful,” smiled Bettina. “And Fitz can be our advisor.”

     “With all that work we’ll need lunch,” hinted Walter.

     “By golly, it is that time,” grinned Harry. “What have we got, Bettina?”

     There was a scramble into boats as everybody went into their food lockers and came up with something and, after a community lunch of salad and sandwiches, Fitz washed up, David leaned against the bar drying the dishes, Morgan put away, Isabel swept the floor and Therése made the place tidy again with the help of the twins.

     Harry had disappeared over the stern with a remark about ‘tinkering and tuning’, followed by a couple of barks from the direction of TJUTELA as Ulf and Gurth—left aboard and disappointed at not being brought on to the barge—possibly had a walk in mind and, seeing Harry, hoped he might have David with him. Rose and Bettina, enjoying their managerial positions, sat by giving light-hearted helpful hints to the workers. Charm had gone up to the spire room and was sitting on a windowsill where she had a clear view of TJUTELA and crew. She was going to keep her eyes on them.

     There came the sound of tools being applied to metal from alongside the barge. No one paid too much attention until David heard the familiar sound of TJUTELA’s motor coming to life.

     “Oh—geezeno!” he exclaimed in an anguished voice as he threw down the dishtowel and, grabbing his crutches, he headed at a fast hop out the door, down the stairs and over to the railing of the barge, where he looked over the side into the yawl’s cockpit.

     Fitz, concerned by David’s tone, hurried out after him and, seeing him leaning over the rail, asked,

     “What’s wrong David? Are you ill?”

     “Worse than that,” declared David, rubbing his forehead as he regarded two large greasy smears on the port rail of his boat. “Harry’s fixing my diesel.”

     “Well—I should think you’d be pleased,” Fitz told him, taken aback by the ungrateful remark.

     “I should be, but you don’t know Harry,” David replied, as the sound of the engine ceased.

     A few moments later Harry appeared up TJUTELA’s companionway, tool kit in hand, smiling broadly and followed by two happy dogs, each one wearing the proof of his friendship for Harry on his white coat in the form of many dark and greasy pat marks.

     “Got her all fixed,” he called. “Beautiful engine. One day I’ll give her a real overhaul for you.”

     He swung himself over the starboard side of the sailboat, got into his dinghy, worked his way astern by pushing and pulling on the white hull of the yawl and around her bright transom, where he let go and waggled his way over to the stern ladder of the barge by throwing his weight from side to side, caught hold of the bottom rung, climbed on deck, and stood running the palms of his hands, as well as the tool kit he held, up and down his jeans.

     David couldn’t see the handprints all along TJUTELA’s shining white paint but he knew they were there because he could plainly see the ones on the varnished transom.

     He spoke to himself sternly, pushed himself away from the barge’s rope railing, turned around, and with a smile equalling that of the round man before him he said,

     “Thanks a million Harry. Now I know I’ll be able to make it back under my own power.”

     “That’s what friends are for,” grinned Harry.

     <So what’s a little grease,> David rationalised. <I’ll get it off somehow.>

     “Ulf, Gurth, over the side. Shore—go.”

     Noting the surprised looks Fitz and Harry exchanged as the two dogs plunged happily and immediately over the side of TJUTELA and into the water, he explained,

     “They’re not getting enough exercise these days with me like this. Let’s go finish the dishes.”

     As the three turned back into the barge, David was figuring that he could wash the grease off the boat and the two dogs a little later, when no one else was looking. At least, by sending them over the side, he’d prevented the disease from spreading.

     Once the tidying up on the barge was finished, David sat quietly wondering when he’d get a chance to sneak into the office and retrieve his money. Sneaking wasn’t going to be easy because every time he moved somebody offered to help.

     He hadn’t used much of his time on the way up to think about his real reasons for the journey to Shalisa Creek Bay. He’d been too busy keeping an eye on CRUSTY and crew, plus the job of managing TJUTELA while incapacitated. The reality of CRUSTY actually making any distance from the marina had caught him unprepared, and he couldn’t admit to the Curries that he’d expected them to be aboard his own boat for the trip.

     When he’d had his first look at the barge as they’d motored in, the fear that someone had perhaps accidentally found the spring-set board had struck him hard. The little sliding trap door which had been under his desk in the office held the means to rescue his business. It had helped for him to see that the floor was still intact, but he didn’t want to go brazenly in and tear the floor apart while everybody watched as he retrieved his sizable assets. He was used to privacy regarding his monetary affairs, and to keeping methods of secreting things to himself.

little money box     He needn’t have worried so much.

     Just as lunch had been an affair for everyone to participate in, afternoon became a community siesta. Fitz disappeared into JOLLY ROSE, glad of a little less commotion, and thoroughly drowsy from a good lunch and excellent accompanying wine. The children rowed back to ELFINSHOE, full of too much excitement, and CRUSTY’s stern cabin was well filled with Bettina and Harry.

     “Guess that leaves counsel and criminal,” remarked David, as he saw Rose gazing out the window at the sunny shore and, knowing that she was too polite to leave him alone, he told her,

     “Go ahead. I’d go for a walk too if I could. You don’t have to stay here and keep me company. I’ll go have a nap too.”

     “Oh—well—,” Rose hesitated, wanting very much to go for a walk on this smiling day.

     “Go on,” smiled David encouragingly.

     “I’ll help you aboard TJUTELA then.”

     “No need. I’m good at sliding down stairways—usually. Slide down the bannister at home. Saves Gram a lot of polishing there. Just watch.”

     David picked up his crutches, made good time out to the stern ladder, dropped the helpers carefully down into TJUTELA’s cockpit and said,

     “Now for some legerdemain.”

     He swung himself over the top of the stern ladder and slid down, using his hands on the side rails and his left foot for a brake, then grabbed a stanchion on the yawl’s deck and landed lightly, left-footed, still standing, and grinning up at Rose.

     “Oh—well done!” came the approval.

     “Yeah. Should have used that technique aboard Harry’s boat, going up. Got more muscles in my arms than between my ears. Have a good walk.”

     Rose came down after him and settled herself into her canoe.

     “Just one thing,” said David, “Is it all right for the dogs to stay ashore for awhile? Otherwise we’ll have to wrestle them aboard right now.”

     “How about if I take them with me?”

     “Uh—if they’ll go. They always try to hang around me. Tell you what—you go ashore and I’ll tell them to follow you.”

     “Really? More magic?”

     “Just good training and a terrific understanding and trust between us,” laughed David.

     Rose headed for shore and beached the canoe. David gave a whistle. Two white samoyeds left their rambling and raced for the beach. Before they could hit the water David held up his open hand. Two samoyeds stopped at the edge of the water. He swung his arm toward Rose.


     Two puzzled samoyeds, throwing questioning glances over their shoulders, trotted a little uncertainly over to Rose and placed themselves at her left side. David clapped his hands, swung his arm and called,

     “Have fun—they’re with you Rose.”

     “Maybe you could try that on the kids,” laughed Rose delightedly, and started along the beach. Ulf and Gurth paced along at her left heel, still throwing the occasional look back at David. She stopped. They stopped. She tried again. Same thing, as the two dogs halted, turned their heads and looked at David. He hadn’t rescinded his order.

     “How do I get them to have fun?” she called, laughing at their absolute adherence to orders.

     “Oh—forgot. Just say—hey guys, let’s run.”

     Two pairs of ears perked up. They started for the beach, expecting David to join them.

     “Heel!” ordered David quickly, signalling. Two confused dogs headed back to Rose, throwing questioning glances at each other.

     “Tell you what,” called David, laughing himself, “Just walk them out of my sight and then try it.”

     “Okay, no harm in trying,” replied Rose and started toward the deer path leading to the meadow, followed closely by Ulf and Gurth, as David went below.

     This was the opportunity he’d been waiting for. He went to a locker, reached for a small tool kit, tucked it into the waistband of his jeans and fastened it there with its lanyard, headed out to the cockpit and got himself aboard LEGER DE MAIN again, murmuring,

     “Little money box—here I come!”

     Ashore, Rose, remembering so many other springs here, headed for Meadow. Sun had not yet dried all of the previous evening’s light rain from the foliage in the lower reaches of the heavier tree cover and, as she walked the well known deer path which was being used more and more by bay dwellers now, little showers of raindrops still clinging to leaves and needles scattered down on her as Breeze passing through shook the trees playfully.

     Fox Sparrows, and Towhees cocking their head feathers, rustled quickly into underbrush at her approach She took care as to where she stepped because Slug population was busy foraging on the path before Sun made things too dry for their efforts and forced them back into more mossy, moist places.

     Tall young growth of salmonberry bushes touched her in gentle greeting as she went by, their deep pink flowers showing the promise of a bountiful food supply for bird and forest dweller later on, and the Oregon grape held up its yellow flower spikes among its prickly, shiny evergreen leaves, there among the sprays of white salal urns, giving the same assurance.

     When she reached Meadow the new grass held a smile of fuchsia and yellow, as wild peas tangled themselves up grass blades to show their flowers to Sun, and dandelions threw their brawny green rosettes out to claim territory for regal ‘lions’ everywhere. Rose knew by the masses of various green that other flowers would come, each in their turn, to create a varying, rich, colourful brocade for Meadow as the season progressed.

     Here at the edge of the meadow, she told Ulf and Gurth,

     “Hey guys, lets run!”

     At the familiar words they looked up at her, uncertain, used to David’s voice.

     “Yes—I mean it—hey guys, let’s run!

     With this more positive and definite suggestion Ulf and Gurth ran, gradually slowing, and stopping to investigate whatever it is which entrances the noses of dogs turned loose on a ramble.

     Rose followed more slowly, heading for Grandfather’s Place.

     Standing there once more, she thought of the Old Ones, of the endless seasons coming and going through time, of the people who had come and gone with them, and of her own place in the bay now. Her heart was happy that she had come back to her home, but like so many others who have left and returned again, she had found that the coming back was not the same as having stayed. The continuum of years had been broken. The present offered only reconstruction. She had foregone her place here for all those years and the gap was irrevocable. There had been no one to record and remember the time which had passed after Grandfather had joined the Old Ones. She regretted this deeply.

     She broke her silence at last saying,

     “We’re here with Spring again Grandfather. I have a small song which I feel expresses my thoughts at this time for the Old Ones, you, Father and Mother and Chant. When I first came back I felt that I’d have to leave again because I doubted my place here. I won’t question my presence in Shalisa Creek Bay anymore. I think I don’t need to. Let me sing this for all of us now,

When the sun calls forth the seed from the earth
And it reaches for Sky in a green burst of mirth
Then Earth and Seed and Sky know ‘why’
So do I

     “There’s no way I can retrieve those years lost from this place, but we’ll go on from here. You used to say that knowledge was a defence and a shield and a constructive tool. Maybe the knowledge I would have gained living here with you would have been of much more value, but I lost that treasure by running away from here with my angry and hurt heart when Chant was taken from us. I wanted revenge. It was wrong but, who knows, maybe my time with the law will bring some good to our Place in the future.

     “We have friends here now with Fitz and the children, and now visitors. I don’t know how long any of these will stay, but for the present it’s enough. It’s helped me to see this home again with the aid of other eyes—those which look through the wisdom of years, those which are young and full of excited curious interest, and those who come from City seeking rest and solace from too constant motion and stress, all seeing our land as I once did when Spring came singing for another year. They bring me back into myself. There’ll be many days of visiting here with you now, and I’ll try to bring our community back into life. Friends will help a lot.”

     As she stood there, considering her new friends she began to speculate about the one she’d known the longest

     “Come to think of it, I wonder what David’s doing here. He’s hardly the kind to sit around twiddling his thumbs. Hope this doesn’t mean Fitz is out of a home—and the kids too—and—I’m kind of getting used to the barge myself—but it is his. I’m going to ask.”

- - -

     The subject of what David was doing here now, was brought to the forefront of Rose’s mind when the two of them sat alone later in front of a small fire, towelling dampness from Ulf and Gurth, to whom David had given a quick degreasing of their topsides.

     Fitz had obligingly put Charm aboard JOLLY ROSE , where she now sat smouldering, gazing out a port facing the barge side, while Bettina and Harry took Fitz and the children—all heeding David’s warning to watch that top step—aboard the LADY LILY, alias CRUSTY, to have a look at that once elegant old girl who looked so frumpy now under her green paint.

     Rose had offered to keep David company, not just out of politeness, but also because she was curious. She waited for a good moment to broach the subject of his arrival as he asked,

     “What’s going down with the kids Rose? Are you their legal guardian?”

     “You might say that. Uh—what I’m going to tell you has to be kept to yourself please.”

     “You’ve got it,” he assured her.

     “They’re runaways. Their mother died and their father’s up north where he went to get work and then seems to have disappeared after he got laid off from his job. The social workers arrived and the kids decided they didn’t want that kind of life, being split up and all, and Isabel was determined to keep a promise she made to her mother to look after the kids until their father got back, so they very bravely took off in their houseboat which is also their home. By a stroke of luck they turned up here, or who knows what might have become of them. Fitz and I are trying to quietly locate their father before the authorities get wise.”

     “Geeze—good luck on that one! Being homeless is no fun. They seem like a great bunch.”

     “They are. Did you have a good sail up?”

     “Oh yeah!” laughed David. “Do you really want to hear this?”

     “Well, hearing that laugh of yours, yes indeed please.”

     “Uh huh, and it serves me right. I got caught in my own nets again. I wanted to get out here, but I wasn’t sure I ought to go by myself, and Bettina and Harry kept phoning and telling me they wanted to go off by themselves and quite frankly, I didn’t think their boat would get past the breakwater, so I told them I thought it would be great if we went for a cruise... .”

sinking wind indicator     “With your leg like that?”

     “Like what? It’s just a little cast.”

     “Yes, and I’ve seen your face a couple of times when you’ve hit it the wrong way or forgot and stood on it. You’d better watch it or you’ll wind up with a bent leg. How long has it been?”

     “Oh—bit over a week I guess—and—yeah—well—maybe I am pushing it a bit, but my plane’s in for its mandatory and anyway, taking that might have been even worse by myself. I actually thought their old boat would pack it in immediately and we three could all go on in TJUTELA, but be damned if that old thing didn’t rumble off ahead of me like an old athlete having a last go before it drops dead from a heart attack, and what could I do but follow?

     “Geeze—we got out there away from land and first they tried hiking up their main and he got it stuck half way somehow, so I had to get myself aboard to unstick it. Try that sometime while you’re bobbing up and down beside a big whale with a hard skin and you’ve only got one leg. Anyway, I got it unstuck and we hoisted it up and something whizzed past my ear and Bettina says ‘What was that?’ and Harry says, ‘That gull up there has been trying to get me for half an hour.’ But I knew damned well it was no gull, so I started looking over the side and astern, and there’s their wind indicator sinking fast. I was too kindhearted to tell them, so I pretended I didn’t see it. I started to give the outhaul a good yank to get the foot of the main tight and the damned thing came off in my hand along with a piece of the sail containing the clew. Harry took a look and said, ‘Is that supposed to happen?’ I refrained from answering, took a handful of what was left of the corner and tied it and the outhaul together. ‘There,’ I told him, ‘That’ll do until something else breaks.’

     “So I was getting ready to reboard the yawl when Harry asks, ‘Now what?’ ‘Harry,’ I told him, ‘There’s a nice gentle breeze blowing at a nice angle across your port quarter and if you’ll just let out the mainsheet a bit and cleat it in we’ll make it to Shalisa Creek in no time’—and he says—’But we already got the sheet up. What am I supposed to do now?’ Bettina’s just sitting there with this nice smile on her face, confidently waiting for Harry and me to take care of things. ‘Harry,’ I said, ‘That is the main sail—this, is the main sheet’ and I put the line in his hand. ‘What the hell have you been drinking David?’ he asks. ‘I guess I know a bedsheet when I see one.’ So I tell him, ‘It’s a sail Harry and—just believe me—this is the sheet. Now, see this gadget here where the line runs through? Yeah? Okay, yank on it like this to release it—oh geeze man—don’t let go of the bloody thing yet. Loop it around the winch a couple of times and keep some control of it—there—that’s it—now cleat it in—yank it between the teeth of that—oh here—gimme—like that. Okay? Great. Now just keep your heading—look at your compass there. Yeah. Now I’ll get back onto TJUTELA and turn you loose.’ And I did.

tear in sail     “Well she sailed like a dream for about twenty minutes until the wind shifted and Harry, thinking he had to keep the sail at that angle—kept it there, forgot about the compass which, I discovered later, doesn’t work anyway and I, happening to take a look to see where they were, found out he was heading straight for my beam—damned near rammed me. ‘Harry,’ I yelled, throw out the mainsheet.’ Well the silly stupe took the line and pitched it overboard. Did I ever have to do some fancy manoeuvring.

     “You’re getting the picture are you? Yeah—well—by this time I decided that we’d better give up the sailing lessons, so I very foolishly told him to lower sail. He looks at me with a big grin, says ‘Okay,’ and lowers the boom as well because he didn’t fasten the topping lift. It swung wildly around as it came down and fortunately they both ducked and somehow it landed amidships probably because of Harry’s favouring gods again. By the time I got my main down they’d headed off in a circle because the wind filled their downed sail, and it was like trying to catch an insane dolphin—but I did. So I crawled aboard again, set everything shipshape and said, ‘Harry, I think there’s too much wind for me. We’ll have to motor.’ ‘Oh.’ he says with relief in his voice. ‘Okay. How was I doing?’ ‘Great, just great—follow me.’ I figured, ‘At least he can handle a motor and keep his boat in a straight line after me.’

     “Well, we got to Shalisa Creek Village safely and headed for the wharf. He goes straight in, bow first, slams the motor into reverse, whips the wheel to port and just about wipes out the wharf along with two or three other boats, then he hollers at some guy who’s running like hell trying to reach his own boat in time before it turns into rat powder, puts on that big friendly smile of his and says, ‘Gimme a hand here to park?’ The guy helped him to tie up way astern of him. When I got in Harry was out glad-handing the skippers, some of whom were tough old fishermen who were laughing their heads off and hoping he’d sink the lot of us damned yachtsmen. By this time I’m ready for food and a six pack.

     “We went up to ‘Throw the Rascals Out’ and of course Harry and Bettina loved the place. ‘Real friendly like,’ he says, and just as I’m unwinding and looking forward to a nice relaxed evening, some yacht skippers from the wharf came in with crew in tow, and came over and sat by us. Well, one of them was a loud-mouthed—uh—well I’ll skip that expression—let’s just call him a cloac—and the damned fool gets up on the soap box and starts ranting about politics. Seems Harry is some sort of rabid socialist and—I don’t care who’s what, because there are three things my Gram told me never to discuss in public or anywhere else, and that’s money, religion and politics and not necessarily in that order—but Harry made a couple of loud remarks back at this guy and I told him quietly he’d have to wait his turn, thinking he’d shut up and forget it, but not Harry. Up he goes after the guy gets down and I’ll give him credit, he refuted everything the guy had said, very reasonably.

     “Well, you know politics. Not being able to get at Harry with reason they started heckling him with ‘Hey fatty, you’re an idiot,’ and ‘Get off blimpo,’ and ‘If you’ve got as much fat in your head as you’ve got on your ass you’re heading for a melt down.’ So I had to open my mouth to the guy sitting slightly astern and to my right who was saying worse than that, suggesting that he pipe down and let Harry speak, and he reached over and took hold of my hair and said, ‘Well what are you going to do about it girlie,’ and I said ‘Don’t do that,’ so he gave my hair a yank and said, ‘What’s that you’re gonna do? Gimme a kiss?’ and what I did was to take my right arm, swing it back and slam him in the mouth with my open palm. Bet that’s one kiss he won’t forget in a hurry.

     “Well! Whoosh! All hell broke loose. Before I knew it these creeps were throwing mugs at Harry, and the guy behind me stood up and tried to grab me around the neck, and I had to do a sitting down over the shoulder throw with him, and one of them whizzed his plate of nachos like a frisbee and it all hit Bettina, and Harry came charging from the soap box and while I’m trying to protect Bettina from flying missiles there was crashing and banging and somebody kicked me in the leg, and I forgot all about my cast and stood up, just about fell over, and had to make a grab for something to keep me upright, and in so doing I accidentally tipped their table over the two who were still sitting there throwing things, and while I’m floundering around trying to keep my balance Bettina grabbed a chair and went after some guy who was attacking Harry, and she poked him with the legs of it like she was a lion tamer.

     “Then these three older guys at another table got up and I guess they must have been socialists too, because they’d been sitting nodding and agreeing with Harry while he was talking, and they pitched into the guys who’d been at the table next to us and—you should have seen these three old gents. One was lean French and one was a little oriental and the other one was built bigger than Harry with a voice to match, and they started wiping up the floor with the city folks, and then we heard the cop siren and the lights went out and before I knew it I was being hustled out a back door in the dark, and out the back they threw my crutches at me and said to the three of us, ‘Get lost quick!’ They ran one way and we split the other as fast as I could on one leg—and now you know why Harry thought it was such a great sail and such a great pub.”

     “I think mayhem must follow you around,” laughed Rose. “Do you ever just sit still and smell the flowers?”

     “Oh yeah—lots of times. You just don’t happen to be around when I’m doing it.”

     “So what brought you to Shalisa Creek Bay at this time, apart from a good sail?”

     David hesitated, caught off guard by her unexpected question, then replied,

     “Well—I got this paid up bill from the towing company which hauled my barge in that time when it was loose. It said my tenant Fitz Jolly had paid it, so I thought I’d better investigate since I didn’t have any tenant by that name—or any other name for that matter. I’ll have to square it up with him. I’m not sure what happened, but it was really good of him.”

     <It wasn’t really a lie,> he quieted himself, <Just one more reason for coming.>

     Rose hadn’t missed the hesitation in his reply, so she presumed that the reason given wasn’t the only one. She kept her face straight, remembering her rescue of the barge from the towline of Bud and Wilf Westman.

     “Fitz is a good man,” she told him. “If you’d really like to know what happened I’ll tell you.”

     Rose filled him in on what she’d heard from Fitz about the arrival of JOLLY ROSE in the bay, and about the things he’d heard in the bar regarding what had happened to the barge, accounting for the damage which had occurred while David had been confined within the city. Then she told him how she and Fitz had rescued LEGER DE MAIN from the towline of Bud Westman which, in retrospect, became hilarious in the recounting.

     Sitting there with a glass of Bettina’s wine in his hand, surrounded by the friendly atmosphere which had been created through the afternoon, and now with the stone fireplace throwing its friendly warmth over them and the two dogs who were sprawled on the hearth, David hesitated to voice his real purpose for being here.

flowers in jug     He looked around the big room and saw the skilfully made articles of table, seats and cushions, the books left by the children, Fitz’s harmonica on the bar, Rose’s hand-wound broom standing in a corner of the galley where Isabel had left it, Charm’s woolly, well-worn rug to one side of the fireplace, a jar of pussy willows and salmonberry branches with opening pink buds set by the windows.

     <Somehow my big plans for a restaurant seem way out of line right about now. I feel like a bit of a traitor or a stone-hearted landlord getting ready to kick out some worthy tenants from a somewhat unworthy dwelling so that I can make a profit from it. No windows, no maintenance, and for this Fitz willingly put up his money without question. David Godwin, absentee owner, benefitting from the hardships of other people and failing to keep up his end of the responsibilities. Think I’d better rethink a few things here.>

     While they talked, laughter spilled over the sides of CRUSTY LADY LILY, mingling with their own, and the sounds filled the space between the arms of the bay, falling over the cormorants who were busy diving for their dinner while Sun got ready to go to bed and bring spring darkness and quiet to Shalisa Creek Bay.