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17: Off the chart

Uncharted waters?
Sargasso Sea?
Bermuda Triangle?
That’s not for me!

I sail the course
I plot myself,
I keep the helm,
I know the shelf.

Flat earth jitters?
Fog on the foam?
Here be dragons?
Time to head home!

Afternoon was warm and lazy. So was everybody else. Nobody was doing anything which could come close to being considered useful or worthwhile, except for what the children were doing with their raft, which effort they considered worthwhile. The snatches of their voices far down the beach broke loose and drifted along shore on the back of a drowsy breeze which was loitering around the bay.twinbell flowers

     Rose was sitting at her desk fiddling with her computer, feeling a bit useless going over old files, gently waving away a large black and yellow butterfly which had come in her open door and, seemingly having nothing to do, had found somebody else in the same state to keep company with.

     Fitz was sitting at his table onboard the barge, busy with pencil and paper, figuring door sizes and materials required for the work, but this had now deteriorated into little fanciful sketches of things which might be carved on the proposed projects as decorative finish.

     Most relaxed of all, Bettina and Harry were deep in a comfortable afternoon nap aboard CRUSTY LADY LILY.

     Even the birds were taking a quiet afternoon siesta, and only the drone of insects and the miniature clatter of dragonfly wings disturbed the stillness.

     It might be the kind of afternoon on which the ringing of tiny, nodding, fragrant twinbell flowers, beloved of Linnaeus, might be heard if the ear were attuned to that ethereal sound.

     David, sitting below decks on TJUTELA, looked across the bay water which was doing a non-competitive backstroke toward shore and decided to use the quiet afternoon for a little musical session all to himself.

     <Perfect. Think I’ll head for the Tree. Thought I might get up to the spire, but I don’t want to bug Fitz. Guess it’s as wrecked as everything else anyway.>

     He picked up his flute, stuffed it down the front of his tee shirt, called Ulf and Gurth, invited them to hop into the dinghy, scrambled over TJUTELA’s stern into the boat with them and rowed for shore. Getting ashore was a bit of a trial but he managed, with the help of the cane Fitz had fashioned for him. He pulled the dinghy up, away from the rising tide, and the three of them started down the beach, heading haltingly for the Tree.

     The afternoon seemed like so many others he’d enjoyed alone before. Quiet solitary peace, butterflies soaring, birds taking an afternoon break from constant in-flight motion, trees stretching contentedly in the warmth, Sunshine asleep on folded arms face down on the beach, Tide happily dawdling along the shore, sifting sand through fingers and toes, Sky yawning a blue complacency over everything. Perfect restful harmony.

     He followed Ulf and Gurth along the beach, enjoying the freedom of nothing to do but please himself.

     Six careful carefree steps—and the quiet of the afternoon erupted.

     “Uncle Twimby?”

     “Uncle Twimby, wait for us!

     “Where are you going?”

     “Ca—may we come too?”

     Jolted out of his solitariness, David turned around and saw five lively young people heading for him.

     “Hi gang,” he offered, as they caught up to him.

     “Where are you going, Uncle Twimby?” asked Bernice, as the children surrounded him, and Ulf and Gurth bounced around enjoying all the attention.

     “Well—I was just heading down the beach.”

     He hesitated, looking ahead, thinking he saw his Friend duck behind Tree. What would his elusive companion make of this noisy, laughing collection of youngsters full of curiosity and boundless energy and movement?

     “What’s that sticking out of your tee shirt?” asked Therése.

     “Uh—it’s my flute.”

     “You play a flute?!” came the surprised question from Morgan. “That’s cool!

     “You mean like Paul Horn?” asked Isabel. “The way he played for whales?”

     “Well—kind of my own thing.”

     “Like you play Mozart?” prompted Therése.

     “For sure—except I can’t claim to be any Mozart.”

     “I love that kind of music.”

     “Really? You like classical music?”

     “Oh yes!”

     “We all do.”

     The answers were so positive and sincere that it surprised David. Most of the young people he’d come into contact with thought any music which wasn’t loud and obstreperous was a waste of ears.

     “Mom and Dad used to play it a lot,” Morgan told him.

     “On tape,” elaborated Isabel. “But our tape player’s broken now. Dad used to play the violin a bit.”

     “Yeah, and now Therése is driving us nuts with her scraping and screeching,” teased Morgan.

     “She’s not that bad,” Isabel defended the accused.

     “Will you play something for us?” asked the twins together.

     “Oh.” <Scuttle the quiet all-to-myself bit.> “Okay. I usually go and sit by that big fir there and—kind of—jam with Tree and Wind and Tide—you know—sounds and thoughts and such.”

     “You could jam for us,” suggested Morgan and, remembering how Harry had assisted the limping man he told him, “Here. You can lean on me. I make a good crutch.”

     Isabel reached out quickly and took the cane out of his hand, as Morgan placed himself beside David, who had no choice but to lean on him. He put his arm around the undeveloped shoulders of the willing boy and tried his best not to lean too hard.

     “I’ll carry your flute for you so you don’t drop it,” offered Therése.

     David, looking into the shining, eager, expectant eyes of the young girl, pulled his tarnished old travelling instrument out of his tee shirt, and handed his treasure over to a ten year old neophyte, who fingered all the keys and promptly blew into the mouthpiece.

     The resulting audio startled everyone, particularly David.

     “Hey!” came the criticism from Morgan. “That’s awful!”

     “Well I’ve never tried this before,” came the defence.

     “And maybe you shouldn’t try it again,” came the prosecution.

     Fortunately, Tree came into reaching distance and David gratefully lowered himself down at it’s base.

     “Okay. If you’ll hand me my flute Therése—thanks. Now—everybody sit down here and give a listen and you’ll hear Tree and Tide and Wind join in with me.”

     There was laughter and commentary while they settled themselves and then, as David began his piece, there was sudden, intense attention from the five youngsters until he finished.

     Silence, until he asked, uncertain of the reception his playing was receiving,

     “So, did you hear the accompaniment?”

     Nobody spoke until Therése said,

     “I did.”

     The four others didn’t want to dispute her claim. They kept a polite silence on that point, but were more than enthusiastic about the rest of the performance.

     “Glad you liked it—and you must be a musician Therése,” grinned David.

     “Do you think so?” came her delight at his assessment. “I wish I could play music like that.”

     “Maybe you will one day,” David told her. “Maybe even better.”

     “You haven’t heard her beating up that old violin,” warned Morgan.

     “I guess I could become famous,” carried on Therése, ignoring his remark as the others laughed.

     “Fame ain’t all it’s cracked up to be,” returned David. “Sometimes it’s a prison—practise, practise, practise—drudgery going over and over the same score until you get it just right—according to somebody else’s ideas—and by the time you’re done, your senses are so numb and deadened you’ve forgotten what you’re playing and you hate the conductor. Music should be a joy. Keep your freedom, feel the music first, then maybe you’ll be a real musician, because it won’t be dishonest hacking with lots of technique, lots of body, but no soul. Gee—I’m terrific—faster, faster—see what I can do with eight fingers, two thumbs, and a lot of hot air—and that’s all it is unless it comes from the heart—a real live athletic, mechanical metronome performance.

     “That’s not what it’s about. The great composers loved the sound of their music, not just it’s mathematics. It was their life, their reason for being, their laughter, their love and their tears, so you have to touch your listeners with your own love for it. While you’re giving your interpretation of the composer’s music you’d better be feeling something more than the rush you get from the applause when you’re finished. Technique’s great, but it just makes for a lot of spectacular noise if there’s no part of your spirit attached. If it doesn’t make you feel anything except puffed up importance with your own ability, don’t bother—you’re just an ego looking for praise—go play baseball or something—they get paid a lot. I’d rather listen to a musician who flubs a couple but really knows what the music is about.”

     After another silence Morgan asked,

     “Are you a school teacher?”

     “No!” came the surprised response.

     “You sure talk like one.”

     “Ooops!” laughed David. “Sorry. Maybe we should just have some more music.”

     “Could it be something we could sing to?” asked Isabel. “We always sang along with Mother.”

     “I can sure try. What did you have in mind?”

     As David headed into a folk tune the music and laughter coming from the direction of Tree had the others in the bay turning their heads and heading that way. He felt a bit like the Pied Piper, sitting there with his music luring people to some faeryland, from which they were never to return, but hoping he wouldn’t be seen in that light—he felt he’d already met with enough bad opinions of himself.

pied piper

- - -

Harry, who could take music or leave it alone decided, after awhile, to leave it alone and go for an exploratory ramble among the old buildings along the bay. He went off, poking into the big office building and liking it, even deserted and neglected as it was. Then he tried a couple of the small residences, but felt a little sad that they had been let go for so long.

     As he walked toward another building, his interest increased considerably. He sniffed the air, hunting dog fashion. He smelled diesel. He was sure of it. He could never mistake that smell for anything else. It seemed to be coming from out of the old workshed looking structure, straight ahead.

     He went for it.

     Like an energetic, well-fed mouse scouting out appetising cheese, Harry put his nose around the doorway of the old shed and saw it—a great big diesel generator attached to a water pump!

     His lips parted. His eyes got big with delight. He walked slowly in and stood there looking at the generator, and the generator stared disdainfully back. Harry didn’t want to rush this introduction. Such a beauty deserved gentle consideration. None of this—yeah I’ve seen it all before, let’s get it over with—stuff, which all the cheapies got. He stood for a few moments, just looking, then he approached slowly, hands behind his back, and took a speculative turn around the whole assembly, hardly able to believe his eyes.

     <Oh boy! Great! Haven’t had one of these quality pieces since—when was it—and where was it? I know. The Yukon—MacKenzie River. Some fool let that one run dry. Had lots of fun fixing that one. Doesn’t look like this one’s been operative for some time.>

     At last he allowed himself to go forward and lay both hands lovingly on solid, massive, unmovable machining. He adored big, hefty, interesting challenges. He was impressed.

     The generator was not. It sat there, stiff and unyielding. It had resisted so many efforts to get it going that it figured this was just another bumbler pretending to know what he was doing.

     That was a mistake.

     In his mind Harry began going over the internal mechanisms of this particular old heap of unobliging metal. He saw all of its workings—working.

     <I could fix this. It would go like a steam engine on a down grade. Wonder how long it’s been out of commission. Probably just some interior part gave way and nobody bothered to open it up properly. Maybe it’s a bit stuck here and there over time. Hard to break things free.>

     He got down on his hands and knees and examined the big bolts fastening it to the cement. He noted that rust had been held at bay because somebody who had attempted resuscitation of this particular unit had apparently flooded diesel oil all over the place as well as sousing the machinery.

     <Probably got soused himself,> laughed Harry to himself. <Probably missed a leaky seal or something easy like that—or just let a hose loose somewhere. Hah! That used to be the stock joke. Here—hold on to this and look into it and tell me when the oil comes out. Sure got a lot of apprentices with that one.>

     The generator was not amused. It had been put here to work and it had wanted to, and it had done so, faithfully and well for a long time. It didn’t want a lot of untutored nincompoops playing jokes with it. It hulked there, pretending Harry didn’t exist. It was enjoying being non-functional now. That was becoming its function in the world. Since nobody could make it work it wasn’t going to. Nobody had shown any appreciation when it had, anyway. Taken for granted, that’s what. It turned a hard, cold shoulder to Harry, wanting him gone so it could get back to non-functional loafing.

     Poor old loafer. Little did it know what it had just met up with. The future was casting a large, round shadow.

     After examining the unit from the exterior as much as he could, and gleaning any information which might give him a clue as to what particular pain this uncommunicative machinery was suffering from, Harry eventually tore himself away and went in search of Rose, to see if she knew its history. She did.

     The logging company had brought the complete package in by barge. It had supplied the whole camp with electricity, and water from a deep well farther back from shore. It had been the delight of camp and bay residents. Cold, crisp, clean water for hot, wilted, dirty, tired men, and hot sudsy cleaning up for busy, cooking, caring women, and children always ready to turn the hose on each other in the hot summer weather. She wasn’t sure when it had quit. She had left by then.

     Would she let Harry fix it? Laughter. He and how many others? Grandfather had said the last man said there were some parts broken and no one manufactured that model anymore. Water had been taken from the creek after that, with small gasoline pumps, and electricity was portabled. Money was tight right then and a new generator of that size was out of the question.

     Harry went away, pondering, imagining a machine shop which might create whichever part was broken. It was something to dream about. He asked David if he knew anything about the generator.

     The snort he got from that man let Harry know who had been at it last.

     “Don’t touch the thing! It’ll spray you with diesel oil and then sit there laughing while you run off trying to figure out how to get all that guck off yourself.”

     Harry laughed at the thought of diesel fuel being sprayed all over that wild collection of fair curls.

     “Know anything about diesel engines?” he asked.

     “Yeah, but that’s not an engine, it’s a bad spirit waiting to get somebody, and it sure got me.”

diesel generator     “Wonder if I could get it to be a good one,” murmured Harry.

     “Better ask Rose,” replied David. “Everything around here except the barge is hers—everything. Don’t unship your fishing rod or you’ll be for it.”

     “You mean—no fishing?!

     “That’s what I said, because that’s what she said. You want fish, go somewhere else and catch it.”

     “That’s not fair—to have a gorgeous fishing grounds like this and let the fish swim around sticking their tongues out at you,” came back Harry indignantly. “I saw an eagle take one that I almost chased him for.”

     “Speak to Leader Hold. She’ll make you feel really good about yourself while she’s saying ‘no’.”

     Harry went away, feeling bad.

- - -

As day turned toward evening, Sun and Breeze walked softly hand-in-hand through Rose’s open window, rustling through bunches of stinging nettles which she’d hung there to dry.

     Every spring the remembrance came that while her mother had been alive, they’d gone together to gather the new green shoots, to be cooked like spinach or used in the more recent way for salads after blanching. Some, collected later as the plants just headed into bloom, was to be dried as she was doing with it now, and stored for use as healing tea in the ‘medicine chest’. Rose simply liked the taste of it for tea sometimes, or as a vegetable or complementary herb, no matter what way it was prepared, and if there were beneficial asides, she was all for that.

     With a sewing project in mind she was sorting through a collection of shells she had in a basket—her jewels of the sea, she had called them when a child—as Sun, seeming reluctant to leave such a fine day, dawdled toward Horizon. Breeze brought her the sound of the children’s laughter, and the low tones of a conversation Bettina, Fitz and Harry were engaged in aboard CRUSTY LADY LILY.

     When it also brought her the steady sound of stroking oars she got up and went to the window. David was bringing Ulf and Gurth ashore for a run.

     She’d been thinking about David Godwin. Fitz had told her about a couple of incidents which had happened the day before.

     First, he’d been hailed by David coming alongside the barge in his dinghy.

     “ ’Hoy Fitz—are you aboard?”

     Fitz had set mug and book aside, got up from his chair and gone out to the stern deck.

     “Sure am,” came his cheerful reply.

     “Great—can you pick locks?”

     “Do what?!” was the startled rejoinder.

     “Pick locks—like that one on the chain holding the boarding ladder up.”

     “Maybe if we had a sledge hammer I could give it a good go—but—sorry.”

     “There’s no justice in this world. Why should I have to haul myself up an old steel vertical ladder in my condition when there’s a perfectly good boarding ramp here? Damned officials. I didn’t tell anyone they could hustle my goods like this. First they swipe everything from inside and then they lock up everything outside. Maybe I’ll sue them for not taking care of my barge while it was in their custody.”

     “You could maybe try that,” Fitz had agreed, “But it won’t get you aboard any faster right about now.”

     “Good point. Never mind. Guess I’ll have to pick it myself.”

     “And Rose,” Fitz went on, “He came on board and did just that!”

     “I hadn’t noticed the boarding ramp was down. How nice,” was her unexpected reply.

picked padlock     She got a look of askance from Fitz, and then he’d continued,

     “Well, then later I came onto the barge and found him sitting on the floor of what used to be his office there, his legs stretched out, and a tool in hand with which he was busy driving a fastening home.”

     “Hi David, what’s up?

     “Oh—hi Fitz. Just remembered there was a loose board in here and thought I’d better fix it before somebody fell through it and wound up with a leg like mine.”

     “Is he all right?” Fitz had asked Rose with puzzlement in his voice. “I mean—it’s kind of crazy. There he is with a couple of fair-sized tool boxes beside him—two, not one—and all he needs is a screwdriver, which he tucks back into a belt pouch when he’s finished. Made me wonder—with all the other things needing fixing around here—why would he be fixing a board in the floor where people don’t go much—but that’s not all. Just a while ago he came and gave me all the money he owed me—cash—but—when he first got here he told me he was broke.”

     “All cash?!”

     “Yeah—the lot—double what he owed me—like I won.”

     Rose was silent for a few moments, then she told Fitz,

     “Well, David’s different. He’s sort of—a magician.”

     “A what? You mean like Merlin?”

     “Well I don’t think he deals with dark spirits—more likely good ones if any—but, watching him with his dogs, I’ve often thought of the associates Merlin had. The two of them are so—intelligent and responsive to his words and gestures.”

     “I hope you’re putting me on,” said Fitz, disbelieving. “Maybe he’s studied Houdini—anyone who can pick a lock like that!”

     “I know what you mean. I’ve scratched my head a few times about him too.”

     “Is he a second-storey man—or what? It seems he can make money appear out of nowhere too. Do you think the stuff’s genuine?”

     “Oh good grief, Fitz! He’s not into international crime. In fact he’s not into crime at all. Please get rid of any notion I might have given you in that direction. You and I made a wrong assessment this morning about the card game. I took on his case because I thought he was being needlessly accused, not because he’d committed a crime and needed a lawyer. Maybe he did just fix the board in the office there, not wanting anyone to break a leg like he did.”

     There was a pause and then she added,

     “Tell you what—got a screwdriver handy?”

     “You’re just as nosy as I am,” accused Fitz. “Already thought of that. These screws don’t seem to have heads. At least not the kind you can get at with an ordinary screwdriver. They’re flush with the floor and hardly visible.”

     “Mmmm. Well, David may not be Merlin but he certainly knows a lot of the mechanical skills which go along with the trade. Let’s wait and have a look later—maybe after he’s gone back home.”

     “I don’t know if my curiosity will keep that long. Just about took an axe to it.”

     “Hang in there and we’ll get to it—maybe keep it to yourself.”

     “Oh—you bet.”

     “You’ve already been around him too long. You’re starting to talk like him.”

- - -

Now, seeing David heading in with the dinghy, Rose went out to meet him, reaching the waterline just as he got ready to beach.

     “Throw me your painter and I’ll bring you in a little closer,” she called. “Then you won’t get your cast wet.”

     “Thanks,” he accepted, and tossed her the line. “It does take some fancy footwork—heavy on the singular.”

     Ulf and Gurth waited expectantly as she pulled the boat inshore, until David gave them permission to disembark, then they jumped out giving a few small words of greeting to Rose, and ran playfully together along the beach.

     He handed her his cane, she held out her arm to steady him as he put his left leg over the gunwale into the shallow water, then, holding on to her arm for balance, he swung his right one over the side and hopped away from the boat.

     “Great—thanks,” he said at last, when they’d moved far enough from the wet sand, and he let go of her, taking his cane again. “The dogs really love to get out here. We have a pretty big garden at home but they know every inch of it. This is real adventure for them.”

     They stood watching as the two samoyeds nosed along the beach, exploring everything until Ulf was caught squarely in the face by the squirt of a clam and the surprise of it almost made him fall over backwards.

     The two dogs were bent on revenge, and a mad dig ensued. Sand was thrown out in all directions from their paws, and threats of what was going to happen to the villain when caught followed the sand, but escape was the outcome, in spite of the hole which was excavated so quickly by the pair.

     “Care for a cup of something?” asked Rose while they laughingly watched the two dogs.

     “I’m game for that,” grinned David. “What does ‘something’ taste like?”

     “Well, tea or coffee,” she returned as they started for her house, “Or chocolate. I keep that around for the kids—because they’re kids. Or comfrey. That would be good for your leg, help it heal fast I’m told. Your people called it knitbone, when knighthood was in flower. They needed to knit a lot of bones then I guess. Or would you like rose hip tea? Lots of vitamin C there. Or I just picked some fresh nettles. The old ways say it cures gout, and stone, and keeps it away, but if you don’t have that, it just tastes good with a bit of honey and spices. Or strawberry leaves and mint to keep your stomach happy, or wild blackberry leaves... .”

     “Stop! Stop!” begged David in pretended dismay. “How can I make a choice? Seventy-five different flavours—count ’em. Sounds like the local ice cream store, except the ice cream has been mixed by a pharmacist. Gram has been filling me with all those good things. I thought she was the only herbalist I’d ever have to deal with.”

     “You’re not going to tell me you’re an unbeliever with a grandmother like that are you?” asked Rose with reproach in her voice, but laughter in her eyes. “Modern medicine could learn a lot from Grandmother Nature. In fact she started it and is still at it. You should listen to your grandmother.”

     “I do, I do. You two should get together for a formula swap. It’s just that sometimes I want something that isn’t good for me but it tastes great, if not better. May I please have chocolate with mint—I’m just a kid at heart—and if it has to be good for me you can throw comfrey in it. If it’ll get both my feet on the ground again in a hurry I’ll try anything.”

     “That’s a compromise,” she smiled. “You don’t want what’s good for you, but you’re afraid you won’t get it. It’s a smart compromise though. Do you always hedge your bets?”

     “In cases like this, why not?” he told her as they went into her house. “If it doesn’t do any good it probably won’t do much harm.”

     David looked around with interest as he lowered himself into a chair by the window. So many things had obviously been handmade. The rugs on the floor, which were worked of raw, dyed wool with traditional Shalisa designs woven into them, the trestle table of oiled boards by the window and the seats which were the same as Fitz’s on the barge and had obviously been donated by him.

     A rectangular cast iron stove occupied the centre of the room and, much like the fireplace on the barge, was capable of making the whole place warm when necessary. It rested on a large slab of smooth stone surrounded by smaller ones buried up to their necks in sand, all of it contained by more stones to make a raised hearth. The metal chimney rose straight up and out through a galvanised plate in the roof.

     Some built-in wooden cupboards with countertops of the same material occupied the kitchen area, with a two-burner propane stove on stones set into the surface.

     Through a half open door he could see a bedroom. Plainly, the mattress had been laid right on the floor, with matting of some sort and a heavy blanket under it. Wool rugs surrounded it, and it was plump and comfortable looking, piled around with large colourful cushions.

     The lighting system was all kerosene lamps and there were many things made of reeds, vines, grasses, cedar bark and other wild fibres—baskets, hats, mats, utensils.

     There was also a covered computer, looking unnecessary, sitting on a very contemporary desk, and beside it—a cell phone, reminding David that this was the home of an urban lawyer, who had just left that occupation and was trying, as he did when he came, to meld with the bay and its surrounds now.

     “I sure like your place,” he said at last. “Is all this your work Rose?”

     “Oh no. My mother made the big rugs, and the cedar boxes and such are from Father and Grandfather and farther back than that. Fitz made the chairs and table for me and helped me put in the stove. I’m still an amateur in my own world.”

     David leaned back in the chair and watched as she made chocolate with mint, not missing the handful of comfrey which had been incorporated into the water, along with the mint, while the water was boiling.

     As she brought it over to the table and sat down he told her,

     “Thanks a lot. You’ve made a big kid happy. Rose, I’ve been wanting to ask you—but whenever I phoned your office I got a message saying that your number was no longer in use, and then I found out you’d left town. I need a lawyer to go over my business papers. Do you do that sort of thing?”

     “Not any more. I’ve quit.”

     “You’re not serious are you?!” he asked in shocked disbelief.

     “Yes, I’ve had enough.

     David sat there, surprised and disappointed.

     “I couldn’t get you to change your mind, somehow could I, like—smile sweetly at you?—or—friendly persuasion?” he asked at last.

     Laughing she replied,

     “I’m sure your friendly persuasive ways are as charming as your smile, but you know I can’t be bribed—by whatever method.”

     “Oh geeze Rose,” he came back, “I hope you didn’t think I meant it like that.”

     They laughed together the way they had when they’d been at her office, only this time he sensed a difference—a friendlier feeling, but rather like a ‘watch-your-direction’ warning when she said,

     “Just like old times—we’re at cross purposes again. Sorry. I didn’t make myself clear, so you took my answer the wrong way. I didn’t mean it like that either. I really have quit, but I might consider one more little bit of work for you, although I could probably steer you onto someone who’s better at contract law.”

     “Probably not as good as you,” he replied. “It’s just—I got took by an associate and I’d like to prevent it from happening again.”

     “Your associates seem to be of the questionable stripe. May I suggest you look into them a little more closely before you take on anymore?”

     “That’s excellent advice. I’m finding hindsight is pretty good too.”

     “If you’d like, I can take it on,” she told him. “I confess, I’m suffering a bit of occupational severance pain. It’ll give me something to get me over the transition.”

     “Great! I see you didn’t throw away your cell phone. We can keep in touch that way. Everybody’s carrying their office with them these days.”

     “Well I don’t mind telling you I miss my usual routine, and I’m reaping the results of my decision to quit, by not having all the amenities here which I’ve become used to in the city. When Harry asked me about fixing the old generator I really wished it were possible. Being here in the bay is wonderful but—I do miss a few things I’m used to—my music system, lights, lots of running water, some of it hot—I have to ration my electricity here.”

     “Guess we do get hooked on the conveniences back there, but we sure pay a price for them in other ways—the noise, the stress, too many people, something always going on, everything always in motion—zip—zap. Sometimes I sit in my office and dream of being in Shalisa Creek Bay.”

     “Sometimes,” returned Rose, “I sit in Shalisa Creek Bay and dream of being in my office.”

     “Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” they both said together and wound up laughing again.

     “What I am glad to be rid of though, are some of the people I had to put up with,” Rose told him. “I’ve always enjoyed being alone, and some of them were such—well, I’m sure you know what I mean.”

     “I’ve met a few,” he agreed. “One of whom I’m going to get off my back as soon as I’m home again. When my plane’s out of confinement maybe I’ll be up to taking a flight out here with my papers, but at the moment there’s no hurry. Like you said, I’ll be a little more careful who I take on in future. I do think Fitz is a good risk though.”

     “I think so too, and if you two are going to continue your gentleman’s agreement, I’ll keep my hands off.”

     “Well—maybe if one or the other of us asks?”

     “Let’s wait and see,” she smiled. “It would have to be both of you—conflict of interest otherwise.”

     “Agh! If you weren’t a lawyer I’d tell you how much I dislike them.”

     “You made me well aware of that some time ago—like when we first met.”

     “Um. Guess I was rather rude.”

     “Under the circumstances—quite understandable.”

     “He was a bit of a—uh—wasn’t he?”

     “In toto! Certainly un-Fitz.”

     “Absolutely right. I admire Fitz. I wish I could be more that way. I’ve never known anyone like him. When I saw him sitting there with Charm and the boat he’s built himself and my wrecked casino which he’s turned into such a comfortable place I wished it were me. He’s led the kind of life I would have liked. He’s happy with himself.”

     “You’re not?”

     “Oh—I guess. Maybe, if I’d gone into a profession, I’d have found something to keep me satisfied but, unlike you, I wasted my education as far as public use goes. I just couldn’t stand the idea of spending the rest of my life nine-to-fiving it so I didn’t even consider it. While everyone else around me was getting immersed in medicine and law and physics I was reading the classics, studying the formal development of the symphony and the intricacies of the flute, and generally enjoying myself. I got totally useless degrees in fine arts and music and my friends got prestigious positions out there.”

     “A bunch of suited up sheep like most of the ones I’ve met,” commented Rose. “They’re all alike—including the inanities they spout. Hard to tell one from the other when they’re in their court robes—or out of them for that matter.”

     “I trust they had something on underneath when they disrobed,” came his unthinking, light-hearted innuendo.

     “Suits David—and they disrobed in chambers, along with me—also suited.”

     “Lots of dull stuff there.”

     “I guess I am very dull.”

     David felt he was floundering. This wasn’t the way they’d poked fun before. It seemed as though she felt the conversation had turned personal. He hadn’t intended to be. It was simply his usual style of repartee. He backed off.

     “Not you—them—just like my school friends—but they all really got with it, pushing and shoving and getting to the top any way they could. As for me—I used to believe in honour among thieves, so to speak, and being a gentleman and all that, but I guess there aren’t many gentlemen left in the world, so I’d better change my tune and toughen up. I’ve been lucky enough to find one of them here in Shalisa Creek Bay.”

     “I’m not so sure your education was wasted,” was Rose’s opinion. “It’s what you wanted to do. The doubt came later—and I hope you don’t change. What you have should make you very happy. Among my People music makers and song givers and story tellers and magicians are honoured and valued family treasures. Everyone would have loved you had you been Shalisa.”

     “You too?”

     “Me too what?”

     “Would have loved me?”

     “Oh—great,” laughed Rose. “You’re leading me again.”

     “I just had a nice garden path in mind.”

     “You sound like you’ve been down it too many times already.”

     “Got me again. You been down it too?”

     “I’ll just disregard that question as irrelevant and immaterial.”

     “Mind my own business. I’ll take that for a ‘yes’.”

     Looking into the face of the woman opposite him, David got the immediate and disturbing reaction that he’d definitely said some wrong things. He changed tack swiftly.

     “What’s your position here anyway? Do you actually own all the area around the bay?”

     “The peninsula and its foreshore, the bay area up to and including the ridge beyond the meadow, and the arms of the Gap with their outside shelves—and a whole lot more which has been taken over by others—for as long as the rivers shall run and the sea shall lap the shore.”

     “Your words are beautifully evocative—but at the rate they’re damming the rivers and polluting and bulldozing the shores, maybe you’re in trouble. What I really meant was, do you own it in the actuality of law?”

     “That too. This land belongs to my People and has for centuries and it’s protected ground. Right to the outside of the Old One’s Footprint was our traditional home.”

     “The Old One’s Footprint?” queried David with interest.

     “That’s the real name of the Gap, and our fishing waters extended beyond that. Our burial place is here. The bay, the creek, the village, the whole area—they all witness it with our name. That old parchment I have from Grandfather, signed way back when by a representative of the government, is proof of who owns the bay as it stands now.”

     “But you’re still fighting over it.”

     “Very vigorously, and now, thanks to you, I have a precedent to back my rights up. The parchment says I’m a country unto myself and therefore can make my own laws. Since you had the permission of the Shalisa to moor inside the Gap, and no one could or would rule on the contents of the old document, we had them. Enter the reasonable doubt. The implication of the outcome is definitely in my favour. No one wants to argue the point.”

     “Is that why you took on my case?” asked David, surprised at this suddenly different view of her reason for defending him.

     “It was one part of it, but not the entire reason. That side benefit turned up later. When I saw you in that restaurant with Ed I was so ashamed that a lawyer would behave that way and throw such disgrace on my profession that I had to retrieve my honour and your rights. You were getting such shabby, disgusting treatment I couldn’t just sit there and let it pass.”

     “Sure was my lucky day,” David told her, his voice couching relief in it because he hadn’t merely been used for her own purpose, and she had really been concerned about his rights as a person.

     “Mine too as it turned out. Anyway, until the question gets settled properly, I have a foreshore licence to seed a commercial oyster bed and, or, harvest shellfish of various kinds. You know now how many of those will get eaten, or farmed for that matter. I also have a writ to stop any further logging here on grounds that it’ll damage the environment for mariculture, and for historical reasons as well. Next I’ll plant clover and other good things to show them that I’m serious about preventing erosion and silting which would ruin the foreshore for shellfish, and I’ll tell them I’m improving the land for a couple of years before I seed my spat. That’s what they called the logging on the coast here. Improvement. Opening up the land for other purposes. While I’m claiming the land for my own I’m also cooperating and being a good citizen, so they can’t get me that way, even though I won’t admit to their jurisdiction—I’m doing it under duress. I’m being more reasonable than they are. That should stall things for awhile, until they admit this place belongs to my People—and they will.”

     David gave a delighted laugh of approval.

     “I pity the poor character who challenges you on that.”

     “So do I, but so far no one’s been willing to make a challenge. Actually, I think they’d like me to forget all about it. They have hopes.”

     “Where are the rest of your People?” he asked. “Shouldn’t they be here helping you?”

     “You see all of the Shalisa People here before you now.”

     David said nothing for a few moments, while the enormity of her statement spread out in his mind. Then he murmured,

     “No one else left? That’s incredible! You’re a living treasure house of history!”

     “What a lovely thought,” she commented. “I hadn’t looked at myself that way before. I think I’d rather not.”

     As though to change from a subject she didn’t want to discuss, she told him,

     “Grandfather was our historian and teacher. He was different. Everybody said that. I’m not like him at all. I get mad sometimes and yell. His vision of the world was gentle and kind and he said everything had as much right to be around as he did, and he meant everything.

     “To him violence was unacceptable as a solution to anything, even in the collection of food. His intellect was his defence and his tool for peace. He thought that if people sat down and talked about things long enough they could come to an agreement about anything, otherwise somebody was not seeing the world as the harmonious place he knew it to be, and they shouldn’t be allowed to leave until things had been settled by discussion. He said no one should enter a debate in anger, nor withdraw from it that way.”

     “That’s some philosophy to live up to.”

     “And he did—I can only try.”

     The sun was dipping low and it came through the window, settling on both of them, polishing her smooth hair and glancing through his, which was windblown and tangled.

     Seeing it that way she recalled that the first impression she’d had of him the day they’d met had been of Sun bright on his head. It had put her back again in Shalisa Creek Bay with the shining beach and the sea and the freedom. She looked out at the sun, now lowering on the broom growing in the rock cleft and asked,

     “Have you noticed the broom David?”

     “Have I! I thought about it all the way here—and all the other gorgeous growing things. I could hardly wait. We turned the corner to line up for the Gap and I saw it, running down the cliff—tangible, golden music, just flowing and singing like... .”

     He stopped. He’d almost said ‘like the waterfall up there by the pool’, but something kept him from mentioning that. Deep down he felt he’d had no business being up there, and he didn’t want her to know.

     “There is something wonderful about it,” she agreed. “It hugs the rock faces with such loving tenacity. The cliffs are so solid and unyielding and yet, these beautiful, persistent plants are allowed to set their roots into that so seemingly impervious surface. It’s a softie underneath it all, letting that determined plant enter its heart and find sustenance there. They belong together. That cliff and the music you speak of have been with me since childhood memory found me. I never forgot it. Sometimes, when things got rough, in my mind I’d see that hard, strong, rock cleft with its deep-rooted, cheerful, golden broom holding fast to it, and I’d try to be like that—strong and unflinching but able to give way in my heart for those who needed it.”

     There was silence between them for a moment, the way David had heard it from an audience which had been fascinated into immobility by a just finished musical performance of rare involvement for both listeners and performers.

     After a moment of sharing that feeling, he told her,

     “You missed your calling. You’re a poet, Rose. Why the hell did you take law?”

     Rose, startled out of her absorbed reverie, looked at him with surprise.

     “Why—thank you David.”

     While she wondered if he’d noticed that she’d dodged his question, Sun went quietly lower toward the west and she watched it slowly leave the room.

     <Same sun. Different time and place. How very different, drinking chocolate with him here in familiar old peaceful surroundings while we watch Sun dissolve into Shalisa Creek Bay.>

- - -

angry dragonBefore he turned in that evening, David’s thoughts were on much the same subject. Sitting there in TJUTELA’s saloon with a brandy nightcap, the third one of such golden consolation, he knew that the bay he’d returned to was not the same as it had been when ruled out of bounds for him by the law.

     It had been a solitary world then. One in which he’d gathered contact and companionship with an elusive Spirit who seemed to walk beside him there, as he succumbed to a feeling of exhilaration engendered by the quiet, unviolated surroundings. The Spirit had always joined him whenever he sat at the base of the tree cross-legged, with the serenity of the place around them as he played his flute. This had always left him at peace with himself for the duration of his stay in the bay.

     Now it was suddenly alive with friends. The barge wasn’t all his anymore. He’d realised that as soon as he’d arrived. It seemed to belong to everyone—Fitz, Rose, the five youngsters, and it had welcomed Bettina and Harry and himself as though it now had a life of its own and David Godwin had been respectfully requested to accept that arrangement.

     It was solitary no longer.

     <I like what’s going on now but—I don’t feel quite at ease here anymore—sort of dispossessed maybe—or out of place, like I don’t fit in here now. I don’t think my Friend with the guitar is going to show up with a bunch of people around.

     <LEGER DE MAIN certainly seems to have taken a shine to Fitz and he to her. Not surprising considering that Fitz is a seaman and world citizen who’s at home anywhere on the water, and a barge castle seems to suit him well. He just about caught me getting my money from the office hideaway and I’m not at all sure he accepted my excuse about fixing a board. Not that it matters much, since I won’t be using the office for that purpose again. Maybe not at all.

     <The children—well, they seem to be part of everybody. So much a part of it all it’s hard to believe they haven’t always been here somewhere, maybe in the village, just waiting to make themselves at home in Shalisa Creek Bay. They’re so different to the kids in my family—independent and interested in everything. I can’t imagine any one of them whining ‘I’m bored’ like Freddie and Art’s kids do sometimes. These youngsters are always busy, either helping out or doing their own thing.

     <And Rose—it’s her place and she’s merging with it again the way it must have been when she was growing up here. I’m surprised how quickly she’s turning into a country shore dweller, but then, it’s her heritage. It’s just—she’s not Rose Hold anymore. It’s like a cool silk flower in a silver bud vase which could always be counted on to be the same all the time has suddenly metamorphosed and become real live growing stuff, with fragrance and motion and—I wanted to reach out and touch her to make sure she really was real and not the old silk, and that it wasn’t just my imagination. I would never have done that before.

     <Rose Who Always Holds The Sunshine in Her Face—Leader Elect of the Shalisa. She sure hit me with that today. She’s sure not like Tina—she’s involved with everybody, not just herself—and if I keep playing the fool like I’ve been doing she’ll boot me out. Why did I have to make that remark about the garden path and stuff? Here she was, giving me a beautiful compliment about Shalisa ways and I joked about it. She thinks I’m on the make. It was just a joke—like the way we used to—but I could see she figured otherwise. Had to change that conversation fast. She’s scaring the hell out of me. It’s like I thought I owned the world and suddenly I’ve come up against the real ruler telling me: ‘Okay—smarten up or you’re outta here’.>

     Pondering on the problem, he decided once again that it was he himself who didn’t seem to belong.

     <I’m ‘city’, and city tactics have no place here. She’s shown me that, by her own behaviour. No matter how much I might want to be part of this, I don’t think I am. I’m an intruder, coming here with my big ideas which will simply pull apart the whole beautiful ongoing order of things as it is now.>

     He looked at Bjorn Behring, and the two dogs, remarking softly,

     “We’ve lost ourselves a bit, haven’t we? It’s like we’re on a flat world trip and are close to sailing off the edge of it into space. I feel like I’ve drifted beyond the scope of our chart and what’s there hasn’t been surveyed yet, and doesn’t show anything to guide us except the warning notation they used, way back when they thought there was nothing out there but water, stating—’here be dragons’—the bad kind, hiding under the surface, bubbling up steam from their fire, waiting to get me if I’m not careful. Maybe I’m bringing them with me when I come and turning them loose, because I never felt their presence here before—until the casino bust. I’m not getting those vibes from anyone else. Am I turning into one?”

     “I think we stumbled into a charmed place and I’m getting convinced that maybe it’s telling us to go back where we came from. I’m like a bad spirit among all the good ones we’ve found here. I’m sure Spirit of the Waterfall must have laughed when I showed up with my broken leg—’that should keep him from poking around into places he doesn’t belong in for awhile’.

     “We shouldn’t have let this place happen to us. We have no business coming around with money schemes. Home’s waiting for us, and we were doing great before this. You know, I need to sit by myself and play my flute. I want Gram to hug me and tell me I’m not really such a bloody fool—even if I am. I have to talk with Li when we get home. I need to find which way my path is headed. I think I’ve strayed into the brambles.”

     His glass was empty.

     “Enough of that. Best thing we can do is sit it out until Bettina and Harry are ready to go home, then put it away from us when we get there and remember it from a distance. ’Night guys.”

     He set the glass aside, and without taking off anything, he laid back on the cushioned seat, lifted his cast encumbered right leg up on to it, wrapped his arms around himself and went to sleep.

     Absorbed as he’d been with his introspection, he hadn’t seen Bjorn Behring shaking his head in disagreement. That old friend had been ready to voice the opinion that anyone who talked to teddybears, helped them hop out of a top hat, made flowers appear from the collars of children’s shirts or from behind their ears, played his flute with the accompaniment of other so inclined spirits or for the amusement of meadow residents, and had decks of cards waltzing to his own tune, would certainly be welcomed into whatever enchanted place he might stumble across, however unwittingly.

starry nightsky     Not ready for sleep himself, Bjorn watched through a port as incoming Tide gave TJUTELA a fond hug on its way toward Shore, and saw that LEGER DE MAIN was smiling in her warm stone heart at the return of the yawl and its crew. Then he waved to the solitary Spirit who was leaning against Tree close to Beach and who seemed to be anticipating one of those musical sessions with his Friend and flute.

     While high Tide and Guardian of the Bay joined ardently in their eternal evening tryst, under an indigo bimini bright with shimmering stars, draped over a luminous crescent wafer of Moon, Shalisa Creek Bay slept contentedly—unaware of the doubts which possessed the TJUTELA’s skipper—having already accepted him as one of its own.